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*****Not "Just Friends"

Protect Your Relationship from Infidelity and Heal the Trauma of Betrayal

by Shirley P. Glass, Ph.D.

with Jean Coppock Staeheli

Reviewed April 24, 2006.
The Free Press, New York 2003.  425 pages.

Since my husband decided to divorce me, I’ve talked to many other people also going through divorce or having gone through divorce.  A few good friends have encouraged me by telling me about their own marital crises.  Some even survived their husbands having affairs (either emotional or physical), and now have a stronger marriage than ever.  (Those stories are especially encouraging.  It’s nice when something new can be made from something damaged, without throwing the old away.) 

I’m afraid that most of the people I’ve talked with were dealing with unfaithfulness as well as divorce.  This is horribly difficult to deal with, and I’m reviewing this book because it can help, can let you know that your feelings are normal, and can show you ways to heal.

The majority of this book is about healing after an affair has shaken your marriage, whether you were the involved partner or the betrayed partner.  But it’s very comprehensive.  It talks about how affairs happen, why they’ve changed recently, and how to heal alone if the marriage does break down.  There’s even a chapter on the Affair Partner’s perspective and how they can heal after they lose their love and how they can learn to stay away from married people in the future.

I would even recommend this book to newlyweds or people in a good marriage.  There are some excellent tips for setting boundaries so that you can keep good friendships outside the marriage—without worrying about them accidentally turning into something more.  This is something worth discussing before it is an issue.  And reading this book will help you in talking with friends facing betrayal.  I’m afraid you’re almost certain to eventually know someone going through this.

Dr. Glass begins the book with the sentence, “Good people in good marriages are having affairs.”  She continues, “Surprisingly, the infidelity that I’m seeing these days is of a new sort.  It’s not between people who are intentionally seeking thrills, as is commonly believed.  The new infidelity is between people who unwittingly form deep, passionate connections before realizing that they’ve crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love.  Eighty-two percent of the 210 unfaithful partners I’ve treated have had an affair with someone who was, at first, ‘just a friend.’  Well-intentioned people who had not planned to stray are betraying not only their partners but also their own beliefs and moral values, provoking inner crises as well as marital ones.”

“The significant news about these new affairs—and what is different from the affairs of previous generations—is that they originate as peer relationships.  People who truly are initially just friends or just friendly colleagues slowly move onto the slippery slope of infidelity.  In the new infidelity, secret emotional intimacy is the first warning sign of impending betrayal.  Yet, most people don’t recognize it as such or see what they’ve gotten themselves into until they’ve become physically intimate.

Most people mistakenly think it is possible to prevent affairs by being loving and dedicated to one’s partner.  I call this the Prevention Myth, because there is no evidence to support it.  My experience as a marital therapist and infidelity researcher has shown me that simply being a loving partner does not ensure your marriage against affairs.  You also have to exercise awareness of the appropriate boundaries at work and in your friendships….

Most people also mistakenly think that infidelity isn’t really infidelity unless there’s sexual contact….  In the new infidelity, however, affairs do not have to be sexual.

She gives the purpose of the book:  “There are, however, steps you can take to keep your relationship or marriage safe.  There are also steps you can take to repair your relationship after emotional or sexual infidelity has rocked it.  And there are things you can do to help yourself through the trauma of betrayal.  And you’ll learn them all in NOT ‘Just Friends’  The author delivers on this promise.

She talks about how our culture doesn’t understand the new style of affairs.  Here are some facts that aren’t commonly understood or portrayed in the media:

“Affairs can happen in good marriages.  Affairs are less about love and more about sliding across boundaries.”

“The lure of an affair is how the unfaithful partner is mirrored back through the adoring eyes of the new love.  Another appeal is that individuals experience new roles and opportunities for growth in new relationships.”

“You can have an affair without having sex.  Sometimes the greatest betrayals happen without touching.  Infidelity is any emotional or sexual intimacy that violates trust.”

“Most people, including unfaithful partners, think that talking about an affair with the betrayed partner will only create more upset, but that is actually the way to rebuild intimacy.  Trying to recover without discussing the betrayal is like waxing a dirty floor.”

“The aftermath of an affair can offer partners who are still committed to their marriage an opportunity to strengthen their bond.  Exploring vulnerabilities often leads to a more intimate relationship.”

