I know. It’s been a long, long time since we’ve posted a blog. March, I think—over 5 months. No, we haven’t been lost at sea. We’ve been crazy busy selling the house we’ve lived in in Boston for 39 years (!) and moving to Los Angeles. Now Bostonians are supposed to look down their noses at LA, but we love it. So much energy and creativity, and lots of fun people. Once we get settled—IF we ever get settled—I know we’re going to shift into high gear.
And we do have a blog for you today. A major newspaper did an interview with us about relationships recovering from betrayal.
Here’s the raw interview:
* Is it possible for a marriage to survive an affair - and if so, do you believe that a marriage should (can trust ever recover)?
CHI: Marriages can survive an affair the way people can survive a heart attack and the way cars can survive a crash. That is, sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. And if they do, sometimes they limp along, and sometimes they’re as good as new, if not better.
When it comes to a marriage that’s been torpedoed by an affair, the issue is, Can trust be restored? And the answer is, It depends.
Here are some factors in favor of the marriage surviving:
· If the two people had a mostly satisfying marriage, and they felt truly connected, and the really respected each other, and they could enjoy being with each other…
· If the cheater really can understand how much pain he put his partner through and is willing to work hard and with great patience to be there for his partner and do everything necessary to rebuild trust…
· If the person who’s been betrayed can understand that she played some role in what happened, and can understand how she might have done the same thing under similar circumstances…
· And if the couple starts work with a good couples’ therapist immediately…
On the other hand, the more of these factors that are NOT present, the more likely it is that the marriage won’t be salvageable.
The good news is that trust can be restored. But it takes time, patience, good will, an otherwise healthy marriage, and professional help.
* What are some steps that couples should take to re-building their relationship after an affair?
CHI: Day one, hour one: run, don’t walk, to the best couples’ therapist you can find. Understand that at this point you are half-crazy amateurs dealing with a serious problem that requires professional help. Every day you spend before getting help is a day you can do terrible damage to your prospects of recovering.
Next, do no harm. Don’t do any dumb impulsive stuff that’ll just make healing harder. It’s much better to temporarily separate than to hurt each other.
Keep the children OUT of what’s going on. There’s been enough damage; you don’t need to damage their relationship with either of you.
Turn to friends for support but not for advice. The best of friends too often give the worst advice. Go to a pro for advice.
Be prepared for the fact that it’s going to take months for the pain, fear, and anger to shrink to manageable size, and even longer for it to stop being a constant presence in your life.
And if you are the cheater, LISTEN to your partner. Hang in there with her. NEVER say, “Look, I said I was sorry.” NEVER say, “When are you going to get over this?” NEVER say, “The way you keep harping on this, there must be something wrong with you.” Just remember: this isn’t about you. It’s about hanging in there with someone you’ve DAMAGED. If you can’t hang in there as long as it takes to heal, there’s no reason for her ever to trust you.
* How can couples trust each other again, and should they ever trust each other completely?
CHI: Well, I’m not sure two people should ever trust each other completely, except in a fairy tale. We’re all fallible, easily confused human beings. And so you should make sure, no matter what, that you have your own money, a means of supporting yourself, and a support system outside your relationship. Because you just never know…
But you CAN get to the point where you do trust each other when it comes to fidelity. That’s when you’ve identified and addressed the factors in your relationship that preceded the affair—usually distance, coldness, lack of respect, lack of mutual interests, lack of physical intimacy. And when you know that your partner knows how much he hurt you and that no matter what he just can’t put you through that again.
* When is it time to give up?
CHI: Sometimes it’s best to give up right away. That’s when your relationship was iffy and unsatisfying before you found out about the affair. Or if you know that you have a lot of trust issues, and so you’ll just never be able to get over being cheated on.
But in most cases, the time to give up is after about 6 to 9 months of couples’ therapy, if you see that you not making any progress and especially if it’s clear that one of you just isn’t interested in really working on the relationship. (But “not making progress” only holds if you’re pretty confident that your therapist is smart, fair, and proactive. If you’re not making progress and your therapist has been passive or unfocussed or clueless, don’t give up on your relationship. Get a new therapist.