Recovering From Affairs Recovering From Affairs
A Handbook for Couples
by Peggy Vaughan and James Vaughan, Ph.D.

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Read the Table of Contents and an Excerpt below.

This is a 49-page handbook based on a course the Vaughans developed and conducted for people recovering from affairs. It is based on the premise that it is possible to recover from the emotional impact of this experience—regardless of whether or not the relationship survives. It covers the physical and emotional reactions, facing the reality that this has happened, understanding who has affairs and why, developing honest communication, and making decisions.


Chapter 1. Dealing with the physical & emotional reactions
Devastation (pain, self-pity, depression, weight loss, sleep loss).
Anger and resentment.

Chapter 2. Facing the reality that this has happened
Denial: Oh no, not me. ("I didn't think it would happen to me.")
Why me? ("What could I have done to keep this from happening?)
Accepting and dealing with "what is"—letting go of "if only."

Chapter 3. Understanding who has affairs and why
Understanding who has affairs—that no one is immune.
Looking at why people have affairs—both personal and societal factors.

Chapter 4. Recovering a sense of self-esteem
Thinking clearly in spite of strong emotions.
Dealing with feelings of embarrassment and shame.
Accepting real support and saying no to unsolicited advice.

Chapter 5. Dealing with other issues
The feelings of the person who had an affair.
Getting perspective on the third party.
The impact of the changed sexual history.
The impact on your sex life.

Chapter 6. Developing honest communication
Regular, full communication with no taboo topics.
Dealing with broken trust.
Building a new basis for trust through honest communication.

Chapter 7. Making decisions
Avoiding quick decisions that may be overly influenced by your emotions.
Looking at all your options.
Getting clear about your priorities.
Making good decisions based on balancing your emotions with clear thinking.

Chapter 8. Learning to live with what has happened
Healing as a couple if that is your choice.
Facing the future.

Excerpt from Handbook for Recovering From Affairs

Dealing with extramarital affairs is a life-altering experience. It's more than just dealing with the affairs themselves (as if that weren't enough). It's dealing with the fact that nothing is the way you thought it was. Your dreams of the "perfect marriage," however unrealistic, have been shattered. In essence, your world has been turned upside down and you must begin to make sense of this new world. Your innocence is gone and you need to face this new reality and learn how to cope with it. There's a long-term legacy to an event of this significance in your life. And it calls for a long-term effort.

Long-term Efforts Necessary to Recovery
Accept the fact that it happened. This doesn't mean "liking" it; it just means giving up focusing on " if only" and dealing with "what is."
Work to understand what happened in terms of the societal factors that contributed to it—in order to overcome the idea that it's only due to personal failure.
Talk about what happened—not just for the sake of talking, but in order to move the process along—since hiding it reinforces the feelings of shame.
Deliberately focus on dealing with it.
Believe it's possible to recover.
Allow time to heal. Time alone won't bring recovery, but it does require time and patience to work through this experience.

The importance of this last point—time and patience—can't be overstated. There are no shortcuts; the only way through this situation is to face it head on and deal with it. Even then, it will be difficult for everyone. Certainly, no one (either the one who had an affair or their partner) wants to drag this out; it's so painful and uncomfortable that everybody wants it to be over quickly, but it just doesn't work that way.

The way through the emotional turmoil of affairs is through—not over or around. The process of healing and growth is not the steady, smooth progression we would like it to be. It's more often a series of ups and downs, dramatic improvements and depressing backslides, progressions and regressions—a moving back and forth between periods of clear thinking and emotional confusion—with an occasional plateau thrown in.

By knowing in advance that this is the normal progression of recovery, you can avoid being so depressed or devastated when these inevitable setbacks take place. The moral is, persistence will pay off. Allow for down periods, and view each one as a fork in the road. One path leads to further decline, the other to continued change for the better.

Copyright © 1991 Peggy Vaughan and James Vaughan, Ph.D.

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