Dealing With A Cheating Husband Or Wife – The Infidelity Coach
In this interview with the Infidelity Coach Dr. Robert Huizenga (a marriage and family therapist) we discover the revealing and underlying factors that get in the way of that couple healing their marriage.
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Infidelity Coach Transcript
Michael James: Who is Dr. Robert Huizenga and what made you decide to specialize in the topic of infidelity?
Dr. Huizenga: Dr. Huizenga (The Infidelity Coach) is a marriage and family therapist. I have been a marriage and family therapist, licensed marriage and family therapist in the state of Michigan since 1981 and have dealt over those years with a large number of couples who have had troubled marriages, and it always seemed to me in certain cases and in a high number of cases that there was an underlying factor, there was a secret there somewhere that was not being told that got in the way of that couple healing their marriage.
It became obvious to me over the years that that secret was someone in the relationship was involved with someone else. Now that secret did not come out in therapy because secrets aren’t to be told, so that led me to begin focusing upon infidelity as a very powerful event in the life of the marriage and I started focusing on that, probably about five, six, seven, eight years ago and did some research and out of that developed my site, breakfreefromtheaffair.com. and my blog site, infidelity-help.com and I’ve been working specifically then in the area of infidelity for the past five, six, seven years.
Michael James: You say on the website, ‘it depends on the type of the affair that that’s taken place’. Could you explain what you mean on this?
Dr. Huizenga: In my research and in my study of pathology, it became apparent that an affair is not just an affair; an affair is very complex, infidelity is very, very complex and what I found happen was that a therapist would typically a try to ascribe certain treatment modalities to infidelity.
Some would work and some wouldn’t work. So it became obvious to me that there was various kinds of infidelities and I did some study, did some research and came up with seven different types of infidelities.
I would very briefly list the seven kinds of affair: the first one I call ‘my marriage made me do it’ and which the cheating spouse says I’m out of here because my marriage is lousy.
A second kind of affair is ‘I can’t say no’; this is someone who suffers from some form of sexual addiction, maybe we want to use Tiger Woods here. I mean I read all kinds of articles about that, that was a very popular topic right now.
Third type of affair is ‘I don’t wanna say no’; that might be part of Tiger as well but ‘I don’t wanna say no’ is basically your philanderer or your narcissistic person.
Affair number four is ‘I fell out of love and I just love being into love’; this is the person who put on high emphasis upon romance and feelings and need that high of relational connection.
Fifth kind of affair is ‘I need to prove my desirability’; this is someone who have been wounded deeply, has some severe doubts about their own sexuality so they need to prove somehow that they are okay in that arena.
Sixth kind of affair is ‘I need to get back and hammer her’; this is a type of resentment or maybe a kind of a rage here affair but the whole idea is “I’m gonna get him” or “I wanna get my spouse” because he or she did not do this, did not do that for me.
The seventh kind of affair that I labeled is ‘I wanna be close to someone but I can’t stand intimacy’; and here’s a person who really kind of stands on the fence and in terms of being close to someone and the affair person serves the purpose of kind of balancing the need here for intimacy and distance.
So those are the seven kinds of affairs that I’ve labeled and I have treatment for each one and have outlined in my e-book, various motives and characteristics of each particular kind of affair.
Michael James: So when people discover that their partners fallen for, let’s say one of these seven types of affairs, what are the kinds of mistakes they make when they discover the truth?
Dr. Hiuzenga: Well the first mistake and probably the most powerful and worst mistake is to begin reacting. By that I mean there’s such tremendous pain, such tremendous upheaval that the person who discovers the affair does not think clearly.
They react; they react emotionally.
For example, saying ‘I love you’ and in pursuing and trying to do for your cheating spouse that which you thought that you should have done long ago that becomes a modus operandi for a person that that does not work.
Suggesting counseling doesn’t work and there are reasons for that. Even though I’m a therapist I found that couples going into therapy with their third party involved is pretty fruitless.
Getting family and friends involved is another mistake often or moralizing or preaching to this cheating spouse is a mistake, but the bottom line here is that a person who discovers the infidelity often beshifts to focus from him or herself to the other person and the persons life is consumed with what the cheating spouse is doing or not doing. That takes a lot of energy and that often continues to pain in the confusion.
Michael James: So is it a good idea to confront them when you find out that they’ve been lying to you?
Dr. Hiuzenga: Let’s look at the word confront. Now when people who are facing infidelity think of the word confront, they often think of, I think, in your face verbal accusations, rage, anger, letting the cheating spouse have it, those kind of behaviors, which won’t work, except in one particular case and I won’t get into that right now.
But that will work sometimes in the, “I don’t want say no” kind of affair. That’s the strategy that I sometimes recommend.
But confronting the other spouse, yes I think that’s really important, but how you confront is also more important.
