Recently I had a good discussion with Psychotherapist David Feder, MSW, RSW, CSAT, EMDR that we recorded for the Affair Recovery Movement.

The purpose of the discussion was to get David’s take on several questions that members (both betrayed and unfaithful) had submitted as part of the ‘Office Hours.’

David is an an infidelity specialist  and I’ve enjoyed talking with him on several occasions over the past few years.  I’ve always considered his advice and point of view to be practical and sound.  You can visit David at his website or contact him here:

Here is a quick summary of the questions that are addressed:

  • When dealing with a wayward spouse that can’t or won’t make a firm decision between the betrayed spouse and the affair partner, how long is a reasonable amount of time to give them to sort through their brain to come to decision on their own?
  • I am the wife. My husband and I have been married almost 21 years. We’re both in our young 40s. I had the affair for 18 months. It’s confessed and over by approximately six weeks now, but my husband is insisting on keeping total tabs on me. I must call from the house phone before I leave for work, I must call him from the work phone when I get there, repeat when I leave work. I can’t go anywhere without him. I’m under 24-hour watch. Is this healthy?
  • Four days ago, I found out about my wife’s affair and I have already made an appointment with a lawyer for divorce. Am I reacting too fast to the situation? Should I wait and see if we can recover from this?
  • I found out about my husband’s affair four months ago after someone told me of his latest one. We’re in counseling and wish to work things out, but I’m haunted by questions of the details of the previous affairs. My counselor says the details are not going to help me and to focus on going forward. Is this really being completely honest enough for me to move on? I’m so untrusting now and feel haunted by all of my unanswered questions, like who they were, how many, when, and where.
  • I recently found out my wife of 15 years had several affairs. I have forgiven her but she’s having trouble dealing with the guilt. What should she do?

Alrighty then…

Below you can either listen to the audio or read the transcript.

To listen now, press the play arrow. 




Doug:  Hello everybody, this is Doug with Emotional Affair Journey and I’m here again with David Feder. How are you doing today, David?

David:  I’m doing great. It’s good to be here.

Doug:  Good. Thank you so much, I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to do this with us. We’re going to do something a little bit different today, David. We’ve got some questions from some blog readers sent over via e-mail, and I thought we’d switch it up a bit and talk a little bit about some of the issues that some people are struggling with out there, real life stuff. I thought I’d just throw the questions out at you and we’ll talk about them and get some of your professional advice on some of these things.

David:  Yeah, that’d be great.

Doug:  Without further ado, the first one’s pretty long so bear with me here, but I do want to read the whole thing since this person took the time to send it in. Here we go.

“When dealing with a wayward spouse that can’t or won’t make a firm decision between the betrayed spouse and the affair partner, how long is a reasonable amount of time to give them to sort through their brain to come to decision on their own?

Click here to expand/collapse this section and read the remainder of the transcript.

“I have told my wayward spouse that he has three options. One is her, and that entails losing me. Me moving out with the kids and cutting ties on our friendship, at least at first while I move on from our relationship.”

“Second option is me, and that means we try to rebuild our relationship, which requires us working on our communication, and then he loses her and one of them would have to get a new job – which I assume they must work together – or just because it is a possibility.” I’m not sure what that means.

“And three, neither of us, and I still move out with the kids. I told him that the situation is painful and hard for me to endure knowing that he goes and sees her and is choosing to see what’s there with her while feeling like he and I will come back together in the future. And because of how hurtful it is, I would like him to make a decision that he’s confident in, but there’s an expiration date.”

“I sometimes feel like staying living in the house is the better option because it will probably help end the relationship, but it’s so hard to do, especially when I feel like moving out might be what it takes to wake him up. I keep feeling like my date to have this resolved or move out keeps changing. Originally, I felt like I could wait until the end of May 2020. Now I’m feeling like the end of this year and I’m feeling like that may change again in my mind with the anger I’m starting to feel about the situation.”

Okay. I think there’s a few things going on there, but I guess going to the main part of the question is, what do you feel is sufficient enough time to give the involved person time to figure themselves out and figure out who they want to be with? How do we approach this?

