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Recovery from an Affair— An Exercise for Turning a Major Mistake into Mutual Learning


An Exercise for Turning a Major Mistake into Mutual Learning

By Susan Heitler, Ph.D.

One exercise in the recovery process, toward the goal of inoculation against further infidelities, is for your husband and you to think of the infidelity as the last stop on a train line.  

Back up to each of the prior stations to clarify what happened at each earlier point that allowed your husband to keep traveling further down the line to the problematic situation.

For instance, before the incident, was your husband alone in a room with a woman other than his wife?  With the door closed?

Had they been talking together about personal issues, or in a manner that included sexualized innuendos?

Prior to that had your husband been drinking when he was alone with the other woman?

Did he often put himself in potentially seductive situations like this?

Has flirtation been part of his m.o?

Had he recognized earlier that the relationship had become sexualized? 

If so, did he talk with you about it, or begin to sustain secrecy?  If he talked with you, were the two of you able to stay calm and productive in planning how to avert a problem.

As you go back to each station on the train, clarify what action at that point could have led to a different and more positive outcome.  

So much for learning from your hubby’s train.  Now it’s time for you to look back to do your own learning.  Construct a similar train for yourself.

How, with hindsight, may you have been inadvertently contributing to the risk factors?

How positive and close or critical and distant had you been toward your husband prior to the event?  

Had anything negative happened and been left unhealed that perhaps set the stage for your husband to disregard, temporarily, your feelings?  

When a marriage relationship is strong, loving and well-nurtured the risk factors of infidelity decrease.  At the same time, healthy individuals in healthy marriages can easily still “lose their heads” if they get caught up in the drug of sexual feelings by continuing to move forward in inherently sexualized situations. 

In sum, the point of this exercise is to identify for the future danger signals that say “Slow down and get off the train!”

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