Healing After Infidelity: Why Won’t They Stop?

healing after infidelityMany of our recent comments from readers have centered on the problem that their spouses are still in contact with their affair partner, and apparently unwilling to stop.  As we have mentioned many times, healing after infidelity cannot occur until all contact has ceased. 

I can recall firsthand how difficult it was for Doug and me to move on while he was still involved in his emotional affair.  He continuing to lie and betray me while he was in his “fog” and his actions and words certainly reflected that. All of my positive changes and attempts to rekindle our love at first went unnoticed or were met with contempt, and the healing that followed was very difficult because I couldn’t understand how he could continue to hurt me so much.

Even today I have a difficult time understanding how he could continue his affair knowing how much damage he was doing to me and our family. 

Recently I read a book by Dave Carder called “Torn Asunder” and the book gave me an inside look into the components of an affair and what is going on in the betrayers head.  This book allowed me to get some kind of understanding as to why an affair is so difficult to give up.

Carder divides the infidel’s process into four phases: 

  • Phase one: Growing mutual attraction  
  • Phase two: Emotional and sexual entanglement  
  • Phase three: Destabilization of the affair  
  • Phase four: Disclosure and resolution

In phase one, the affair starts innocently enough between two parties.  However, the growing sense of appreciation and attraction allows a whole new fantasy world to develop within the future infidel. They begin to concoct imaginary experiences and wonder  “What would it be like?”  During this phase the infidel begins to starve the marriage and feed the friendship.

During phase two the relationship develops new intensity when the two entangled people mutually acknowledge their feelings for each other. Often one partner may put out a cry for help, but the cry may be so subtle that no one will listen.  This helps to reinforce the bond because now he believes that the only person who understands him is his affair partner.

Through this very intense phase of the relationship, maintaining the affair requires widespread deceit. It becomes their little secret, thus they enter an artificial world about which only they know. But it doesn’t last long as the lies and betrayal begin to catch up with one or both of the partners and they initiate a separation.  The affair becomes too much to handle.

Phase three is the most interesting because during the destabilization stage, the fear of being caught fuels the urgency to get out of the affair. Though on the outside the affair looks like it may fall apart in reality it is being stabilized.

Carder explains that one partner may call it off, and after some time will call to see how the other is doing and immediately the affair starts up again. This off again-on again pattern makes the affair almost impossible to end on its own.  The separation/togetherness cycle actually intensifies the feelings and guarantees that the affair will not end.  The longer the process goes on, the more powerful the attachment becomes.

This is the time the spouse begins to suspect something is not right.  Also during this period growing exhaustion and depression begin to creep into both partner’s lives.  They begin to need each other to “medicate” the fear, emptiness and new irrational “reality” they now both live in.

When they are with each other everything seems OK, when in reality everything is falling apart. They need each other to justify the mess they have created and need to hear that they deserve to be together in order to diminish the guilt and shame. They feel that their partner is the only one who understands them and validates their reasons for the affair.

It is often after one of the binge experiences during the “on again” phase that the infidel decides to reveal the affair to the spouse.  The disclosure is both an acknowledgement that he needs help to get out of his bondage and also a system of his emotional exhaustion and depression. During this disclosure phase the infidel feels torn. Parts of his psyche belong to different people.  He will vacillate back and forth between the partner and the spouse. However the key step has occurred—disclosure, and now it is time to make a decision on what to do with the marriage.

Dave Carder’s book allowed me to see the process of an affair from the cheater’s eyes and also provided the realization that there was a lot of turmoil going on during most of the affair, which Doug has confirmed.

From my view I believed it was perfect and magical, but after reading this book I now understand that an affair is filled with much shame and guilt.  Unfortunately, healing after infidelity is difficult because of the situation provided in an affair, as their only escape from the reality is in their own little world.  They are the only two people who understand and justify their actions since very few people would appreciate and commend infidelity.

Hopefully, this post has given you an idea of what is going through the head of someone while they are in an affair, and why it can seem so difficult for them to break free from it.  The obvious next question would be, “So how do I get my spouse to end his (her) affair?”  We will attempt to give you some ways to do that in our next post.

 

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11 Responses to Healing After Infidelity: Why Won’t They Stop?

  1. duane June 24, 2010 at 10:50 am #

    Thank you, Linda. I’ve been looking for exactly this kind of book for five months. There has been NC for 9 weeks now. My wife is not thinking about him so much anymore as dealing with herself, though I can’t say that for sure;I wouldn’t say she is yet “back home.” I think she might get as much out of this as I will. It was amazing to me as I delved into researching affairs how textbook she was in her affair and after the confession. Even after I pointed out how even the exact wording of phrases she used were predictable she still believed her relationship was unique, special. I was embarrassed for her to see her acting so stupidly and immature, especially when she accused me of being immature in my reactions to the affair.

