01: The Unforced Errors – Thoughts on Affair Recovery

“Relationships change unilaterally. They don’t change bilaterally.

Rick Reynolds, Affair Recovery
Some parts cannot be salvaged but what remains will have value.

There are a lot of resources for men and women trudging beneath the dark shadow of infidelity. Most is emotional muckraking perpetuating entitlement and should be muted or outright blocked.

However, one resource with sound insight is Affair Recovery (AR) founded by Rick Reynolds.

On a regular basis they put out weekly articles by their team of counselors. Samuel at Twitter’s InfidelityScars puts out great videos. I read many of the writings and watch many of the videos.

I do this because I am committed to never repeating a long list of poor choices. My bucket list is to make sure any poor choices in the future will all be new.

However, they are an overtly evangelical organization and that isn’t my thing. As such, I generally don’t comment much on their posts because I know I’m not their primary audience.

Regardless, I still find Reynolds and Samuel have great first person insight on the topic of betrayal. For this reason I signed up for the seventeen week Hope for Healing program for the unfaithful. There is a workbook, online groups, weekly calls, and suggested journaling.

I’m mostly looking forward to the experience.

One of the first things AR does is suggest a reading list. Of the two articles, one is geared specifically to men and women that betray their Love(s), lives, and selves. The article is entitled The 20 Most Common Mistakes of the Unfaithful Spouse.

There is a second article entitled The 20 Most Common Mistakes of the Hurt Spouse if you are interested.

If you are a man and woman that betrayed your Love(s), life, and self talk to someone before you forward this article on to the man or woman you betrayed. The person you send this might see it as a manipulative attempt to control their actions, and it probably will be.

Frankly, they have plenty of people telling them what they are doing “wrong” and imo we are the last people that should be piling on by sending them a list of the beyrayed’s mistakes.

As I read the list I realize early on, and occasionally still, I make these mistakes. As such, I’m going to make a few minutes and reflect on some of these experiences.

You can follow the article link to see how AR expands on these themes.

1. Naively believing that if you and your affair partner decide to do the right thing and return to your marriages, that the affair is indeed over.

The “Break-up, Make-up” cycle was definitely part of my relationship pattern with my ex-Wife. As Reynolds writes, “The ‘Break-up, Make-up’ cycle is a natural part of an affair.”

Frankly, my behavior was never about sex, it was about worthiness. It was always a reflection of my inability to emotionally disconnect from others. I pick up other people’s pain and make it mine to fix.

In this case, I would respond to my ex-Wife’s pain and tell her I care, how sorry I was I hurt her, and that she is important. Then I would use sex to fix my discomfort about her discomfort.

A few weeks later I would treat her like crap and try to run her off.

Then the cycle would start again. I was constantly trying to fix my grief and shame by using her pain. It was selfish, unskillful, and wrong.

There is a lot of “come here, go away” disorganized avoidant in that behavior. In the process I seriously wounded her. Knowing this I will live with that remorse the rest of my life and she will spend part of her life trying to heal the wounds I added to a hard life.

At the end of the day I know what I am capable of at my worse. My ex-Wife didn’t deserve my abuse. When I allowed that remorse to dictate my actions was when I did the most harm.

In hindsight, I should have let her the dignity of her pain, and allowed her to hurt. Instead of simply loving her, I got love backwards and tried to fix her feelings because I didn’t know what to do with mine.

2. Leaking out information over time.

My ex-girlfriend never asked me a single question about my behavior with my ex-Wife. There is nothing I wouldn’t have answered had she asked. Instead she immediately instructed me to drive to North Dakota and stay with a friend.

And so believing I was respecting her space, and not knowing how to wait, I did. I haven’t had a meaningful conversation her since. Of course, with my secrets and escalating series of lies and our relationships dynamic, I could make the argument we didn’t have a meaningful conversation before discovery either.

Actually, I have argues that elsewhere.

However, for the first several months my writing was all about trying to answer questions I imagined she had based on things I read other women were asking.

