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So Your Client Is Having an Affair...

Should You Be a Secret-Keeper or is Honesty the Best Policy?

Michele Scheinkman

By Michele Scheinkman - Underlying the perceived magnitude of an affair is an idealized view of marriage as the "shelter" in our lives, with a primary function of providing emotional security and attunement. I've found it perplexing that, although we live in an ostensibly liberal and sexually permissive society, therapists typically have one-track minds regarding how to approach infidelity.

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VIDEO: What Infidelity Looks Like

All Types of Cheating Have This in Common

Tammy Nelson

Of course, sexual affairs are red flags for infidelity, but there are common elements that make any outside relationship an infidelity. Sex therapist Tammy Nelson explains what they are and how to spot them.

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Esther Perel's Secret to Weathering an Affair

Two Ways Couples Who Bounced Back Made It Happen

Esther Perel

By Esther Perel - For several years, I've been contacting couples I've treated to find out more about the long-term impact of the infidelity that brought them to therapy. What were the useful shock absorbers that sustained the couple? Did they think that therapy had helped? I identified three basic patterns in the way couples reorganize themselves after an infidelity.

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Rethinking the Female Affair

When It Comes to Treating Women Who Cheat, Too Many Therapists Are Making This Mistake

Tammy Nelson

By Tammy Nelson - Far from being evidence of pathology or marital bankruptcy, a woman’s affair can be a way of expressing a desire for an entirely different self. Sometimes, understanding an affair as an unconscious bid for self-empowerment, relief from bad sex, or a response to a lack of choices or personal freedom is an important first step toward a fuller, more mature selfhood.

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When Male Partners Won't Open Up

Helping Closed-Off Men See Vulnerability as a Path to Healthier Relationships

George Faller

By George Faller - Many of our clients, especially men, believe in the traditional definition of vulnerability: a state of weakness that leads to being open to attack. But vulnerability is the language of emotionally connected beings, and like a powerful magnet, pain, doubt, fear, mistrust, and other vulnerable states bring forth new opportunities for deep intimacy and transformation, especially in work with couples.

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The Liberating Power of Honesty

What People Don't Know Can Hurt Them. What They Don't Reveal Can Hurt Even More

Frank Pittman

By Frank Pittman - When we therapists believe a secret's revelations would be dangerous, the client receives a frightening message about him- or herself and about the world. We may accept our patients and make psychodynamic, systemic or sociological excuses for them, while still conveying that their secret is unacceptable. Thus, while explicitly "supporting" them, we implicitly undermine their sense that they are fundamentally decent, acceptable people.

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How Affairs Can Reveal and Even Heal Relationship Dysfunction

Tammy Nelson's Three-Step Process for Recovering from Infidelity

Tammy Nelson

Even though our ideas about sex and sexuality have greatly advanced over the last half-century, our culture still holds a double standard about infidelity: we still tend to pathologize women or shame them for having affairs. In my view, far from being evidence of pathology or marital bankruptcy, a woman’s affair can be a way of expressing a desire for an entirely different self, either separate from the marriage altogether or still in it. By understanding this, therapists have an opportunity to help troubled couples create a new relationship with better communication, fuller intimacy, and realistic hope for a better future together.

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American Therapy's Cultural Standards on Disclosure in Affairs

Why Not Disclosing in the Aftermath of an Affair Could Save Marriages

Michele Scheinkman

I was born overseas and practice therapy in the United States. Since the early days of my life in America, I've felt a sense of cultural dissonance with colleagues and friends about how infidelity is approached here, both in the culture and in the therapy profession. Many American therapists proclaim total honesty as the ideal for all marriages and the unearthing of the secrecy and lies at the heart of infidelity as a primary therapeutic consideration. Maybe it's time for a two-way exchange, so that we can learn from the wisdom of other cultures when it comes to disclosure about an affair.

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Couples Therapy for Moving Past Affairs

Esther Perel on Redefining Marriage After an Affair

Esther Perel

For several years, I've been contacting couples I've treated to find out more about the long-term impact of the infidelity that brought them to therapy. With those couples who've remained together in the intervening years, I offered a free, follow-up interview to discuss how they regard the infidelity retrospectively, and how they integrated the experience into the ongoing narrative of their relationship. Specificities notwithstanding, I identified three basic patterns in the way couples reorganize themselves after an infidelity---they never really get past the affair, they pull themselves up by the bootstraps and let it go, or they leave it far behind.

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The Anxious Client Reconsidered

Getting Beyond the Symptoms to Deeper Change

Graham Cambell

Anxiety attacks anything and everything in a person's life. Sometimes the targets are the mundane activities that others take for granted. At other times, it attacks more fundamental functions, such as one's ability to work or to love. We are used to thinking of people who are afraid to speak in public or to drive across a bridge as anxious. We are all familiar with a few stereotypical worrywarts. But anxiety influences a much broader range of behaviors. To the ordinary observer, people who are rude in a restaurant, obnoxious at their child's soccer game or overly exacting of their employees might seem simply self-centered. But often, these individuals are dealing with a wide variety of inner phantoms.

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