“Starting over with a new love does not necessarily lead to a life of eternal bliss.  Seventy-five percent of all unfaithful individuals who marry the affair partner end up divorced.”

The focus of the book is recovering.  Dr. Glass says, “The revelation of infidelity is a traumatic event for the betrayed partner.  Understanding it as traumatic has important implications for healing.  People who have just found out about a partner’s affair may react as if they have been viciously attacked.  Where they formerly felt safe, they now feel threatened.  In an instant, the betrayed spouse’s assumptions about the world have been shattered.  Commonly, betrayed spouses become obsessed with the details of the affair, have trouble eating and sleeping, and feel powerless to control their emotions, especially anxiety and grief, which can be overwhelming.

“I have found that the most complete healing process happens gradually, in stages.  Because betrayal is so traumatic and recovery takes time, I use an interpersonal trauma recovery plan that parallels the ones recommended for victims of natural disasters, war, accidents, and violence.  My clients are living evidence of its effectiveness in their individual healing and in the number of marriages saved with this approach.”

“It is possible to emerge from betrayal with your marriage stronger.  This book will show you how.  You will also learn how to steer clear of such dangerous waters in the future—if  you both genuinely want to heal and are ready to do the serious work of repair.”

“In the beginning, there is a cup of coffee, a working lunch, a check-up call on the cell phone—all of these contacts are innocent enough and add vitality and interest to our days.  But when secrecy and lies become methods of furthering the relationship, it has become an emotional affair.  When the affair is discovered, the involved partner is torn between two competing allegiances, and the betrayed partner develops the alarming mental and physical symptoms of obsession and flashbacks.  Both partners are frightened, fragile and confused.  On their own, they may not know how to cope.

“If both decide to stay and work on the relationship, first on the agenda has to be how to reestablish safety and foster goodwill.  They may be conflicted about how much to discuss the affair because it’s hard to know how much to say and when.  It’s also hard to know how to remain supportive when a partner is hysterical or depressed and how to live through daily obligations without doing further damage to themselves and each other.  NOT ‘Just Friends’ will help guide you through these rocky stages of your recovery.”

She tells us, “It’s hard to believe that a marriage can be better after an affair, but it’s true….  Even if you choose not to continue your marriage, you still have to recover from the trauma you’ve been through.  The road to recovery can be a stimulus for growth whether you travel it with your partner or make your way alone.  It’s a difficult road, but it is passable and well-traveled for all its difficulties, and it’s important to know that it is there for you and anyone who wants to follow it.”

All that’s simply from the introduction!  The body of the book has four parts.  They deal with how people slide into affairs, the trauma of discovery, the search for meaning, and the healing journey.

The first section, “The Slippery Slope” makes a good cautionary tale.  Dr. Glass says, “In the new crisis of infidelity, platonic friendships and workplace relationships are turning into emotional affairs, usually gradually, often without premeditation.  Parties cross boundaries of emotional intimacy, sharing intimate information with a friend that is usually appropriately the exclusive territory of a husband or wife.  When emotional boundaries are overstepped, the partner has taken the first step onto the slippery slope leading to emotional and eventually sexual infidelity.  Even if the infidelity is ‘only’ emotional, it often leads to a double life of deception and sexuality, threatening once secure marriages.”

Dr. Glass uses an analogy of “Walls and Windows” to explain when a friendship is crossing into an emotional affair.

“In many cases, the transition from friendship to affair is barely perceptible—to both participants and observers.  The boundaries shift slowly.  Having a clear, easy way to see where the boundaries are at any given moment can bring both friendship and marriage into sharp focus.  One way to determine whether a particular friendship is threatening is to ask Where are the walls, and where are the windows?  This is a useful metaphor for clarifying boundary issues in extramarital triangles.

“In a committed relationship, a couple constructs a wall that shields them from any outside forces that have the power to split them.  They look at the world outside their relationship through a shared window of openness and honesty.  The couple is a unit, and they have a united front to deal with children, in-laws, and friends.  An affair erodes their carefully constructed security system.  It erects an interior wall of secrecy between the marriage partners, at the same time that it opens a window of intimacy between the affair partners.  The couple is no longer a unit.  The affair partner is on the inside, and the marital partner is on the outside.