It’s taken me a long time, a lot of therapy, and lots of writing to realize she was never going to ask. I believe now based on what I have experienced, that she had already made her mind up to end the relationship months before we ended. My betrayal, secret keeping, and escalating series of lies just gave her permission to do what she was planning on doing anyway.

As she reminded me at the end, “My pride will never allow us to be together again.” I’ve discovered that was the second or third most honest thing she ever said.

It probably still would have taken me a while to suss through everything and been truthful, but at the time, I believed the relationship was worth the effort and time.

3. Being defensive.

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Dr. Alexandra Solomon writes, “defensiveness creates relational harm AND their defensiveness reflects internal pain.” I’ve written about the intent and impact of defensiveness so I’m not going to spend a great deal of time on this now.

I will simply say, it helps to remain curious about why I am defensive. It is easy to shift the burden for my defensiveness onto other people. Essentially, claiming, “I wouldn’t be defensive if you weren’t such a critical, contemptful cunt.”

The reality is I am defensive because I hurt and I hurt because of stories I carry around shame and humiliation. I hurt because I hurt people I love and love(d) me and I imagine I feel their pain. I hurt because I was neglected, abused and humiliated by people that claimed to care about me and then abandoned, ridiculed, and manipulated me. I hurt because hurt people hurt me.

I hurt because I imagine talking about my hurt will lead to more hurt.

And so I put up my walls because no one wants to be attacked and hurt. Blame shifting, denial, tantrums, silence, and holes in the wall are all variations of defensiveness. They are all smokescreens thrown out by the Thing behind the Way of the Thing.

I recognize that much of my hurt is imagined. Which is why “more vulnerability, not less is the way to mend a broken heart,” as Mark Nepo writes. Vulnerability disarms the stories that I imagine about pain and hurt. It allows me to experience connection and connection is how we mend the heart.

I’ve come to realize infidelity is just another sign of defensiveness. It’s intended as a buffer to feelings. It is easy to focus the blame on infidelity but my feelings were never about enjoying infidelity.

Infidelity is simply salt on a wound.

4. Believing everything your mate says.

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One of the best lessons to come from this has been learning to deal with the stalking, abuse, harassment, and rumor mongering of ex-girlfriends’s Flying Monkey Squad. My ex-girlfriend’s Heroes showed up almost immediately and thirty two months later are still compelled to remain relevant by spreading lies, rumors, innuendo, and ghost stories about what they imagine is true about me.

The other difficult truth is my ex-girlfriend has actively lied and spread rumors. It has taken me a long time to separate the truth of my life from the stories people imagine about my life. We will all eventually be the villain in someone else’s story.

The lesson for me is simple: I can own only what is true and not what people imagine is true.

As a result, I openly share my writing and I never shy away from the topic when someone has the courage to ask me about itor seems relevant to the relationship or conversation. Again, the only people whose opinions, thoughts, and feelings that matter are the people that love me enough to share, ask, and listen, my therapist, and me.

Everything else is just a story someone is making up.

That includes the stories my ex-girlfriend and my ex-Wife imagine is true as told to them through their wounds. As the Good Doctor and others constantly remind me: I can only take responsibility for the impact of my actions, and not what people imagine about my motivations and intentions.

5. Living life as normal.

As Mason Cooley wrote, “We demand change even as we resist it.”

If I want something different in my life, change is my burden. It is no one else’s responsibility to change to make me feel better, loved, wanted, needed, or important.

I cannot convince someone to love me. I cannot convince others I love them.

We either choose to love or we don’t. And frankly, someone can love us and still leave. Love is not an on/off switch. Sometimes hating someone is simply cover to avoid being hurt again. Our only right with others is to leave.

Also, one of the first things I learned about self-compassion and change is it is not an external pursuit, but an internal commitment applied over time and experience.

No change, no change.

Know change, know change.

6. Trying to defend your affair partner.

Yeah…don’t do this.


I know my exes are not homewreckers, cunts, skanks, or whores. They simply play ones in someone else’s imagination. I also believe had I been transparent, open, vulnerable, honest and consciously skillful neither of these women would have volunteered for these roles…or maybe they would have preferred to have an open relationship of sorts.