David:  I guess my immediate reaction is that I don’t believe there’s been any research, or at least I haven’t come across any research that would specify how much time should be given. Really, the way I approach that is basically to say that the decision of how much time is given needs to be decided by the hurt partner.

There are multiple factors that go into it, and that’s why I would add that the decision of how long should be given to the wayward spouse, as this person refers to that person, or the involved partner. It’s a decision that needs to be made by the hurt partner and needs to be made on a case by case basis.

That’s, to a large part, based on the hurt partner’s tolerance level, personality, and what is going on, because the decision sometimes – and actually quite often, I would say – to end an affair is a complicated decision. It’s not always as simple as just make a decision and you have a month to make that decision or two weeks to make that decision.

I would approach it a little differently. Certainly one of the things that strikes me about this particular person who wrote this is it brings up the issue of boundaries. I’m completely supportive for the hurt partner to establish healthy boundaries and consequences, because these boundaries define how the hurt partner expects to be treated by the involved partner and how the hurt partner will treat the involved partner. So it goes both ways.

The concern for this particular hurt partner is that she herself – I believe it’s a female – seems to be quite ambivalent about following through with the consequences, and what tells me that is that the deadline keeps changing. When that happens, it’s more problematic because it’s doubtful that the involved partner will take the hurt partner seriously. So when there’s ambivalence in the hurt partner, the likelihood of the situation just going on is greater.

First, I would say that the hurt partner, this particular person should get some professional help to resolve the ambivalence that seems to be present in her, because there’s no point in saying, “Make a choice, you have until whenever, but make a choice and these are the consequences” if that person isn’t going to follow through.

But going back to the other part of the question in terms of how long should be given. I think something that this person may want to consider is what I would call a nonnegotiable boundary, so it’s not something that is discussed with the involved partner but stated by the hurt partner, and that is that she would like the involved partner to be in counseling himself to help him figure out what he’s going to do.

Doug:  That’s a good idea.

David:  Yeah, because otherwise, these situations can go on for quite a while, and my expectation is that the involved partner won’t be able to figure out what they want or why they had the affair on their own. And if they’re not in counseling to help them figure that out, then what may evolve is a situation called stable ambiguity where the involved partner is able to have both the committed relationship as well as the affair, which ultimately, depending on how you look at it, is an emotionally abusive situation of the hurt partner.

So if the hurt partner would say “I can’t force you to go, but my nonnegotiable boundary is that you need to be getting some help to figure this out,” and if the involved partner refuses to go for counseling to figure it out, then I would suggest that the hurt partner at that point might want to consider whether they should be in this relationship or not.

See also  What is Sex Addiction? Is It Real? The Addiction Cycle. Treatment.

So in a sense, it’s not only setting a boundary and say, “Make a decision,” or how much time to give, it’s how that time is going to be used.

The other point that I want to make is that another reason situations like this continue for quite some time and why there’s a need for counseling for both the involved partner and the hurt partner is to understand with respect to the involved partner why that person, the involved partner, is having so much difficulty making a commitment to the hurt partner, and for the hurt partner to understand why they’re staying in a relationship where there’s a lack of commitment.

So it’s not all just on the involved partner, or the focus should not just be on the involved partner. For example, there’s another issue that often comes up in these cases, and that is when there is this lack of commitment and a person wants to be in-between two relationships, the affair and the committed relationship, it’s quite possible that the involved partner might be love avoidance in terms of their attachment style, which is critical to know because some people who are love avoidant are love avoidant because of earlier trauma in their life.

What I’ve learned over the years is that – and I was just telling a client of mine this morning – is that when people betray, sometimes it’s for maybe more simplistic reasons, such as they can or they have an opportunity to go for it, or things like that, but it could also be much more involved than that, such as earlier trauma, life experiences, attachment styles and things of that nature, and not knowing that is often a reason why situations like these go on for quite some time, and hence the importance of getting some help for it.

