Mike: Is there a personality type that stands out here? Perhaps say the hard-driven type A personality, or a more passive personality, is somebody that fits into these various kinds of personality categories more likely to becoming ensnared in this, or is this an equal opportunity type of thing that can happen?
Karla: I don’t know that I’ve looked at it in the sense of type A versus type B, I mean type A are people who are driven to succeed, tend to be work-a-holics.
Type B can be just as successful but they’re not quite as intense and driven. Definitely a narcissistic personality tend to need a lot of attention and they need to be differed to and placed at a high importance.
So if they find their relationship with their spouse isn’t giving them what they need and meeting their needs, they’re at high risk for having affairs, definitely. Because of the fact of they need to be in the center of their world, and how they feel is what matters most to them.
But I would say the interesting thing, looking at how to prevent an affair, is that if you recognize that anyone is at risk of having an affair given the right situation if you are not careful, kind of keeps you in a place where you one, protect yourself, and two, protect your marriage.
Mike: If you suspect that your spouse or partner is involved in an emotional affair, how do you broach this subject? Because there is the possibility that your partner sees themselves in a situation that is completely innocent.
And they may feel attacked or wrongly classified as having some sort of wrongful relationship. Is there a right way and a wrong way, or a wrong time and a right place to go about broaching this subject?
Karla: Well, let me first give them the warning signs that their spouse might be having an affair.:
1. The marriage is becoming more and more distant.
2. You are living separate lives, you are not talking about your problems.
3. You find your spouse avoiding sexual intimacy.
4. Your spouse is starting to become more and more displeased with you.
5. There is a change in that person’s schedule, maybe they are working late hours at the office, out of town more often.
6. They change in their appearance. All of a sudden they are dressing sharper, or they are wearing cologne or perfume, and haven’t done that for a long time.
7. You just notice that they are stepping away from you. The increase in the amount of time that they are gone that you can’t really explain.
So, when you start seeing those things, and something else happens, maybe you see an email, or you hear your spouse starting talking about a person, maybe Sherry at the office or Tom and all of a sudden you are hearing this name and you are thinking, “what’s going on?”
Or if you just sense there is something going on – you have to confront your spouse. It is scary, and it’s difficult because your spouse, the infidel is usually defensive about the relationship. Not willing to end it.
May not even have admitted at that point to himself or herself that it is an emotional affair.
Because if it’s new and it’s just a friendship, remember they are just wanting to spend more time together, and thy are just staring to think about it, but they haven’t shared their feelings about each other, they haven’t had sex.
They are probably going to consider themselves to not be doing anything wrong.
However, an emotional affair, just the fact that your spouse is attracted to somebody else, even if it’s just in the initial stages, and definitely if it’s a committed, connected, attached affair, is a warning sign.
And while it is 100% the person’s responsibility who chooses to be unfaithful, it is their responsibility to take for doing it, allowing themselves to be tempted and not stopping it.
Usually, unless you have somebody that is a serial infidel or Don Juan type or one who has a sexual addiction, an emotional affair will often come out of a voiding the person, or a void in the marriage.
And so something is going on that needs to be addressed. So the earlier that you say, “this is what’s going on, it’s not ok.
We need to get help for our marriage, and figure out what’s going on and why you are attracted to this person” without freaking out and going crazy, has the best chance of stopping it early, and having the person pulled back.
Mike: That’s what I was going to mention, is that what’s called for here is really cool heads. You can’t go in screaming, you can’t go in abusive or in attack mode.
And yet, it is so difficult. It is so easy for me to say, and yet I recognize that that is so incredibly difficult to do because a person may very well feel that their entire world is on the verge of collapsing.
Karla: And in the sense of an emotional affair, it is on that verge. It can go either way. It can end up where the person says, “oh my gosh, what am I doing? I don’t want this. I love my spouse, I want to stay in this committed marriage.
I don’t want this anymore, I’m willing to walk away from it.” But I’ll tell you, if it’s a really intense involved emotional affair, what typically happens as it’s ending, is that the infidel actually does care about that person and the emotional affair, like you said before, are compared to the spouse who they’ve been with for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 years this person looks great.
They don’t know their problems, it’s exciting, they are forbidden fruit, everything is wonderful when they are together. There is a whole lot of stuff there that they don’t want to give up.
So what often happens if an emotional affair ends, is that the infidel ends it, tries to work on the marriage. Goes back to the person, tries to work on the marriage.
Goes back to the person, tries to work on the marriage. And eventually it will be ended.
It’s not typical that you say, “end this relationship”, and the person says, “ok, I will”, and they do it and it’s over right there. It’s kind of a roller coaster.
Mike: One of the things that this is really calling out to me, is that this may not be a problem or in all likelihood it is a problem that can not be solved by just the two people.
It’s probably going to take some sort of outside intervention from someone, in terms of a licensed counselor, perhaps pastoral counseling, perhaps a trusted friend of both sides‚ whatever it might take, I’m sure that there are better ways to express it than I have, but at some point a troubled relationship may need a third party who’s not emotionally attached to either one. is there a way to go about saying, “We need help.
Let’s get counseling.” Is there a way to do that without saying‚ I would bet that what happens in a lot of cases is that the person who is the infidel probably is thinking, “yeah right, you are going to pick someone who has already decided that I’m the worst person in the world and it’s all going to be my fault.”
Is there a way to reassure somebody that we aren’t here to assign blame, we’re here to fix the relationship?
Karla: Well, I think when you look at healing from an affair. If you go into a counselor and they know what they are doing. What they are going to do is, the process is saying to the infidel, “ok you’ve got to own this one.
Lots of marriages have problems, lots of people have emotional hang ups and low points in their lives, but they don’t allow themselves to get involved in an affair. You did. You own it. You’ve got to take responsibility.
You’ve got to care about the pain that you have caused your spouse. And you have got to allow your spouse to hurt. And you have got to comfort, and you have got to walk through that pain with that person.
Allow them to speak. Allow them to be real. Allow them to go all through the grief process, including the anger and blame and all that stuff. However, we are going to look at your marriage.”
Marriages can heal from affairs and they can actually be stronger after the affair if you look at the context of the marriage in which the affair occurred, see what was missing, get the couple to talk about the problems and issues and lack of intimacy or attention or whatever it was.
Get them both to take responsibility for making it different. And then you can actually put together a stronger relationship. But in the context of an affair, doing that on your own is very hard, so I highly recommend a counselor.
Mike: And if you don’t find the right couselor to begin with?
Karla: Well, I tell people all the time when they ask me, I do al lot of speaking and teach classes, so people ask me for counselors‚ I try to pair people with somebody that will work for them.
If people can get their insurance to pay for counseling, that’s great. It’s ok to call a counselor on the phone and say, “here’s the problem that we have, how do you approach that?”
Listen to the counselor talk, see if you like the way they verbalize things and see if you like the way they respond to you. Do they talk down to you? Do they seem practical? Do they have experience in affairs?
And you can go in one time and if you don’t both feel comfortable with the person, or if you feel like it was off and they didn’t do enough talking, they didn’t take enough control, or they took too much, or whatever it is‚ go to somebody else.
Because if you don’t have rapport with your counselor, you are not going to stay.
About the author
Karla Downing is an author, speaker and licensed marriage and family therapist who offers biblical and practical advice for relationship issues.
She has published three books and numerous articles. Her website is www.ChangeMyRelationship.com.
Use this link to sign up for her free relationship e-newsletter with relationship tips and truths and get your free 15-Day Relationship Challenge at http://www.changemyrelationship.com/free15daydevotional.html.
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