I’ll never know because I never asked or gave anyone that option.

Regardless it is not my place to defend their choices and on more than one occasion I have.

For example, before the affair with my ex-Wife began, she did something I never expected of her to peek into my life with my ex-girlfriend. When my ex-girlfriend discovered this action she was understandably livid and creeped out.

I was philosophical and apologetic.

I called my ex-Wife and asked her not to do it again. To my girlfriend, I made excuses for my ex-Wife and explained she wasn’t dangerous just hurting and trying to understand her pain.

Which is absolutely true.

However, it is also true I was constantly minimizing behaviors of my-Wife that were immature and unskillful.

I don’t know this, but I’m fairly certain my response made my ex-girlfriend feel ignored, hurt, unsafe, and jealous. After the end of my relationship with my ex-girlfriend, I have learned she has a hidden and dark relationship with jealousy which has escalated the post-relationship drama.

What is interesting to me is how often I continue to give my ex-girlfriend the same benefit of the doubt over her abusive and creepy choices I gave to me ex-Wife. It has revealed my pattern of excusing the hurtful behaviors of others and dismissing the wounds it creates as “I deserve this wound” or “I can handle this.”

I am far more accommodating to other people’s abusive actions than I should be and I defend and dismiss actions that are not okay.

I will add, it doesn’t even have to be an affair partner.

For example, I often defended my ex-girlfriend’s husband and tried to see it from his perspective. I encouraged my ex-girlfriend to invite her ex-husband over for holidays and the kids’ birthday. I defended his actions as a father when it upset my ex-girlfriend.

Before the affair started with my ex-Wife I encouraged my ex-girlfriend to be friends with my ex-Wife and I often said wonderful things about my ex-Wife because I knew the end of the marriage was more about my needs and wants and not simply her issues.

Sometimes I did this to minimize chaos and fix my ex-girlfriend’s feelings so I’d be more comfortable. Other times I did this because I’m an adult and based on my personal experience I don’t think kids should be in the middle.

Sometimes I did this because my ex-girlfriend was being an entitled and judgemental bitch.

However, I’ve since realized, don’t do this. It is not my job to “fix” how people feel about other people.

7. Trying to avoid talking with your mate about their feelings.

Mark Nepo writes, “More vulnerability, not less is the way to mend a broken heart.”

Here’s the thing: I would have sat and listened to anything my ex-girlfriend had to say about her feelings. I am so envious of the men and women whose partners keep bringing their feelings to the table.

My ex-girlfriend didn’t share her feelings with me. Instead she put her head down and hid. She did this while nursing resentments she apparently shared those stories of resentments with other people. Those people imagined more stories.

By the time those stories got back to me they carried a toxic mixture of different people’s emotional waters. I will never know what my ex-girlfriend actually feels and that silence has been more devastating than nearly anything else I ever imagined.

There are reasons for this of course. The part of the brain responsible for registering pain responds the same way to silence. Silence hurts. Which is why people rely on silence to hurt others.

If you are silent and not sharing your vulnerabilities you are hurting people again. Although, sometimes telling people the truth may also hurt them. We all suffer for love.

Having said that, I also recognize that hurt people may hear the truth of your vulnerabilities and dismiss them as cowardice, immaturity, selfishness, blame shifting, self-pity, or something similar. As hard as this sounds, ignore criticism and contempt and keep owning your truth. Keep practicing owning your experience. As grief researcher and therapist Candyce Ossefort-Russell writes, “All loss is loss. And all loss hurts.” Talk about it.

I realize now, running, resentment, and silence were always my ex-girlfriend prefered method of conflict management. My preferred method of conflict management involved pursuing, fixing, and controlling.

She habitualized silence. I habitualized lying. They are just different types of manipulation and control. One is more situationally appropriate and socially accepted than another. Both hurt.

On a parallel track, if I put the same effort into listening to my ex-Wife’s pain while we were married instead of trying to fix it we might still be married.

8. Pointing out your mate’s faults and failures.

All I can do is own what is true and, among other things, the truth is I have failures and faults.

