Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Key to Communication in Marriage

The ability of spouses to communicate effectively with each other plays a big role in not only a healthy marriage, but in successfully rebuilding from infidelity. If a couple misunderstand each other, don't really hear each other, or attempts to communicate always turn into heated arguments, it will be near impossible to rebuild the trust and security needed for a vibrant marriage. Even communication that is only occasionally misfiring will cause problems.

So, How Do Spouses Improve Their Communication?

There are lots of places on the web, lots of books you can buy, seminars you can attend that can help with this. This is one aspect of marriage counseling. Having your therapist spend some time on this topic, especially if this is a sore spot in the relationship, is money well spent.

So that I'm not leaving you totally without guidance in this department, this article on "Effective Communication" at is a good start. I've read through the article, and I liked what it says. However, I don't know this site. It may be good, or not. So linking there isn't an endorsement of the site, but this article is good. Use your own judgement.

My Checklist of Communication Problems

Before we divulge the key to effective communication, this is my list of behaviors that cause most communication problems.

1. Not listening.

Too often our attention is not fully on the person speaking. Either because we are planning our next statement/point, checking text or other activities while "listening," not making eye contact, or our mind is off on a rabbit trail.

2. Not talking clearly.

Frequently, people hint, generalize, or leave cleaver clues, hoping the other person will pick up on what the speaker really meant. This derives from a desire not to confront. Instead of simply saying what your problem is, you shoot all around it hoping they'll get it without having to come out and directly say it. Problem is, if you don't clearly communicate what is on your mind in a constructive manner, don't expect them to get it. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

3. Not being honest.

If you have something to hide from someone, you'll tend to not communicate clearly, and say things you don't mean to cover for the secrets. It is much more likely you'll send contradictory messages. To communicate effectively means saying what you really feel about a topic. Be real.

4. Not engaging a person's points.

When you ignore the other person's contribution to the topic at hand by failing to address it, staying focused on your point(s), answering the question you think they intended to ask or should have asked instead of the question they did ask,  it tends to either shut down communication and/or cause the conversation to chase its tail. I can't tell you how many times my wife and I made our points over and over again to each other, because neither of us felt the other was addressing their concerns and points.

This is by no means a complete list, but they all are examples of violating the following key to effective communication in anything, especially a marriage.

Effective Communication Happens When Spouses Demonstrate Respect for Each Other.

 That's right. When you respect someone, you respect their opinion and feelings enough to honestly care about what they have to say, actively listen to what they say, and incorporate what they are saying into the dynamic of the conversation. When you respect someone, you'll be honest and transparent with them, and communicate clearly what you honestly think and feel about a subject. You'll do all that in a non-judgmental manner, as well as not becoming offended yourself, and jumping to the conclusion that they are being judgmental.

Indeed, some reading this will be thinking to themselves, "Oh, yes. This is what my husband does to me. Bad husband!" No, this is not a rod to beat your spouse over the head with, but a tool for self-evaluation! You can't control how he will respond, but you can work on your communication skills. Yes, if possible, lead him to water, but only he can decide to drink. Invite him to grow with you. But instead of using this information to judge your spouse, use this and the above article to help you communicate more effectively. Both to speak and to hear and to respectfully engage each other.

The key is to honestly respect your spouse as a person of worth, whether you like them or not. Do that, and all the skills mentioned in the above linked article will follow.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Love in the Affair Lane

Love is a many splendored thing, so we are told. Except when it becomes violated by an affair. Both hurt spouses and unfaithful spouses deal with issues of love.

For the unfaithful spouse, there is the issue of loving their affair partner, and sometimes ambilvance causes them to not be so sure about loving their spouse. Or the more complex feelings of loving both the affair partner and the spouse at the same time.

For the hurt spouse, there is the issue of whether they can still love their unfaithful spouse, and if so, what does it look like? They often bounce between feelings of love and hate for their spouse, especially if the spouse does not do the necessary steps to heal.

To understand the following, you will want to read the article, "Am I in Love?" to get a good picture of what love is in its fullness: passion (eros), companionship (philio), security (storge), and sacrificial (agape). Real love involves all of those, even if one doesn't start out with all the first day.

However, when one speaks of love between spouses, what makes a marriage, we automatically think of the romantic, passionate love. Two people who are crazy about each other and act like it! However, by itself it is a poor substitute for love as it should be.

Passionate love is like lighter fluid for a relationship.

It kindles the fire between two people. As noted in my above linked article, it triggers the dopamine-reward system, and so can become addictive. Most of us can think back to dating our spouse and see the difference between how much time we spent together and how we treated each other then and now. Negatives in our spouse to be were not noticed then like you do now.

The problem is this type of love is very selfish in nature. Because of that, once the logs on the fire that seem naturally lite up with fire run out of fuel to keep it going, there isn't much motivation to put more logs onto the fire. That's work. That requires sacrifice. That requires thinking of the other person before yourself.

Passionate love is a strong desire for the feelings you get from a person. The fullness of love is loving the person, independent of feelings.

Upon the initial burst of passionate love you experience, you will think you love that person. But at that point, the only reason you feel love for that person is because of how they are making you feel. You may barely know anything about them. The only reason you believe you love them is because of the fireworks going off, because you feel attraction, because they act and talk like they want you, because they make you feel important. If it were not for those feelings, you'd give them no further consideration than any other man or woman walking down the street.

Ideally, what should happen is passionate love motivates us enough to develop a sacrificial love for that person. It should lead to the thought, "I like how she makes me feel. Therefore, to treasure and enjoy how she makes me feel, I will invest myself into her and this relationship." From it, the fullness of love can develop that commits one's self to ensuring fresh logs are continually put on the fire by meeting each other's needs sacrificially.

Too often, however, the passionate love is the totality of love for one or both spouses.

They only are in the relationship as long as it meets their needs. Meeting the needs of their spouse isn't a priority. That's not what they married for. They married for how he made them feel. Once they no longer feel that "love," they determine that they have fallen out of love.

This is often attributed to various things. Responsibilities pulling the two apart. Being too tired when you do have time together. Not cultivating common activities together. Allowing work or career to dominate your life and push your spouse away.