And let me give you an example, the bottom line here is to say that you’re cheating spouse, “I sense that something is changing”, “I sense that something is going on”, or if you have evidence you can say I know that you’re seeing someone else and at that point you can say, “I want you to know that I will not share you with anyone else and this is an issue here that we need to deal with”
That kind of formatting the confrontation is often helpful.
Michael James: Some of the people of my website find out that their partner’s cheating with someone of the same gender, does that make any difference?
Dr. Hiuzenga: I don’t think so. I don’t think emotionally it makes much difference. I think, whenever you have a relationship of an investment, of emotional investment, I think there’s some dynamics that that cut across gender at that point.
Michael James: Now that you’ve confronted them and they come back to you and they say “listen, I need space. I need time to decide what I am going do whether I stay or leave”. What do you suggest to people at that point?
Dr. Hiuzenga: Well, my experience tells me that if a cheating spouse tells you, “I need space”. What they’re saying basically is leave me alone because I want to continue doing what I am doing.
They very infrequently say I need space to spend some time thinking about who I am, what I want, what’s important to me and my future.
They’re at that point so wrapped up in the affair or in the other person that their demand for space means I am gonna continue seeing him or her. I am gonna continue being with the other person. And you can say at that point. What you mean by space and begin to delineate exactly the needs in terms of space. If your spouse is willing to move in that direction with you.
Michael James: Now does it matter if the outside party puts a stop to the relationship. Does that mean everything will go back to normal?
Dr. Hiuzenga: That often is what the cheating spouse says when the affair has ended and they view it as a mistake and they want to repair their marriage or rebuild their marriage.
They don’t wanna go over old material.
However, the person who’s been cheated upon, often frequently, the majority of time has a tremendous need here to deal with the intensity of the pain, the feelings and the whole issue of trust. So it just doesn’t go away.
I’d say it takes six to eighteen months to rebuild a marriage or to work through and resolve the affair issue, if you work on it intentionally. If you don’t its gonna take two to four years.
Michael James: So then if someone finds himself in this position, what’s the best way to decide whether its worth sticking around and saving it or just moving on?
Dr. Hiuzenga: The number one issue for me often in dealing with people is, are you in danger?
Are you staying in a relationship where there’s a potential for you to get hurt physically or emotionally in terms of verbal abuse. If that’s happening, I suggest that someone strongly think about their need to break the emotional ties and move on and that’s often difficult because the person has an emotional investment or wants save or wants to rescue a person even though they’re being abused in some way.
That’s key number one. What is the level of possible danger here? If there is no physical danger or danger of emotional or verbal abuse, then that person needs to look at the dynamics and the marriage and ask questions such as: we’ve run into a brick wall here.
How often do we run into the brick wall?
What’s the pain like when we run into the brick wall?
How often does this happen?
Can we find ways to break through it, learn new skills, learn to relate differently to each other?
And if you can answer those questions where there’s possibilities. Then I think its worth looking at.
I tend to strive more towards trying to keep a marriage intact if it’s potential for help. If you run into the wall frequently and there is no way out and only one person seems to interested, the issue of, should I stay in this marriage becomes really, really crucial and probably at some point the person decides. “No, its not gonna change”, its not worth it!
Michael James: Of the seven types of infidelity, are there any that just screams don’t bother saving it?
Dr. Hiuzenga: In my e-book, actually I’ve given odds on marriages staying together with particular rkinds of affairs.
And I’ll just give you one briefly.
“Uh, my marriage made me do it.” If – if—and this is a big if—if there is no change in the cheating spouse’s capacity to assume responsibility for his or her behavior, I think the chances of that relationship working are about two out of ten.
With the “I need to prove my desirability” affair, the chances of that relationship healing and being strong are about eight out of ten. So the odds with that type of infidelity and the odds are much better than with “My marriage made me do it” if no significant changes in the patterns in the relationships occur.
So yes, there is a huge difference in terms of whether a particular kind of marriage will stick together depending upon the kind of a infidelity that it has faced.
Michael James: So people reading your material are guided through helping identify which kind of problem they have got, and then they can start to see whether it makes sense whether they should work on it or kind of move on.
Dr. Hiuzenga: Yes.
And I offer some very pointed and specific questions in terms of whether they really want to save the marriage.
And I say to them, “This is the primary question you must first answer for yourself. ‘Do I truly want to be in this relationship? And why do I want to be in this relationship? Do I want to be in this relationship because of my neediness or because I am afraid of the future?’ If so, those are red flags.”
And say to people, “You must first answer that question, because all your behavior with your – with your cheating spouse will not have any power if you haven’t answered that question well for yourself.”
Michael James: In the media we have seen a lot of celebritie [stories], and I’m going to pick on Tiger Woods one because it’s the most current at the moment in 2010. You know, there is a saying, past behavior is a predictor of future behavior or something to that effect. Do cheaters ever really stop cheating?
Dr. Hiuzenga: Good question.
Some cheaters change, and some don’t. Or – or let me put it this way: Some cheaters change, and some cheaters find it very, very difficult to change.