Doug:  Yeah. Us laypeople call stable ambiguity fence sitting, and I see it quite a bit. I talk to a lot of people whose spouses are fence sitting, and it seems that at least what I’ve experienced is that sometimes being on top of that fence is a pretty comfortable place for these people. They only kind of give attention or kind of move on one side of the fence or the other depending on when and if they need to, but yet they kind of just never make a decision or don’t want to make a decision unless they’re absolutely forced to or they’re motivated in some fashion.

So I think we’re kind of saying the same type of thing, just a different way. I agree, I think that she needs to set some sort of firm deadline on the boundaries. I do like the boundaries that she set. She’s willing to give the three different options to him, so that’s good.

David:  Just on that note though, a boundary, however good it is, a boundary where the person is ambivalent and not necessarily going to follow through but change where the line is drawn in the sand is basically giving the message to the other person that they don’t have to take the boundary seriously.

Doug:  Absolutely.

David:  I have a gentleman that I’m working with who told me that he drew a line in the sand August of 2018, and now we’re mid-September of 2019 and there are so many lines in the sand that they just don’t mean anything anymore.

With respect to the fence sitting, I think that you’re right that sometimes people need to be given a very clear boundary and know that their partner’s going to follow through with it so that they can lean one way and get off the fence and get into one side or the other.

But sometimes there is a real problem in that for example if you have a person who feels that life at home is very domestic, a lot of chores, responsibility and they fulfill that, but there’s a part of that that also wants passion and desire, and they don’t see a way to have that in the committed relationship and they feel that they need to go outside of the relationship to have it, then they’re going to be on that fence because they’re going to want both relationships at the same time.

That doesn’t necessarily make them bad people, but that could be because of life experiences, modeling what they saw at home with their parents, trauma in their life. Could be all sorts of things, and that’s why it’s really important to really know what you’re talking about before you act one way or the other.

Doug:  Right. Agreed. One thing I wanted to also just point out real quickly, it’s kind of down another road here but she mentioned something about moving out. I don’t know, I’m of the frame of mind that if I’m the hurt spouse, I’m not the one that’s going to be moving out. I’m going to be making the other person move out. Now, maybe there’s some financial issues or other stuff there that’s in play here so that she can’t do that, but I’d throw that out there, that maybe he might want to reconsider that. But that’s certainly up to her. I don’t know if you have anything to add to that or not.

David:  Well, again, I think that it’s an individual’s decision and it’s not something that’s a decision that I should make for that person. I think that in this case, she should make that decision. My only advice to her, I don’t know what the legal ramifications are if it ultimately leads to separation and she moves out. I know that sometimes it’s come up that a lawyer has advised a spouse not to move out because then it’s considered abandoning the children.

So before making any decisions about what to do and how to do it, it’s important to understand as much about the infidelity as possible as to where it’s coming from and what the problem is that led to it. Similarly, if she wants to move out, that’s her prerogative, but just be well advised by getting good counsel from a good lawyer.

Doug:  Absolutely. Yeah, I always tell people to talk to their lawyer and get their financial and legal ducks in a row before they do anything like that, because you never know. Things start to get nasty, and people don’t think they’re going to get nasty, and they inevitably do. So it’s better to have good representation.

Alright, good. Let’s move on to the next one here.

“I am the wife. My husband and I have been married almost 21 years. We’re both in our young 40s. I had the affair for 18 months. It’s confessed and over by approximately six weeks now, but my husband is insisting on keeping total tabs on me. I must call from the house phone before I leave for work, I must call him from the work phone when I get there, repeat when I leave work. I can’t go anywhere without him. I’m under 24-hour watch. Is this healthy?”

David:  Alright. Well, checking up in this way, I would say, is not healthy on a long-term basis, but in this particular person’s situation, she’s saying she confessed and it’s over about six weeks. I don’t see this behavior or these expectations by the husband as being unhealthy necessarily just six weeks into post-discovery.

What this woman needs is to, in my opinion, understand that her spouse has probably been traumatized by what she did. Six weeks post disclosure, I would say they’re both probably still in crisis as a couple, and individually, and the goal in this early phase of recovery is to stabilize the couple and stabilize the situation.