“Asking yourself about the placement of walls and windows can help you determine when an outside relationship has moved beyond friendship into an extramarital relationship.”

Here’s a quick way to tell if you’re really “just friends” or having an emotional affair:  “When a friend knows more about your marriage than a spouse knows about your friendship, you have already reversed the healthy position of walls and windows.”

She does point out, “By and large, people who get involved with coworkers don’t set out to turn their friendships into romances.  Colleagues and coworkers who drift into affairs are blind to the red flags that mark their passageway.  They are so energized by the unreserved acceptance and the support for each other’s ideas, skills, and goals that they don’t notice how their relationship is changing.  The constant proximity and emotional bonding combine to create a powerful aphrodisiac.  They are oblivious to the potential chaos and agony that will befall their families if the infidelity is exposed.”

More guidelines:  “Despite the obvious similarities, there are clear differences between friendships and emotional affairs.  Emotional affairs are characterized by secrecy, emotional intimacy, and sexual chemistry.  These three elements can combine into a potent brew that intensifies the attraction that already exists.  If the relationship is an open book, it is probably a friendship.  When attempts are made to hide feelings or interactions, the friendship is becoming something else.  When there is more companionship, intellectual sharing, and understanding in the friendship than in the marriage, that’s also a warning signal.  Sexual chemistry, an undercurrent of arousal and desire, is only enflamed by admissions that a sexual attraction exists but won’t be acted on.”

Dr. Glass isn’t trying to abolish male-female friendships.  She says, “Not all friendships are so dangerous or pose a threat to the marriage.  You can have friends who are friends of the marriage.  They are not in competition with the marriage.  They characteristically reinforce the value of marriage in general and their friends’ committed relationships in particular.  They react to marital complaints with problem-solving approaches that support continuing commitment.  Anyone who can be considered an attractive alternative to the marriage partner, however, is a threat unless he or she is a friend of the marriage.  Single people on the prowl or married people who openly complain about their current relationship are least likely to be friends of the marriage.”

As she says, it’s a slippery slope.  “Most women and an increasing number of men begin with an emotional connection without any thought of a sexual relationship.  They spend time talking and getting to know each other.  They delight in their companionship without worrying too much about where it’s heading.  As they become more intrigued by their friendship, more of their emotional energy is directed away from the marriage.”

Women tend to feel that their betraying partner must think the other person is more attractive than they are.  Dr. Glass says, “It is also important to note, however, that the magnetism of forbidden love gives the affair partner an intrinsic advantage when comparing the two relationships.  It isn’t that spouses are dull and troublesome and affair partners are brilliant and beautiful.  Frank Pittman observed that the choice of an affair partner appears to be based on how that person differs from the spouse rather than any perceived superiority to the spouse.”

She traces the pattern of a typical affair.  “Ralph was convinced that his emotional tie to Lara was a good thing and was not affecting his marriage.  His idea of what constitutes an affair was related to the assumption that affairs are about having sex.  He felt safe because their relationship was based on a close friendship between two respectful human beings.  Because their relationship wasn’t sexual, he didn’t consider it a ‘real’ affair.”

“A useful measure for whether a relationship is a friendship or an affair is the degree of secrecy that surrounds it.  Although Ralph was expansive at the beginning about his budding friendship with Lara, he got quieter about it with every passing week.  There was a lot he wasn’t saying.  If their relationship had been strictly platonic, he wouldn’t have hesitated to share his encounters openly with Rachel.  When it came to their private lunches and special times alone, he became the master of the white lie.”

Where are the walls?  Ralph stopped sharing the most vital, most interesting, and most gratifying part of his day.  He wasn’t talking to Rachel about Lara or about the subjects they found so fascinating.  This secrecy created a distance between husband and wife.  How could it be otherwise?  Whenever people carry momentous secrets, they feel different, cut off, and isolated.”

She cautions the reader, “As we have seen, the definition of what constitutes an affair tends to change according to who is doing the defining.  I have heard both husbands and wives insist to their spouse that they have honored their commitment either because they never really loved the affair partner or they never actually had extramarital sexual intercourse.

“Men and women are jealous over different things.  Research shows that men get more upset about their wives’ having sex with other men, and women get more upset about their husbands’ being involved in an emotionally satisfying relationship with another woman.”

