Infidelity: Cheating in Your Relationships Online Conference Transcript
Elissa Gough, has experienced the addictiveness and excitement that affairs have to offer, as well as the turmoil. She joined us to answer your questions about infidelity and how to deal with cheating in your relationships. She also discussed when and when not to tell your partner about the "other woman" or "other man," same-sex affairs, and emotional infidelity.
David Roberts: HealthyPlace.com moderator.
The people in blue are audience members.
David: Good Evening. I'm David Roberts. I'm the moderator for tonight's conference. I want to welcome everyone to HealthyPlace.com. I'm glad you had the opportunity to join us and I hope your day went well. Our topic tonight is "Infidelity." Our guest is author and coach Elissa Gough.
Our topic tonight is "Infidelity: Cheating In Your Relationships." For 30 years, Elissa Gough was an emotional hostage, unwilling to free herself from relationships which caused her great pain. She shared her story and insights in her book, Infidelity. Tonight, we will be talking with her about how to manage the passion and pain of affairs.
Ms. Gough (http://www.facereality.com/) will share proven ways of coping with betrayal for everyone affected - spouses, partners, children, other family members, the "other man or other woman," gay men and lesbians - with an emphasis on individual responsibility, accountability and commitment, and with the overall objective of keeping marriages whole and/or relationships healthy.
Good evening, Elissa, and welcome to HealthyPlace.com. Thank you for joining us tonight. Maybe it's a good thing to start off with your definition of "infidelity."
Elissa Gough: I am happy to be here thanks. Infidelity means different things to different people. I believe that any emotion or act that takes you away from your exclusive bond with your spouse or partner is an act of infidelity. Infidelity is not just physical. In fact, sex does not have to be a factor.
David: Then, it can be an emotional bond, also?
Elissa Gough: Yes, in fact, emotional infidelity can be much more damaging to a relationship than physical. Emotional bonds can be more devastating to a betrayed spouse because it creates a connection that's hard to break. Having your spouse love someone else is more painful than having your spouse just "fool around."
David: In my introduction, I mentioned that you had a long history of unhealthy relationships. How did you get caught up in the cycle of infidelity?
Elissa Gough: My first affair came about due to a tragedy. My daughter had leukemia and I became emotionally involved with her doctor. I thought he could save her; he became very close to my family. I felt very dependent on him. Marriages became a cycle for me. I was looking to recreate a family that I had lost. I had lost both my father and child very early in life.
David: I know many people have affairs. I'm wondering, in your opinion, is it psychologically easy for people who are in committed relationships to have affairs?
Elissa Gough: It's not easy. Some affairs are situational, some are just one time flings, while others make a lifetime career out of cheating. They are heart wrenching to everyone involved. They drain you.
They are exciting and they're addictive. It's the excitement and the passion that draws you and keeps you entangled in the web. Once you're in, you justify and find reasons to keep it going. It becomes a "fix" for some. You rationalize and avoid the pain it causes.
David: So everyone in the audience knows where you are coming from, do you feel that affairs are wrong?
Elissa Gough: After my years of experience, I don't condone affairs, but I understand how they are born, live, and how they die. I try not to moralize, analyze, or judge. I am just here to provide information and spread awareness. We want to knock down the walls of shame and embarrassment so those involved can face their reality. This is a topic that has been ignored, and when it is talked about, it is exploited. Those who suffer the pains of infidelity are left with nowhere to go.
David: I want to address this topic from two sides:
- The person having the affair
- The other is the person who we might call "the victim," the one left behind.
One of the first things I always see come up -- should the person having the affair tell his/her partner about it if they don't know about it?
Elissa Gough: It depends on the situation. There are many variables. Will the spouse be able to handle it, etc? Professional help should be sought prior to making any decisions like that. There are so many variables, there's no clear cut answer.
David: Maybe we can tackle that question another way. What would be the benefit to the other person, the victim, to being told about the affair?
Elissa Gough: I don't really like the word "victim." Victim means someone is helpless. I like to teach people to be proactive and not let themselves be victimized. Sometimes there is no benefit. The benefit of knowing leads to change, whether there's a divorce or it leads to a stronger marriage there can be benefits. And sharing it can break the cycle.
David: We have an audience comment about what's been said so far, then we will get into some of the audience questions.
Lauren1: I am not proud to say that I have had three affairs in the past 4 1/2 years. Like Elissa said, they drain you because it is exhausting living a "double life." There is so much guilt when you are with your spouse, not to mention the "covering up" of the time that you are with the person with whom you are having the affair. Let me add, please, that it may seem exciting at the time you are with the person, but then when you depart, it is an awful pain of emptiness, unfulfillment, and feeling "dirty."
David: Here's the first question:
bossy: I had an affair last year and I decided that it would be way too hurtful for my husband to know about it. I am very, very regretful and angered that I had the affair myself. I sometimes wonder, "If I tell my husband will it alleviate my anger?" That kinda sounds selfish.
Elissa Gough: Exactly, you need to be very careful. I suggest that you focus on breaking your cycle of infidelity. Devote time to self-discovery so you can find out why you had your affair so that your can prevent it from happening again. Telling the truth can be difficult; it's a choice you have to make on your own. I can only tell you the consequences.