The term you'll hear for that is people change. They grow apart. They were compatible, now they are not. Their interest change, are no longer the same. Their values diverge from each other. Etc. What it boils down to is one or both didn't move beyond loving the feeling of love to loving the person. It never grew to sacrificially maintaining the fire of passion in each other, so it burned out.

This can happen even when sacrificial love is present. Complacency and taking each other for granted shove sacrificial love to the backyard and keep selfish love as the front door guard. This allows a couple to drift apart.

If passionate love is not united to true sacrificial love, it remains selfish in nature and destined to fall apart. 

What you'll eventually end up with is "He/She no longer makes me feel loved." Therefore, the conclusion is that you are no longer in love. It is true you may no longer experience passionate love with that person, but the fault isn't that two people merely drifted apart. The drifted apart because they were too focused on what they wanted and wasn't getting than in what the other person needed and then providing for it.

That provides the foundation of why a marriage can become susceptible to an affair. It is why, upon experiencing the excitement of a new relationship, an unfaithful spouse perceives, according to how the affair partner makes them feel compared to their spouse, that they must have fallen out of love with their spouse. Or feel like they love two people.

It is also why the hurt spouse feels a loss of love with their spouse and takes a self-esteem hit, because they no longer feel important to their spouse. They feel replaced. If the marriage had already grown cold, the revelation of an affair can put the nails in the coffin.

It is the presence of sacrificial love on the part of both spouses that can not only get a couple through the rebuilding from an affair, but also rekindle the fires of passion through sacrificial giving.

If it is sitting in the backyard, it can be brought back into the house to sacrifice for each other. Without it, you'll have two people pulling at each other instead of working together.

Some may interpret what I've said above as saying that passionate love is not real love. That would be inaccurate. The feelings of love are real. They are powerful. They are needed to motivate you onto developing sacrificial love in its fullness. It needs to be present.

However, by itself, it is but a shadow of what love is. It is the motivation of love without its substance. It should grow into full love, but often does not due to lack of commitment to each other. This is where the rub comes in for unfaithful spouses and their affair partners. The fire that should draw them to commit to each other is there, but rarely can they commitment to a full sacrificial love and grow from it. Because, at least one tends to also be committed to another. At least one cannot openly and fully commit to the other person.

Passionate love is mostly what fuels an affair relationship in many cases.

They only way to free passionate love to develop into sacrificial love in an affair is to divorce one's spouse so they can fully devote themselves to the other. Statistics show that happens only a small percent of the time. So most affairs stay stuck in the passionate feelings of love, and never mature. Ending only when light is shown upon them, or the passion dies out and the relationship ends under its own weight.

On the other side, the hurt spouse may feel some level of love, but no passionate love. They may go through a hyper-bonding phase, but when that dies off, they are left feeling nothing. They may still feel some security love, comfort like an old, worn shoe they don't want to throw away, but the affair has killed off the passion if it was there to begin with.

That too will take a good dose of sacrificial love to find that desire to not only rekindle that lost passion but to feel enough empathy to meet their needs. The hurt may cover that up for a time. The unfaithful spouse needs to be patient with the hurt spouse, even as the hurt spouse needs to be patient with themselves.

It is the same sacrificial love that will enable the unfaithful spouse to face the pain, not run away, not sweep issues under the rug, own the error, and then do everything possible and needed to heal themselves, rebuild trust and love in the hurt spouse, and fix the damage done from the affair. It won't feel good. It's going to hurt, but if you really love your spouse with that love, you'll do it.

Then watch out. You may find you've fallen in love with your spouse again.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Am I in Love?

 The following is a chapter from our book, Healing Infidelity: How to Build a Vibrant Marriage After an Affair. It is an attempt to discern what it means to say "I love you" especially in the context of an affair and spouses rebuilding.


A common statement among unfaithful spouses is that they fell in love with their affair partners. I've heard them say statements like, "She made me feel more alive than I ever have." The rush of an affair-generated love can be addictive. But is the unfaithful spouse really in love with his affair partner? Also what does he mean when he says he still love his spouse despite that?

Likewise, when a hurt spouse discovers the affair, his love for his spouse can take a hit. Some, over time, end up "falling out of love" with their spouse. This causes them to be less motivated in rebuilding or even caring about their spouse. If they stay in the marriage, it is more for the sake of the kids or financial reasons than loving their spouse. Some hurt spouses are unable to ever get over the rejection that the affair caused them to experience, either due to the unfaithful spouse not doing the needed actions to help them heal, or sometimes because the hurt spouse is too wounded from it to heal.

In either case, love or the loss of it becomes involved. It is therefore important that we look at what love is and within the context of an affair and rebuilding, how it can help or hurt as the case may be.

I intend to show why we feel love of various kinds and how they interact to form a full experience of love, and how when extracted from that context, get perverted into a false love. To do this, we need to first understand the four types of loves. C. S. Lewis, in his book "The Four Loves," lists four Greek words most common to understanding love: storge, philio, eros, and agape.

I know, I know. Many of you have heard all this before. Before you jump to conclusions about what I'm going to say, press reset for a moment and let's take a fresh look at these in the context of infidelity.


We're starting with this word because out of the four, it is the most misunderstood word. Perhaps because it is never used in the New Testament, the word tends to be restricted to sexual love. But this is too restrictive, not only in classical Greek usage—Plato uses it in non-sexual contexts—but in the Early Church Fathers, who often used the Greek word, eros, to describe our love for God.

The word that sums up the meaning of eros is passion. It is emotional, and a strong desire that moves us to action. It excites, activates, and moves us to act.

This is the type of love that appeals to help the starving children. Most any appeal, to be successful, has to pull this type of love from you. Seeing pictures of starving children is designed to get you to donate because your pity motivates you, gives you enough passion to move you to act. This is why the Church Fathers used the word in relation to God. We were to have a driving passion for God, and without that, you wouldn't have the motivation to stand up and be martyred for Christ.

