IDIT SHARONI: Welcome back to another episode of Relationships Uncomplicated podcast – episode 66, I’m your host Idit Sharoni and today we’re talking about Women’s affairs and how to end them without falling on your face.
In my work with couples in the aftermath of infidelity I often see the need to heal the relationship, regain trust, help the hurt partner, etc. But one of the things we tend to ignore in my opinion, is the unfaithful partner’s own psyche especially when an affair is or was involved.
It is almost never talked about is sessions. So, unless the therapist asks -( which would be me) – how are you doing with ending your affair? Do you need help with that? It is probably going to never be spoken of.
Now, when it comes to women’s affairs, there’s even more silence around that.
And that’s where my guest comes in.
My guest today is Debbie Rose – she’s the blogger of the popular blog written primarily for unfaithful wives- and also help for betrayed husbands Called ‘After My Affair.com’.
The reason I invited Debbie on the show is because of her unique understanding and approach to infidelity in general, but to women’s infidelity in particular.
I learned about Debbie’s incredible work when she reached out to me (we’re both part of a group on FB). I really liked her approach and we scheduled to talk soon after that. In our conversation I learned that Debbie relates to such an important aspect of affair recovery that is usually not attended to. And by utilizing her own personal experience, she writes and helps unfaithful wives as well as betrayed husbands in their journey to healing.
I just had to have her on the show to tell her incredible story and shed some light on what so many women out there struggle with. And I’m thrilled to have you all learn from her.
Okay So, let’s dive right into my interview with Debbie Rose.
Hi Debbie, welcome to the show.
DEBBIE ROSE: Hi, thank you for having me.
IDIT SHARONI: I’m so excited to have you share about your specific niche in helping women who have been unfaithful and I’m beyond excited that you agreed to share with my listeners the steps involved in ending an affair – this episode is going to be so insightful.
So, I know you have so much to give to my listeners but before we go anywhere, I’d love it if you could share some background about yourself, what you do, and how you got to where you are today.
DEBBIE ROSE: Sure, as you mentioned, I have a blog writing for women who were unfaithful- and helping them truly end their affairs and begin the healing process for themselves and their marriages. Plus, we have a private facebook group -just for unfaithful women who are looking for support and encouragement to get over their affairs. It’s a fantastic group of compassionate ladies in that group. (AMA Women
IDIT SHARONI: How did you get into this particular niche- helping unfaithful wives ?
DEBBIE ROSE: My story is- 12 years ago, after 19 years of marriage and 3 children – I did what I never thought I was capable of doing– I was unfaithful to my husband. Adding to that- I’ve been a Christian since I was 17 years old- with a strong relationship with the Lord since a child, and so I didn’t understand later- how I ended up in that terrible place to betray my husband.
As you know, infidelity is not easy to overcome in marriage. Many marriages don’t survive, but ours did.
We’re married 31 years now and children are grown and we even have 3 grandchildren and it’s such a blessing to be grandparents together- while still married. It’s a beautiful story of restoration and redemption -but it was not an easy process and it was very difficult to find a good marriage counselor to help us through this very specific trauma of infidelity.
That’s why I so appreciate the work you’ve done for couples and the program you’ve created to give a clear path for couples to take to heal their marriage.
IDIT SHARONI: Could you share what didn’t work for you in the couples therapy as I’m sure some of my listeners can relate…
DEBBIE ROSE: We were not well equipped to know how to find the right marriage counselor that specializes in affair recovery. So our 3 marriage counseling experiences were a disaster. The first saw us both individually and then together for some months. But she was unable to separate her personal feelings and had a bias against me as the unfaithful spouse. (basically shamed me even more than I already felt for being so terrible to be unfaithful. )
The next felt so strongly that we needed to separate- which we’d already tried before finding her, and it didn’t help us to much at that point. So she got very angry with us that we didn’t do exactly what she wanted us to do.. I was unaware of just how unprepared many therapists are in dealing with the subject of infidelity…
I wish I knew to be more careful to find a therapist who specializes in infidelity- and has more experience around that subject. It’s a whole different thing.
IDIT SHARONI: So, why talk to women specifically?
DEBBIE ROSE: There’s often not a lot written for the WIFE who was the Unfaithful spouse… it’s much more common to hear about unfaithful husbands/betrayed wives. Well, 12 years ago the information out there for infidelity in wives was even less. I was always having to adjust the gender in my mind and feeling like some of the information I was reading didn’t quite apply to me as the wife who had the affair.
