Surviving an Affair Requires Effective Communication and ACTION

surviving an affairWe’ve certainly discussed the fact that surviving an affair requires communication – effective communication, that is,  So today we wanted to give you some additional Do’s and Don’ts for improving communication, as well as introduce you to the ACTION formula.

Marriage and Family Therapist, Jeff Murrah LPC, LMFT, LCDC delivered these nuggets during a webinar we had about four years ago. What you’ll read below is an excerpt from the transcript of that webinar.

Please check it out and then add any of your own Do’s and Don’ts in the comment section below.

First the Don’ts…

Don’t…Be too persistent in bringing up the affair. When you repeat a message over and over, that’s a sure way to be ignored. The way that our brain operates, we tend to ignore things that are repeated. In fact, a fellow by the name of Jack Payton coined the term “MEGO”, which stands for “My eyes glaze over”. And if you’re talking to your spouse and bringing it up and all of a sudden their eyes glaze over, they’re not all there.

Don’t…Be too insistent on all the details of the affair. The danger with knowing all the details is that they produce very vivid word pictures. When you know all of the details about what the other person looks like, what they were wearing, where they met, what they did, it begins to sound more like letters to the editor in a men’s magazine than a couple talking about what they need to talk about. When you have all those details it’s going to make it that much more difficult to forgive and to get that word picture out of your mind.

Don’t…Make demands. When you’re in that fragile period after you find out about the affair, you want to get the two of you committed to one another before you start making demands of the other person. Now, I draw a distinction between demands and between boundaries. People will need to have boundaries but the demands tend to lead to problems.

Don’t…Be closed-minded. If you want your spouse to sit down and talk with you, one way to make sure that they don’t is to be closed-minded. And that includes the whole idea that it’s got to be my way and my version of the events is the only one that counts and my understanding as to what motivated you is the only thing that counts. That whole my way or the highway will get you in trouble.

Don’t…Be self righteous. Now I know for those who are people of faith, this is a tough one, but this is one that is important because you want to be their spouse. You’re not trying to be their pastor. You’re not trying to be their holy spirit. That’s going to change the dynamics of the relationship. If they’re going to make changes, you want them to do it because of their own conscience, not because you guilt-tripped them into doing it.

Don’t…Infringe on your spouse’s time and space. You will need to allow them some time and space to get their thoughts together but many times the hurt spouse wants things to happen now. They want things to happen real fast. Making changes takes time. Be patient.

I like to use the picture of one of those giant super tankers. They can turn but it’s a slow process and when you’re talking about completely turning a marriage around, it’s going to take a little bit of time. They don’t turn on a dime.

Don’t..Blow things out of proportion. If you have teenagers, one sure way to make sure your teenager quits listening to you is to freak out and blow things out of proportion. The same thing works with spouses.

Now the Do’s…

Ok, here is where the ACTION formula begins.

A is for ACTIVITY. Sitting back and being passive is what you want to avoid. By being proactive and taking initiative you may have to learn some ways to start communication. You may have to be the one to pick up the phone and call. You may have to be the one to reach out.

C is for communication. Since communication should be two way, you’re going to need to talk and you’re going to need to let them talk. When one person is doing all the talking, it’s nothing more than lecturing, and this is why I mentioned that listening is a key to removing distance.

T stands for time. You’re going to have to be patient and allow for sufficient time for communication improvement to take place. As mentioned earlier, these changes don’t happen overnight.

I stands for intimacy. Intimacy isn’t just about being able to do things in the bedroom with each other. This deals more with rebuilding the emotional oneness and the relationship. A lot of times what happens, people confuse intensity for intimacy. Those are two separate entities and many times with affairs there is a lot of excitement and a lot of intensity, and the people who are caught up in that, they think, “Oh, that means we’re intimate.” No, it doesn’t. It just means that you had an intense time.

In terms of improving the communication as a couple, it’s going to be important that you be able to share emotions with one another, not just the anger but also when you’re scared, when you’re lonely, when you’re happy, etc.

O stands for objectivity. This is one that’s hard for a lot of people because when cheating happens we take it personally, and it’s hard to get out of that personal mindset. But in overcoming it, objectivity is going to be important. It’s almost like learning how to look at the events from different perspectives. Once again, it doesn’t mean you agree with those perspectives, but being able to develop the flexibility where you can be objective.

N stands for “No museum trips.” Many times when cheating happens, it’s almost like it opens the door for couples to dig through every past wrong doing that they have done to each other. They start bringing up how they raised the kids, what happened in their families of origin and people that they dated even before they were married. They can bring up everything under the sun and you need to avoid that. If you’re going to heal the marriage, you need to look at what’s going on now and what you need to do in the future. Those museum trips get you in trouble.