Of course, the natural progression from this point is for a sexual relationship to start.  The things she had to say about that weren’t as surprising.  Though she did say that sexual affairs that grow out of a friendship are much, much more devastating to marriages than one-night stands or sex without love.

Whether a physical relationship is added or not, with secrecy, distance grows between husband and wife.  As in this example:  “The window between Ralph and Rachel was cloudy but not closed—sometimes open, and sometimes no more than a sliver.  He often found himself pulling down the shade between him and Rachel.  It wasn’t that he no longer loved her, but being with her made him feel guilty.  Although he communicated about mundane events, he was withholding the essence of his life from her.  It was painful for him when Rachel continued to share confidences with him as though nothing had changed.  He wondered whether she noticed he wasn’t reciprocating.”

She talks about the lying that gets going as the involved partner builds a double life.  “Lying in personal relationships to cover up wrongful or deceitful acts destroys trust.  Intimate relationships are contingent on honesty and openness.  They are built and maintained through our faith that we can believe what we are being told.  However painful it is for a betrayed spouse to discover a trail of sexual encounters or emotional attachments, the lying and deception are the most appalling violations.”

“Unfaithful persons often say they are protecting their partners from pain, but they are really protecting themselves from exposure so they can continue to live the double life.”

In the book The Script, it emphasized that the unfaithful spouse will start lying to himself as well as to his wife.  NOT “Just Friends” also says that can happen, especially when unfaithfulness is completely contrary to the person’s values.

“Besides compartmentalizing, there are other ways to eliminate or reduce the internal anguish caused by a potential disparity between values and behavior.  People attempt to deal with the dissonance by lying to themselves about what they are doing.  Lying to others is only a partial consequence of infidelity.  In affairs, people are as likely to engage in self-deception as in deception of their partners.  Self-deception can take the form of denying self-indulgent motives or refusing to acknowledge the potential damage.  With practice, people find it easier to hide those unacceptable parts of themselves from themselves.  They gloss over aspects that are inconsistent with their internalized values.”

It’s helpful that Dr. Glass does not minimize the trauma of discovering an affair—and that she actually calls it trauma, and tells you that it produces symptoms of trauma.

“A single moment can change us forever.  After you learn that you’ve been betrayed, you think in terms of the time before and the time after.  The private calamity of discovering that your partner has become someone you don’t recognize and has lied to you as if you were an enemy blows your secure world to pieces.  You no longer trust your eyes to see, your brain to comprehend, or your heart to feel what is true.

“The journey toward the moment when the affair is revealed is often marked by an awareness that things aren’t quite right.  After the affair has been exposed, your uneasiness is replaced by many different emotions.  The connection between what you think you know and your sense of reality has been severed.  It doesn’t matter whether you were totally in the dark or highly suspicious beforehand.  No matter what the circumstances, your assumptions about your partner, your marriage, and yourself have been shattered.  They lie in ruins at your feet.”

“Disclosure shock is a universal reaction to the betrayal of infidelity.  Even suspicious partners are devastated when their worst fears are confirmed.  Being betrayed by someone you have trusted feels like a mortal injury….  At the time of the discovery, each partner reacts strongly but differently.  Injured partners need to know that the affair will be stopped.  They also need to know that all of their questions will be answered.  Involved partners can also be in a place of profound suffering:  Their lives are in shambles; they’re caught in what feels like a no-win situation; they cannot escape the pain they’ve caused; and they now know that they must relinquish either the affair or the marriage.  Their double life has crashed and burned.

“In the immediate days and weeks that follow, the betrayed partner, the unfaithful partner, and the affair partner are overwhelmed by their enormous losses.  The injured partner has lost the positive image of his or her life partner and the assurance of a secure, committed relationship.  The involved partner has lost his or her secret love nest and faces the potential loss of marriage and family.  The affair partner has lost the romantic cocoon and, usually, the dream of living forever with the lover.

“All three are miserable in different ways.  Because being deceived is not the same as being a deceiver, however, the betrayed partner is the one who is traumatized and can’t imagine how he or she will ever become whole again.”

It turns out that the degree of trauma does NOT depend on how serious or how physical the affair was.  “The severity of the traumatic reaction is determined by (1) how the discovery was made, (2) extent of shattered assumptions, (3) individual and situational vulnerabilities, (4) the nature of the betrayal, and (5) whether the threat of betrayal continues.  These factors interact with one another to determine the intensity, scope, and persistence of post-traumatic reactions.”

