A Scream-Free Way to Heal From an Affair

Last week as I was browsing through the library, I found a newly released book titled “Screamfree Marriage:  Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer” by Hal Edward Runkel, LMFT.  Initially I hesitated to pick it up thinking that Doug and I really don’t have a problem with screaming in our marriage.  However, after reading the introduction I decided to check it out as I felt it would be very helpful to anyone who is trying to improve their marriage, as well as those who are attempting to heal from an affair.

In the introduction the author states, “ Every committed couple strives to hold on to the marriage the way it was when they first said ‘I do’ – before the end of the honeymoon phase, before kids, mortgages, etc.  But the truth is conflict is unavoidable. What results is couples ‘screaming’ at each other – sometimes literally yelling out loud, sometimes shutting themselves down and shutting their partners out, and sometimes avoiding the issue altogether – none which leads to the passionate, intimate connection we all crave.”

Runkel then describes these conflicts as the “Fires of Commitment” and provides a way for couples to allow these conflicts to help them attain new levels of maturity and passion.  His “ScreamFree” formula of Calming Down, Growing Up and Getting Closer provides a way to really analyze what is happening during these conflicts and how to handle it in a way that moves in a positive direction rather than pulling yourself further away from an intimate marriage.

As I was reading this book I felt it had many of the same ideals that Byron Katie has in the book “Love What Is.”  I felt that these books offered a new way at looking and dealing with the problems in our marriages.  Instead of continuing with the same behaviors and always getting the same results, this book gave me an opportunity to look at the conflicts in our marriage in a different way.

One of the most powerful ideals I received from the book is the greatest thing you can do for your marriage is to learn to focus more on yourself.  But Runkel is not talking about the “I only care about myself” kind of way.  Being self-absorbed is not just focusing on yourself, it’s getting others to focus on you.

He also explains that focusing on others is mis-guided because what we focus on we inevitably try to manage, improve or control.  Any change you “get” your spouse to make is not the genuine change you wanted in the first place.  You don’t want to change your spouse.  You want your spouse to want to change.  You want it to be their decision.

Runkel states that when you are actively centered on yourself, you are more conscious of your own behavior than your spouse’s.  You are more concerned about knowing your real feelings and desires than you are with getting your spouse to do the same.

These concepts would be very helpful to anyone who is struggling to heal from an affair. Turning the tables around and focusing on yourself rather than the cheater’s actions would prove to be more productive in the long run.

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10 Responses to A Scream-Free Way to Heal From an Affair

  1. Notoverit July 18, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    I just found your blog and would like to say thank you for posting your experiences. I am now 8 months from D-day and am still reeling. I am seeing a counselor and am in counseling with my husband but there are times that I just can’t seem to make it through the day.

    The OW worked with my husband and used that time talk to him. He is a nice man but a bit naive when it comes to social interactions. She played on it expertly until she had him snared via texts, phone calls and meetings at work. There was nothing sexual, only emotional in the affair. I found out by catching him on the phone about 1:30 in the morning. After that, he ceased all contact with her. The only problem was she didn’t stop chasing him. She stalked him, she caused problems at work and she lied constantly (everyone at work knew they were “involved” since she told everyone). My husband knew nothing about her lies and the way she used him to protect herself at work (He was not her boss, but he held a high position at work. Her job was very menial.). She kept calling his cell phone (we had the number changed); she continued emailing him and trying to talk to him at work. I tried to ignore her until she kept following me. I confronted her and she fell apart, crying and saying it was my fault. She set up fake email accounts, used internet texting and other phones to try to get in touch with him. Nothing worked. He stood steadfast in not talking to her at all. After describing her to our counselor, the counselor said that it sounded like the woman was suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (like Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction”). That was kind of scary for me. I had to deal with her and with the failure of my marriage. the first few months were very difficult. (BTW the OW finally got herself fired, not because of my husband, but because of erratic behavior). She hasn’t contacted him since Valentine’s Day. I hope she has moved on to some other poor soul. I never contacted her husband to tell him because I didn’t think it would serve any purpose other than making her stalking worse. Evidently, she has done this before.

    Long story short – I was reading this post today and it coincides with a conclusion I came to myself: I had not concentrated on myself in years. I was a successful business person and stopped working to stay home with the kids. I put everyone else before me and I allowed myself to become a second-class citizen. I guess it was easy for others to see me that way too. I have always thought of others first and I finally told my husband this last weekend that it was now time for ME. He agreed.

    The road has been very rocky and we are struggling. After thirty years of marriage, we are starting all over again – setting new parameters on our relationship. I still get crazy sometimes and he patiently waits me out. He is honestly trying and it is hard for me to see that. I just need to figure out what I want for myself and for this marriage. It’s hard but definitely worth it.