However, it is not my role to drive home a point that I think is true about others. As I’ve muddled my way through healing I’ve come to realize nearly everything I think and feel about other people’s intent and actions is just a story I imagine.

The way I internalize their faults and failures is based on how I imagine them and not on who they are. My imagination defines the relationship. I imagine intent. I imagine what that intent means to their identity. I live with impact and punish them based on what I imagine is intent and their identity.

As I imagine these things I will often lash out at them and use their failings and faults to deflect away from my emotional self. Without getting into the weeds of mirroring, nearly everything I hate and loathe about other people is what I imagine is true about myself.

Also, I’ve come to recognize is that the things that bothered me most were the ones I made about me.

For example, when an ex-wife threw a vase down the hallway towards me, I got all stuck on her intent and its impact on me. I lacked the emotional agility to recognize it wasn’t about me and so made it about me. “She did this to me because she wants to throw me out of her life” being the internal story. I internalized it as, “”WTF is wrong with me that she hates me?!

I externalized the story as variations on, “WTF is wrong with you?!

I wasn’t bringing up her faults and failures to help transform conflict but to shame her into silence and submission. Any cross words were externalized stories about what was happening inside of me.

Once again, I made it about me.

Now I recognize the shattering vase was symbolic of her screaming out to be heard.

Instead of going back and asking what was happening inside, showing concern for her well being, I cleaned up the glass and silently judged her. I confused her actions while triggered as her identity. Through my imagination I defined her by her triggers and I forgot about everything else that I loved about her up to that moment.

Then I went and got myself pizza and ice cream leaving her alone with her shame and confusion. I can be such a callous child when I am trying to avoid intimacy and vulnerability.

In this process, I judged her actions as a fault of her identity instead of a being generous and recognizing it as a plea to be heard and a reflection of her wounds. I thought her actions was a sign of my failure as a husband and not simply a sign of the failure to communicate like caring adults in that moment.

I often judge people’s intentions instead of asking and listening to their intentions. I often dismiss the impact instead of owning my feelings behind the impact. Taking the other person’s emotional and character inventory is simply a way to deflect from the issues I actually need to own.

The question is not “why did you hurt me?” but rather “why does this hurt?”

9. Taking your spouse to the same places you frequented with your affair partner.

Yeah, don’t do this either.

There were times in my life I loved a place more than I loved the people I took to a place.

At other times I took people to a place to try and overwrite old stories. I thought of going as a way to cleanse the experience. It was an attempt to start fresh and new. It was a way to avoid feeling negative things.

Occasionally, I loved the stories I imagined more than the people in the story.

Lots of false positivity in those choices. Plenty of shitheadery.

Along this vein, early in my relationship with my ex-girlfriend, she gave me a painting of my dog based on a photo I took and shared online. I didn’t solicit the painting. My girlfriend was putting herself into the painting and giving it to me.

Painting that painting was an act of love, or so I that is the story I choose to believe.

I loved that painting. I loved that dog. I loved the love behind the painting. I loved my girlfriend. I loved the story I imagined about the meaning behind the painting.

The thing is, it wasn’t my dog but my Wife’s dog.

She had a long history with that dog that predated me. She took Rex to dog shows and traveling around the country. In her previous marriage that dog was often her only companion.

Now I had an original painting of my Wife’s dog made by my then girlfriend and emotional chaos ensued. I tried to hide the painting but that felt wrong because I never wanted my girlfriend to be a secret.

This left me with a painting I knew my Wife would appreciate and would make her feel “good” (because I want people to feel “good”) and no idea what to do with the painting. As such, I gave the painting to my Wife and she hung it on the wall in her living room.

That was also wrong.

When I finally left I took the painting with me because it was painted for me.

When my ex-girlfriend and I split she kept the painting. Months after we split, I ended up going to her online store and buying the painting back. The painting is where it belongs now.

A meaningful argument can be made that I loved the stories I created around this painting more than I loved the people. The story meant a great deal to me. A meaningful argument can also be made I tainted a beautiful memory for my ex-Wife with the emotional chaos my choices created.