Passion itself is a misunderstood term. It comes from the Greek as well and means "to suffer." So the "passion of Christ" refers to the suffering of Christ. How does this get from there to excitement that motivates? Simple. All passion is driven by suffering a lack of something perceived to be needed. In short, when you see something you want, you are suffering because you don't have it. You are in "pain" and are motivated to resolve it by fulfilling that desire.

Added to that, God has built into us a survival mechanism, usually related to hunger and other desires that we need to live. Sex falls into this realm too. When the brain perceives a feeling as pleasurable due to the infusion of dopamine firing off the brain synapses, it stores that as a need. If the dopamine levels are high enough, the brain can rate it as highly needed for survival. This forms the addictive pattern which can eventually—if reinforced enough times—lead one to having an addiction to a specific desire.

This dopamine response pattern can be fooled into perceiving something as a survival need that really is not. Nowhere is this more evident when an unfaithful spouse perceives he can't live without his affair partner, that dumping her means he is missing out on an important part of his life. This derives from the brain seeing the feelings the person receives from his affair partner as a "survival need" when in truth, he will survive just fine without her. Especially evident when he consider that he once felt that way about his current spouse, which is why he married her.

At its heart, eros or passion is a selfish love. It is having a need and seeking to fulfill it. But the other side of the coin is if we don't care, perceive something as not a need, we neglect that object and leave it to rot. Without this love, rebuilding will be much harder simply because we are not motivated to do the hard work of rebuilding. We don't perceive it as a need. Meanwhile, the unfaithful spouse still feels that passion for the affair partner. He has an eros love for the affair partner, but a different kind of love for the spouse.

Eros love, then, is a desire and need based love. It is motivated for what we will get out of it. Ideally, in conjunction with the other loves, we are also giving to someone else what they need for their passion. When that happens, you have what is generally termed as "romantic love" in our day. This gives us some insight into how this love works both in marriages and in affairs.

Romantic passion usually starts up in a relationship automatically. That is, most people feel that it happens naturally, without any effort on either person's part. Often it is described as a chemistry between two people. Or the most common term, "falling in love." For true marital love, this love acts as the priming of the marital love pump.

We usually refer to this experience as infatuation. When romantic love fires off between two people, they are both excited about each other. They both fail to see the failings and negative aspects of each other, or if they do, they make excuses or believe they will change, because this powerful love they feel will conquer all, or so it seems.

It should be noted this is the same type of love that one feels during an affair. It produces the "fog" we spoke of in Part 1. The feeling of new love is so powerful that it tends to put blinders on a person so that he cannot see the negative aspects of what he is doing. He only know one thing: "I can't live without having this feeling of love in my life. I must have it." Like a drug addict who is willing to spend their life's savings on the next high, those in affairs don't consider the negative consequences of what they are putting at risk in an affair.

But whether we are talking about a relationship that ends in marriage or one that ends in an affair, eventually this love dies if left unattended. This especially is true with a marriage because of the many distractions. Jobs, bills, children, sports, hobbies, school and many other responsibilities of married couples work to kill off romantic love. Passion dies off like a fire running out of fuel. But even for an affair relationship, eventually it gets old, is not new, the excitement dies off and the two at some point start to feel a responsibility to each other, not to mention the constant worry that they will be discovered and it all come to a sudden end.

This dynamic, the excitement of a new relationship, has led some to conclude that we were not made or created to be monogamous. Most who posit an evolutionary creation of man, point to this as the basic instinct of man that allowed him, especially when man was a small number, to spread his seed as widely as possible for the survival of the species.

However, this fails to account for the totality of love. It places eros, passion, romantic love as the only real love, at least as it relates to marriage and creating a family. As we will see, this is an incomplete picture of love. It is only one part, important as it may be. A part that can easily be perverted toward destructive actions in the name of love just as much as the drug addict is willing to steal and kill in the name of his love for the drug.

Because this love is based on an emotional needs-based feeling of well-being, it will naturally go up and down over a period of time. The "honeymoon" eventually dies off. So if we need this type of love in a marriage, how do we keep those fires burning?

This is where the book, His Needs, Her Needs: How to Affair-proof Your Marriage by Willard F. Jr. Harley, comes into the picture. This topic is way too big for one article, so I would highly suggest this book be obtained and read for a full understanding, but here is a summary that applies to what we are discussing here.

Men and women tend to have different needs to feel love for someone. One person may perceive a hug as saying, "I love you." Another may feel that when the other does some type of act of service like washing the dishes for them. Another when the person joins them in an activity like a sport or a hobby. While men and women tend to have opposite needs, each person is different. What makes one woman feel loved is not the same for another woman, or one man to another.

Doing the actions that say "I love you" to someone causes them to feel love, and fills what Mr. Harley calls the "love bank." As long as the deposits exceed the withdrawals—doing something that doesn't make them feel loved—the romantic fires are kept going.

The reason that it feels natural in the beginning of a relationship is because each person has an excitement about the relationship that causes them to invest as much time as possible with the other person. When that happens, it makes the other person feel loved. You are each motivated to do for the other the things they want to do. You find yourself spending every spare minute with them.

When I dated Lenita, we were together every evening unless otherwise prevented. When we were together, we focused on each other. I'm sure if I added up the time we spent together, it amounted to at least four to five hours a day on the average. That means we were together, focused on each other, for around 28 hours a week.

But what happened to us? Like all marriages, jobs and children pulled us apart. Over the years, our time spent with each other shrank to minutes a day instead of hours. Often those minutes weren't focused on each other, but on daily issues, taking care of this or that, or attending church. We rarely took time to make deposits into each other's love banks. We had some of the other loves we'll be talking about, so we felt we loved each other, but this love became neglected over the years. It would get fed only on special occasions like Valentine's Day or our anniversary. But nothing like we did during our dating time.

The key then is spending quality time together. Not focused on responsibilities, the children, or a job, but upon each other. Only by spending enough time together can either of you hope to make deposits into the love bank "naturally." Filling those needs comes through quantity of contact. Mr. Harely recommends spending at least 15 hours a week together. That can seem like a lot, but it is an issue of priorities. If one's marriage is important, one will make the time just as easily as you make the time to watch a football game or meet with the guys or any other number of hobbies we may have.