  2. Roller coaster rider July 18, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    As always, thanks for the food for thought, Linda! We spent a very challenging weekend, both of us in and out of deep feelings of depression, but my H said last night he had finally made a call to a therapist after saying on and off for months that he knew he needed help. I’m afraid to get my hopes up, but maybe…

    I have always been a pretty introspective person and after having disappointed myself on several occasions in significant ways, decided that the very most important thing for me is having integrity and being the person I know I want to be, even when it’s hard or others hurt me. I don’t ever want to be mean or unkind, but I will speak truth (hopefully in love). Now I know I have sometimes allowed my H to stay in a bad place in his head because I didn’t expect him to share feelings when he was down, stressed or angry. Post D-Day I get almost paranoid when he withdraws because that’s how he was during the affair. It actually seems to be helping him want to let me in, and I am changing too.

  3. Candace July 18, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    Agreed on how the conflicts are handled often predicts how my H & myself is going to react. We have been discussing our problems pretty rationally during the past 2 months. Even though my H has apologized, worked on recreating our marriage, he still wishes his EA had ended differently. This always throws me for a loop, he cannot even tell me how he would have liked it to end. So this is a sore spot for me, I had a trigger with this issue over the weekend. This weekend was up & down for us. My H pulled away again on Sunday. When I tried to discuss what was going on he retreated even more. I have talked to him several times today & he is acting like nothing happened over the weekend.

  4. InTrouble July 18, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    I am not a big fan of psychological self help books, but I sure have to agree with what you have posted here Linda. I take full responsibility for my EA. Period. I do not blame my husband (the “something lacking at home” theory). I have NO IDEA why his wife pretty much solely blames me. And I know that no one can fix me, except, hopefully, myself.

    • Roller coaster rider July 18, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

      Do you think it might be less painful to believe that you, as the OW instigated something?

      And good for you for taking responsibility but how does it make sense to pursue another relationship if all one’s needs are being met, if the marriage is strong and healthy?

  5. InTrouble July 19, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

    “…but how does it make sense to pursue another relationship if all one’s needs are being met, if the marriage is strong and healthy?’

    I do not know. It’s like being sucked into a tornado; you know it’s happened, but you don’t know how or why, and you’re too busy trying to figure out how to get out.

  6. Notoverit July 19, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    My husband said the same thing as Introuble. He didn’t know how he got sucked into the EA. One minute he said he was talking to a friend and the next he was knee-deep in a mess. I have pointed out to him that there had to be something missing in our marriage; that we had drifted apart. He adamantly denies that. He says talking to the OW was fun and exciting and that was it. So, like Linda said in another post, does that make me not fun and not exciting? He said no, that wasn’t it. So, in my mind there has to be an initial problem, whatever that may be. My husband just hasn’t really faced that yet. In our case, we had started drifting away from each other long before the OW set her sights on my husband. He isn’t blameless; he went along for the ride. But I am honestly trying to figure out how to fix this – how do we get back to being close and happy. So, any excuse that you don’t know how you got involved is really not an excuse. The reason is there, you just haven’t faced it yet.

    • cs November 23, 2011 at 8:22 am #

      It sounds like you and I have a lot in common….married 30 years, H saying he thought it was “only a friendship” and still not knowing why it happened. How can we work on fixing it if he can’t even tell me why he did it? It’s about a month and a half since D-day and I still can’t stop crying and have to fight to function. What makes it more difficult for me is I knew this person was trouble since day one (she’s his old flame, tried to break us up when we were dating). I told him I didn’t trust her and begged him not to have contact with her. They rediscovered each other on FB and the EA went on for a year and a half. I had suspicions that entire time and kept bringing them up to him, he acted as if I was crazy. His answer when I asked why didn’t you tell me what was going on was “I knew you’d be mad”. He said when he realized it was more than friends, he tried to get out of it, which was when I discovered it…needless to say, he ended it because he was caught.

  7. Ronald Johnson July 19, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    It has been almost 6 months since my wife started an EA with the OM. We have been going through counseling and she decided that we should be separated. Last week I kicked her out, keeping custody of the 4 children with me. She had no problems and moved almost all of her stuff over to the OM house, even having her school checks forwarded to his address.

    Sunday the EA seems to have come to an end. The OM is a heavy drinker and yelled at one of my children for interrupting my wife and his conversation. This brought her out of the fog, as she has asked him before not to drink around the kids and that the kids always come first for her, before any man, including me.

    She still has to move all her things back home and get her checks sent back to our address. I have also taken the steps to move us father away from him in hopes of keeping this breakup of theirs permanant. She has asked me not to smother her and to let her take it slow in breaking up with him, but she assures me that it is over.

    I am not naive and do not think for one second that she can easily break away from him. I am keeping my fingers crossed, keeping the lines of communications open, and showing her that I have always loved her and still do.

    My advice to anyone going through this is to give them their space and focus on yourself and the children (if there are any). Cut them off from all the little things you do for them that they take for granted, wheter it be finanically, foot rubs, kisses or whatever else it might be. Stop asking 40 million questions about the affair and put on a happy face no matter what. Keep reassuring them that you love them, but until they can start focusing 100% on you then you will have to do the focusing and you cannot waste energy on them. Also, go to counseling, as a couple if possible, but alone if need be. Best of luck to all, and keeping my fingers crossed for myself.

    • Truly Sorry July 22, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

      Ronald,
      You’re a good father and a good husband. Your comments are perfect in that you must use your energy on important issues right now. Focus on yourself/kids and she’ll see what was there all along.

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