5 Hard Truths About Extra-Marital Affairs

While they don’t always mean the end of a marriage, affairs are almost always a sign that something, somewhere throughout the relationship, has gone wrong. We all know, deep down, that marital infidelity is not a simple matter. We also know that our emotions often get the best of us in these situations. Regardless, it is important to view the affair as a symptom of deeper issues. Whether you have cheated on your spouse or have caught your spouse cheating, here are some important truths to consider.

1. Affairs Rarely Work Out in the Long Run.
Perhaps you are wondering why this has happened. How could he or she (or I) prefer this other person? But the truth is, affairs are rarely about the third person. Remember that.

In a Time magazine article entitled “Why We Have Affairs – and Why Not to Tell,” couples counselor Mira Kirshenbaum looks at the deeper issues underlying affairs. As she pointedly advises, in an extra-marital affair that ends in divorce, the third party is like a “crowbar” to help get out of a broken relationship. Once you are out of the marriage, you don’t then marry the crowbar.

Whether you have cheated, or your spouse has (or you both have), it is important to put this point in perspective. A relationship that started with lies and deceit is unlikely to end well. For this reason, if not to save the marriage, make sure that the “guilty” party has done their best to honestly assess their reasoning before moving on and making the same mistakes all over again.

2. Affairs are, Unfortunately, Common.
The question of guilt brings us to the next point. According to the same Times article, approximately half of marriage relationships lapse into adultery at some point. While this is a sad statistic in some ways, it really means that adultery happens to us all. Perhaps you are wondering: why is this happening to me or why did I do this? Here is the answer: because you are human. Sometimes, we all fail. Good people make mistakes. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. That is why.

3. In the Case of Affairs, Honesty is Not Always the Best Policy.
If you are having an affair, you may want to tell your spouse, to get if off your chest. You may feel so overwhelmed with guilt that you cannot live with it anymore. Conversely, having found out about your spouse’s affair, you may wonder how they could have let you find out this way. Confession, in this case, can be hurtful and wrong — even selfish. Trying to keep the secret may have been your spouse’s way of protecting you from their mistakes.

Again, affairs are symptoms of deeper problems, and it is best to address those problems in meaningful ways — even if that means separation and divorce. Simply coming out and confessing unfaithfulness may seem like a solution, but is unlikely to get to the heart of the matter, unless the adulterous spouse has deep issues with monogamy and they refuse to confront those issues.

4. Statistically, Men and Women Have Affairs for Different Reasons.
An unsurprising statistic from a Rutgers University survey shows that men and women have affairs for vastly different reasons. The study found that over half of men have affairs, despite being content in their marriages. On the other hand, less than a third of women who had affairs reported being content in their marriages. It is a hard reality that, for men, affairs may be part of marriage. We are not so far past the age of concubinage and consorts, when some (not all!) men expected to have both a wife and a mistress, or multiple mistresses. This reality leads to our next point.

5. Do Marriages Recover From Affairs?
Writing for the Mirror, psychotherapist Philippa Perry looks at some of the reasons why people have affairs — and the relative likelihood of recovery. As noted in the previous point, there are times when men (and women) expect to be able to have an “open marriage.” In that extreme case, a marriage could reconcile with new boundaries, but you should never feel like this is something you have to accept.

Perry gives two examples where recovery is likely, and both involve the need to communicate more effectively. First, you may feel that you and your spouse have grown too far apart, and perhaps, the affair arose out of a need to have someone you or they could relate to. Second, you or your spouse may be inadvertently pushing the other person away due to insecurity or a constant need to be right. In either of these two cases, counseling can, and likely will, help to save your marriage.

On the other end of the spectrum, affairs can really signal the end of a marriage. If, for example, your partner wants to have affairs and you do not approve, then what else can be said? Cut it off now. If they choose to remarry in the future, they should be honest and let their significant other know that they do not plan to be monogamous. You are making the right choice by taking control and walking away from the situation. Remember, in such a case, it is not your fault.

For guidance in saving your marriage or making the decision whether or not to divorce, check out our Contemplating Divorce section for helpful information.

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Bye Bye Bling: Selling The Wedding Ring After A Divorce

Whether you are in the middle of a divorce, or just on the other side of one, one thing is for certain: You have a lot on your mind. You are going through one of the toughest transitions of adulthood, which requires you to make many decisions that you would probably rather avoid. That’s why we, here at Untangle The Knot, want to make your life easier. We know what it’s like to be at your wits’ end, because we’ve been there too. So, let us help you — one decision at a time.

Today’s burning question: How do I know if I should sell my wedding ring?