Since discovery day and reading His Needs, Her Needs, we've gone from spending a total of one or two hours a week focused on each other to over 15. The result? Despite the affairs, I've never felt more in love with my wife. Even more so than when we were first married.

What occurs naturally at the beginning of a relationship is spending time with each other long enough that we naturally do the actions that say to the other, "I love you." Words are good, but those actions make it real. But as the relationship moves forward, the time together naturally goes down unless the couple makes a conscious effort to counteract it. This requires more than having a night out once a week, though that is a good start. But to make a difference will require spending 15 hours together at least. Find activities you can participate together in.

For instance, here is our usual weekly schedule. Most nights find us swimming at the local gym for around one and a half hours on average including drive time. That amounts to a weekly total of 7.5 hours. Weekly we spend our time on Saturdays going to church together. The car ride is 45 minutes each way, for a total 1.5 hours. Usually she reads a book on marriage enrichment or initially about affairs and dealing with them. That ups the total to 9 hours. We have a weekly eating out together, which invests another 1.5 or more hours a week, bringing it to 10.5 hours a week. Every week, I help her with a cleaning job at an office 30 minutes away. Another hour of drive time alone together, making it 11.5. She usually calls me on her lunch breaks and when she's traveling between jobs, and we talk. This is harder to estimate, but that amounts to at least one hour a day. Add five hours to the total and we spend at least 16.5 hours a week together, focused on each other.

We could add in more smaller pieces, like our texts back and forth, our time in the room when we share things we've found on the computer or discussing some of the issues we've run across on the support forum, but you get the picture. Whereas before the affair we were lucky to spend five minutes focused on each other a day, now it is back to hours. Invest that much time into a relationship, and it becomes hard to not feel loved by them because you are both saying to each other, "You're worth investing my time to be with." Not doing that can't but help to say the opposite.

But that shows how eros love works in an affair and why some people become so addicted to that new-relationship excitement, not knowing how to keep it alive, they end up going from one person to another each time the relationship seems to lose its spark and excitement. They don't realize that if they would simply invest the same amount of time with their spouse as they want to do "naturally" with the affair partner, that they would soon feel the same exciting romantic love for them as they do their affair partner.

Romantic, passionate love will rise and fall through a marriage, but if a couple doesn't learn to preserve the time for each other in the face of the other demands, it will fall and rarely rise up. What was natural, spending loads of time with them, now has to be done intentionally. Or more appropriately, the couple needs to intentionally preserve that space and not let other, less important responsibilities, overgrow the love in a marriage. Like weeds need to be pulled from a garden to keep the plants healthy, the marriage has to be tended after planting the seeds through infatuation. Failing to do this is saying the marital garden is not worth saving or preserving.

The danger for the unfaithful spouse, on the other hand, is failing to realize the love they often feel for their affair partner is mostly, if not all, passion, but not the fullness of what love is. The infatuation is the starting gun to trigger a more fuller love, which we will discuss in the next sections. But too many, when they experience this exciting new-relationship romance, mistake it for what love is. By itself, it is a fickle and emotional response to having one's love-needs met by someone else. It is the instinctive response to those triggers that gets romanticized in popular culture as to what love is.


The keyword to describe phileo love is friendship. Most people understand this one well enough. It contains elements of the other loves in a unique combination. Like eros, it deepens and is enriched only when we spend time on it. Another more descriptive word, however, is companionship. Unlike eros, it isn't totally need based, can involve sacrifice, and isn't sexually oriented.

It is when one combines phileo love with romantic love that one hits a version of marital love. Yet, even this is not the fullness of marital love. It requires more ingredients. Yet, a marriage that lacks a sense of companionship is a weak marriage indeed.

One of Lenita's songs she always said was our song was "You're My Best Friend" by Queen. We've always had a sense of that friendship, and the subsequent love. But we allowed the companionship to die. We still felt we were friends, we still felt we loved each other, but we had allowed our zest in our relationship to shrivel. It was that lack that her second local affair partner filled, as he talked with her and spent time with her while I was involved in my own world, oblivious to it all.

This thin line between friendship and romantic love is the premise behind the most popular book on the topic of infidelity, Not Just Friends by Shirley Glass. Friendship can entail intimacy to a degree, and intense love for the other person, only minus the more sexual overtones and romantic love. If two people who become close friends find they are becoming romantically attracted to each other, it becomes very easy to justify to one's self that "we're just friends." As Lenita thought at the time, "I can handle this and not let it evolve into an affair," all the while she was already neck deep into the affair. Blurring the lines between friendship and romantic love is the fertile grounds for affairs to blossom.

How does one identify if a friendship is moving into romantic love? One can identify it by answering the following questions. Do either of you flirt with the other? Do you spend more time talking and interacting with the friend than your own spouse? When you talk, do you regularly discuss intimate details like marital problems you are dealing with, or sexual preferences? Do you make contact via text, phone, or email/messages multiple times every day? Do you think about them daily? Do you sense an attraction to them, or what many people would call "chemistry"?

If you can answer yes to any of these questions, it should serve as a warning flag that this relationship has the potential to be more than just friends, and you should take steps to establish firm boundaries and prevent alone time. Limit contact and use techniques to guard your thoughts so as to not allow the spark to start a fire.

If you answered yes to several of these questions, you are likely already involved in the early stages of an affair, whether you've even kissed or held hands yet. Pulling back and dialing down the contact to once or twice a week is the only way to preserve the friendship and avoid damaging your marriage.

True friendship is a great blessing. Each person in the marriage can benefit from having friends outside the marriage. As John Gray says in Why Mars and Venus Collide, it is important that each spouse find other sources of friendship outside the marriage so that the spouse isn't left to provide all of one's well-being. Women need other women to talk to, and men need other males to interact with. Our society has more and more limited friendships, especially among men.