Now if Tiger Woods, for example, is a sexual – as sexually addicted as some people claim, it’s going to be very, very difficult for him to change. That behavior may be pretty deeply ingrained, although he is only 33 years of age.
And from what I read he probably is—or some people think he is—in treatment right now. With those who are sexually addicted – often find it difficult to change their cheating behaviors unless they receive some form of – of intervention.
I don’t want to say no. Those people usually continue cheating.
They believe they are entitled to it, and nothing will stop them.
“I want to be close to someone but can’t stand intimacy.” That person usually has a long-term relationship, a long-term affair with someone to maintain some kind of balance.
So it depends again on the kind of relationship. “I need to prove my desirability” type of affair, that person often finds his or her way back to the marriage.
Michael James: If someone was to discover that their partner was cheating and they sent them off to get sexual addiction treatment, but in fact they weren’t really sexually addicted in the first place, they would be actually wasting time. So misdiagnosis could actually help continue the problem.
Dr. Hiuzenga: Exactly. Sure.
You know, if you go to a doctor, for example, with a sore throat and a fever – and – the – the doctor will explore where that’s coming from and – and what it might be related to, and upon his – his or her diagnosis will give the proper kind of treatment.
Michael James: Can trust ever really be rebuilt in a relationship?
Dr. Hiuzenga: I believe trust is a function of predictability.
Trust can be rebuilt in a relationship to a degree. I think there is always a level at which there will be doubts. And I say to people, “If you can trust 80% of the time that’s great.
If you can trust 90% of the time that’s even better. And if you can trust 95% of the time that’s really, really great.
But the other 20, 15, 10, 5% of the time there is going to be a part of you that says, ‘What – what’s going on here? I’m picking up on something strange.’
So trust can be rebuilt, but it’s never complete.
Michael James: So can love exist without full trust?
Dr. Hiuzenga: Of course.
There is no such thing as full trust, I don’t believe, in another person.
People let us down.
People always let us down. If we – or if we’re expect – if we focus on someone else and expect that person to be trustworthy, at some level he or she is not going to be trustworthy. We are just not wired that way. No one’s perfect.
Michael James: You have found out your spouse is cheating. What’s the 9-1-1 steps? What’s the emergency steps you need to take?
Dr. Hiuzenga: I think that the – the steps you need to take—if you can—a step is to be able to stand back and refuse to act at that particular point in time.
Step number one is to accept your pain, to honor your pain, to honor your anger and spend some time with it. And ask yourself, “What’s going on here with me? What – what do I really, really want here that I’m not getting? What new levels in me of inadequacy have been triggered?” And take some time to fully examine those kinds of questions so that you begin to focus more on yourself than the other person.
And what often happens when people read my e-book is that they may read it for a couple of hours and then I get an e-mail from them saying, “Wow. I feel better.” And I say, “How do you feel better? What do you feel better about?” And they say, “I feel normal. I feel like this is not all my fault. It’s not all my problem. He or she also has a problem, and it’s his or her responsibility. She—or him—is responsible for – for their actions.
And it’s good to feel that I am not the cause of this.” So that’s – that – that’s an outgrowth, that’s an outcome of being able to stand back and look at yourself and then begin to explore infidelity and the dynamics of infidelity and the complexity of infidelity. And after that better feelings emerge.
Michael James: How do you regain confidence and start to trust your own judgment about people once something like this happens?
Dr. Hiuzenga: That’s a great question.
And trust is – trust is built in a relationship when we first trust ourselves.
And often people who have been the victim of infidelity need to go back in history and re – or re – reconfigure the past events. And the purpose of that is that they need to redevelop their own capacity to trust their own instincts.
For example, a person discovers that his or her spouse had an affair, and the wounded spouse goes back in his or her mind and says, “Oh yeah. You know? I remember at that party four months ago when this woman came up to my husband I felt really, really strange. Something was not right, and now I know what it is.” So it’s that capacity to develop your own capacity to – to trust your own instinct, to trust your own intuition, that becomes key, that becomes important.
And when you are rebuilding your marriage and all of a sudden you have a twinge within you that says something is not right, it’s really important that the two of the spouses begin talking about what’s happening and begin to explore that twinge that says something’s not right. That – that begins the whole process of being able to trust myself. When there is a red flag, call it a red flag and have it affirmed.
Working through infidelity, again, takes a long time. I think it takes up to two years if a person does it well. And what you get at the end is much different, perhaps, than what you thought you were going to get at the beginning. People change. Infidelity is a wake-up call. It’s a crisis in a relationship. It’s a crisis in life.
And it’s an opportunity, really, for people to redesign their life, redesign their marriages, redesign their relationships. And once that’s done people change, marriages change. And you don’t know what’s going to happen at the beginning; it’s really impossible to predict.
Michael James: Bob I want to thank you so much for this interview.
Dr. Hiuzenga: Thank you.
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To contact Dr. Bob click on this link breakfreefromtheaffair.com.