If you’d like to listen to the full audio recording of this webinar or download the transcript to read, click here.

Don’t forget to add any of your own thoughts or comments in the comment section below. It’s important to do so!

 

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13 Responses to Surviving an Affair Requires Effective Communication and ACTION

  1. EyesOpened August 4, 2014 at 8:26 am #

    Fantastic post. Thank you. The point that has given me the most of an ‘aha’ moment for recovery here is intimacy not intensity. That is so true. And time. If I could roll the clocks back I would have asked my h (the bs) for space to think, and less intensity. I was frightened to ask because as the cs, I felt I owed him complete control – but I so badly needed that space to recover as well. It slowed our recovery immeasurably. My H has been brilliant at most things though. He’s a pretty unbelievable guy and I’m very fortunate he has lived through, seen me through , and is still there on the other side of all this mess.

  2. Shifting Impressions August 4, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    As much as this article makes sense it seems to require a lot of strength from the betrayed spouse. Strength is not what I have a lot of at the moment. Reading it makes me feel somewhat overwhelmed…….as if I now have a long list of what not to do and what I should be doing in the midst of all this pain.

    • Tryinghard August 5, 2014 at 7:31 am #

      Shifting

      I couldn’t agree with you more. In the early days it would be impossible to adhere to any of these suggestions. Oh sure looking back one can say they wish they could have done all these suggestions but highly unlikely.

      Look you’re in shock. You’re hurt UNFATHOMENLY!!! This is like telling so done to keep calm when they are drowning. It all sounds good on paper but likely not done.

      One of my first sessions with my therapist right after discovery she said something to the effects of calming down. Well you can only be calm if it’s not happening to you!!

      I was pissed. I was angry and damn it he was going to know it. I’m glad I did. Thank God he didn’t show me the “grief” of the loss of his skank cause I swear he’d have been shown the door immediately! No way I was going to help him through that loss. He created that mess and I hope he felt all the pain I was feeling.

      They want out, get out. You want to stay and work on the relationship put your big boy pants on and get ready to talk! Own up to your shit behavior. First you have to get past the lies, cheating, and betrayal. Only after that can you deal with true reconciliation and the road ain’t for sissies!

  3. exercisegrace August 4, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

    This sounds great….from the cheating spouse’s perspective! Although I do agree with some of this, for ME it largely misses the mark.

    While I tried not to rub my husband’s nose in it constantly, I did talk about the affair when I needed to do so. He is the one who violated our marriage, and if he was truly remorseful then he needed to understand MY need to discuss it.

    I also agree that the betrayed spouse needs to think long and hard about what level of details they want and need to hear. However, if you choose to hear them then I feel the cheating spouses owes it to you. No free passes. One example from my own story: my husband insisted that he “always” had safe sex. But when I questioned him if he performed oral sex on her, he eventually admitted that he did. She confessed halfway through their affair that she has hpv. If I hadn’t have pressed for that detail, I wouldn’t be getting the health care and screening I need from my doctor to protect me now and in the future from a disease that can lie dormant for a very long time and is known to cause cancer. And while it isn’t the case for everyone, the vast majority of the time my imagination provided FAR worse and lurid details. The truth was easier to take than what I imagined they had done, said, etc.

    Being self-righteous. There IS a fine line between taking the high road and climbing up on your high horse. As a person of faith, I know we are all sinners and God views sin as just that: sin. However, adultery is one of the VERY few reasons given in the bible for divorce being acceptable. The funny thing is, I am not the one that said that to him. Our family doctor and our couples’ counselor both did when they talked to him alone. It shook him quite a bit and I think it helped clear the “affair fog”. He realized how very much he risked for a whore. More importantly, he realized that just because HE ended it and was fully “all in” again, it didn’t mean that I had to be.

    Time and space. We did ultimately agree that we should set certain times to talk, and that we should set time limits on our discussions. In the early weeks, it was my ONLY topic of conversation. Betrayed spouses should NOT beat themselves up for this. YOU have suffered a trauma. YOUR life has been turned upside down. A truly remorseful spouse will understand that sometimes when you play, you really do pay. Couples who are successful at rebuilding will even out and find a middle ground acceptable to both.

    Don’t blow things out of proportion. Well THAT ship sailed when he cheated. He blew a LOT of things out of proportion. Again, I did and do strive for the middle ground. To be fair, he is mostly understanding that this is HIS mess. He created it, I have had to flounder through it. Proportion gets lost completely in the initial stages of something blowing your world, your marriage and your family into a million pieces. It’s hard NOT to blow things out of proportion when you see your kids suffering the consequences of the affair.

