BEFORE YOU START
THE ULTIMATE GOAL
There are not guarantees in Affair Recovery work. You or your partner may decide to forgive each other but not reconcile. The pain of the betrayal may be too deep. Or your partner may not be able to do the work of rebuilding trust. If this happens, at least you know that you tried the best that you could and will have made some meaning from what has happened. And you will have a chance to grieve for all that was lost.
On the other hand, the reward of a successful recovery process can feel miraculous. To understand what this involves and the GOAL of affair recovery work, it is helpful to talk about "attachment bonds".
THE ATTACHMENT BOND
All of us, as human beings, are powerfully drawn to be attached to a loved one. It's hard-wired into our genes, beginning in the womb. This reality is reflected in studies which have shown that loneliness or rejection can feel more painful than physical pain.
The attachment bond develops in childhood with a person's primary caregivers, usually one or more parents. When a child leaves the home, a maturing person shifts the primary bond from the parent to a new person in his/her life. The attachment bond in a marriage now provides a sense of safety and purpose - giving the feeling that we matter in the world. Essential feelings of comfort, permanence, and belonging flow out of the marital bond.
THE CREATION OF "US"
Said another way, this marital attachment bond is how we shift from "Me" and "You" to a newly created 'Us'. The "Me" does not disappear but, in marriage, it sacrifices so we create something new. Something bigger than either of us can be when standing alone. The union grows overtime and the "Us" becomes the basis upon which family, friends and community are built around.
With emotionally healthy couples, the "Us" part is thriving. The couple has unconsciously formed into a giving and sharing team. Life happens, both good and bad, to both of them together. Even when conflict arises, the couple may fight but, ultimately, they have the conviction that they have to figure it out together. Implicit in their understanding of the relationship is the idea that they are in it together. Problems are not to be avoided, but rather something to face together. Parenting, work, chores, sex, finances, and in-laws are all parts of life that are shared.
If one person falters, the other person picks him or her up. The attitude can be reflected in the statement:
I don't blame you for everything because you are part of "Us".
A BOMB EXPLODED
An affair is like a bomb that explodes at the foundation of a marriage and destroys everything in and around it. All that was special, unique and sacred to “Us” is devalued and questioned. Trust that was built over years, sometimes decades, is obliterated. The whole marriage is viewed as a lie. A common question asked, most often by the betrayed spouse, is:
"Was there ever really an "Us" in the first place?"
Neither partner feels connected to the other. Both feel like they are on an island, alone and completely devastated by the impact of the explosion.
BLAME FOR THE BOMB
The treasured "Us" may now be blamed for the explosion. The unfaithful partner may make comments like:
"I felt so lonely that I had to reach out to my co-worker."
"You always nagged at me so I had to go elsewhere."
In reality, the "Us" was NOT at fault. Even though the "Us" may have been neglected or abused, one person decided to betray the other with an affair rather than face the issue or exit the relationship with honor.
The infidelity that shattered the bond also creates a primal panic. It feels primal because that reflects how important the attachment bond was in the first place. Physically, it usually feel like a forceful punch to the gut for the betrayed spouse. You may feel unable to catch your breath, like there's an elephant sitting on your chest.
In this painful mental and emotional state, the natural reaction for the betrayed spouses to completely reject the unfaithful spouse. There may be feelings of complete distrust, confusion, repulsion, betrayal, loss, grief and more.
CREATING A NEW "US"
Given the destruction of the attachment bond, the goal for most couples is not to return to the marriage that was. That would make it possible for the same flaws to blow up the attachment all over again. That is far too risk and would be intolerably traumatic.
Rather, the goal is to create a RADICALLY NEW marriage.
One that is built on the insights and growth gained during the recovery process.
One where both partners feel fully heard and understood.
A marriage where honesty is central to all actions.
A relationship where core attachment bonds are held as sacred.
A marriage where both partners understand their own weaknesses, blind spots, and childhood wounds; and how these impacts a marriage on a daily basis.
And ultimately, a marriage that is much more capable of meeting each other's needs - a new marriage that is based on commitment, deep friendship, and passion.
The END GOAL is to go BEYOND recovery from betrayal; but rather to use the pain and the suffering as a catalyst for transformation of yourself and your relationship.