The wedding ring is one of the most sentimental objects in a marriage. We wear it on our finger every day as a reminder of the relationship that we are in. So, for many, selling it is a way to begin to move on and let go of what hasn’t worked for us in the past.

If you do decide to sell, places like ebayCraigslist, and a relatively new option, I Do Now I Don’t, are good places to start. Typically, online auction sites will garner more of a return than a traditional jewelry store. But, if you have a great relationship with your jeweler, he or she may offer you a fair price.

Before you sell, it’s helpful to know exactly what you have so that you can set a realistic price. Most jewelers, and even pawn shops, have materials to test the quality of the metal, and of course, to be sure that the diamond is real. (Hey, you never know!)

But, if selling doesn’t feel right to you, there is always the option of donating. Your gift will be tax deductible, and you can help people, who otherwise couldn’t afford a ring, in the process. There are many websites like With This Ring, a Christian organization, or Tough Angels, which is participating in a project to turn old jewelry into much-needed housing for underprivileged folks. That’s a pretty awesome idea, if you ask us.

For some, performing a ritual with the ring, like giving it to the ocean or burying it in the desert, will feel right. This isn’t the time to worry about the conventional thing to do—unless, of course, you really need the money.

But, what if the jewelry is just too sparkly to part with? In this case, you may want to take the ring to a jeweler and have it made into something fabulous. Maybe a necklace or a bracelet? Something that uses the stones that you love, but in a new structure, symbolizing the fact that your heart will go on— just in a new way.

Finally, you could choose to leave the ring as it is and put it away for future generations to use. After all, it isn’t the ring that caused the break-up. No need to blame a rock, especially if it’s a gorgeous one.

Ultimately, you might not be ready to let go of the ring just yet, and that’s okay too. Whatever you decide, it has to be on your own terms. Rushing yourself to get rid of the ring when you want to hold on to it for a little bit longer is unnecessarily cruel, as is forcing yourself to keep it if looking at it makes you unhappy. As with so many parts of this process, your journey is unique. We can’t promise you that it will be easy, but we can promise that we will be here with you every step of the way. Please contact us with your questions, concerns, and dilemmas. We are here to help.

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Beyond The Mirror: How To Cope With A Narcissistic Ex

Most exes are burdensome, otherwise, they probably wouldn’t be exes. However, there is one specific type of ex that puts others to shame with their exasperating nature: the narcissist. If you have to deal with a narcissistic ex of your own, you surely know how frustrating, and even demeaning, it can be.

Not to worry, though, we are here to help you learn to deal with your difficult ex. But first, let’s make sure we know who we are really up against.

How To Tell If Your Ex Is A Narcissist

The word narcissist gets thrown around a lot in popular media. Sure, they are full of themselves, and sometimes vain, but being a narcissist isn’t all about taking one too many selfies. True narcissists have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), which is defined as:

A pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. They are also likely to exhibit some of the following qualities:

  • Feels superior to others
  • Lies about his achievements
  • Demands recognition
  • Is obsessed with success (financial/fame/money/power/beauty)
  • Believes they are special and can only associate with other gifted people
  • Feels entitled, expects unrealistic demands to be met
  • Exploits others for self-serving interests
  • Full of rage, especially when contradicted
  • Devoid of empathy
  • Unable to take criticism
  • Perpetually envious of others, believes others are envious of them

Does this sound familiar to you? If so, you are likely dealing with a narcissistic ex, which is not an easy ship to be sailing. The key feature of a narcissist is their lack of empathy, which makes it impossible for them to understand what anyone else is going through. But, believe it or not, what drives this infuriating behavior isn’t a real belief that they are better than you. In fact, deep down, narcissists are often severely flawed. At an unconscious level, they know this, which is why they do everything in their power to keep up the appearance of being bigger, badder, and better than they really are.

Unfortunately, people with NPD rarely recover. Usually, this is because they don’t feel that there is anything wrong with them to begin with. They seldom seek treatment, and even when they do, they are likely to blame everyone else for their problems.

So, How Can You Cope With A Narcissistic Ex?

The best thing you can do to cope with your ex’s narcissistic behavior is to avoid them as much as you can. Obviously, this may be difficult – especially if you have children together – but by creating strict boundaries between you two, you can limit the toxic impact they have on your life.

It is impossible to win an argument with a narcissist. In fact, being around this type of person is likely to make you angry, even if you aren’t sure why. What’s actually happening is that you are picking up on their internal rage, and since they aren’t able to own it themselves, you are unconsciously taking it on. When you stop letting your ex drag you down with their negativity, you will realize how much better off you are without them.