This lack of support and information just made me feel more alone and isolated in my shame.
It also was hard on my husband as it is for many betrayed husbands because they feel like the only men who can’t keep their wives at home and think it reflects upon them and their manhood.
IDIT SHARONI: Is that what made you decide to start your blog?
DEBBIE ROSE: Yes. I started my blog 3 years ago just writing from my heart, to try to reach out to women like me who I knew were out there. It was hard to write, I’m not going to lie. Talking about your biggest life regrets is not an easy thing- particularly when it’s adultery.
But it’s taken many years to get to a place of healing and wholeness as it’s still such a taboo subject- particularly when it’s the woman who was unfaithful.
Overall, Society has conditioned the mindset that “men will be men.” Even today- in 2019- it’s still more acceptable for a man to cheat. However, who are all these men cheating with? Although many would look poorly upon a cheating husband, the social implications for a woman is far worse and the amount of shame and rejection a woman who was unfaithful is huge.
Obviously, it’s not okay for anyone to have an affair. But I believe there’s more shame for a woman who was unfaithful.
More attention needs to be given on the topic of affairs and how to prevent infidelity in both the husband AND the wife.
I’ve been amazed at the amount of women who’ve identified with my story and have been so grateful to finally read about another’s woman’s journey…putting words to their shame and showing them there is a better way out of the affair. Also, the betrayed husbands reading the information I write for THEM – realize that they’re not the only men this has happened to- it helps take a little bit of the isolation out of it for them.
Unfortunately women having affairs are increasing today- and the gap is closing with more women having affairs.
IDIT SHARONI: So true! The gap is closing and I can see that by the amount of calls I’m getting from couples where the wife is the unfaithful partner.
So, What do you see as common reasons women are having affairs?
DEBBIE ROSE: Yes, sometimes It’s true that affairs are a symptom of problems in the marriage that weren’t dealt with.
But it’s not always about the marriage.
Many of us have the idea that if a woman cheats she must be unhappy with her spouse or that something is lacking in the marriage…otherwise, why would she stray? The common thought is- and I hear it all the time– if she had what she needed at home- why would she go anywhere else?
Many women are even confused about their own reasons for their affair.
I even used to believe this before my own infidelity… that it didn’t make sense to me 12 years ago. I had a wonderful husband, 3 great kids, the house, the cars, the dog- the American dream right? everything I was supposed to have to ‘be happy’. I got married at 19 and was a stay at home Mom. We went through a few stressful seasons in our marriage in the years preceding my affair… but I wouldn’t say I was unhappy with my husband.
So I certainly wasn’t prepared to think I would be vulnerable to having an affair.
Although we can’t make sweeping generalizations on the reasons all women are having affairs, because the answers are as individual as the women themselves.
But there are common themes I see.
Oftentimes, (particularly with women in the middle life years that I work with most) people cheated for reasons within themselves.
Feeling a loss of attractiveness or wondering if they’re still desirable, boredom, always giving to others and not doing anything for themselves.
I think many women have spent so much of their lives taking care of everyone else.
Being everything to their families, and putting themselves and their own needs on the back burner – sometimes for many years.
Many of these women have told me they’ve lost themselves along the way.
Sure there might have been issues in the marriage, as any marriage can have.
But a lot of these women were overall content in their marriage.
Most of them are good, kind hearted women- but they got easily pulled away by the attention another man gave them. They usually hit a particularly vulnerable time within themselves or extra stress upon the marriage right before they fall. The affair became their escape from their normal life.
As Esther Perel says-But It’s usually not really about sex, it’s about desire, about receiving attention from someone else, about reconnecting with parts of themselves that they lost, or never knew existed.
It’s about longing for that sexy, desirable part within themselves that they used to feel – but maybe it got buried over the years in routines, kids, family roles and responsibilities….
And the 2 partners lost site of how to keep connected and fresh in the marriage.
IDIT SHARONI: I couldn’t agree more! I can’t tell you how many cases I’ve seen throughout the years where both women and men describe the reason for their betrayal as a personal journey they took that has nothing to do with their spouse. It was about them and a part of themselves they needed to reconnect with.
So, how are ‘good women’ getting caught up in having affairs then?