That was never my intent but it is definitely part of the impact.

I know it is a meaningful argument because I’ve had the argument since the moment I saw the painting. I’ve spent dozens of hours discussing how this painting was a microcosm of so many things I did poorly in my relationship with these women.

Regardless, I let my feelings dictate my actions knowing my choices were full of shitheadery and a desire to avoid hard conversations. Repeatedly, my choices were dictated by shame and selfishness. There were better choices I could have made.

There is no pizza or ice cream worth the emotional chaos of taking people to places with history. My unwillingness to be uncomfortable is not an excuse to try and rewrite my feelings and choices.

It is also not an excuse to give my Wife a painting by me girlfriend. Too often I took actions that sacrificed these women to the stories behind my wounds.

I’ll not live that way again. I’ll not manipulate others into living that way either.

10. Telling a lie (of any sort).

Everyone lies.

Big lies, little lies, white lies, and convenient lies. People lie for lots of reasons but it is almost never the reason the people being lied to, or about, imagine.

I told someone recently, that as I’ve used up my allotment of marriage, I’ve used up my allotment of lies. If I lie now I know what that is about and I know what to do about it.


Frankly, I still am working through a significant amount of grieving around abandonment and worthiness. I have used lies as a way to pursue approval and acceptance in my most intimate relationships. The story of my experience is that if I tell you the truth you will be angry, and then you will punish me, and then you will leave.

Workaholism and alcoholism! The gift that keeps on giving.

Anyway, as a result I have used lies in the past to keep me safe. It is selfish and wrong and in every situation it made perfect sense. Growing up lying kept me safe.

That doesn’t work well as an adult.

I recently lied to my ex-Wife again about finances. I can occasionally still be very invested in her opinion and feelings. It’s like the relationship with my parents all over again. I want her approval and I don’t want to disappoint her. Her anger can be ugly and relentless.

The reality is until I embrace the risk and uncertainty that vulnerability demands I will keep lying. It is only when I recognize how scared I am and how important it is to be accepted can I confront how I use dishonesty to maintain intimacy.

I’ll never do this perfectly, but I will do this better because otherwise it is a very empty life.

11. Not supporting your mate’s recovery.

I hear this story a lot.

There are a few men and women that betrayed their Love(s), lives, and self so invested in avoiding feelings they want their partner to avoid feelings too. One more act of prioritizing their needs over their partner’s needs.

At least that is how it appears.

It’s difficult for me to appreciate what this is about because I am so envious of the partners doing the work. I would sell my soul to have my girlfriend authentically show up after discovery or reveal.

No wait.

My mistake. Selling my soul for other people’s acceptance and approval is how I ended up dancing alone.

12. Not being consistent in your recovery plan.

Consistency is defined as “unchanging in nature, standard, or effect over time.”

As I’ve dug into my life, emotions, choices, thoughts, dreams, needs, and wants there is actually a great deal of consistency. I consistently tried to avoid pain, loss, and grieving.

To the annoyance of a few people since this began I have quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay on self reliance. He writes, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” He goes on to say, “Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.”

This echos the Buddha that said, “Each morning we are born again. What we do each day is what matters most.”

I have written a great deal about consistency here and elsewhere.

One of the first lessons I learned in this process is the I have to change. To that end, I need to embrace the reality that the status quo is dead, promises are prisons, and a foolish slaving to consistency eliminates possibilities and vulnerability. Frankly, I cannot be consistent to my relationships and consistent to exploring my truth.

The trap of consistency is perfectionism and my need to do it perfectly. I wanted my relationship with my ex-girlfriend to be the same amazing on Day 1,000 as it was on Day 100. And my commitment to consistency left no room for growth, change, or hard conversations. I wanted her to be happy everyday.

Her happiness made me happy and I wanted to be happy everyday.

Always being consistently what I need and want is an impossible task and never a reasonable expectation to put on, or assume, with another human.

