I recenty received a question from a woman who asked “I was in an affair but I am now choosing my marriage. Something keeps dragging me back to my affair partner. How can I stop it?”
It happens literally millions of times.
Your marriage relationship gets to be empty and unfulfilling but you don’t really notice it. This feeling of wanting to end the affair but unexplicably being drawn back in again and again is more common than you might think.
Your marriage becomes routine and expected.
Suddenly without any warning, a person (man or woman), appears and starts meeting emotional needs in you that were not met by your spouse. It feels so refreshing, so exciting that you need and want to pursue it.
So in secret, that’s exactly what you do.
While you are pursuing your mysterious secret affair, the feelings feel so good that you don’t want them to stop. So you are forced to live a secret life and then a public legitimate life with your marriage.
The more this magical secret affair grips you, the more disappointing and empty your marriage appears by comparison.
During the time you are gripped by this secret power, you are not able to take an interest or be genuinely attracted to your spouse.
Your marriage literally ceases to exist because your heart has been sold to the highest bidder and that highest bidder is not your spouse.
While you are gripped by this, your children’s needs, your spouse’s needs, your household needs, your financial needs all take a back seat to your secret affair.
This secret relationship is literally a drug you are addicted to.
Just like an illegal drug, it makes you feel high. What is dragging you back to your affair partner, even though you have chosen to keep your marriage, is the drug high you have not dealt with.
Let’s talk about that drug high.
There are actual drugs your brain creates such as endorphins and dopamine, that create a pathway, a kind of flow that keeps on flowing. Those brain chemicals take away your ability to think straight.
Until you realize that this chemical concoction exists, you will not be able to stop and it will control you.
The job of ending the flow of these chemicals is both logical AND emotional.
1) Let’s deal with the thinking job first.
This is very practical work and you can do it by taking a piece of paper and writing down what you want in a relationship.
You might write, “I want to feel safe, I want to feel validated and important, I want to feel unique, I want to feel self-sufficient.” When you have a list of 5 to 12 traits that make you feel very good when you write them down, you are actually starting to think about what drew you into your affair in the first place.
By writing this list you are also realizing that you did not make this list your priority in your marriage. You also didn’t ask your spouse to make such a list. The two of you to simply never talked about it. Now you have this list that feels very good and that is the logical part of ending the flow of these chemicals.
2) Now let’s go to the emotional job.
Go back to the start of the relationship with your spouse and make a list of the feelings you had at the very beginning of your relationship. In most situations, you should find that the above list turns out to be the same list you had at the beginning of your marriage.
The truth is, you lost those feelings because the two of you ended up treating each other like your mom and dad’s treated each other back when you were kids. So in the case of women, you treat your husband the way your mother ended up treating your father.
In the case of men, you treat your wife the way your father ended up treating your mother.
Another way to say this is that Without you doing a single thing…
You fell into a trance that turned your marriage into the marriage of your parents.
For virtually all of us, this is a very creepy thought.
We never wanted the marriage of our parents. We want the marriage of our choice. But you can’t have a marriage of choice until you start making those choices consciously.
To release yourself from the drug path of your affair partner, you need to switch your desires over to your spouse. That means you will need to make that list for your spouse so the two of you can begin to talk about what those feelings mean to you.
As you begin to talk about those feelings, things start coming out that were buried between you a long time. During those conversations, the two of you will release the fears, anxieties and frustrations that really come out of your own childhood pain.
That work is very healing and that’s the kind of work that breaks off the chemical flow from the affair.
You will need to picture yourself having many conversations with your spouse about your deepest needs that you have always wanted from your intimate relationship.
It might sound like this:
“Dan, I never told you this, but the reason I wanted to be married is because I wanted to feel safe, feel validated, feel important, feel unique and feel self-sufficient. I had an expectation that my husband would do that for me but I never thought to tell you. So I wrote these needs of mine on this card and I thought you could write your needs on your card and we can begin talking about it in a way we never have before.”
That kind of honest and real talk will bring up all kinds of things, but don’t lose sight of your mission.
You have discovered what you needed most and you have honestly communicated that you had an expectation that your husband could deliver.
How interesting it will be when he makes his list and the two of you begin communicating in a way you never have before. It won’t be easy or pretty in the beginning, but don’t give up.