DEBBIE ROSE: It’s always a slow process when we cross the line into adultery. Nobody thinks they’re the “type” to have an affair, and that’s something many people don’t realize. When society comes up with a preconceived idea of this terrible adulterous woman out there, and that truly good people would never be unfaithful- that only separates people from their own vulnerability to it.
Anytime someone says or thinks in their heart “I would NEVER do that!” That in my mind is the scariest place to be because we can so easily let our guard down.
IDIT SHARONI: Debbie, that is such an important message. Could you elaborate more on that almost naive belief of “I’d never do that”, or “This is not going to happen in MY marriage”?
DEBBIE ROSE: I see infidelity as the ultimate trap of deception- it starts out with the unfaithful spouse being deceived themselves.
So, someone goes from thinking “I would never do that”… then what?
She usually makes one little compromise, and then another and another- crossing boundaries with another person she never thought she’d cross… until one day she crosses the ultimate line into a full affair.
It often starts out as (what they think) is innocent flirting -until an emotional affair develops and if that doesn’t stop- it usually will progress to a physical affair as well.
Many people (I think both men and women) might believe the lie that they can handle it- they can have this affair and nobody has to get hurt- because they believe nobody will know.
Although that often backfires- adultery will eventually be discovered one way or another.
But even if it doesn’t become exposed, the unfaithful wife always gets hurt. Always.
And that’s the biggest trap.( And of course later the betrayed spouse is traumatized when they discover it.)
IDIT SHARONI: In her book Not Just Friends, Shirley Glass talks exactly about that. She has a theory backed up by research where she talks about that Slippery Slope between friendship and full blown emotional or physical affairs. I highly recommend this book if you want to learn more about that slippery slope.
So, can you tell me from your point of view What’s going on in the mind of a woman who’s in the middle of her affair?
DEBBIE ROSE: It’s the fantasy world of the affair. As I mentioned, most of these women aren’t setting out to have an affair. Of course there are exceptions to that- but most of them were just caught up in the trap of an affair- by little compromises they made.
Then they get swept up in all the things going on that fuel the intensity of the affair-
The release of the feel good brain chemicals -like dopamine- that act as a reward center when they’re with their affair partner. The euphoric feeling of being in a new and exciting relationship- where they almost develop an obsessive type of attraction to each other called Limerence.
This helps you only see the other person in such a wonderful -near perfect light- and often causes you to overlook their character flaws, red flags or annoying faults you normally may not have tolerated. You might think your affair partner is your soulmate and explain the relationship as unlike any other they ever had.
Women at this stage of their affair might forget that they once likely felt these same feelings for their husband early on too.
The secrecy and forbiddenness of infidelity also fuels the fantasy of it.
Affairs are an illusion and escape from what is real.
But while we’re in them they can feel so real and that the wonderful feelings will never change from what they are now. Our reason and judgement becomes clouded- often called “Affair Fog” because reality is skewed and everything about the affair partner and the relationship is seen through rose colored glasses.
His faults are minimized and the husbands faults are maximized while in this fog.
IDIT SHARONI: Yes. I once (or maybe more than once) told an unfaithful partner trying to compare the spouse and the lover to see which relationship to keep. I said: “Do you really think you can compare a full life with your partner that includes family, finances, daily burdens and hardships with a relationship that consists of mostly stolen hours of pure fun and indulgence?
DEBBIE ROSE: Very good point… it’s just not the same, yet, many women are giving up on their marriage and trading their husbands for an affair partner thinking it will always be like those “stolen hours of fun” that they experienced in the beginning.
IDIT SHARONI: What happens to women once they start to come out of this ‘affair fog’?
DEBBIE ROSE: Once the fog starts to lift- which can happen because they realize they’re about to lose their husband and family, or they just can’t take the shame anymore… they try to break off the affair.
Usually the pain of staying in the affair- with all the chaos and lies- becomes more than the pain they’ll go through to end it. Every person has to come to that point.
What often happens is then they realize the real trap that they’re actually in.
What seemed like a escape- or a way to feel desirable and gain more attention- now becomes something that’s not so easy to break free from.
There’s a lot of information for unfaithful partners out there on needing to end their affair and go no contact with their affair partner in order for the marriage to have any chance at surviving.