    I agree pretty much universally with the DO’S. With one exception:

    Museum trips. In both my personal experience and what I have read on blogs, its the CHEATING spouse that does this the most. In fact it is exactly how they justify making the choice the have an affair in the first place. They find themselves crossing the line with someone and suddenly they want to find a way to make it the betrayed spouse’s fault. Some of the things my husband came up with were ridiculous, and in a number of things I was able to prove conclusively to him that things didn’t happen the way he “suddenly” remembered them happening. One thing is certain when someone cheats, history gets rewritten to suit the needs and excuses of both the cheater and the whore.

    Best advice I could give someone would be take your time. Think things through. Be clear about what you need and want, IF you are deciding to stay in the marriage. I had a short list of “deal breakers” before I would even entertain staying and biggest ones were no contact and the immediate start of couples and individual counseling.

    • Shifting Impressions August 4, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, EG…..very helpful. That over reacting part wasn’t sitting well with me either. I have lots to think about, that’s for sure.

    • tryinghard August 5, 2014 at 10:44 am #

      EG

      As usual well said.

      This post has really gotten to me. I think because I respect Jeff Murrah and have found his podcasts on the Higher Healing site here very helpful.

      Yeah, that whole part about blowing things out of proportion…hmmm not so much Jeff!

      So do you think the fact that I blew a freaking gasket and ended up in the ER Psych ward when I found out that my husband, lover, friend, confidante, partner of 36 years was having an affair for nearly 4 years, hired her at our business paying her almost double what she was [previously making, buying her gifts, giving her $200/week for spending cash and gas, took out a loan to help her buy a car, and spent almost $70,000 rebuilding her fucking house blowing things out of proportion??? I think I should have blown more. No I was not the one blowing things out of proportion I think my H is the one who blew things out of proportion. Just what the fuck was he paying for??? Can someone really have a magical vagina that you go completely nuts??

      I tried all that understanding and hand holding and being patient and it wasn’t until I blew and I mean blew around 3 months after DDay and let him know under no uncertain circumstances was I going to stand for anymore and my patience had run it’s limit and that he should get ready for a battle extraordinaire, Prior to that explosion he just went deeper underground with the affair and staying at his sisters house all the while feigning reconciliation.

      Frankly infidelity is so obnoxious and such a destructive force in one’s marriage unless you are living your own personal experience there is NO ONE capable of giving advice to you. You will know what to do on your own time. I’m just saying sitting back, giving him space, remaining calm did not have ANY affect on him. I had to institute tough love otherwise he would have kept running over me. Worked for me and to this day he knows the damn boundaries (LOL like he didn’t know before, please, give me a break) and they are if you even think of doing ANYTHING disrespectful to me, there’s the door.

      This time around however I could probably institute Jeff’s suggestions. It would be easy to remain calm, not blow things out of proportion, because I just wouldn’t give a shit anymore.

      Time is only your friend if you get really, really smart about infidelity and take care of you and what you need.

      • exercisegrace August 5, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

        TH, you and I have had such similar experiences. During the time I suspected my husband’s affair, I did everything he asked of me. He blamed me for his depression, etc. I cooked more elaborate meals, I kept the house spotlessly clean, I kept the kid-chaos to an absolute minimum, I asked nothing of him outside of his work, I ran ALL the errands, took care of the kids alone. I could go on and on and on. Basically I feel that I enabled his affair. If it weren’t for me taking care of absolutely everything, he would not have had the time or the freedom to even have an affair. You can do some SERIOUS cake-eating when you have your wife catering to your every need so you can text and placate your whore as needed.

        It took a long time, but I finally snapped. For months, I cried and pleaded and begged. I fought and yelled and demanded. Today he would tell you that is what snapped him out of affair-land. My going off the rails is what made him wake up to the truth. I loved him, I valued our marriage, and he was risking it ALL for some whore. A whore who had manipulated him into believing otherwise. And so he ended the affair.

        The last two years since d day have been rough at times and sweet at times. We have made progress and we have much more to go. Murrah makes some good points, but I think cheaters have a large measure of RELIEF after the affair is outed and betrayeds are just gutted. The cheaters (the “good” ones) are glad it is over. They are ready to move on and put it in the past. They are ashamed of what they have done. They want to apologize and not look too hard at it. If I had given my husband very much space in the early days, he would have shoved this crap in a box and buried in a dusty corner of his mind. His mantra for a long time was, why do we need to talk about all this? Why can’t we just focus on today? On the future? Why look at where we have BEEN, lets just look at where we hare GOING.

    • Steve August 12, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

      Even though I had suspected the affair, almost from the beginning, and even knew there was a possibility my wife had contracted Genital Herpes from “her friend with benefits”, I convinced myself she would never expose me to yet another incurable disease. I already had a rare, incurable form of lymphoma plus another incurable disease known as Sarcoidosis (in my lungs).

