books with atribI am an avid reader by nature and have always been quite bookish.  I have also worked as an educational researcher and some things just stay with you.  I am indebted to all the authors of these books for showing me a range of different frames of reference to understand my devastating experience of infidelity. (The list will be long – it’s a work in progress!)  I need to point out from the beginning that there are no books here that focus on the theory that the betrayed spouse was in any way to blame for what the betraying spouse chose to do.  I was half of a very ‘good’ marriage and all that that implies.  However, even if this weren’t the case and our relationship between us was dire, it would still not be appropriate to blame me for his straying.   

The Monogamy Myth by Peggy Vaughan.

“How we respond to attraction and temptation has more to do with personal history and psychodynamics than with morality” “The myths reinforcing the idea that affairs happen only because of personal failure have made it extremely difficult for people to recover their self esteem and rebuild their relationships.” “Their [the betraying spouses uniqueness is not in their behaviour, it’s in the fact that their behaviour is exposed.  This is not an excuse for their behaviour, but it’s an important perspective if we are to overcome our hypocrisy”

“Dealing with extra marital affairs is a life-altering experience” “The reason dealing with an affair is such a devastating experience with such long lasting effects is that our beliefs about monogamy have led us to believe that we won’t have to face the issue of affairs – and to feel like a personal failure if it happens.  This way of thinking is based on what I have come to call the monogamy myth” “We need to reject the monogamy myth, not to excuse those who have affairs, but to relieve the sense of shame and inadequacy felt by their mates”  “Usually, the desire for newness and variety has little to do with the degree of satisfaction with the primary partner” “Opportunities and circumstances play a far more important role in determining an affair than the specific qualities of the third party” 

“We have a situation where people are condemning adultery with their statements and condoning it with their behaviour.” “The most significant support for affairs in our society is the secrecy that surrounds them.” “This secrecy leaves the betrayed spouse alone with their anxiety if they suspect and alone with their pain if they find out. It’s quite possible that this isolation threatens a person’s sanity even more than dealing with the affairs themselves.” If people cannot count on the code of secrecy to protrct them, they may change their thinking – and their actions” “When suspicions are kept hidden, it makes it easier for the person having an affair to avoid thinking about the consequences of their actions.” “One of the most prevalent rationalisations by the person having an affair is, what they don’t know can’t hurt them.” “Unfortunately, the overwhelming feeling of a person who suspects their partner of having an affair is fear, the fear of falsely accusing their partner if they’re wrong and the fear of facing the facts if they’re right.”

Unfortunately, people who only see the personal view of affairs tend to think that leaving will help them overcome their pain, when, in fact, it’s not leaving (or staying) that heals the pain, but understanding more about affairs that will bring this kind of recovery” “As difficult as it may be to comprehend, in most cases the person having an affair simply doesn’t think about the risks involved.  They just assume nothing will ever go wrong.” There are five primary reasons people won’t talk about their affairs once they’ve been discovered: a belief in a basic code of silence; a desire to maintain their self-image; a belief that it’s best for the partner not to know; a desire to avoid the emotional reactions; and a desire to continue having affairs.” “While it’s difficult for a betrayed person to deal with the pain and loss they feel, it’s even more difficult for them to deal with the damage to their pride and self-esteem.”

“Acceptance: it’s not necessary to like what happened or to agree with what happened; it’s only necessary to accept that it happened and that nothing is going to change that fact.  This allows a person to go on with their lives, because they don’t pretend it didn’t happen.” “Most people aren’t prepared for just how long it takes to recover from the experience of a mate’s affair and to reach a point of personal healing.” It’s important to the healing process that a person recognise that personal recovery from the emotional impact of this experience is not determined by whether the relationship survives.  Dealing with the marriage/divorce dilemma is a completely separated issue.” “Regardless of whether a person chooses to stay married or get divorced, it’s essential that they be patient with the amount of time it takes to heal from a partner’s affair.  It’s also important to keep in mind that time itself won’t bring about healing.  Healing results from the way that time is used.” “There was no great moment of truth when I knew I was over the hump.  It was a very slow process of turning it inside out and upside down until I had control of it instead of it having control over me”

“it is not only possible for a person to recover from this experience, it’s also possible for them to come out of it with a greater sense of self worth than before it happened.” “Trust needs to be based on honesty and honest communication, not on blind faith.” “The way to rebuild trust is not by making a promise of monogamy, but by making a commitment to honesty.” “It’s important to believe you’re a person worthy of honesty and to insist on a relationship that reflects that worth”   Quoting Eleanor Roosevelt on her recovery from the devastation of learning that her husband was having an affair with one of her trusted friends: ” Somewhere along the line of development we discover what we really are, and then we make our real decision for which we are responsible.  Make that decision primarily for yourself because you can never really live anyone else’s life, not even your own child’s”

Private Lies by Frank Pittman

“Day after day in my office I see men and women who have been messing around. They lead secret lives, as they hide themselves from their marriages. They go through wrenching divorces, inflicting pain on their children and their children’s children. Or they make desperate, tearful, sweaty efforts at holding on to the shreds of a life they’ve betrayed. They tell me they have gone through all of this for a quick thrill or a furtive moment of romance. Sometimes they tell me they don’t remember making the decision that tore apart their life: ‘It just happened.’ Sometimes they don’t even know they are being unfaithful. (I tell them: ‘If you don’t know whether what you are doing is an infidelity or not, ask your spouse.’) From the outside looking in, it is insane. How could anyone risk everything in life on the turn of a screw?”[

There is a lot of nonsense in the popular mythology about extra marital affairs.  Seven myths stand out as particularly misleading.  They are:

1. Everybody is unfaithful; it is normal, expectable behaviour.

2. Affairs are good for you; an affair may even revive a dull marriage.

3. The infidel (betraying spouse) must not ‘love’ the cuckold (betrayed spouse); the affair proves it.

4. The affairee (other woman) must be ‘sexier’ than the spouse.

5. The affair is the fault of the cuckold (betrayed spouse), proof that the cuckold has failed the infidel (betraying partner) in some way that made the affair necessary.

6. The best approach to the discovery of a spouse’s affair is to pretend not to know and thereby avoid a crisis.

7. If an affair occurs, the marriage must end in a divorce.


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