When dealing with friendships of the opposite sex or any person one may be attracted to, boundaries are important. It is usually the ignoring of those boundaries that leads to a friendship evolving into a romantic relationship. Avoid spending alone time with such an individual. Always have someone else with you. Avoid discussing marital issues or other intimate details reserved for a marital relationship or professional therapist. If he wants to text or contact you frequently, send signals you're not available all the time, like waiting for a few hours to answer a text, or a quick text back that you are involved in something and can't chat now. Enough of those and he'll get the signal in most cases.

When you see several of these warning signs growing, that is the time to run. Don't think you can handle it. You're already hooked if these things are happening. The deeper in you go from there, the harder it will be to stop the affair and the more danger to your marriage as the addictive nature of what you are feeling takes over.

Perhaps you have heard some unfaithful spouses say they just wanted the sex, not a relationship. In effect, they wanted the eros love without the phileo. They want the pleasure of sex without the entanglements of a relationship. They are in love with the feelings, not the person. Therefore, they don't care from whom they get them, just so they get them. Is this possible?

In short, yes, to a degree. It is possible for someone to want only the sex and not love the person involved or desire a friendship with them. That was the attitude of Clyde, Lenita's first affair partner. He didn't want to know about her, her family, or any details of her life and history. He just wanted sexual favors, period. In effect, he didn't want to be one with her emotionally. This is the basis of prostitution. A man can pay for it, and not have any strings attached. He may never see that girl again.

However, to say this creates no emotional or marital bonds is a secular view of sex as a form of recreation and not much more. Only when it is linked with love for the person does it take on any meaning whatsoever in a bonding fashion, per that view. As we will see in the next chapter, this is an incomplete picture of sex. Rather, sexual intercourse involves making the two into one flesh. Whoever one has sex with, joins with them in the basic act of matrimony. A bond is created, no matter how much love is or is not felt for the person. In other words, yes one can avoid phileo love with another individual, but eros love has its own bonding with the other that cannot be escaped.


The two words that describe this type of love is comforting affection. Its use in Greek is mostly restricted to family relationships, but can expand into a more broader "family" among friends.

In the popular TV show of the 80s, "Star Trek, the Next Generation," one of the characters was named Data, a sentient android. In seeking to define a friend or even romantic relationship, he described it as, "My neurological pathways have become accustom to your presence." This is the essentially the definition of storge love, but in a more biological sense. We become accustom to those around us, extended family and friends, and develop an affection for them that we find comforting. We enjoy being with them because we find security in their presence. It also tends to include biological connections, though not exclusively.

Often when a hurt spouse learns about the affair, he will bounce between hate and love for his unfaithful spouse. He is angry that the spouse chose someone over or in addition to him, equating to a rejection of his love. This negatively affects his romantic and companionship love. Yet, he is accustom to the unfaithful spouse's presence and doesn't want to lose the security of that relationship, especially if they have been together for years.

This love also interacts in concern for the children. Not wanting a broken family, some stay together for the sake of the children. Storge love is involved in such decisions. The hurt spouse doesn't want to deny the children the relationship with their father or mother, so for the sake of the children and keeping the family whole, they stay together even if the love between them is dead or dying.

The unfaithful spouse experiences this love when he feels he loves his spouse and doesn't want to divorce, but he no longer feels "in love" with the hurt spouse. What he means is he no longer feels any eros love, especially when compared to the excitement of the affair partner, but he still feels the bonds of storge love with his spouse, the mother or father of their children. That relationship is familiar, comfortable, and provides security. There is a history to that relationship, unlike with the affair partner.

In a healthy marriage, this love grows with time spent together. As the years pass, each grows accustom to the other's presence. With the advent of biological children, this bond grows exponentially. A family is created, and the love for one's child extends to the spouse who is also a parent and who contributed their DNA to create this child bonding the two into one, literal flesh.

To the degree Lenita and I felt true love for each other before the affair started, this and the next love, for me, defined why we felt we loved each other. We didn't take into account, as important as this love was, that it was not the totality of what marital love should be. After 29 years and three children, our storge love was very strong. But our phileo, eros, and in Lenita's case to a degree, agape love had waned.


Agape is also one of the loves little understood. Most think of it in terms of divine love, or non-sexual love as contrasted with eros. But these ideas only skirt the foundation of the word and its corresponding love.

If there is one word I would list to describe what this type of love involves, it would be martyr. Unlike eros, it is not based on filling one's needs. Unlike phileo, it doesn't require companionship. Contrasted with storge, it is not based on family bonds or a comforting presence. Rather, this love indicates one who is willing to sacrifice themselves for another, a cause, or a belief.

In classic Greek, the term was rarely used, and was a more generic word for love without a lot of meaning attached to it. The writers of the New Testament infused the word with the meaning of love that God has for us. But there are three times in the Bible when the word is not used of divine love, but inappropriate love. It is the highest form of love one can have. It willingly sacrifices what one wants in favor of the needs and desires of the one loved. This is why Jesus said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (Joh 15:13 ASV)

The term became attached to divine love because God's love so often uses the term. Because Israel so often committed adultery against Him, and He forgave them and took them back. Because we so often seek other "gods" in our lives than Him, and yet He waits with open arms to receive us again like the father did the prodigal son. For sure, the pure example of agape love is God Himself, who willingly became incarnate as a man, so He could give His life, to defeat death, and restore life through His resurrection. In spite of the fact that we, as a whole, had rejected Him.

None of us can hope to have and exhibit a pure agape love, but we can participate in it through Him. Our love involves selfish desires, need-based companionship. We can't get away from that, and indeed, should not. For us, agape love transforms those loves into an integrated whole of what love should be.

St. Paul exhorts the Ephesians in relation to marriage: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it;" (Eph 5:25 ASV) Marriage is at its ideal, a sacrifice of each other on the altar of their new spouse. In the Orthodox Church's marriage ceremony, this is illustrated with crowns the groom and bride wear on their heads, known as crowns of martyrdom. This same spirit is shown in the traditional Western marriage vows, "...for better or for worse."

This type of love does not waver with one's feelings of love. It does not rely upon being treated fairly or justly by the other spouse. It does not even depend upon whether one's spouse is abusive or not. Once one has agape love for another, it is there forever.

Note, I'm not saying this love puts up with abuse or injustice anymore than God puts up with sin. Simply that one loves the other, and has their best interest at heart no matter what happens or what sacrifices need to be made.