If you must communicate with your ex, keep it brief and to the point. They will likely try to engage you in arguments or put you down. Narcissists use a variety of manipulative techniques, like changing the subject, selective memory, and lying, to make you feel like the crazy one. Just know, it isn’t you! They have had a lifetime to perfect these methods, which they use to avoid the devastating fact that they are unhappy with themselves.

There are some helpful support groups online, which remind you that you are not alone and offer tips for how to cope with a narcissist. In addition, there are many great books like, “The Wizard Of Oz And Other Narcissists,” and “Why Is It Always About You,” both of which offer wonderful tips for dealing with one-way relationships.

In the end, the best thing you can do is be grateful that you are no longer romantically involved with your ex. If they are a true narcissist, the relationship never stood a chance. Still, you learned what you needed to learn, and you now know to avoid people like this in the future. As. C.S. Lewis said, “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

Looking for more ideas on how to cope with your difficult ex? Learn more about how we can help.

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Putting Your Kids First While Sharing Parenting Time

Your former spouse, no matter how difficult they were to live with, is still your children’s other parent. The kids weren’t the ones who decided on the divorce; in fact, they didn’t get a choice in the matter at all. Even if there are lingering hard feelings toward a parent who made some poor choices, your kids are going to be visiting with that parent on a regular basis for years to come. Learning strategies for effective co-parenting is critical to lessening the negative effects of divorce on children and keeping them happy during this difficult transition. This means preparing yourself to handle a number of unexpected situations that can (and will) come up and interrupt the normal parenting schedule.

Consider Some Potentially Difficult Scenarios

As you’re working out visitation schedules, remember that it’s never as simple as, “Oh, the kids will spend every other weekend with their father.” There will always be activities, special events, and holidays that shake up the routine and make it difficult for everyone to stick to it. Decide in advance how you’re going to handle a wide range of different events. It’s not just about holidays; it’s also about:

  • Birthday parties, sleepovers, and other invitations to go with friends
  • Kids’ birthdays and holidays—For example, what happens if Mother’s Day or Father’s Day falls on the weekend that the opposite parent has the kids?
  • Big sports games or extracurricular activities, especially away games and trips
  • Illnesses and injuries—What happens if the kids are sick on their weekend to go to Dad’s? Should they stay with Mom, or do they go anyway? What would the kids prefer to do in this scenario?

Think It Through

Keep in mind that it’s going to be necessary to make compromises along the way. It sounds easy to say, “Well, it’s Dad’s weekend, so the kids are going to go there. She can spend the night with her friend next weekend.” It’s harder when it’s a best friend’s “special” birthday sleepover or a major event that your child has been looking forward to for weeks: a big Girl Scout sleepover; a school trip that stretches over the weekend; a sports competition that requires being gone overnight. Developing a plan ahead of time gives you a template for how to handle these situations when they arise, preventing any emotional, knee-jerk reactions that may spoil the kids’ fun.

Be Fair to Both Parties

Whether the custody arrangement states that Dad has the kids every other week or he only gets them every other weekend, it’s important to consider the needs of both parties as you’re developing your plan for those unexpected interruptions in your schedule. For example, if Dad only has the kids every other weekend, a slumber party or away game that prevents his child from coming to his house may mean that he goes a month in between visits—and that’s not fair to him. On the other hand, completely disrupting the visitation schedule may also not be an option, depending on the circumstances. Consider options that will help everyone meet in the middle, such as:

  • Dinner out with the parent who doesn’t have primary custody one evening next week. This will give them a chance to visit and spend time with the kids without completely disrupting everyone’s schedule.
  • Swap weekends if schedules permit. Is one of your children headed to her friend’s house on Friday night? See if the other parent is amenable to taking the kids next weekend, instead. It doesn’t have to be a permanent switch, especially if you’ve already made arrangements for vacations and other major events.
  • Look for ways to salvage the weekend. If it’s one night away, it might not be such a big deal. There’s still plenty of weekend left, and that means plenty of chances for fun!

When considering the unexpected events that can quickly take over your parenting time, the most important thing is to put the kids first and keep your egos out of the equation. Your children likely aren’t choosing one parent over the other or snubbing the noncustodial parent because an important event simply happens to be on “their” weekend. They’re just living their lives in spite of the divorce, and that’s exactly what you should both want.

Lessening the negative effects of divorce on children requires patience, understanding, and total support from both parents. If you’re looking for more information about co-parenting strategies that will make coping with the aftermath of divorce easier, click here to see how we can help.

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