So the husband’s reality or understanding of his life as he knew it has been shaken completely, and something like feeling like the floor he’s standing on just disintegrated under his feet and he’s in a free-fall.

What he’s try to do in my opinion is probably trying to regain a sense of safety. Sometimes the way we do that is by being hyper vigilant, which is not – certainly, a totally expected reaction for a person who’s been traumatized and wanting to feel safe again.

So my advice to the involved partner in this case is to try to find some compassion for her spouse and do what it takes to help him begin to stabilize and begin to recover, feel safe again. I also advise the hurt partner to get more educated about – she could do this by going on the Internet, using Google to search infidelity and how people react to infidelity, and what to expect, or she can talk to people like yourself, Doug, just to know with hat it’s like for the hurt partner to discover that their spouse has been unfaithful.

So in a nutshell, I would say that six weeks into it, I think this is what you get. I don’t think it’s unexpected, I don’t think it’s unhealthy. I think this person’s expectations may be a little unrealistic.

Doug:  Right. I can’t really disagree with anything you just said there. The other thing is she doesn’t mention whether or not she’s even doing anything that would warrant him to trust her in any way either. So we don’t know what, if anything, she’s doing. She may just be existing and not really being helpful or giving him any reason to trust her.

David:  That’s a good point. I think the very fact that she is resistant to him wanting her to make those phone calls for example and she’s pushing back on that, he’s going to feel less safe and he’s going to push harder. So I think it’s really important to take some responsibility regardless of why the affair happened. The end result is still that this person is traumatized and really not feeling very safe or secure. Her job right now is not to, in my opinion, ask whether it’s healthy or not healthy. I think her job is, “What can I do to help my spouse feel better?” If she wants him to feel better.

See also  Get in Touch with Your Own Power

Doug:  Right. Very good. Okay, next question here.

“Four days ago, I found out about my wife’s affair and I have already made an appointment with a lawyer for divorce. Am I reacting too fast to the situation? Should I wait and see if we can recover from this?”

David:  Well, it’s four days ago, and in the previous question we were talking about six weeks ago. It makes the other one sound like a long time ago, but I often recommend that the hurt partner not rush into making any decisions when they’re in crisis, and I think that that’s a general rule of thumb of just live. When you’re in crisis or you’re feeling extremely emotional, don’t make any decisions, especially long-term decisions that are going to affect your life.

In this case, I would say, why should this hurt partner not rush? Because I would think that after four days post-discovery, nobody would be thinking clearly. More than likely, this hurt partner is feeling overwhelmed with emotion, and I would suggest from a neurological perspective or from a brain perspective, this person’s limbic system, which is, for people who don’t know, the most primitive part of the brain where the only responses that we have when we’re functioning from our limbic system is fight, flight or freeze.

So this person, seeing a lawyer, probably wants to take off or choose flight, but I would suggest that the person just sit tight for a little while, and I strongly recommend this person or anyone else in this situation, especially when there are kids, to slow down, avoid making any quick decisions that’ll affect their life and the lives of their kids forever, and instead focus on doing what they need to do to feel safe.

That may be connecting with someone like yourself, Doug, or someone like myself and getting some help to figure out what they need to do to feel more safe. I also recommend that this person get individual support. It could also be a support group in the community, just to get the help and not feel alone.

It would also be especially important for this person to understand his motivation for wanting to end the marriage so he can be sure that he’s making the right decision. So basically, I’m saying slow down, take a little bit of time to figure it out, and in general, in my practice, I speak to people about giving the situation a period of four to six months before making any final decisions to separate.

Just on a side note, in the case of sex addicts, when I’m working with sex addicts I usually ask people to not make any final decision about their situation, their relationship, what they want to do for about a year so that they could do some good recovery work, and then make a decision from there.

So yeah, time, and using time effectively I think would be the answer there.