    • Doug June 24, 2010 at 11:11 am #

      Duane, If you order this book from the link in the post or from our Library and it will take you to Amazon. I believe they offer a set which includes a workbook and another good book titled “Close Calls”. Each book contains a lot of information and was very enlightening. I liked it because it offered a more research based view of affairs. I really wanted to know what was going on in Doug’s head because he was unable to express it himself. In the workbook, Carder says when questioning your spouse about an affair don’t expect much feedback or details because they are “drunk” with infatuation. An individual in this state does not recall sequences perfectly, or details. They were lost in a dream world of “love” Isn’t that special. LOL

  2. ruth June 24, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

    You know the saying,give them enough rope and they will hang themselves, well thats what I have done. I know he will get a hold of her one more time even though we has sworn to me that he has stopped all contact. But I do see he is online looking for her everyday and one day I will see that they are online together and I will be able to see excatly where I stand. I love my husband but I cant and will not let him walk all over me again. I dont think I can take anymore. And if he cant stop now then he never will. I just want him to love me and respect me as much as he does her. He protects her, defends her, and shares his heart with her. If I cant be all that, then really whats left?? If anyone told me how much this would hurt I would never believed them. His affair has changed me forever and has been going on for 2 1/2 yrs and my D day last July 28, now I am coming up on a year but as I can see his last contact with her was this March. I do have a plan and I know I am strong enough to make it through this. The sun always comes up. Its the darkness that I am afraid of.

    • Theresa April 12, 2011 at 11:05 am #

      Im reading this and thinking I could have written it myself. What has become of you? Im curious.

  3. Michael's Wife June 24, 2010 at 2:34 pm #

    Wow so is that why I can’t remember much about the affair cause I was (drunk)or in this (dream world) you are speaking of. I just thought it was because I block this out of my head, do to the fact that I was molested as a child. I can’t believe I just typed that, I don’t know what to say. I had a not so fun childhood that I somehow have completely block out. Things or rather experences come to me when I sleep. When these memories come in the form of what I call nightmares, I think to myself did this really happen. Why did this happen is it my fault, why did my parents let it happen. The answers to those questions yes it happend, and my parents did take me to therapy. Now to get back to today’s subject Michael’s has been wanting to know things about the affair and I have told him all that I can remember. My slate is clean you might say, the heavy weight that was once on my shoulders is gone. I feel I have told him everything and we can move on. Let me just point out to everyone that my affair started in Nov. and ended in Feb. I have had no contact with the other man since early Feb. nor do I want contact. I want to just work on Michael and I and our children. I feel very stupid that I could hurt us the way I did, and I feel bad about it on a daily basis. I still wonder if Michael will leave and that’s hurts. So what do I do about all the pain and hurt. I try everyday to show Michael how greatful I ‘am to be a part of his life. Thanks for letting me share and I’m sorry for getting off the subject.

  4. Molly June 24, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

    This is wonderful information, and I will definitely have to check out the book you are mentioning. It’s been a long road of healing for my husband and I, but we are continuing on a good track, and I’m thankful for that. Even though, residually, we still have issues that come up, we able to work through them rather quickly. I was recently introduced to a book called “Streetwise Spirituality” by Carol Marleigh Kline http://www.streetwisespirituality.org/ which centers around taking emotionally devastating situations and the resulting thoughts and feelings, and being able to use them to make a real turnaround in one’s life. It’s a book really geared toward women, and it really helps the reader to feel empowered; that, yes, there IS something I can do about the pain, and it’s all in my hands, and those are wonderful feelings to have after such a storm as an affair.

    Thanks again for the excerpts and information. It always helps to know where the other person is coming from.