“All of us operate from a set of basic assumptions about our relationships, our partners, and ourselves.  We can describe, at least in a general way, the terms of commitment that characterize our marriages and other significant relationships.  Our assumptions provide us with a map of our partner’s personality and moral character that predicts how he or she would behave in compromising situations.  We are traumatized when these assumptions are shattered because our safe, predictable world is no longer safe or predictable.”

“The disparity between what the betrayed partner believed about commitment and exclusivity and the actual behavior of the unfaithful partner determines the extent of traumatization.”

She warns you that it will be nearly impossible for the betrayed partner to heal if the threat continues.  “Trust has to be earned.  Safety has to be reestablished.  This is not an overnight process.  Just as the involved partner cannot flick a switch and turn off all feelings for the lover, the noninvolved partner cannot shift from betrayal to unquestioning trust in an instant.”

If the involved partner says they are “just friends” because they didn’t have sex, he may believe that he should be able to continue this friendship.  Dr. Glass says, “If the contact continues, the threat continues.  It’s like a recovering alcoholic who continues to go to happy hour after work every Friday.”

There are also problems if either partner is ambivalent about whether to stay or leave.  Or if he’s said he’s stopped the affair, but doesn’t offer any evidence.  Or if he’s more sympathetic to the affair partner than to his spouse.

“In each of the preceding situations, uncertainty about commitment to work on the marriage or uncertainty that the affair is over keeps the betrayed partner off balance.  If you are certain that the affair is over and there is no contact with the affair partner, recovery is straightforward, although still difficult.  The threat has ended, and you can proceed to work through what happened and the meaning of what happened.  However, additional incidents of deception are retraumatizing and set the recovery process back to zero.

“If the involved partner is ambivalent for too long or continues secret contact with affair partner, the continuing retraumatization and deception will make healing difficult, whether or not the marriage continues.”

“The first step in recovering from the crisis of disclosure is to establish safety by reversing the position of walls and windows.  The affair must stop, and any intimate interactions with the affair partner must come to an end.  During the affair, secrecy fueled the passion with the lover and diminished the intimacy with the spouse.  The involved partner must be willing to open windows inside the marriage and put up walls with the affair partner.”

“Honesty now is the only way to undo the legacy of deception and lies.  You and your spouse both need assurance that sharing every new interaction will not create new explosions, although some may.  The involved partner cannot feel safe in an atmosphere of nasty accusations and emotional storms, any more than the betrayed partner can feel safe in the absence of honest information.  The involved partner believes that telling the truth will only make things worse.  The betrayed partner must demonstrate that the distress caused by hearing upsetting information is a short-term reaction, but that the long-term effect is to heal the wounds.”

Then she talks about recovering.  The very first step is ending the affair.  Stop all personal contact with the affair partner, if possible; if total avoidance is not possible, stop all personal discussions.  Extricating yourself means telling your affair partner that you are committed to rebuilding your marriage and that all intimate communication will stop.  Until it is unambiguously clear that the affair is over, your spouse cannot begin to heal and your marriage cannot recover.  This means no more phone calls, lunches, or e-mails.  If you have a business relationship with your affair partner, as is often the case, there must be an understanding that the relationship will be strictly business.  Without disclosure all three of you will be stuck in a confusing morass of indecision.”

“A truly remorseful spouse will come home earlier, be more attentive, make his or her partner feel more desirable, and be willing to put up a thick wall with the affair partner.  Only then will a betrayed spouse eventually be able to let go of his or her insecurity.”

The second step is to share all unavoidable encounters.  “The best sharing is done before the betrayed partner has a chance to ask whether there has been any contact.  This suggestion is counterintuitive because most involved partners wish to avoid initiating any topics that could stir things up—especially when some calm has been temporarily restored….  But think about what happens if you don’t bring it up and your spouse finds out.  Any contact you admit having with your affair partner is a golden opportunity to gain trust points with your spouse.

The third step is to be accountable.  “If you are the unfaithful partner and your spouse is constantly snooping around, you might misperceive his or her need to know as an autonomy problem for you instead of a security issue for your spouse.  It isn’t that your partner has a neurotic need to control your every move.  Rather, knowing what is really going on is the only way a traumatized person can begin to reestablish trust.  Your approach here can be, ‘I will help you check up on me.’”

