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AFTER THE AFFAIR: PRACTICAL STRATEGIES FOR HELPING COUPLES HEAL

By: Janis Abrahms Spring, Ph.D., ABPP

OPEN SECRETS POLICY
Debunks the following assumptions:
  • Both partners must be seen together.
  • The unfaithful partner must give up the affair-person as a prerequisite to being seen in therapy.
  • The therapist keeps no secrets from his/her patients.
A DEFINITION OF GENUINE FORGIVENESS
  • Genuine Forgiveness is a hard-won transaction, an intimate dance between two people bound together by an interpersonal violation.
  • As the offender works hard to earn forgiveness through genuine, generous acts of repentance and restitution, the hurt party works hard to let go of her resentment and her need for retribution.
  • Together they redress the injury.

WHAT UNFAITHFUL PARTNERS MUST DO TO EARN FORGIVENESS
  • Dismantle their cognitive blocks to earning forgiveness.
  • Bear witness to the pain they caused.
  • Apologize genuinely, non-defensively, responsibly.
  • Seek to understand their behavior and reveal the inglorious truth about themselves to the person they harmed.
  • Forgive themselves for injuring another person.

THE HURT PARTNER’S RESPONSE: AN AVALANCHE OF LOSSES
Hurt Partners lose:
  • Their identity
  • Their sense of specialness
  • Their self-respect for debasing themselves and forfeiting their basic values to win their partner back
  • Their self-respect for failing to acknowledge that they were wronged
  • Their control over their thoughts and actions
  • Their fundamental sense of order and justice in the world
  • Their religious faith
  • Their connection with others
  • Their sense of purpose—the will to live


THE UNFAITHFUL PARTNER’S RESPONSE:
Unfaithful Partners’ experience:
  • Relief
  • Impatience
  • Chronic anxiety
  • Justified anger
  • Absence of guilt
  • Grief over the loss of the affair person
  • Guilt over the children
  • Isolation
  • Hopelessness
  • Paralysis
  • Self-disgust
*from After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful

WHAT MAKES FOR A GOOD APOLOGY?
Offenders:
  • Take responsibility for the damage they caused
  • Make their apology personal
  • Make their apology specific
  • Make their apology deep
  • Make a heartfelt apology
  • Make their apology clean
  • Apologize repeatedly

WHAT HURT PARTNERS MUST DO TO FOSTER FORGIVENESS
Create opportunities for offenders to make good and help heal:
  • Open up and share their pain with the offender.
  • Speak from the soft underbelly of their pain.
  • Help offenders alleviate their pain and tell them exactly what they need to heal.
  • Let offenders know what they are doing right.
  • Apologize for their contribution to the injury.
*From How Can I Forgive You? The Courage to Forgive, The Freedom Not To

LOW-COST TRUST BUILDING BEHAVIORS
  • Limit your overnight travel.
  • Tell me when you run into or hear from the affair-person that same day.
  • Tell me if you’re planning to contact that person.
  • Show me what pleases you sexually.
  • Tell me what you love about me, why you’ve chosen me.
  • Call me during the day and leave your cell phone on so I canreach you at any time.
  • Tell me how you feel—share your intimate thoughts with me.
  • Tell me when you like the way I look.
  • Tell me when you feel happy or more optimistic about our future together.
  • Come home from work in time to have dinner with the family.
  • Plan time to be alone with me.
  • Spend more time in foreplay—kissing and touching.
  • Tell me how I’ve upset or angered you.
  • Tell me what pleased you during the day.
  • Look me in the eyes when I talk to you and put everything else aside.
  • Tell me when you feel I’ve let you down.
  • Show me affection outside the bedroom.
  • Hold me and show understanding when I’m upset; don’t give up on me.

HIGH-COST TRUST BUILDING BEHAVIORS
  • End all contact with the affair-person’s circle of friends or relatives.
  • Quit the club or association to which the affair-person belongs.
  • Transfer some of your assets into my name.
  • Find another job.
  • Plan a romantic vacation with me.
  • Pay for me to complete my college education.
  • Show me your monthly bank statements, credit card statements, and phone bills without my having to ask for them.
  • Join a 12-step program to give up drugs or alcohol.
  • Move to another town with me.
  • Provide funds for me to hire a private investigator to track you.
  • Explore in therapy the effects of your parents’ infidelity and divorce on you.
  • Work on expressing your anger in a respectful tone and tell me about the soft underbelly of your anger.
  • Get into couple therapy with me and work to figure out exactly what the affair says about you, me, us
  • Answer all my questions about the affair-person in front of a therapist, so I’m more certain that you’re telling the truth

ADDITIONAL CARING BEHAVIORS
  • Invite me to talk about what’s bothering me.
  • When you’re upset, speak to me in a voice that’s calm and respectful. Ask me to mirror you. Give me a chance to hear you.
  • If we’re fighting, agree to have a listening session with me (no more than 15 minutes) before we go to bed. Don’t go to sleep and leave me hurting.
  • Tell me when you feel proud of me in front of our friends and family.
  • Tell me what you like and love about me.
  • Bring home a little surprise or treat for me.
  • Call me or check in if you know I’m going to the doctor or have an important meeting.
  • Offer help without my having to ask you.
  • Tell me or show me you appreciate how hard I work for the family.
  • Show me affection without it leading to sex.
  • Initiate sex
  • Tell me what you like about the way I touch you.
  • Plan fun time for us.
  • Call my mother and check that she’s okay.
  • Get into bed when I go to sleep, just to cuddle for 15 minutes.
  • Greet me warmly when you come into the house.
  • Tell me you love me when you feel it.


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