The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Affair With Friend

How do I deal with my husband's emotional internet affair?

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)

Dr. Kenner: I want to welcome Vicki to the show. Vicki, you’re dealing with some trauma right now?

Vicki: Yes I am.

Dr. Kenner: Tell me what you found out.

Vicki: My husband of 22 years has been having an internet affair with my I guess former best friend of 24 years.

Dr. Kenner: Oh my gosh. So it isn’t even an anonymous person.

Vicki: Nope.

Dr. Kenner: When did you find out?

Vicki: 29th.

Dr. Kenner: And what’s happened since then?

Vicki: He’s still in the home. He says he’s trying to make it work with us. We have been talking. We’re making love constantly. But I know he’s still talking to her because he tells me he is. He says he’s very confused, doesn’t know what’s going on with himself.

Dr. Kenner: The key person that I’m worried about right now and concerned about is you. What is most on your mind? Where do you most need the help?

Vicki: Trying to make the marriage work. Trying to get this stuff blocked out of my head so I can figure it out.

Dr. Kenner: Trying to get what blocked out of your head?

Vicki: That he’s still talking to her.

Dr. Kenner: So notice the main issue is trust. He betrayed you.

Vicki: Yes he did, and so did she.

Dr. Kenner: She betrayed you. Were you still having a friendship with her during this period?

Vicki: Oh yeah, we even spent a week on holiday together.

Dr. Kenner: So you have to review everything. What went on during that holiday? Were they seeing each other secretly? When you say an internet affair, was it sexual? Was it emotional? Was it –

Vicki: Emotional. They’re in different provinces. They live 3,500 miles away from each other.

Dr. Kenner: So when you say emotional, was it “I love you?”

Vicki: Yes.

Dr. Kenner: When I say they had not had sex, had they been graphic about sex, what they wanted to do with each other?

Vicki: I don’t know.

Dr. Kenner: But it’s an affair anyway. It may not be intercourse, but it certainly … when professionals are asked what is an affair, an affair is essentially when the emotional intimacy is broken in the primary bond between you and your husband. The most damaging aspect of an affair is the deceit. Because he is lying to you, or he was. Now he’s trying to come clean.

Vicki: Yes, but he still hasn’t given her up.

Dr. Kenner: And if he still hasn’t given her up, then you need – are you getting any therapy at all for yourself?

Vicki: I’m starting to, this weekend.

Dr. Kenner: Let me read something, I’m going to recommend a book for you. Because my guess is what you’ve been going through since you found out is that your world has been turned upside down, inside and outside.

Vicki: That’s an understatement.

Dr. Kenner: I understand and I won’t understate it in a minute. You have kids also?

Vicki: Yes, we have a 15-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son.

Dr. Kenner: And you know what the trauma is there? They’re just discovering, learning about romance aren’t they?

Vicki: Yes they are.

Dr. Kenner: Do they know this is – I can’t imagine they don’t know, because kids have antennas.

Vicki: Yes, they know.

Dr. Kenner: So they’re getting … your husband has done so much damage. If he wanted to divorce you openly, that would be traumatic, but it wouldn’t be what he’s done here, and your former best friend. I’m assuming she’s a former best friend now. I’m going to read you something. There’s a woman who wrote a book, it’s on my website, and the book is After the Affair. And the subtitle is healing the pain and rebuilding trust when a partner has been unfaithful. It’s by Dr. Janice Abram Spring. I want to read you one of the opening lines that she has in this book, because she is speaking directly to the pain that’s felt on the discovery of this type of an injury, which is one of the top stressors you’ll ever go through in life. Here it is: “When I was 15, I was raped. That was nothing compared to your affair. The rapist was a stranger. You, I thought, were my best friend. When I first uncovered your secret, I stopped feeling special to you. But on a deeper level, I lost trust in the world and in myself.” Dr. Spring goes on to say, “There’s no way to prepare yourself for the crushing revelation. Your view of your life and the world you live in may be ripped apart. Whatever self-assurance and security you felt in the past may now seem naïve or false. Where have I been? you ask yourself. Do I live on this planet? Your mind and body are likely to be in shock. Gone is your fundamental sense of order and justice in the world. Gone too are your sense of control over your life, your self respect, your very concept of who you are. You may feel abandoned by everyone. A stranger to yourself, you may swing wildly from one extreme to another. Determined and confident one moment, humiliated and needy the next. Battered by feelings so intense that you may wonder, ‘Am I going crazy?’ I want to assure you that you’re not. That in fact what you’re experiencing is a normal and appropriate response to an acutely traumatizing experience. You’re reeling not only from the loss of the integrity of your relationship, but also from the loss of an illusion, that you’re special to your partner and that the intimacy that you thought you shared with that person would last forever. In the face of such shattering news, it would be strange if you didn’t feel that loss.”

Vicki: That’s pretty much it.

Dr. Kenner: So the main thing I want you to hear, I have worked with many, many couples who have gone through affairs and I want you to know that you can heal from it. I’ve seen couples that feel pulverized in the beginning, or one partner, and I’ve seen them grow from the experience. Sometimes they separate – very often they divorce. It’s very hard to repair the rupture that occurs. That book is very good. And when you’re ready to heal, I’ve written a book with my co-author on valuing yourself in a relationship. And it’s called The Selfish Path to Romance, but it’s not selfish the way we typically think of it, as the mean person. It’s self-esteem. Self-valuing. It’s how to love with passion and reason. So that’s a second book you can get. I first would get the affair book though, and when you want to put the pieces together again and when you’re ready for it, you could read the other book. And your kids could read the other book at any time. Maybe not the 15-year-old, she may be a smidge too young, but the 18-year-old son could certainly do that. I think that would be helpful. Listen, I wish I could give you a hug through the phone because I’ve been with so many people who have been through this. I don’t personally know the pain, but I’ve seen the pain and I think the book will be a tremendous help for you. You don’t have to stay with him. Value yourself. It’s your life that you want to nurture.

Vicki: Do you think it’s crazy that I still want to make it work?

Dr. Kenner: You can work with that a little bit. You’ll get guidance. I think when you read the book, it’ll give you a lot more knowledge and you’ll decide then whether you want to make it work. Listen, thank you so very much for the call and it’s ultimately your choice. Thank you Vicki.


Movie clip
Male: I can’t deal with this.
Female: With what? Table manners?
Male: No baby, with you, telling me what to do every second of the day. With you rearranging my entire apartment, making the bed every morning.
Female: You’re still mad because I misplaced your papers?
Male: It’s not just my papers. I don’t know where anything is anymore.

Dr. Kenner: And you notice she is not listening to him. He’s trying to say, “You’re controlling. I don’t like that.” And she’s trying to make it look like it’s a petty thing. You misplaced papers and you’re upset about that. Is somebody trying o micromanage your life? Is someone trying to control you? Even out of goodness. “I’m just doing it for you, honey.” Whether it’s a parent doing it for you or a husband or a wife, or maybe you have a roommate who is just trying to do you some favors and clean up all your stuff. How does that make you feel? How do you deal with those situations?