She also talks about recovering from the trauma.  In my experience talking with people who have gone through this, I find so many can’t understand why they are reacting so strongly.  Dr. Glass puts this in perspective:  “Looking at the immediate crisis as a trauma helps make sense of some of the craziness you are experiencing.  Traumatic reactions that begin immediately after the revelation can continue for some time.  Predictable, necessary stages of trauma recovery will take place over many months and possibly several years.  However, be assured that the frequency, duration, and intensity of your traumatic reactions will gradually lessen over time.”

“Understand that trauma is a normal reaction to the revelation of infidelity.  Later chapters provide concrete ways of managing symptoms, such as obsessive ruminating, flashbacks, and hypervigilance.  Both partners need to know what reactions to expect and how to cope with them.  This is especially important because post-traumatic reactions continue in ever-changing forms throughout the recovery process.”

She goes on to discuss things like whether to stay together or not.  She urges giving it some time.  She also says that you can’t give your marriage an honest chance if you keep up even a friendship with the affair partner.  “Certainly, the longer the affair has lasted and the more satisfying it was, the harder it is to let go of.  Letting go takes time.  The best solution, nonetheless, is to go cold turkey and stop the affair, so that you and your betrayed partner can commit to discovering whether the marriage has a chance of surviving.”

She warns that “The worst resolution is a stable triangle.  When involved partners stay on an eternal fence, ultimatums given by the spouse or lover move them from one side to the other.  They cajole, seduce, and deceive both partners in order to have their cake and eat it too.  The spouse and the lover help to maintain the stable triangle by making compromises and accepting whatever crumbs are thrown their way. Children are inevitably harmed by this unhealthy collusion, because it results in underlying tension and open conflict in the home.”

She also warns you, “Leaving a bad marriage without trying to repair it first is like trying to sell your house right after a rainstorm flooded your family room.  Once you have finished cleaning and redecorating, you might decide not to put it up for sale.  If you leave your marriage when you are feeling devastated, depleted, and demoralized, you’ll always wonder whether you made the right choice.  Fix it up first and you’ll have a better idea of how the finished product suits you.”

She encourages you, “Don’t stay because you are too weak to end it and too afraid to be on your own.  Stay because you are strong enough to handle the emotional roller coaster.  Stay because you are independent enough to take care of yourself while your partner isn’t able to be there for you.  Don’t leave because you’re running away from conflict.”

She also reminds you, “For most people, leaving the marriage is not the best answer.  People tend to carry their psychological problems with them to the next relationship.  Old, destructive patterns are perpetuated unless you deal with them, and second marriages may have the added strain of blended families and stepchildren.  Statistically, there is a 50 percent divorce rate in first marriages and a 60 percent divorce rate in second marriages.  If you marry your affair partner, the probability that it will work out is even worse than the dismal divorce statistics in second marriages.”

As I found with friends who said that after surviving betrayal, their marriage is better than ever, Dr. Glass says, “I do not want you simply to have what you had before; I want your relationship to be different from what it was.  I want you to be stronger, individually and together, without the vulnerabilities that created the conditions for the affair in the first place.

“Living with ambivalence for a period of time is terribly unsettling, but it’s worth remembering that new circumstances allow for new opportunities.  As many couples have discovered, new feelings and new behaviors can emerge out of the chaos that ensues from an affair.  A crisis of uncertainty often provides fertile ground for new growth and redevelopment.

“In my experience, time is almost always on the side of the marriage if both spouses are patient.”

To give up now would be like buying high and selling low.  Even if you’re still not sure whether the marriage can be saved, you shouldn’t make your decision based on the lowest point in your relationship.”

Next, she has a good chapter on coping with obsessing and flashbacks.  How reassuring to hear, “Know that it’s normal to feel disoriented and confused.  Most likely, neither you nor your partner is crazy, and these crazy feelings will not last forever….  For as long as the first year after revelation, the betrayed partner may have distressing mental, physical, and emotional swings.  You may be thinking that you are doing everything right:  You’re talking more often, and the affair has ended.  Why aren’t you over these feelings?  It’s normal to be having these traumatic reactions and they will diminish, but only gradually.  First, their frequency will decline; second, how long they last will decline.  The intensity of the symptoms is the last thing to go, so it can feel as if you are backsliding despite other signs of progress.