Allow me to illustrate this with my own situation, at the risk of sounding puffed up and wanting praise from my readers. For I don't count this as something I did through great effort, but was simply there and natural, so I attribute it to God working in me when I needed it most.

When I first discovered Lenita's affairs, among the shock, denial, and disbelief that I would ever find myself in this situation, one desire rose above the others. I realized she had committed a mortal sin that could destroy our marriage and her. While not denying my pain and struggle, my first concern was for redeeming her if at all possible.

So much so that when I called my priest the next morning, he asked me whether I wanted a divorce or not. I said without hesitation, as if there could be any doubt so why ask, that I did not want a divorce. The idea of divorcing her hadn't even entered my mind, though I worried that it could end there depending on where she was at. I readily forgave her, and that has stuck. I've never dangled her sin over her head as a punishment.

That said, agape love would have demanded that I leave if she continued to reject me. If she had not repented within a reasonable amount of time, like the sinner cannot be with God in heaven, I would have had to leave her. That in itself would have been a sacrifice on my part because I wouldn't want to do that. Yet, if she stood any chance of healing, it would require at some point for me to release her like the father did the prodigal son. But no matter what, I would still love her, no matter what she did. For that, my pain would be all the more deep. But it is far less than the pain God has for the many who have rejected Him, and He still so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten son to rescue us through the sacrifice of death.

It is agape love that ties the other loves together into a full, complete, and holy love that goes beyond ourselves. You cannot "fall out of love" with agape love. The heart of a marital love is this self-sacrificial love.

Allow me to put it in the negative. Many look at love as merely a feeling, an emotional attachment. It is that, but by itself, it falls far short. So when during the marriage, the one spouse isn't getting the sexual love he wants or expects, instead of being willing to sacrifice for a time, he goes outside the marriage to find his fulfillment. When one spouse neglects the other, and someone comes along who pays attention to him, he mistakes that attention for true love because he doesn't have a sacrificial love for his spouse that no matter the temptation presented, he will abstain. Agape love does not ebb and flow with circumstances, but with one's commitment to be a martyr for the benefit of the other person.

I know what some are thinking. Doormat. No, not quite, as I illustrated above. Agape love doesn't shield the object of love from the consequences of his actions, but loves him, even when that love says you must release him in the hope that he will eventually repent and return with a true change of heart. That is often harder than staying and shielding him from the consequences of his actions, and ends up enabling his sin instead of healing it.

What is True Marital Love?

All love contains elements of each flavor of love. It is not like you can take love and neatly divide it into these black and white categories. Storge love for a child involves a level of eros passion for him. The parents sacrifice often for the well-being and benefit of the child, exhibiting true agape love. All human agape love is connected to eros, phileo, and storge love.

In each action, one type of love tends to dominate over the others in time, while for a full love, all comes under the umbrella of agape love in general. For if love doesn't mean to give of one's self for the betterment of the other, then in what manner is it true love? In what manner is instinctive and needs-based love really love in the full sense of the word if it does not have as its final goal the best for the other person, even at your expense?

The ironic aspect of a full love of this nature is that one gets more than what the other loves can give by themselves. Our fulfillment doesn't come from getting, but in giving. It is the nature of this type of love to establish love as a lasting love.

While in my story I've attributed several aspects of what Lenita did to rebuilding as key in my quick recovery, if there is one reason why I healed as fast as I did, much quicker than most people in my support group, is that this sacrificial love caused me to be more concerned for her than for myself. I was more focused on her healing than my own. I forgave her readily, even though I didn't know if her commitment would stick. As I write this, not even two years past discovery day, I don't think about the affairs much. It is always there, but I don't hurt as much from it. I don't get depressed over it anymore. Our relationship is better than it has ever been. I'm exceedingly thankful that she was able to repent and turn from the path she was headed down. It has been a long and painful process, but a rewarding one for both of us.

To put it bluntly, without a strong sense of love embracing all the loves, especially agape love, I would still be hurting today. I would feel the injustice of what she did to me, the grief of what I had lost would still weigh heavily on my heart. Despite the fact she'd done all the right things so that other hurt spouses on the support group vocally wish their spouses were like her, I would still hurt deep inside, not feeling free to relinquish my pain for fear it would let her off the hook. I would not have easily forgiven her. If it were not for a love that didn't depend upon her behavior to exist, I would not have sacrificed my own selfish desires for what was best for both of us. Instead of enjoying a fulfilling relationship with her now, we would live in doubt and stress, fearing the next slip up and that love would shatter with the next sin.

If passion love, family affection love, and companionship love do not lead one to sacrificial love, then that love is a shadow of the real thing, and not fully love. If love can so readily changed based upon feelings and actions of others, then it is not true love, but selfish ego-protecting desires.

As St. Paul states: "Love is patient, love is kind; love does not envy; love does not boast, is not puffed up; does not behave disgracefully, does not seek its own, is not provoked to anger, thinks no evil; does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."(1Co 13:4-7 EMTV)

Are you in love? Let that love be the mark by which you measure if you are there. If we are honest, none of us exhibit it perfectly. But we strive to do so, and if we don't, only then have we lost.


Check out the full book, which includes the story of how Lenita ended up in a series of affairs, how Rick discovered it, and how both rebuilt their marriage into a vibrant one, as well as many other good articles like this one to aid in Healing Infidelity.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The 180 for Unfaithful Spouse

The 180 is a list of behaviors from Michelle Wiener Davis, the author of Divorce Busting, a book about how to save a marriage headed toward divorce. I’ve not read the book, but it does have four stars out of 74 reviews on Amazon as I write this.

The 180 was originally written for spouses dealing with an uncooperative spouse who is headed for the divorce door. It has become popular among infidelity support groups in helping hurt spouses deal effectively with their uncooperative, unfaithful spouse. Follow this link if you are looking for The 180 for Hurt Spouses.

The goal of the 180 is to project confidence, self-esteem, non-reliance upon the other person, and that the spouse is ready to move on without them if necessary.

