Infidelity

Books

Carder, Dave. Close Calls: What Adulterers Want You to Know about Protecting Your Marriage, 2008. Rpt. as Anatomy of an Affair: How Affairs, Attractions, and Addictions Develop and How to Guard Your Marriage Against Them. Moody Publishers, 2017. 

Carder organizes his book into three sections: risks brought about by people we know and interact with, risks resulting from our own interior history as well as that of our primary relationship, and a final more upbeat sections that discusses making the primary relationship more safe and satisfying. Because we have unique likes, dislikes, traumas, deficits in our current relationship, and histories, what we find sexually attractive – and therefore who would fit our Dangerous Partner Profile, one we might fall into an affair with – will vary. Times and circumstances in our relationship, such as grief, new job, or other big transition – can make us more vulnerable to an affair. Carder’s writing is clear-cut and easily accessible for the general reader with some charts to illustrate his points. He also provides case studies of real couples (identities hidden). While Carder does have a Christian background, and some of his resources are also with a background of Christianity, the book’s text is not explicitly based in scripture, making this book accessible and useful to people whether religious or not.

Glass, Shirley P with Jean Coppock Staeheli. Not “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity. Free Press, 2003.

Glass drives home over and over the windows and walls metaphor for protective boundary and intimacy in the marriage. Thinking in walls preserves the ultimate emotional, mental, factual knowledge, and loyalty  to the marriage to the exclusion  of anyone else outside the marriage. Walls block out everyone else but the couple from the most private of things. Windows allow light to come in and a line of sight to remain. Windows between spouses mean intimacy, knowledge, and openness flows between the two parties. Affairs often happen when the windows and walls are devoted to protect a relationship other than the marital one; the primary loyalty of the unfaithful partner is to the affair partner and the maintaining of the secret rather than the betrayed partner.

If these boundaries and loyalties are misused, affairs are a real possibility. How likely affairs are to happen depends on a person’s situational circumstances, family history and attachment style, and individual personality or coping vulnerabilities. All of these things that make the unfaithful partner unique also mix in with the affair partner’s history and vulnerabilities as well. It’s a dynamic where there is both critical unique story for that triangle and also common human dynamics that shape secret-keeping and the healing process.

Glass presents both a lot of scholarly research on infidelity as well as composite clinical cases from her years helping people address and recover from affairs. Her knowledge and expertise on the topic is obvious. She starts by acknowledging attraction to others besides our spouse is as normal as breathing. What we do with that attraction (by not feeding the feelings in a concrete way to signal openness for more attention and more window) is what ultimately cruises us down the slippery slope or keeps our primary loyalty to our partner. Glass transitions into the trauma of the affair –for the betrayed partner, affair revelation is traumatic. Trauma and grief of loss of the affair partner and shame also emerge for the involved partner. Glass devotes the last two sections of the book to meaning-making of the affair and healing (whether a renewal of the marital vow or solo healing for self-growth and potential future relationships).

For its thoroughness from an expert on this topic, Not “Just Friends” should have a place in the lives of any person affected by an affair. Because of the far-reaching and potent devastation and upending of life from infidelity, readers are highly encouraged to seek out help from a professional therapist with experience in helping people navigate and recover from affairs as the primary source of help and healing and utilize the information from Not “Just Friends” as additional relevant information in the meaning-making and healing process.

Perel, Esther. The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity. Harper, 2017. 

Much of the literature on infidelity instructs readers how to repair the destruction of an affair or “affair proof” their marriage. Frank Pittman’s seminal Private Lies diverged from “how-to” guide into deep study, and so does this book. Here, Perel (Mating in Captivity) looks at motives and meanings. Why do spouses cheat on one another? What values or interpersonal dynamics impact how an affair is revealed, and how does keeping or revealing secrets liberate or imprison? How does grief manifest among the betrayed, betrayer, and the lover? Most controversially, while never condoning infidelity, Perel argues that affairs can transform, and that people can aim for understanding without passing immediate judgment. Perel claims that discussing infidelity and outside sexual desires heightens intimacy and strengthens the couple’s bond, making infidelity actually less likely. If we acknowledge the attraction of the forbidden and not see love as a constant, concludes Perel, we can successfully invigorate our relationships with honest communication and alluring components (passion, eroticism, unbroken attention). VERDICT Recommended for couples, therapists, religious leaders, and anyone else interested in a deep look at the meanings, devastations, and potential growth avenues from infidelity.

The above review was published in Library Journal and reproduced here with permission from the publication.

Potter-Efron, Ronald T. and Patricia S. Potter-Efron. The Emotional Affair: How to Recognize Emotional Infidelity and What To Do About It. New Harbinger, 2008.