But what I found when I was in this situation- is how incredibly hard it is to maintain no contact- once you end the affair. Nobody tells you HOW to end it. So Much of the situation is just “end the affair”. Which is true, but many many women realize it’s not so easy to KEEP it ended, so what’s common is for the affair to start up again- which always puts the marriage in further jeopardy.
This is why I am so passionate about helping women learn HOW to truly end their affair for good.
Because the affair has become like an addiction really. Only instead of to a substance, it’s to a person. I had no idea that was even a thing 12 years ago when I went through this, but it is.
So just like there’s a process to help someone overcome a regular addiction (like to stop drinking or taking drugs)- there’s a real process that I’ve found to help women end their affairs the right way, and get free of it to live a more fulfilled life without being caught in the cycle of their affair.
IDIT SHARONI: Can you give us some of those tips- What’s involved in a woman ending her affair the right way?
DEBBIE ROSE: Sure. Part of it is the practical steps of what’s involved in ending an affair.
Then the mindset part of this- that’s important to not stay stuck in the same looping thoughts of wanting the affair partner. I believe faith has a role in recovery -and then knowing the lies and excuses that can easily suck us back into contacting an affair partner again- leading to relapse.
First, the practical part of this: the best way of ending an affair is NOT in person but through a letter or text. And even in writing a letter or text,there’s a right way, and a wrong way, to write them so you’re not leading the affair partner on or giving false hope that there might be a chance in the future- by your wording. I have a sample break up letter on my website that people can read for some guidance there.
Then it’s going through all of the open access points where their affair partner could contact them that needs to be blocked, to prevent the affair from resuming again.
This means blocking his number on your phone, emails, social media etc… Any open doors need to be closed tight. This means getting rid of things connected to him and not listening to songs or other things that trigger his memory.
At first many women think it’s mean to do this- but it’s absolutely necessary if they’re serious about maintaining no contact.
Many women also think they can try to maintain a friendship with the affair partner- which never works because once you cross that line it’s impossible to go back to just friends. And a spouse would never feel okay about that either if they’re trying to reconcile the marriage.
Second, it’s learning how to get control of their thoughts. This is a huge piece of their recovery because our thoughts lead to our feelings and our feelings will always be the motivation behind our actions and behaviors. So learning how to take thoughts captive and thought stopping- about the affair partner and the longing for the affair- and replacing them with other benefiting thoughts instead… About their husband or family for instance. But allowing ourselves to dwell on the affair partner, only thinking of all his ‘wonderful’ qualities and not realistically looking at the destruction this has caused or the red flags with him… those types of thoughts set you up for relapse back into the affair. It’s definitely a process to learn how to change thoughts and not give any place for thoughts that will intensify the feelings of missing the AP.
IDIT SHARONI: Maybe that’s when you can use psychotherapy. If this isn’t or wasn’t addressed in individual or couples therapy – you can express to your therapist that you need help right there. They may offer to see you separately, or refer you to another therapist for individual work.
I personally will work with a spouse separately if they request help with ending an affair. I don’t see it as counteractive to the purpose of healing the relationship. But I know some therapists will feel it is best to refer out.
Okay, so what’s next after you learn to get control of your thoughts?
DEBBIE ROSE: Next, I believe in the spiritual part of true recovery…understanding the spiritual battle behind the scenes and my faith was a big piece in helping me getting free. For me, calling upon God and filling my mind with verses and encouragement on the kind of life I wanted instead of dwelling on what I thought I was missing.
IDIT SHARONI: So much is written about the significant influence spirituality has on healing. Can you share what it is that women can do? Is it self talk? Is it reaching out to a spiritual guide? What do you think works?
DEBBIE ROSE: It depends on what perspective they’re coming from regarding faith. I’m a Christian so I had to go back to that original place of my relationship with God- ask for forgiveness and truly learn how to lean on His strength and power to break free of the affair. I felt powerless to do it on my own.
Prayer… renewing the mind with verses and good things in place of thoughts about the AP.
IDIT SHARONI: Now, I know there’s one more step you want to share. What would that be?
DEBBIE ROSE: Last, I think is learning how to heal and the boundaries we need in place. it’s important to be very aware of the subtle lies and excuses we believe that can easily suck us back into the affair. Just like any addict has to be on guard against ways they might slip back into old habits- it’s not much different when someone is ending their affair and trying to get free.