Doug:  Yeah. And one thing – and maybe I’m reading too much into it, but he says here, “Or should I wait and see if we can recover from this?” Well, it takes a little bit more than just waiting. You’ve got to be able to give it a try, for Pete’s sake. I guess it might make sense to at least try and do the work, commit to it for a certain period of time, and if there’s some progress and things start to work out, great. If not, then I guess there’s some tough decisions that need to be made. After four days, ready to file for divorce certainly seems like jumping the gun to me.

David:  Yeah, I agree. What’s not clear in the question is when you read it initially, you say, well, this person made an appointment with a divorce lawyer to divorce and to initiate proceedings. On the other hand, when I think about the question now, I’m thinking, well, did he meet with a divorce lawyer to get information about his rights and what would be available to him or what could happen if he filed for a divorce? And in that regard, I don’t have a problem with seeing the divorce lawyer because that information could be very helpful in their deciding on what their boundaries are going to be and the consequences of those boundaries.

So it really depends on what the purpose was for contacting the lawyer.

Doug:  Yeah, good point. Okay, let’s go on.

“I found out about my husband’s affair four months ago after someone told me of his latest one. We’re in counseling and wish to work things out, but I’m haunted by questions of the details of the previous affairs. My counselor says the details are not going to help me and to focus on going forward. Is this really being completely honest enough for me to move on? I’m so untrusting now and feel haunted by all of my unanswered questions, like who they were, how many, when, and where.”

David:  Yeah, that’s incredible, and I just want to preface what I say with that on the surface, I don’t think getting advice from a counselor saying that those questions or the details are not going to help the person and to focus on moving forward … Certainly, that kind of advice, I would question.

But at the same time, I’m concerned that maybe what’s written in the question is a little out of context or we don’t have all of the information. So I just want to put a proviso on that or comment, because we don’t know exactly what went on in the therapy room.

On the other hand, I would say in general, if the hurt partner is not comfortable with the advice that they’re getting, they should find another therapist who they are comfortable with. I think that there’s not just one therapist, and nobody is stuck with staying in a situation and working with somebody they don’t feel comfortable with or they don’t trust.

So if that’s the case, this is a very important situation for this person and they should do whatever they need to do in order to get the help that’s going to be most helpful and from the person that’s going to be able to deliver it in a way that’s helpful.

In finding a therapist, I always encourage people to interview the therapist and make sure that they’re experienced and working with infidelity, and that the therapist is in fact on the same page as the hurt partner. I’m often contacted by people who ask my questions, and I’m very happy when I get people asking me questions about my perspective, my professional background, my experience in working with infidelity, my own personal biases about infidelity.

These are really important questions, so I would encourage this person to consider that if they’re not happy with what they’re getting. I certainly don’t agree with giving blanket advice such as what this person wrote, and I feel – and I tell all the people that I work with – that the hurt partner needs to determine what information they need in order to move on and what information they don’t need in order to move on.

And where a therapist could be very helpful would be helping that person process if they’re asking a particular question, why is that important to that person and how would that help them in their recovery process? And then from that discussion, the person can go forward and decide whether to ask the question or not.

I certainly cannot think of a situation where the hurt partner needs zero information, such as is suggested in this e-mail, and furthermore, a lack of critical information can hinder or affect the recovery process.

So as I said, I think the therapist could be very helpful in figuring out which questions to ask. To be told by a therapist not to ask questions about the affair seems to – in my opinion anyway – be a situation where the counselor is unintentionally encouraging the secrecy and mistrust that began in the affair to continue in the couple ship, which is a fundamental problem after infidelity. So no wonder this person continues to feel untrusted and scared.

Doug:  Sure. Despite what the counselor’s saying, that the details aren’t going to help, the more critical reality is that not getting the answers to those questions about details, whatever it is she wants to know, I think it’s going to hurt more than anything else, and it’s going to make it far less likely that they can recover and rebuild the relationship.

David:  There are certain questions that I don’t think need to be asked.

Doug:  Sure, absolutely.

David:  Because the more information you have, sometimes it’s more difficult to get an image out of your head. A lot of people come into my office and say, “I want to ask about what they did together physically,” and I say, “Are you really sure that’s going to be helpful in the recovery process? Because if you know that, how is it going to be helpful?”

