And the number one way to ruin your relationship is . . . (How to ruin a perfectly good relationship)

Over these past few weeks you have learnt many ways to destroy a relationship if you wanted to. We also talked about how to save and protect your marriage if that is what you wish for.

Today, let us talk about the single most effective way to destroy a perfectly good relationship . . .

Have an affair

Of course, you are not going to wake up one morning and say to yourself "I'm going to destroy my relationship by having an affair". No - the path to this destruction needs to be paved slowly and in small steps.

Here is how to begin:

First stage:

  • Have an unexplained discontent with your spouse – but do not discuss it with them or give them a chance to fix things. Keep all your resentments inside, allowing them to fester
  • Feel that you are trapped in your marriage
  • Have an overwhelming sense that your needs are not being met – that you are giving more than you are getting, that your spouse doesn't understand or appreciate you (and make them wrong for not being able to read your mind)
  • Have a desire to be away from your spouse
  • Foster a reluctance to spend time at home
  • Turn your attention away from your spouse. When they make a bid for connection, turn away from them. Even better, turn against them)
  • Make sure you constantly remind yourself about all the negative points of your spouse while overlooking their positive attributes
  • Have fantasies about being married to someone else
  • Start comparing your marriage to other marriages and your spouse to other spouses

Second Stage:

  • Leave your heart unguarded, your personal boundaries exposed and develop an attraction to someone of the opposite sex
  • Develop an unhealthy attachment to a coworker, friend or acquaintance of the opposite sex
  • Develop a wall of distance between you and your spouse while leaving a window of communication open to this other person
  • Discuss the shortcomings of your spouse with this person
  • To do maximum damage, ensure that your affair partner is known to your spouse so that your spouse loses trust not only in you but in their other relationships as well

Third stage:

  • Develop and use excuses to be away from home and with your affair partner
  • Start keeping secrets from your spouse about your interactions with this person (see yesterdays post about telling lies and keeping secrets)
  • Create a web of lies and deception that creates a feeling of excitement for you and a feeling of confusion for your spouse

By this time, you are already in the midst of an emotional affair. Know that the damage is done. Even if you are not physically intimate with this person, even if it "just" online or over the phone, know that you have betrayed your spouse and your marriage vows. An emotional affair is not less, and often more painful than a physical one so please don't kid yourself that you are doing nothing wrong.

Now the million-dollar question: Can your relationship survive an affair?

Let's be very honest. Affairs do really destroy marriages and you should carefully consider the results before you decide to go this route.

Let me say it again: affairs do destroy marriages BUT THEY DON'T HAVE TO.

Your relationship CAN survive an affair.

There are many relationships which not only survive affairs but become stronger and more vibrant as a result of doing the hard work of repairing the relationship in the aftermath of an affair. It is not easy but it can be done.

What do you need to heal from an affair? You need to do these five (not easy) things:

- 1) Stop interacting with the affair partner completely and totally. Depending on the situation, this will necessitate steps to change your life style and your routine. You may have to make changes to your job and city in order to demonstrate your commitment to your relationship. If you end up encountering your affair partner, or hearing from them, it is vital that you confess this to your spouse rather than hiding it from them.

- 2) Come clean and tell the truth about what happened. Be honest about what happened. It is very tempting for you if you cheated to skip this step but know that if you want to give your marriage your best shot, this is a crucial step. You cannot put the affair behind you without this step.

- 3) Make a commitment to actively work on the relationship – it is very very difficult to do this without outside help. You will need to consult a relationship expert who is experienced in dealing with affairs. It is best not to go to family or friends for this issue as it is likely to exacerbate the damage that is already done.

- 4) being accountable and transparent while the trust is rebuilt. Your spouse will naturally continue to be suspicious and not believe you for the time being. This is natural and logical. Why should they put themselves in a vulnerable position when you have abused their trust through your actions? You will need to share information with them that they request in order to rebuild trust.

- 5) Continue to demonstrate trust and accountability through your actions and have patience with your spouse. It will take a long time – a couple of years most likely – before the reality of the affair is put at the back of their awareness. Be available to talk to them as they need and don't ignore the issue. You may not understand their need for questioning and 'digging up the past'. You have rocked their world and their sense of reality. Please educate yourself about the impact of affairs on the betrayed spouse (resources below) to begin to understand the damage that your actions have caused for their mental and emotional wellbeing.

And if you are on the verge of an affair, if you are getting close to it, please stop - unless you really want to destroy your relationship. It is FAR easier to repair the relationship you are already in than to clean up the devastation from an affair.

Here are some excellent resources on healing from affairs, both for the betrayed and the cheating spouse.

1) After the Affair, Updated Second Edition: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful by Janis A. Spring

2) Healing from Infidelity: The Divorce Busting® Guide to Rebuilding Your Marriage After an Affair by Michele Weiner-Davis

3) NOT "Just Friends": Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity by Shirley Glass Ph.D.

4) What Makes Love Last? How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal by John Gottman Ph.D. & Nan Silver

Website with free resources:

Beyond Affairs Network (BAN)

14 things you need to know before you have an affair

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