            Dr. Potter-Efron and his spouse Pat Potter-Efron define an emotional as “an intense, primarily emotional, nonsexual relationship that diminishes at least one person’s emotional connection with his or her committed partner.” Emotional engaging and emotional investment in the primary relationships gushes away into this emotional affair, leaving less energy (sometimes little at all) for the committed partnership. That the relationship is nonsexual quells little distress, and for some people, may even cause more distress and fear for some people because the affair cannot be dismissed as an outlet of physical release or a dalliance in weakness. The Potter-Efrons work from a systemic mindset. With the primary relationship a Venn diagram of me, you, and us, each section must be considered in exploring the invalidation, hopelessness, and other dynamics which might have led to the affair. Even focusing on the third party (the one outside of the primary relationship) too much withers away at the primary relationship and its partners looking at their own part in the couple’s cycle that paved the way to the emotional affair. Quite the contrary to being mercilessly blaming, by looking at contributions and dynamics, the Potter-Efrons see the best chance for understanding, vulnerability, and having the best shot at turning away from the third party to rebuild the committed partnership. For the partner who is having the emotional affair, giving it up invites grief, and in the grief of what is missing and the vulnerable discussion of what led up to the partner seeking an emotional affair, a new relationship can be born. The book begins with a checklist to help readers determine if their partner might be having an emotional affair. The checklist, edging someone toward painful realization, could easily and understandably overwhelm a reader with heartbreak and powerful emotion that demands to be seen, but the Potter-Efrons urge readers to hold back from discussing the situation too soon. Even if it’s just a few days to gain some emotional balance, they advise, do so. Strong emotions are ripe for “hot” actions (blaming, screaming, attacking, hostility) which, in the end, may collapse a relationship under their weight. After the checklist, the Potter-Efrons describe the why’s of emotional affairs (lack of praise, freedom, feeling unappreciated and disconnected) and then share behaviors to practice while discussing the affair. These behaviors have to do with being assertive, specific in your hurts and the behaviors that for you define the emotional affair and your bottom lines (and also the flexibilities) of what you need to feel and see from your partner. People need to be clear in sharing how the emotional affair affects them in the relationship’s climate. If at any time emotional balance is lost, it is best to wide the wave of feeling and take a break from the discussion until it crests. From these painful conversations, a different relationship may be in store. The Potter-Efons discuss how a reader who might be having an emotional affair can determine if their outside connection has gone from time-limited, nonsexual friendship to the level of a third or exit or competing attachment where the third party siphons off too much connection for the partner. A great defining question not explicitly written in the book: what is your partner’s experience of your third party connection? Another chapter is devoted to the long road of recovery. It is a period of potential growth, trust, hope, and sharing feelings in a state of regard and listening and holding space. The Potter-Efrons see forgiveness as an necessary eventuality, constructed over time. One thing to be aware of is the chapter on internet affairs. These function much the same way as geographically close emotional affairs, and even with changing technology and the explosion of social media and smartphones since 2008, much of the final chapter still rings true as the need for human connection has nothing to do with technological innovation. The online environments invites social psychological phenomenon like social desirability and self-presentation to run free, along with anonymity and passwords to mask outsourcing too much connection from the relationship. Human connection is hard. Human connection brings about the greatest joys and the most cutting pain, flaring emotions and old raw spots and creating new relational injuries. A book won’t keep you safe from relationship failure nor be a container for vulnerability so if emotional cruelty and entrenchment and heat linger on, this book is highly recommend as an adjunct to therapy.

Spring, Janis Abrahms. After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful. 1996. William Morrow, 2012.

Turmoil ensues from affairs. Before an affair is revealed, the unfaithful partner swirls with strong emotions. When the affair is shared or inadvertently discovered, the hurt partner and the relationship joins the chaos. Spring comprehensively organizes her research and clinical experience into three sections: emotions from the affair, helping couples through the decision to end the marriage or salvage it, and how to make the post-affair relationship stronger. Even the primary relationship dissolves, Spring encourages people to look at the contributions (for the hurt partner, Spring is adamant that contribution is not the same as ultimate culpability; no one makes someone else cheat) that led to the affair to weaken the chance of bringing dissatisfying dynamics that might cause identical pain in new relationships. Throughout the book, Spring matter-of-fact debunks common assumptions that people struggling, from giving up their affair partner to rebuilding trust, deal with. Readers also get real-life situations (identities hidden) that illustrate scenarios around affairs and also illustrate the healing processes. Couples who have worked with Spring have been encouraged to practice exercises such as appreciating both the negatives and positives of our partners’ attributes, using trust-building behaviors determined with the partner, and analyzing our behavior, feelings, and thoughts in emotion-triggering experiences. Spring has written a thorough book on infidelity that has the power to guide people affected by infidelity.

Articles

Most of these articles are going to be free online. If the article is not freely available, I will indicate that. In that case, check with your local librarians! Please first ask your librarian at your local library before buying online – many times you can get an article at no cost through one of your library’s databases or interlibrary loan.

Bisignano, Angela. “Is Your Friendship Becoming an Emotional Affair?” Good Therapy, 22 Aug. 2018, https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/is-your-friendship-becoming-an-emotional-affair-0822184

Caston, Meygan. “How to Keep Boundaries with the Opposite Sex.” Marriage 365, 27 Sept. 2017, https://www.marriage365.org/blog/how-to-keep-boundaries-with-the-opposite-sex

Hammond, Christine. “13 Types of Relationship Affairs.”, Psych Central, 11 Sep. 2019, https://pro.psychcentral.com/exhausted-woman/2019/09/13-types-of-relationship-affairs/

Rusnak, Kari. “Infidelity in LGBTQ+ Relationships.” The Gottman Institute, 1 March 2021, https://www.gottman.com/blog/infidelity-in-lgbtq-relationships-how-to-heal-the-hurt/

Disclaimer: This site is informational only and its resources are not substitutions for professional therapy. If you need professional help, see the Find a Therapist page to locate a qualified mental health professional.