For example- I hear many women feel they need to contact their affair partner to tell them something just to receive closure. Like “if I can just tell him this- or if I can just ask him why this- then I’ll have closure and can move forward. THEN it will be easier to move on.”
But that’s a lie because there’s no such thing as closure with affairs- there’s never going to be enough things said to make it all of a sudden truly easy to move on. Also, anytime you break contact- in any way- with an affair partner (even through text or social media)- all that healing you did is like it never happens. You have a huge setback in your own recovery and healing. Even if you don’t feel like you’ve made any progress- you probably did. Every day away from the affair is another day detoxing from the affair partner, and closer to getting free of it all to start having the life you really want.
IDIT SHARONI: This is such an important message to share. I’m sure many of you can relate.
I’m going to be honest and say that as therapists we often overlook this part of the equation and we’re reluctant to deal with what seems to be a given: you need to end the affair in order to start the healing.
So, we sometimes leave people having to figure it all out by themselves: the technical part of it, and the emotional part.
Years ago, when I realized that I incorporated ending the affair into my treatment and definitely into my online program.
So, going back to women who were able to follow these steps.What are some of the biggest challenges for women who were unfaithful once they have ended it for good?
DEBBIE ROSE: Shame. It’s always shame and the guilt that follows her affair. And moving forward in her own healing for her soul, and then knowing how to help her husband heal and what it takes to restore the marriage.
Regarding the shame- what I’ve seen (and personally experienced as well) is once they’ve ended the affair- they can suddenly see more clearly the destruction around them as a result of their affair. That can be a heavy burden to bear and many people don’t understand or acknowledge the extent of shame a woman feels after her infidelity. Everyone is different to what degree they feel that but they’ve not only betrayed the man they vowed their life to- along with their kids who may or may not be aware of their mom’s affair- but I tell women to remember she also betrayed herself. Her own internal values and beliefs… maybe even acting contrary to who she always believed herself to be or her faith. That’s enough to send many of these women into a shame spiral- because what can she do about the past? There’s nothing and regret is a hard pill to swallow.
Yet, who does a wife who committed adultery- truly turn to? Most will never empathize with her pain because SHE caused all this pain and chaos right? But they need healing too. This doesn’t minimize the pain the betrayed husband is feeling…but just to shed light on the fact that many are left with the extreme grief, regret and shame as a result of their very wrong decision to get caught up in their affair. So that’s the longest part of the recovery process and it’s an important piece for a couple to look at if they’re going to restore the marriage too.
Many of these women don’t believe they’re even worthy of love and forgiveness and their opinion of themselves has taken a huge hit.. So how can she learn to love her husband more fully again while she’s hating herself so much?
IDIT SHARONI: This is where Esther Perel’s ideas about shame Vs. guilt come into play for me. I tell partners who have been unfaithful that shame is often debilitating because it keeps you from doing and leaves you with dwelling. But, guilt is a feeling that honors your experience while sending you towards making it better and earning your partner’s genuine forgiveness.
Debbie, thank you so much for being on the show. You are such a ray of light and hope in this tough situation for many women, so thank you so much for being here.
Tell my listeners where they can find out more about you.
DEBBIE ROSE: They can get a lot of free resources on my website called www. Aftermyaffair.com.
They can also access my 2 e-books on my home page- one is more about my personal story and the other is what we did that helped us restore our marriage.
Also if there’s a woman who had an affair listening, and you’re struggling with these things we talked about -in isolation and don’t know how to move forward in the healing process-you can find my private facebook group and request to join “AMA Women” on facebook. It’s very inconspicuous with no words of infidelity or affair in the description, for their privacy. I also have links on my about me page on my blog.
IDIT SHARONI: Thanks again for being here. Goodby!
So, I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Debbie. Like I said, we probably could continue for hours, but I hope I got to all the important questions you might have for her. This episode is packed with tips and ideas, so if you feel overwhelmed, no worries. Just take in what you can and come back to it.
All right, guys. Thank you so very much for tuning in. Don’t forget that this episode is sponsored by my free masterclass, all about infidelity recovery. iditsharoni.com/masterclass. If you have not been healing and trust building, I can help you put your relationship on the right track to genuine forgiveness and trust earning so that gaining a loving relationship becomes a whole lot easier. iditsharoni.com/masterclass.
All right, thank you so very much for tuning in. I’ll see in our next episode. Bye for now.