Recently on the support forum I frequent, an unfaithful spouse asked if the 180 was for cheating spouses or betrayed spouses? It dawned upon me that with some tweaks, these could be used to help unfaithful spouses establish and maintain no contact with their affair partner.

First, let’s define what no contact means. There are two levels of no contact with an affair partner: external and internal.

External no contact means that the unfaithful spouse does not initiate contact with the affair partner and avoids responding to their contact attempts as much as possible. If they text you, you ignore them. If they call, you don’t answer. If you answer not knowing it is them or bump into them publicly, politely say, “Sorry, I can’t talk with you,” and hang up or walk away. Ignore and avoid any attempts to communicate with you.

Establishing internal contact will take much longer than external. Effectively establishing external no contact is necessary before you can ever hope to establish internal no contact.

Internal no contact means the unfaithful spouse reduces and minimizes points of indirect contact that keeps love and feelings for the affair partner from dying and fading into the past. This involves getting rid of any reminders of the affair partner including pictures, gifts, mementos, old messages, letters, or the like. Even deeper it involves not dwelling on them nor in any way continuing to care about them which can include feelings of guilt for hurting them through the affair and/or no contact.

The 180 for unfaithful spouses is a list of behaviors that the unfaithful spouse can focus on to establish and maintain external no contact.

It is emotionally hard enough to break up a relationship when one or both of you decided to end it. Even harder when neither of you were ready to end it. The path to successful no contact in these cases is to focus not on what you feel, which is often not easy to change, but to focus on actions and behaviors despite how you feel.

An unfaithful spouse who developed feelings of love for the affair partner will not feel like doing these behaviors. It is understood, especially for affairs stopped by the hurt spouse discovering the extra-marital relationship, that going no contact with your affair partner will seem counter to what you want emotionally and be one of the hardest things you’ll do in your life.

That said, most unfaithful spouses agree to this to preserve their marriage. It becomes a matter of priorities and knowing the two relationships cannot exist side-by-side. No matter which way you chose to go, you’ll hurt someone. If you love your spouse too, you’d have the same issues going no contact with them as you would with your affair partner. It is one of the consequences created by having an affair.

Following these behaviors, even if you don’t feel like doing them, will help you to not only show your commitment to rebuild your marriage with your spouse, but over time the sense of independence, empowerment, and self-respect it develops will aid in establishing internal no contact and having the self-control to not go there again.

Some of these behaviors will feel radical. That’s because often the unfaithful spouse feels bad about a sudden and abrupt break with the affair partner. They want to slowly break off the relationship. Problem is, this rarely works. It is a delay tactic by the addicted brain to keep a foot in the door because it doesn’t want the relationship to end. Likewise, such a tactic creates more pain over the long haul with not only the spouse, but with yourself and the affair partner.

A clean break is the least painful and most effective way to establish no contact. It is like pulling a bandage off a hairy arm. It hurts much less when removed as quickly as possible. Likewise, in any past breakups with former girlfriends or boyfriends, were any ever done slowly? Rarely.

Following is the 180, tweaked for the purposes of the unfaithful spouse establishing and maintaining no contact with the affair partner. If you slip, don’t despair. Pick yourself up and get back on track. It may take some patience with yourself to fully implement all of these. Not all will apply to everyone. If the shoe fits, put it on.

The “No Contact 180” for Unfaithful Spouses

Don’t initiate phone calls. If they call, tell them you can’t talk with them and politely hang up. Don’t entertain answering any questions or discuss how you feel.

Don’t initiate messages of any kind, and don’t respond to any of the affair partner’s attempts to contact you.

Don’t pursue “closure” or “resolution”. It is a myth that only brings about less closure and resolution if attempted.

Don't follow them around on social sites like Facebook.

Don't ask for help from the family members of your affair partner.

Don't say, "I Love You!" to them or within yourself, even if you still feel you do. Saying it creates an expectation of dependency instead of independence.

Do more than act as if you are moving on with your life; begin moving on with your life.

Be cheerful, strong, outgoing and independent.

Don't sit around waiting on your affair partner. Get busy. Do things. Go out with friends. Enjoy old hobbies. Find new ones. Stay busy.

Your affair partner needs to believe that you are moving on with your life without them.

Don’t give into acting like a moody, needy, pathetic individual but a self-assured individual, secure in the knowledge that you have value not based on their love and affection.

Do not entertain any questions about the relationship either in your mind or with the affair partner. Initiate no such conversation.

Be patient and learn to see the negatives in the affair partner. List them out, as it will help clear foggy thinking.

Listen and then listen some more to close friends, therapists, and support networks to help you maintain no contact.

Learn to back off, keep your mouth shut, and walk away when you want to contact them, no matter the provocation.

Take care of you. Exercise, sleep, laugh, and focus on all the other parts of your life that are not in turmoil.

Know that if you can do this 180, your smallest consistent action will change your feelings far more than sweeping issues under the rug and hoping for the best.

Do not be openly desperate or needy even when you are hurting and are feeling totally desperate and needy.

Do not give up no matter how dark it is or how bad you feel.

Do not backslide from your hard earned changes. Remain consistent. It is the consistency of action and attitude that delivers the message to your spouse that you are committed to them and to the affair partner that it is really over.

When expressing your dissatisfaction with the behaviors of the affair partner or spouse, never be judgmental, critical or express moral outrage. Focus on the pain that their acts caused you.

This is the kind of behavior that shows you are not afraid to move on with your life.

More important, given enough time and consistency of behavior, it will convince yourself that you can move on with your life and convince the affair partner that you’re serious about ending it.

In instances where the unfaithful spouse has contact—such as working together, sharing parental responsibilities of a child, accidental encounters, a persistent affair partner trying to make contact, or other similar situations—keep the following 180 behaviors in mind should contact happen:

Don't pursue, reason, chase, beg, plead or implore.

Only discuss required business issues and nothing else.

Don't point out "good points" in the relationship.

Don't encourage or initiate discussion about the future.

Don't ask for reassurances.

Don't buy or give gifts.