And generally speaking, I think most people in the field would say that’s information you don’t need, and the fear there of course is that you’re always going to have it in your head and it’s going to be really difficult to get it out of your head. But just in general, any question you may ask, do you really want to know that, or are you just being curious? And is it really going to help you? Because once you have information in your head, you can’t get it out.

See also  Surviving the Holidays after Infidelity

So it really is an important issue to consider, but not to be told by a therapist or anybody that, “You don’t need to ask that question, and don’t, and just move on to the future.” Because as I said, infidelity is built on a foundation of secrecy and mistrust, and you don’t want to perpetuate that in the recovery process. That’s how I see it.

Doug:  Let’s take that scenario that you just mentioned about someone wanting to ask questions about the sexual details and things like that, and let’s say for a minute that they did not have the benefit of speaking to you first, and they go ahead and bring up that question to their unfaithful spouse. How should the unfaithful spouse react to that? They don’t want to answer the question. What can they say to that person, like a script, if you will, that would be a safe and proper thing to say?

David:  Well, I would encourage the involved partner to do very much the same that I would do in the office, and that is say … The only difference would be that the involved partner might say something like, “Listen, I’m prepared to answer whatever question you need me to answer and that will be helpful to you, but please first of all be sure that that’s information you want to know and that it will be helpful to you.”

So not jumping in and answering a question immediately. You’re asking the hurt partner to think it through. But it’s really important to add the part where you’re saying “I’m not hiding anything and I’m willing to answer any questions you have,” because if you leave that part out, then there’s a very good chance the hurt partner is going to think they’re just protecting the affair partner or just wanting to keep that information from them.

Doug:  Right. And in the heat of the conversation then, if the hurt partner says, “Yes, I need to know this,” should the involved partner go ahead and tell them then, or should they say, “Well, maybe you better think about it overnight?” What would you recommend?

David:  I would prefer that the person not give that information, because that kind of graphic information will stay in the hurt partner’s head and memory for a long time, and if they are rebuilding the relationship, then that becomes problematic in the bedroom or could become problematic in the bedroom.

But I would say there’s other ways to get around it in the sense of if the hurt partner is in individual therapy, I might encourage or ask my spouse, “Before we go there, could you please talk about that with your therapist at the next session, see what he or she says?” Things like that.

Doug:  Okay, great. Alright, very good. Last question.

“I recently found out my wife of 15 years had several affairs. I have forgiven her but she’s having trouble dealing with the guilt. What should she do?” There’s a big question for you.

David:  Yeah. Well, they all are. But I often distinguish between healthy guilt and unhealthy guilt, and I say that while healthy guilt felt by the involved partner is not necessarily a bad thing, and furthermore, it’s even appropriate after having an affair, if it goes on for a long item and becomes an obstacle to the recovery process, either for the individual or the couple, I would recommend, again, that the person get help to process that guilt from someone who’s experienced and can help them with that.

However, on the other hand, given that this woman has had several affairs, it raises a concern for me about what is going on for her and why is she doing this. It also raises a question of why her spouse is staying with her, but we’ll leave that for now.

But in thinking about the involved partner for this reason alone, for her sake and for the best interest of the marriage, I personally would encourage this woman to seek therapy so she can understand why she continues to seek other relationships and affairs.

What I’m really thinking about, to be totally honest with you, is either love addiction or sex addiction. There are three categories, for example, as to why people are unfaithful, and it’s important to understand what category the acting out or affair behavior falls into, because then you know what you’re treating. You just cannot treat every affair, every betrayal the same way. There’s different things you target, different things you focus on, at least when I’m working with people after infidelity.

Those three categories are either sex addiction, characterological, or a bad relationship. The relationship part is only one of those three. Sex addiction is obviously huge, and in this case, when a person is dealing with multiple affairs, I would want to rule that out before continuing.

Characterological, what we look for there primarily is either immaturity, narcissism, or both, and a bad relationship. When I break it down that way, it really speaks to something here because it was a while back, several years ago, that I heard not all affairs are the result of bad marriages. In fact, there’s a statistic that I came across that says 35% of the people who have affairs would describe their marriage as good.