  5. Michael June 28, 2010 at 4:03 pm #

    So I don’t know what to do. I still have this gut feeling that he is calling her. Restricting his number so it doesn’t show on her bill.
    She says, just like said before, that she has had no contact with him. The last time she preached this to me she was calling him on my sons phone.
    She even called him after she swore that there was no other means she was using to talk to him. After even telling me that she needed to go to the convention on her own in early feb. So she found a way. Is that the case now? I don’t know.
    She has told me and all of you that she still fears that I will leave. She has said that to me for months now. And has used that as a reason for the lies that I have found out about. So why give me any reason? Right. If he doesn’t know. Don’t tell him.
    I don’t buy that this guy gave up so easy. And I don’t think she did either. There was no mourning period that I know of. She still acts the same.
    The only time she has said anything to me was the times that I was at the end of my rope and told her I was done.
    But obviously I can’t do that to her. I have stuck with her for all these months because I love her and because I (selfishly) don’t want to loose her.
    I hope that my gut feelings aren’t right. I hope I’m just wound up too tight. But like I’ve said she hasn’t changed. She hasn’t shown me anything that would give me a reason to believe what she tells me now. She only reacts to my bad days.
    So what should I do. I’ve told her how I feel. I’ve told her why I feel this way. I should just be happy with what I get. With her “that’s the way I am”. But I feel so empty now. Knowing that the woman I took for granted, that she would never cheat on me, did. Now I worry about everything.
    As you can tell. Its a bad day. I gave her chance after chance after chance. As she lied to me. Should I give her another. SHE is worth it. LOVE is worth it.

  6. Norwegian woman December 8, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

    How long can this go on? My husband and the OW had ONE sexual encounter, and he says that it was not all that. After that the contact was only on phone and mail. Then he started an EA some months later with another woman, that I discovered. He promised me to never go behind my back again, but I discovered that he had contact with the first woman until it came to the surface in september.
    He says that he did not have strong feelings for her, and did not want to stay in contact with her, but he did….
    So I will ask you all if this is possible (remember he said that he did not think she was attractive, and he did not have strong feelings for her)
    january – may 2009 – Contact by phone and a night on a hotel.
    may – september – phone and mail. He says that it in this period went from lovers to friendship
    October – december 2009 – he starts a EA with another woman from out of town. No sex. He still talks to the first woman on the phone now and then. I discover the affair and it ends.
    January 2010 – june 2010. She phones him regularly and sends messages. He answers the phone and sends messages back. She reveals the affair to her husband.
    July-august. Phonecalls where they agree on what to say.
    September – her husband contacts me.
    If he had almost no feelings for this woman, why didn`t he cut her out when he is telling me he really just wanted her do dissapear?? He tells me his reason was that i didn`t know about this affair, and that was why he didn`t honor his promise to not go behind my back when I discovered his second affair….
    Am I beeing lied to?

  7. ANONYMOUS December 29, 2010 at 11:53 pm #

    I have just come to realize that my relationship with a long-time friend may have become more than friendship. I believed it innocent because there was no inappropriate physical contact, but after my guilt led me to researching the subject online. My friend, who is considerably older than I (and for this reason I thought a relationship more than friendship would be inappropriate), has been a friend of the family (and myself) for some time–before I met my current boyfriend, whom I have been with for 2+ years. I do not act any different with this friend than I always have, another one of my justifications for the relationship.
    I do not see this friend often, as he lives in another state, and so I make a point of spending time with him when he visits, and maintain contact with him via the internet and texting.
    Here is what I am unsure about: my relationship with my boyfriend has been faltering, and I am not sure if it is caused by this “accidental affair” (if you will) or by other factors. I think that legitimate reasons for doubting my relationship exist, but perhaps are being exacerbated by my emotionally intimate connection with my friend.
    Also, I would compare my relationship with my friend to that I would share with a family member–except for the physical attraction that I have always felt for him (obviously this is not something I could just make go away just because I have a boyfriend).
    I do not want to sacrifice my relationship with my friend if the relationship with my boyfriend is in question–then again, I do not want to risk my relationship with my boyfriend needlessly.
    Any advice?

    • Doug December 30, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

      Anonymous, I am not sure how much you have read about affairs, but the main issue along with the betrayal is how much you take from you primary relationship when you bring a third person into the picture. You may not realize what you are doing but if you look closely you may see that you are sharing a lot more with the OP than you are with your boyfriend. You are creating a wall between the two of you by becoming emotionally involved with someone else. You also are making comparisons between the two. All of these factors are providing distance in your relationship. There are many books and posts on our site that deal with this subject. Linda

  8. BreeAnn December 31, 2010 at 12:06 am #

    Anonymous, I tried getting my boyfriend to read this site, but he won’t. He had an EA that hurt me terribly when I found out. He and her called me names and talked intimately about me and her husband. Please recognize in yourself the pain you are causing your man and get this ‘friend’ out of your life. I’m sure it won’t be easy…. But your entire relationship is on the line!! And, my relationship w/my man is over. 4 years down the drain because of his “feelings” for his ‘very good friend’ – my holidays sucked, my life is miserable! Good luck and keep reading this blog – it will help!!

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