When the affair partner engages you in person, be short on words. Don't push any issue, no matter how much you want to. End the conversation as soon as possible, don’t encourage extended discussion. Interrupt if need be, gracefully bow out, and leave.

If you were in the habit of asking your affair partner how they are doing, ask nothing. Seem totally uninterested in their life.

Don't be overly negative, reactionary, or excited to see them—just pull yourself back. Don't be available for anything other than required business. Your affair partner will notice.

No matter what you are feeling today, only show your affair partner happiness and contentment.

Do not allow yourself to lose your temper. No yelling, screaming or name calling ever. Be cool, act cool; be in control of the only thing you can control: yourself.

Refuse to argue at all. It shows you care.

Be strong, confident, and learn to speak softly.

Do not focus on yourself. Don’t discuss how you feel.

Do not believe any of what you hear them say and less than 50% of what you see. Try to remember that they are also hurting and desperate to make contact, and so they will say anything to justify their behavior.

By focusing on doing the above behaviors to the best of your ability, it will send the right message to both your spouse and your affair partner: you are committed to rebuilding your marriage. As months pass, feelings will align with actions. You’ll gain more self-confidence and self-respect. You’ll realize you can do the right thing, even when it is hard and painful. That will go a long way to restoring the love and trust between your spouse and you.

The 180 for Hurt Spouses

The 180 is a list of behaviors from Michelle Wiener Davis, the author of Divorce Busting, that will help your spouse to see you moving forward as a healthy person.

Who should do these steps? You'll need to evaluate them, and use the ones that apply to your situation. Some of these are good for anyone to do. Like not following them around the house. You don't want to look like a puppy dog that can't stand to be away from its owner. Others may only be appropriate if your spouse isn't cooperating with rebuilding. Others you may want to do "in case" but don't require you to follow through on anything that would be divisive.

But if your spouse is being cooperative, many of these you don't want to do. Like no frequent phone calls or not going on dates—those would be counterproductive to a cooperative unfaithful spouse, making them feel their efforts are wrong or not helping when they really are. Plus, the idea with a cooperative unfaithful spouse is to spend time with them, both of those good ways to do that, within moderation.

The more uncooperative an unfaithful spouse is, the more of these that apply. So evaluate each one whether it would help or hurt in your situation. But the overall goal of these should be kept in mind: to help the hurt spouse project confidence, independence, and emotional distance to the unfaithful spouse in order to prepare the hurt spouse for eventual separation, should it occur, and hopefully move the unfaithful spouse from the uncooperative category to the cooperative one.

Following is the 180 list of behaviors. I’ve left the original formatting and wording of the quote. A bit wordy in places, and too much reliance upon exclamation points and all caps for emphasis.

The 180 for Hurt Spouses

Don't pursue reason, chase, beg, plead or implore.

No frequent phone calls.

Don't point out "good points" in marriage.

Don't follow her/him around the house.

Don't encourage or initiate discussion about the future.

Don't ask for help from the family members of your wayward spouse.

Don't ask for reassurances.

Don't buy or give gifts.

Don't schedule dates together.

Don't keep saying, "I Love You!" Because if you have a brain in your head, he/she is, at this particular moment, not very loveable.

Do more than act as if you are moving on with your life; begin moving on with your life!

Be cheerful, strong, outgoing and independent.

Don't sit around waiting on your spouse—get busy, do things, go out with friends, enjoy old hobbies, find new ones! But stay busy!

When home with your spouse, (if you usually start the conversation) be scarce or short on words. Don't push any issue. No matter how much you want to!

If you're in the habit of asking your spouse his/her whereabouts, ASK NOTHING. Seem totally uninterested.

Your partner needs to believe that you have awakened to the fact that they are serious concerning their assertions as to the future (or lack there of) of your marriage. Thus, you are moving on with your life without them!

Don't be nasty, angry or even cold—Just pull yourself back. Don't always be so available for anything! Your spouse will notice. More important, he/she will notice that you're missing.

No matter what you are feeling TODAY, only show your spouse happiness and contentment.

Make yourself be someone they would want to be around. Not a moody, needy, pathetic individual but a self-assured individual secure in the knowledge that they have value.

All questions about the marriage should be put on hold, until your spouse wants to talk about it (which may not be for quite a while). Initiate no such conversation!

Do not allow yourself to lose your temper. No yelling, screaming or name calling EVER. No show of temper! Be cool, act cool; be in control of the only thing you can control, YOURSELF!

Don't be overly enthusiastic.

Do not argue when they tell you how they feel (it only makes their feelings stronger). In fact, refuse to argue at all!

Be patient and learn to not only listen carefully to what your spouse is really saying to you, HEAR what it is that they are saying!

Listen and then listen some more!

Learn to back off, keep your mouth shut and walk away when you want to speak out, no matter what the provocation. No one ever got themselves into trouble by just not saying anything.

Take care of you. Exercise, sleep, laugh & focus on all the other parts of your life that are not in turmoil.

Be strong, confident and learn to speak softly.

Know that if you can do this 180, your smallest CONSISTENT action will be noticed far more than any words you can say or write.

Do not be openly desperate or needy even when you are hurting more than ever and are feeling totally desperate and needy.

Do not focus on yourself when communicating with your spouse. It's not always about you! More to the point, at present they just don't care!

Do not believe any of what you hear them say and less than 50% of what you see. Your spouse will speak in absolute negatives and do so in the most strident tones imaginable. Try to remember that they are also hurting and afraid. Try to remember that they know what they are doing is wrong and so they will say anything they can to justify their behavior.

Do not give up no matter how dark it is or how bad you feel. It "ain't over till it's over!"

Do not backslide from your hard earned changes. Remain consistent! It is the consistency of action and attitude that delivers the message.

When expressing your dissatisfaction with the actions of the wayward party, never be judgmental, critical or express moral outrage. Always explain that your dissatisfaction is due to the pain that the acts being committed are causing you as a person.

This is the kind of behavior that will cause you to be a much more attractive and mysterious individual. Further it SHOWS that you are NOT afraid to move on with your life.

Still more important, it will burst their positive little bubble; the one in which they believe that they can always come back to you in case things don't work out with the affair partner.