“Post-traumatic reactions cluster into three categories:  intrusion, constriction, and hyperarousal.  These reactions are formally diagnosed as a post-traumatic stress disorder if the threat was physical or life-threatening and if these symptoms last longer than one month.  However, betrayed partners whose psychological safety is threatened by infidelity commonly display these same clusters of symptoms, and the symptoms can occur over a long period of time.”

How refreshing to be able to tell people that these symptoms are normal and not a sign that they are overreacting or crazy!  Dr. Glass also gives tips for dealing with them.

After that, she covers repairing the couple and establishing goodwill.  Eventually, she has you work together on building meaning from the affair—looking at the vulnerabilities that led to it, looking at the story of the affair and the story of your marriage—and working together to build a stronger marriage.

After an affair, the partners may describe the marriage differently.  She talks about how you can get back to a shared story of your marriage.

“When people marry, they bring almost mythic assumptions to the union, including these:  If we love each other, you will not cheat on me; if we have a good marriage, we will be safe from infidelity.  The truth is that not every person who is unfaithful is unhappily married.  Marital distress can be seen as either the cause or the consequence of infidelity.  The marriage may not have caused the infidelity, but the disclosure of infidelity will certainly damage the marriage.

“Two partners in the same relationship may respond quite differently on the question, ‘Does infidelity mean we have a bad marriage?’  The involved partner, as happens frequently, may negatively rewrite the marital history in order to justify the affair.  The betrayed partner may focus on the virtues of the marriage in order to eliminate self-blame and explain why he or she didn’t see the catastrophe coming.

“Regardless of what marital problems may or may not have preceded the affair, both partners need to use the aftermath, which can be from three months to two years, to strengthen the relationship.  How long this takes depends on a lot of factors, including how distressed the marriage was before the affair.  This time of rebuilding is designed to examine and strengthen.  Needless to say, exploring problems in your marriage is not intended as a way to excuse the betrayal.  A roof needs to be repaired regardless of whether it collapsed because of a slowly decaying frame or was in great shape before it was struck by lightning.”

“Your objective should be to figure out how the relationship got off track and how to get it back on course.  This is hard to do if either partner’s judgment is clouded by the censure and condemnation that obscure the delicate thread of shared truth.  One of the challenges of discussing the events along the marital lifeline is to do it without casting blame.  It’s important to see what role each partner played in marital problems without holding the betrayed partner responsible for the affair.  Contributing to marital problems is not the same as causing infidelity.

The final section of the book is about healing.  “Whether your healing is accomplished with your partner or alone, you can once again find love, joy, and purpose in life.  In difficult times, we all need to be reminded that insight and strength are born from pain and struggle.  Moving forward means letting go of the anger and suffering that keep you tied to the past.

“Healing takes time.  No matter how many times you hear it, it’s still true.  For recovering couples, patience is more than a virtue—it’s a prerequisite.  In my experience, it takes several months to get over the initial shock, and full recovery and healing can take several years.  Traumatic reactions such as flashbacks and hypervigilance become a rare occurrence but can still be triggered years later.”

“Regardless of whether you continue your journey as part of a couple or as a single person, forgiveness means you let go of anger and pain but remember the lessons.”

She explains what she means:  Recovering means that the infidelity is no longer the focus of daily life:  each partner has regained equilibrium and is able to perform normal activities, and you can work together when you need to.  Healing means that most of the time it hardly hurts at all:  Both partners have regained hopefulness, confidence, and the resilience to recover from whatever losses may occur in the future.”

The next-to-last chapter is on forgiveness, because “forgiveness is at the end of a long journey of healed wounds.”  She says, “Forgiving is not a single event, but a gradual process of increasing compassion and reducing resentment.”  (For that process, I highly recommend Steven Stosny’s book You Don’t Have To Take It Anymore.)

“As you established safety, goodwill, and compassionate communication, you were letting go of anger.  As you were searching for the meaning of the events in your life together, you were gaining empathy for each other.  Although forgiveness is not a precondition for recovery, it is essential for healing.  Now is the right time for you to make a conscious choice to seek and grant forgiveness.”