Today if someone asked me what I am committed to being consistent about, I reply, “I am consistent in my approach to change, growth and consciousness. I keep showing up in my life and consistently make new mistakes, learn new things, and change my values and approach to living based on new evidence and experiences.”

I am committed to being consistently vulnerable. Authentic vulnerability is build in uncertainty and risk. Nothing is guaranteed.

As I abandon a foolish consistency based on other people’s expectations I strive to “speak what [I] think now in hard words, and to-morrow [I] speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing [I] said to-day.”

For example, until recently I consistently wanted to explore these experiences with my ex-girlfriend. I’ve always been consistent about that truth.

However, this has changed over the last thirty two months as I’ve learned more about myself and about my ex-girlfriend. As a result of this new information, I don’t want to explore anything with her. Today that means I am growing beyond the story of my relationship, my betrayal, and my past.

13. Not keeping commitments you make with your mate.

I hear discussions of commitment a lot around infidelity. Someone made a vow. Someone made a promise. Someone made a commitment. It becomes an ugly stick I’ve seen both the betrayed, betrayer, and other partner wield for leverage.

The reality is I made vows, promises, and commitments. I never thought I would break my commitments when I made them. No one plans on sabotaging their own lives and loves but life happens.

In reality, I have not shied away owning the many broken promises and commitments I made to my ex-girlfriend or ex-Wife. I also kept many of them. I also ignored a few when it was convenient.

Frankly, I broke some. They broke some. There are no saints.

Of course, sometimes people imagined intention to those commitments I never made.

However, does a commitment at 25 mean the same thing at 50? When does a commitment become a trap? At what point are we allowed to reevaluate, renegotiate, or litigate a commitment?

I don’t have a great answer.

I’ve never had a growth oriented relationship where these issues are ethically navigated. The relationship usually broke down long before we arrived at this point. What I do know is in the middle of infidelity’s chaos is not the best time to try and navigate these issues.

However, knowing all of my previous commitments were either null and void or seriously suspect, I consciously made three commitments post discovery which I have kept:

  1. I will own the truth of my choices, motivations, and the impact on my life and the lives of the people that loved me.

That means I will consistently go to therapy and openly discuss my shitheadery and fucketties. I will consistently own what is true no matter how Ugly, or what Shame and other people wanted me to do or say.

2. I will not allow my Shame, or the shaming by other people, to emotionally blackmail me into submission.

Essentially, I will consistently show up in my life and not run or hide. I will do this regardless of what people think of me and my choices or the stories they imagine about my actions. I will consistently own what is true and not what people imagine is true.

3. I will not use people to avoid my discomfort, fear, or anxieties.

There are tens of thousands of books on Amazon and millions of articles online on how to respond to infidelity. Almost all of them are shite. The worse advice I was given was by a male friend that essentially the way to get over my ex-girlfriend was to go shag a bunch of other women. I’ve been with two women since my relationship ended and both of them knew exactly what happened and how I got here.

Almost all of my choices are rooted in self-aggression and avoiding loneliness. If I want my life to change I have to be committed to making peace with myself. This means being more skillful and conscious in how I respond when I am emotionally charged.

14. Telling your mate to forgive you.

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I would argue expecting, demanding, or begging for forgiveness is one of the 10 Deadly Sins Post-Discovery.

Hands down I think post-discovery asking for forgiveness is the most selfish act post discovery of a man or women that was unfaithful. I am not owed forgiveness. I am entitled to nothing, not even a conversation.

I’ve talked about this topic in depth elsewhere and won’t get into how this creates a firestorm that gets in the way of meaningful conversations.

15. Not answering all of your mate’s questions.

Even Affair Recovery writes, “This is a tricky one…Usually, what they can imagine is far worse than the reality.”

I’m not going to wade into this river because it has a ton of undercurrents that will drag you and others to your deaths. I’m in no position to know what others should or shouldn’t do. I will simply encourage you to talk openly to your therapist and attorney before you start detailing the depth of your shittheadery and the fucketty of your situation to people hellbent on vengefully dismantling your efforts at moving forward with or without them.