So that begs the question of why do people have affairs, or why else do people have affairs. Those other two categories would certainly help explain that. So it’s important to understand in this particular case – in any case, but certainly in answering this question, it’s really important to understand and then resolve why this woman continues to be unfaithful multiple times. What is behind that?

Because if you don’t find out the etiology or why it’s happening, then there’s probably a really good chance it’s going to happen again.

Doug:  Right. So, what if we take that particular variable out of this question, where it was just a one-time thing versus multiple affairs and she’s still feeling guilt? I was just talking to somebody this morning, actually, whose spouse had one affair, lasted really just a couple of times, and she’s struggling an extreme amount from the guilt that she suffers from what she’s done. Let’s take the multiple affairs out of the equation. What does a person do if they’re just racked with guilt and can’t seem to move forward?

David:  First of all, I’d want to know if it’s guilt or shame, but at the end of the day, that person in my opinion would do well for themselves to meet with somebody a few times, or as long as necessary, to really talk about where that guilt is coming from and why they aren’t able to let it go and move on.

I think it’s really a lot about introspection, understanding themselves and where it’s coming from, and why they aren’t able to move past it.

Doug:  Also, just what they have learned from this whole experience to where they could take that knowledge and become a better person, and change in a way that will make a difference down the line, I think, as well.

One thing I’m wondering too is, does it help a person usually in this situation, knowing that their hurt spouse has forgiven them? Does that help them at all, do you think?

David:  Well, it’s case by case. There’s a lady that I’m working with right now who had quite a long affair, and she told her husband about it, and he does forgive her but she doesn’t feel that it’s warranted. Even though there’s the forgiveness by her spouse, it’s not working for her.

Again, one has to wonder, what is it about this person’s personality when a person is not able to get past their guilt? What is it about their life experiences? Is there a religious component? Who knows? Every case is a case by case basis.

But I want to say that in my opinion, there’s healthy guilt and unhealthy guilt. We all feel healthy guilt, and that is when we do something wrong and we feel guilty about it, it stops us from doing it again. Or it can, hopefully. It’s the toxic guilt that you want to deal with, and I don’t think someone’s going to – clearly, from this example, forgiveness doesn’t just solve that problem. That person needs to do some individual work.

Doug:  Got you. Okay. Well, David, those are great answers to some tough questions. I appreciate you, the time that you spent with us today to answer all that. That’s some good stuff.

David:  My pleasure.

Doug:  I appreciate it so much. Maybe we can do this again sometime. Anyhow, David, thanks again, take care, and we’ll talk to you soon.

David:  You as well, Doug. Thanks so much for the opportunity.



David Feder’s website:

Contact David:

The Affair Recovery Movement



Opt In Image
The Affair Recovery Movement
Guiding You Through the 5 Stages of Affair Recovery

A  member’s only area where the focus will be on recovering and healing from infidelity through interaction with us,  a supportive community, access to volumes of materials and resources, and guidance from those who have been down this road before.

We want to help you get to a better place. 


    6 replies to "Q&A with Psychotherapist David Feder"

    • Shifting Impressions

      That was a really helpful interview, Doug. Such compassionate answers to such difficult questions. Thanks for all that you do.

      • Doug

        Thank you, SI! We certainly appreciate your feedback and contributions.

    • Bethany

      !! I sent in one of those questions! And I have a mentoring call later today, so hopefully I’ll be able to clarify some of my info and get a better idea of how to move forward in my situation! Thanks for this!

      • Doug

        You’re very welcome Bethany. Thanks for your comment and for sending the question in!

    • Exercisegrace

      This was great! The question most pertinent to me was about how much information do you want or need to know as a betrayed spouse. I remember our therapist asking me WHY I wanted to know certain things. My response was….he is asking me to forgive something that I have spent over 20 years of marriage believing was UNforgiveable (and he knew this). I simply refuse to offer a “blank check” of forgiveness. Even God expects us to name and repent our specific sins. I am willing to work on forgiveness and reconciliation but ONLY if I know exactly WHAT I am being asked to forgive.”

