Rebuilding After an Affair

Rebuilding After an Affair

Q: I had a brief affair with another man several years ago. My husband and I went to therapy and things are much better, but now my husband said I cannot have any male friends because he is afraid I will have an affair. I don’t think it’s fair. What should I do?

He: You may have pulled the plug on the therapy a little bit prematurely.

You stated that you and you husband went to therapy and that things are much better. You are still together, which is great, but there seems to be a fair amount of unresolved issues. The lack of freedom around your ability to form friendships is no small thing. Neither is the level of distrust still swirling around your relationship after several years. These issues shouldn’t have taken anybody by surprise, particularly your therapist, and therefore should have been teased out a bit more within the structure of your sessions with him or her.

Clearly the distrust of your husband is the principle concern.

Here is the sad but simple math your husband is doing: the person you had an affair with had a penis. Any male friend that you make is going to have a penis. Therefore, any male friend you make is a potential partner for another affair. This is sad and simple logic, yes, but also indisputably solid. Penis logic is always sad and simple.

You can’t blame the guy for being protective, but this level of distrust falls into the common behaviors that make a post-affair relationship untenable in the long run. This is also something that should have been hashed out in therapy as you were deciding if the relationship was salvageable.

The secondary concern is you and your patterns.

Are you giving your husband subtle or subconscious signals to be concerned, or it this distrust seemingly out of the blue? Did the man you had an affair with start out as just a friend? Are the unmet needs that caused the affair still unmet? Are you aware of them? If you are not, your husband may be and is rightfully freaked out and this may be causing him to be re-traumatized by the incident.

The good news is that it seems that both of you care about the relationship enough to put more energy into it. Get back on the couch and finish what you started by hashing this stuff out with a therapist. Your husband may just need to be reassured that you are still committed to the marriage, and you may have to gently establish some boundaries around trust.

She: This can surely be a polarizing question; is it ok for me to continue to have male friends, even after I once had an affair with a male friend? There is the perspective that Andy outlines, about adequately processing the past infidelity and spending more time on the stage of ‘rebuilding trust,’ which you should have spent an exhaustive amount of time in therapy processing. If you had really done this work, it doesn’t seem that this would be such an issue for you. People in deeply connected, nurturing, and trusting relationships don’t often have that empty space that they are looking to fill.

I also believe in complete transparency in relationships. In this day, when temptation is everywhere and it would only take a minute to initiate a sexual or emotional affair- if that is what you were looking for- it is imperative for openness and safety in relationships for what I call the ‘no passwords policy.’ I know it feels stifling and takes away your personal right for privacy (I cringe when I hear this, as if you’re a teenage girl talking about your diary). My response to that is: I am in a healthy and safe relationship and I never find myself emailing or texting anything (short of planning a surprise birthday party) that I wouldn’t want my husband to read. However, because there is trust and safety in my relationship, I know that Andy cannot be bothered to check my texts or Facebook private messages to old classmates. But his ability to do so, if he should choose, provides safety and accountability.

All of this is to say, if there is love, deep connection, trust, and transparency in your relationship, who you choose to form a friendship with should not cause your husband to feel stressed or threatened. Especially if you include him in the friendship.

HOWEVER, your husband is only human, and what is most important is that he feels safe and secure in your relationship. His feelings and happiness should be one of the most important things to you. Taking this into consideration, don’t make him feel threatened. Don’t form close emotional friendships with men who are single. Don’t spend time talking with them on the phone or text them excessively. Don’t go out drinking with them and come home late.

I’m a pretty secure and open minded girl, but I would certainly be less than secure and open minded if Andy decided to befriend a hot, 27 year-old, single chick… and one with daddy issues? Ah, kill me! There would be no amount of love, connection, and transparency that would give that friendship the green light.

 

Dr. Jen Semmes and Andy Wilson have been (mostly) happily married for ten years (currently happily). They are the owners of Coastal Counseling therapy center in Carlsbad, California. Jen holds a license in clinical social work and a doctorate in psychology, and is a therapist at Coastal Counseling. Andy just tries to hold it together.

If you, or anyone you know, has a question for ‘He said, She said’ please send a private message to Coastal Counseling on Facebook or email the question to coastalcounseling1@gmail.com. Check us out on the Internet at www.coastalcounselinggroup.com.

 

Disclaimer: This blog and the information herein are for educational and informational purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional psychological or therapeutic services.  The self-help information provided by this blog are solely the opinion of the bloggers and should not be considered as a form of therapy, advice, direction, diagnosis, or treatment of any kind. Instead, the information is designed to be used in conjunction with ongoing treatment provided by a mental health professional. Use the information in this blog at your own risk. All of the information is provided “as-is,” with no warranties of any kind, express or implied.

 

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