She reminds you of some facts about forgiveness:

Forgiveness is not forgetting or pretending it didn’t happen.  Forgiveness allows you to move forward into the future without being stuck in the past, but the lessons and meaning of the event are an essential part of the remainder of your life’s journey.”

Forgiveness is not excusing or condoning the behavior.  In fact, a behavior that can be easily excused does not have to be forgiven.  The necessity of forgiving an act means that a grievous injury occurred.”

Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.  If you are able to free yourself from the anguish and burden of the past through forgiveness, you will move forward in your life journey with a lighter step.  You will begin the next chapter of your life with more self-awareness and more options than you had before.”

Forgiveness is a choice.  You choose not to be held hostage in the present to the injustices that occurred in the past.  Authentic forgiveness acknowledges the wound and is the result of conscious effort.”

Forgiveness is letting go of obsessiveness, bitterness, and resentment.  Forgiveness is built on a sincere desire to let go of anger and resentment and a conscious decision to take positive steps to move on with your life.”

Forgiveness is letting go of the pain.  When you forgive, you free yourself from continual suffering without minimizing the injury.  Forgiving is a personal act that directly affects the quality of your inner life.”

Forgiveness is letting go of revenge and the need to punish.  You make the decision to live in the self-created atmosphere of solutions rather than blame.”

If you can’t forgive for noble reasons, it’s nice that there are selfish reasons to do it!  “Forgiving someone fosters your own well-being.    As you begin to let go of the resentment and punishing scenarios, you gain energy that was frozen by vindictiveness and pain.  The release of rancor allows the sweetness of serenity to seep into your life.

“Forgiveness activates the transformation from victim to survivor.  Forgiveness frees you from the tyranny of people and events from the past and decreases the likelihood that you will misdirect your anger in other relationships.  How good it feels to cast yourself as the master of your own life rather than as the victim of circumstances!”

The final chapter is for those who have to heal alone.  “As we’ve seen, couples who can weather the storm of infidelity together emerge stronger than before.  But not every marriage will make it through the challenging steps that define the road to recovery.  Regardless of whether or not they choose it, some people find themselves facing the future alone.  It’s a hard truth that it takes two people to make a marriage and only one person to make a divorce.

She talks about the difficulties of divorce, but then gives hope.  “Starting over is a challenge you may have preferred to avoid.  But starting over does not mean starting from scratch.  You enter this new phase of your life with greater self-knowledge and life experience than you had when you were first married….You too can take what you’ve learned about relationships into the future.  You’ve been exposed to deception and mistrust, but you’ve also been exposed to empowering information about compassionate communication and the dynamics of relationships.”

“In a real sense, betrayed partners have been victimized.  Now matter what the circumstances, the fact remains that a trusted partner violated the basic assumptions of the relationship.  Life may appear to favor the deceitful partner, but in my experience, the abandoned partner often ends up with a better life than before.”

Her advice echoes that of Michele Weiner-Davis in The Divorce Remedy:  “An antidote to feeling victimized is the conscious cultivation of your own inner resources and goals.  You know you can survive in the face of tremendous obstacles, so, step by step, you will become more independent.  It will take some time to reach wholeness, but you do not need to do your healing alone.  Call on your friends and family for help.  Tell others what you want and need from them.  Teach the people who care about you how to help you through the dark times.”

“No matter where the energy comes from, the process is the same.  Let go of the hurt and the anger, and get on with your own life.

“There is no revenge as sweet as living a joyful life.”

This book isn’t only for people recovering from an affair.  NOT ‘Just Friends’ is for any man or woman in a committed relationship who interacts with interesting, attractive people.  Love alone does not protect you or your partner from temptation.  It’s not always easy to recognize the thresholds that mark the passage from platonic friend to extramarital affair partner.  This book can be a valuable resource for protecting any couple.  It will be of interest to anyone who wants to know more about the complex dynamics of how people form and maintain committed relationships.  It will help you better understand yourself and your partner.”

She doesn’t say you have to give up all your friendships with people of the opposite sex:  “Good friendships and a loving marriage:  This is what is possible when you value and preserve the differences between them.  You can learn how to keep your commitment strong and your friendships safe, so that you will stay in the safety zone and remain ‘just friends.’”

You can find out more about Shirley Glass on her website,

Copyright © 2006 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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