life advice
Infidelity: Can You Really Recover?
Infidelity can become a positive turning point rather than destructive force if the betrayal is handled properly.

One of you has had an affair. Or you know someone in the throes of uncovering one or is dealing with the confusion of the aftermath. What do we really know now about what drives affairs and what is needed to repair? What do we now know about affair-proofing your marriage? This may be surprising—what do we know about how your marriage can actually get better post-affair? Read the fine print: if you take certain clear steps.

First important point: it’s not the sex, it’s the secret that drives the affair and provides the adrenaline-run looniness. Frank Pittman, expert on affairs, says that "infidelity is a crazy state. The affair partner is the only person that the cheater may be somewhat honest with." The secret triggers a whole cascade of dangerous brain chemistry, including a sudden rise in testosterone (for both men and women), so everything takes on a highly sexualized sheen. A rise in amphetamines in the body creates a manic state. The drastic drop in oxytocin, the bonding hormone, contributes to disconnection from the primary mate. A drastic serotonin level drop creates an internal state of impending emergency. Summarizing: the cheater fears losing everything at the same time that the mate/family loses importance.

Is this scenario familiar? You ask: "Is something going on? You haven’t been available for sex for a long time, you’re working late a lot more and haven’t been sharing anything with me? Are you having an affair?" Your spouse says, "Oh honey, don’t be so paranoid! Nothing’s going on—you’re just making things up again."

Did you make the sucker move of thinking it’s your fault? We have found that partners are exquisitely attuned to each other. If you sense that something is going on, it often is. Alternately, one partner may emotionally withdraw from the other and stop giving attention, the primary nutrient of thriving relationships, to his or her mate. Whoever is actually having the affair, both partners are conspiring to distance and diminish their bond with each other.

Here’s the good news first. If you choose to get really transparent with each other, take the time to get real and share feelings and judgments, fears, hurts and hopes; your relationship can rise from the ashes with deeper love and joy than ever. Really! This choice generally benefits from the presence of a third party to advocate for telling the truth, genuinely listening, and opening to body wisdom.

Here’s the bad news. Most people go for the door marked Revenge of the Victim. An unfortunate number of people actually prefer being right to claiming healthy responsibility and recreating their union. Partners lob accusations back and forth about whose fault it is rather than asking the most important questions:

* How have I been withholding myself from my partner?
* What fears and other feelings have I not shared?
* What lessons is this affair providing for me?
* Am I willing to make my marriage the top priority in my life?

“ An unfortunate number of people actually prefer being right to claiming healthy responsibility and recreating their union.”

Couples experiencing extramarital affairs need to learn to move from the grip of fear into the flow of deep presence, where you and your mate receive an abundance of juicy attention and the variety that discovery generates. You need to discover how to create a no-blame relationship that affair-proofs your partnership. You can generate increased creativity and co-creativity, the best antidote to boredom and taking your partner for granted.

Here’s some right-now wisdom: Humans are messy. We’re new at this feeling stuff. We’re addicted to adrenaline and don’t know yet how creativity can renew a close relationship over and over. So keep breathing easily and give an abundance of loving attention to you if you’re traversing infidelity-world. There is a path through if you choose to rekindle your romance.

Relationship experts Kathlyn and Gay Hendricks have been married 35 years, worked together for 30 years, and authored over 30 books, including their bestselling "Conscious Loving." They have made it their life’s work to help people create healthy, thriving love relationships, and in their groundbreaking new book, "Conscious Loving Ever After," they set their sights on supporting those in midlife and beyond in committing and recommitting to relationship wellness. Learn more at

Copyright © 2011 Hitched Media, Inc. All rights reserved.