Lately a number of new clients have come with issues relating to affairs. Whilst I’m not an expert and certainly don’t advertise my services in this department, it is an important and common enough issue that I want to be able to offer some grounded and helpful initial support to clients.
So I’ve been learning. I write this article since I’ve come across some compelling sources and thought you might be interested!
Resources for dealing with affairs
One of my go-to’s for couples work are John and Julie Gottman. Find out more about their approach to affairs in this Q+A article on infidelity and the aftermath. I appreciate the “Atone, Attune, Attach” model they teach.
Couples therapist Ester Perel lays her refreshing perspective out in an easy-to-absorb way in her Ted talk. I don’t know the details of her approach to healing, but she seems to take an affair as a symptom viewpoint, inviting couples to explore what happened in the relationship before the affair. Her book The State of Affairs seems less of a how to recover than an exploration of the phenomenon and a look at how a range of couples have recovered, since there is no one answer.
Another source recommended to me is After the Affair by Janis Abrahms Spring. It is a key book for supporting couples through the aftermath.
Local and online resources
- Beyond Affairs group, Burlington Ontario
- Sex and Love Addicts Ontario page
- List of local support groups from Psychology Today
- Self-help resources include Dr Shirley Glass’s online support list and her book list.
Preventing an affair
Prevention is easier than cure holds true with affairs. How do you affair-proof your relationship? Is your relationship at risk? What can you do about it?
A Gottman certified couples therapist Robert Navarra writes this helpful blog Precursors to an Affair: Six Warning Signs, and follows it with this post about the most common track into an affair with research from the Gottman Institute.
“The worse combination of factors increasing risks for infidelity are:
- Negative comparisons between the partner and other, idealized people
- Consistent turning away from opportunities to connect with the partner
- Not acknowledging or talking about feelings with the partner about the unhappiness.” Navarra
The risks are heightened when “a partner starts disclosing relationship problems to another person and not to their partner, a wall starts to develop with their own partner and a window with the new person gets constructed”. Navarra.
Dr Shirley Glass’s research showed that the vast majority of affairs are not caused by lust but in fact by an emotional connection after this other “window” has been constructed.
In a healthy relationship “a protective wall surrounds the couple where choices are made to not share any relationship problems with anyone who is not an advocate of the relationship, in other words, with somebody who could potentially be an alternative to the partner. The secure couple shares a window of transparency allowing them to be open with each other about their problems.” (Navarra)
For more on Gottman’s approach to preventing affairs, try John Gottman’s book What Makes Love Last.
Do leave comments if you have other resources to recommend. We’re all learning!