      I was wrong, about a year after the affair ended, I, finally, contracted GH. Only then did she admit to an 8 month physical affair followed by a 12 month emotional affair. I’ve learned a lot an about myself, the dynamics of an affair, the meaning of love, and how to move on.

      I’m now a year and half post discovery; the demons have subsided, but not gone away. My wife and I are both doing the necessary work to save and rebuild our marriage. In many ways our marriage is better today, though there are times when I wonder if that raw sense of betrayal, combined with that crushing feeling I get in my chest when a trigger happens will ever completely go away.

      I know I can’t do this by myself, and am so thankful for this blog, and the other resources available to those of us who have been betrayed. As the saying goes, “it takes a village” is so true. When blindsided by infidelity I had to at first just hold on, not make any major decisions, let the emotions settle, as much as I could, try not to overreact and make things worse, then take a deep breath, and take that first tiny baby step to recovery. I’ve taken a whole lot of bay steps the past 1 1/2 years.

  4. lin August 5, 2014 at 11:42 am #

    I have listened to the pod-cast and read this article. I admire Jeff Murrah and respect his advice. I am approximately 15 months out from D-Day with several D-days in-between.

    First of all, I totally agree with the things he said. He has come to these conclusions and this advice after many years of working with BS and CS in his career. He is able to draw these conclusions after objectively observing people as they are on the unfortunate journey of infidelity. He offers valuable advice.

    However, I think that if you are a BS going through the nightmare of infidelity, it is virtually impossible to behave the way he described because your fear and emotions take over. Your world has just fallen apart and all you can do is cry, rage and puke. I speak from experience. I don’t feel guilty about it, I think I had to go through it. At this point in my life, after 20 lbs weight loss, many sleepless nights and hundreds of hours of therapy, I understand all of Jeff Murrah’s comments.

    To any readers of this blog who have just discovered infidelity in their marriage- don’t feel bad if none of this makes sense and all you want to do is cry. Go ahead and cry. Read this article again when you are further along on the journey.

  5. Tryinghard August 5, 2014 at 9:30 pm #

    EG
    Yes we do parallel and I’m not sure we aren’t married to the same person:). Yep I get that Can’t we just move on (CWJMO) line too. I get that they don’t want to talk about it. Jeez who would? My h is mortified as well at the thought of the affair. Pretty sure he doesn’t miss her. He practically shudders when her name comes up. Too bad that didn’t happen sooner

    You know if it were texting, calling, sending “I’ll show you pictures of my pee pee if you send me yours” maybe I could truly let it go after 3 years. We’ve made lots of progress but his affair what’s the freaking hat trick of affairs. I just have so much to deal with and I’m not even positive I’ve gotten all the story. I rally don’t want to know anymore and I sure don’t need to know the gritty sexual details so I don’t or ever have asked.

    We do communicate better now. He actually looks me in the eye when he talks to me. He smiles and laughs at me again. He comes up behind me and hugs and kisses me at random times. He asks my opinion. It’s weird but I like it. But all this didn’t happen overnight and we too have a way to go. But I’m saying I did all that patient behavior and it wasn’t until I lost my shit on him did he finally snap out of it. Needless to say I do not recommend staying patient and feel the cheating spouses pain.

    Oh yeah cooked beautiful meals and my home was perfect. So much so it was featured in a local home magazine. Thank God I didn’t have children at home. My sons are grown. I can’t imagine dealing with infidelity and still be stable enough to take care of children. Although maybe it would have been a good distraction. I cooked beautiful meals and I often wonder how many times he came home and enjoyed all my hard work after leaving her bed!! Cooking, yeah not so much anymore. I forgot how to cook :). Sound familiar?

    Anne Berct said it took her six yeRs so I guess I’m halfway there. I don’t know from day to day. Sometimes I wonder if I’d be better off alone. Sometimes it’s all too much.

  6. theresa August 6, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    Feels a little like Las Vegas! (I’ve never been there). Each move is a throw of the dice. A living crap shoot.

  7. tabs August 7, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

    EG-

    Your description of your CS sounds like mine. Don’t want to talk or even think about the past. After all, it’s in the past. Why can’t we focus on the future. It actually makes me more upset when my CS tries to brush it off or change subjects quickly.

  8. BeckyB August 8, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    The only do and don’ts are do love and respect you . Don’t accept any blame! As this is my husbands life, he made with every lie he told ,with every whore he deliberately intentionally had sex with . He used me , he lied to me and abused me. I accept NO BLAME for his choice to be a user and abuser of me and our 8 children and our 7 grandchildren . My husband has used other people his whole life to shift blame of course he NEVER is at fault. I hate lowlife lying two faced whore f**king piss poor excuses for real people. Yep I am married to one. Some days I hate him some days I feel not a thing just empty used up not a single part of me left. I will survive but who will I be when I am finally ready to call this quits?

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