      Even though I begged my husband for details, he initially refused to tell me a lot of things. Sadly this was based on advice from his individual therapist. I can’t begin to tell you the shock and horror when his whore indulged herself in an epic Pinterest attack detailing many aspects of their affair. Worse, she lured our 16 year old daughter to that page so my CHILD got to read some things no child should ever have to know. Had he been honest, and answered my questions, her attack on me (my child is another matter!) would not have landed with such explosive impact. She was sure he hadn’t told me these things and it delighted her to reveal them. But because I was still “on the outside”, I got blindsided by not just the information but also with being hurt yet again that they had an entire secret life and I knew nothing about it. A grotesque reminder that they shared secrets and intimacies that I would never be privy to, unless she chose to randomly bludgeon me with them. If you are being asked to forgive and reconcile an affair, accept nothing less than full disclosure. Having the truth may hurt but it also disarms the intruder into your marriage.

      My advice to newly betrayed on this topic is to write down your questions. Take time to think it over. Ask yourself not only why you want to know, but how you will feel about receiving your best and your worst case scenario answers. For me, my imagination had conjured up far worse than what actually happened during most of it. But there were some things that were very damaging to hear. I am still glad I know.

      Lastly, because of what we know the devastating impact of HPV can be, and the fact that it can be dormant for many years? It’s important to know what types of sex they had and whether they used condoms (which don’t prevent HPV). My husband kept referring to the fact that they had “safe sex” and so I said…. oh so you used dental dams? And you don’t have to worry about getting throat cancer from her known HPV?? IDIOT.

      • Soul Mate

        Yes Exercisegrace, for me as well…the reason I need to know the details are to kill any of their intimacy, their shared secrets, fantasy memories of togetherness and shared excitement in causing others harm. To ultimately “kill” any euphoric, dreamy notion that the AP and his experience with her was anything but what it was. A true act of the most disgusting hate filled abuse anyone could inflict on a partner/spouse. I’d rather be body slammed off my deck then to have gone through the degree of pain I’ve experienced. Oh yes, if I’m to forgive, then I absolutely need to know just what it is that I’m forgiving. One of my husbands first explanation to me was that he was weak. He had no clue what was happening. That he is so disgusted with himself that he just wants to forget he could ever have done such a thing.

        The one thing that truly bothers me about this whole process of recovery is listening to therapists explain the thought process of the cheater and the rapist (AP) when he/she is “in the fog”. That they don’t think about their spouse. Like they are having an out of body experience or on some self inducing brain chemical (drug) and can’t help themselves so we the betrayed are supposed to understand their weakness. Their lack of self control, their immature, abusive, selfish stupidity. Like we the betrayed meander through life and have never experienced the attraction of another, the pull to engage in the basest most egotistical selfish and destructive of human nature because the real truth of what they were thinking is, “I don’t care I want what I want, I’ll never get caught, she deserves this” so “what she/he doesn’t know won’t hurt ME”, THE CHEATER. Not the betrayed. For anyone to say that a married person has no clue when crossing a line, flirting and when engaging in adulterous behavior was not thinking about their spouse is a stark naked lie plain and simple. “Compartmentalization”, “not thinking”, “it just happened”, “I don’t know why I did it”, “I was weak” is an insult to the integrity of my or any of our intelligence. But if you, as an adult, as a human being, one who truly wants “my forgiveness and me” then spill that bile of slimey disgust of shame that is the truth. Tell me the truth of what I’m supposed to forgive. All of it. Every disgusting detail and accept with grace and patience the consequence of that behavior. If you the betrayer ever want to be looked at as an individual who can be honored with trust again, at least give me, the victim, the respect to decide based on the truth. I could care less the reason/why of it all. Why’s are nothing but a pathetic excuse when a person engages in destructive behavior.

        Why’s are only truths when we the faithful use them as defense when we are tempted and ultimately reject the action to indulge that behavior.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.