I’ll add, nearly every knowledgeable expert on the topic will essentially say the same thing: don’t unburden your shame and guilt by making your partner carry it.

Also, for fuck sake, if you are reading this post because of personal experience, go to therapy.

Seriously. Go. To. Therapy.

16. Not talking to your mate.

If your partner cares enough to fight, ask questions, cry, and confront you with the impact of your behaviors be willing to sit and listen. Listening isn’t the same as agreeing, but I have learned the transformation of conflict always begins with curiosity and listening.

The most damage post-discovery was done in silence.

My ex-Wife and I fought a great deal and my ex-girlfriend and I never fought. In hindsight there is some meaningful lessons there.

Affair Recovery writes, “Give your mate the gift of communication in order to help your mate to heal.”

17. Trying to get all of your mate’s friends and family on your side.

Of all the shitheadery and fucketty in my situation, I am grateful this is not my response to the shitheadery or fucketty.

I have been on the receiving end of this behavior. The ex-girlfriend’s decision to invite ill-informed and malicious outsiders into our situation has facilitated an incredible amount of damage and ill-will into our situation.

I have my issues but recruiting flying monkeys into the middle of our pain is not one of them.

18. Believing there is a simple formula or a set course to fix the problem.

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I cannot unring the bell.

Over four years I did what I did, the way I did it, for reasons that made perfect sense when I did it.

Part of my commitment is to spend at least the same amount of time, energy, and resources learning to strike a new tone. I spent four years hiding from vulnerability and intimacy, I am going to spend at least that long learning to be authentically vulnerable and intimate.

I won’t live what is left of my life ashamed and hiding who I am simply because becoming consciously skillful requires effort and I might be hurt again. The ones that stand with me through this process are the ones that matter.

Working through this takes time and effort. Thirty-two months later I don’t regret one moment or dollar I have invested in this experience. For the first time in a long time I genuinely like who I am and am happy with my life.

I’m at this point because I am learning that pain is not the enemy. I am learning that feelings are data, not directives and that if I want my life and relationships to change the burden is solely mine.

19. Threatening your mate.

“Coercion from a mate,” writes Rick Reynolds, “can actually drive your spouse away.”

If you want to change do what needs to be done to change. Stop trying to get them to change for you. Frankly, trying to be something for someone else opens the backdoor to all types of betrayal, resentment, and bitterness.

Want a deeper and more meaningful relationship? Offer something deeper and more meaningful. Want more intimacy and vulnerability? Be more intimate and vulnerable. Want more passion? Be more passionate.

Will changing how you approach these topics save the relationship? Maybe. Maybe not. However, for me the relationship was never the solution or the problem. My use of secrets and lies to controlling the trajectory of my relationship is what ended up defining the relationship.

20. Using your children or grandchildren as pawns.

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I have a daughter that is 31 years old.

From newborn to six, her mother and grandparents did everything they could to force me out of a relationship with her. The list is long and as a result my daughter and I have been estranged. The relationship fractured.

My point is, as my daughter and I have reconnected over the last thirty two months it has become evident how much damage her mom’s family created in my daughter’s ability to connect, maintain healthy attachments, take risks, and adult.

This is a direct result of them making her a pawn.

Infidelity doesn’t necessarily make a person an unfit parent. It also doesn’t make you an unfit employee, child, sibling, or friend.

It doesn’t even automatically make you an unfit partner.

Every situation is different.

However, not everyone will own that story. Some will imagine the man or woman that betrays their Love(s), life and self as a monster. Others that are still justifying their infidelity, secrets, and lies might blame the partner they betrayed.

Pain does that. Boundaryless stories turns pain into a horror story. Try to remember that hurt people hurt people. As such, try not to drag your kids into your nightmare because when you do that you are making them responsible for carrying your pain.

As someone that grew up in a home where I was taught to be responsible for other people’s feelings and actions, I know nothing good comes from that in the long run. Don’t make your kids live in the shadow of you pain. Teach them to learn from the pain and shine light on it.

Neither you or your partner are monster (neither are your affair partners). Don’t poison your kids with your anger and turn them into flying monkeys.