David: That's what I was getting at earlier, Elissa. The person having the affair gets to relieve him/herself of some of the guilt, and I'm wondering what the person who learns about the affairs gets out of it besides a lot of pain.
Elissa Gough: Exactly, if telling the truth is just about relieving your own guilt and now helping further your relationship, then maybe it might be better left unsaid.
sanders: Same-sex affairs seem less of a betrayal than opposite sex affairs! Is that a common thought or just a justification for homosexual or lesbian behavior?
Elissa Gough: I think it's a justification. It relieves one's guilt and rationalizes deception. As I said earlier, anything that breaks the exclusive bond of a committed relationship is a betrayal.
Burntsoul: I was with a man who was having an affair with his wife. I didn't know it until afterwards because he lied to me. Why would he tell me he loved me in front of his wife?
Elissa Gough: I am not sure I understand the question fully. He was having an affair with his wife?
Burntsoul: He was having an affair with me, and I ended up meeting his wife and he told me he loved me in front of her, and it was more than once.
Elissa Gough: Well, he may love you, but he also loved her at one time as well. I think that shows how little respect he has for his wife, which may be you someday. Remember, patterns are difficult to change, even if he changes partners.
David: And that's a good point Elissa. Would you say that for most people, "once a cheater, always a cheater?" Many people hold out hope that the person will leave his/her spouse. Is that realistic? And secondly, when one thinks about it, if this person cheated on his/her spouse or partner, why wouldn't he/she do that to you?
Elissa Gough: People can modify their behavior if they want to. I am a great example of how someone can change. "Once a cheater, always a cheater" is stereotypic. It is true that people do have patterns of behavior and if they aren't willing to change, the pattern will continue. There has to be a desire to change. No one can change a person, or their behavior. You had a good point. The fact that your lover cheated on his/her spouse should be a wake up call to you. It could to happen to you as well. You are not exempt from being betrayed.
David: If you are the other spouse or partner, what are your suggestions for handling and coping with news that your partner has been cheating on you?
Elissa Gough: It is one of the most devastating things that can happen to someone. They need to try to remain quiet and calm. Don't make rash decisions based on anger or vengeance. Do not run to an attorney or make threats or ultimatums.
Stay focused on taking care of yourself. Take time and sort it out. I know this sounds difficult. That's why an outside support system is needed. Face Reality is a strong advocate for therapy from someone you trust and feel comfortable, whether it be a psychologist or a member of the clergy. Avoid being impulsive.
David: Here's the next question:
abby_normal: I found out in November that my husband was having a two-year relationship. Since we've been trying to reconcile, I found out 3 days ago that he's been lying and deceiving me about her all over again. Now he's claiming insanity. I really don't know what to do. He continues to work with this woman.
Elissa Gough: First, refocus on yourself. Intervene on your own behalf. It's time you take action for yourself. I have been where you've been; I know how hard it is to stay focused. I really advocate support groups because they surround you with others in your situation. Until Face Reality, there were no support groups regarding this topic. It's definitely easier to face this with support behind you.
Don't act impulsively. Think about the consequences of any actions you are considering. If you have children, always keep them in mind.
abby_normal: I found everything out from this woman and my husband corroborated it all, but only when absolutely confronted by all the information. I told him I would postpone any drastic measures on my part until he gets help, but I am going to let him know that I am not going to postpone my life any longer and am going to do whatever I need to find happiness right now. What do you think?
Elissa Gough: It sounds like you are on the right track. Only after you've resolved this situation can you find real peace.
David: I imagine the hardest part of trying to repair a relationship that's been hurt by cheating is the trust. How do you learn to trust this person again?
Elissa Gough: It's very difficult. Once the breach of trust has been broken, it can be mended. It is easier to rekindle the love than it is to rebuild the trust. Building self-esteem and self-confidence will lead to being able to trust again. You must trust yourself and your own judgment before you can trust others.
David: Here's another audience comment:
Lauren1: If my husband found out about my affairs, he would ask me questions about every single detail. This would be extremely painful for both of us. Last April I had so much guilt that I tried to take my life. Now my husband and I are separated and I just had another affair!! My therapist is helping me, however, to change my selfish, self-destructive behavior.
bossy: You said in your first statement that you believe affairs are any emotional bond that draws you away. That must be a hard line to draw since often having a good time with another male, other than my husband, really gives me a good feeling. Even seeing my psychiatrist each week makes me feel good. If he occasionally shakes my hand or puts his hand on my shoulder it makes me feel good. Is that what you mean?
Elissa Gough: When you dwell on those feelings, fantasize that they will happen again, or desire to be near that person, that's a red flag. Affairs can start out innocently. Men and women can be friends, but it is a dangerous path when you find yourself wanting more.
David: Thank you, Elissa, for being our guest tonight and for sharing this information with us. And to those in the audience, thank you for coming and participating. I hope you found it helpful. We have a very large and active community here at HealthyPlace.com. You will always find people in the chatrooms and interacting with various sites.
I invite everyone to stay and chat in any of the other rooms on the site. Also, if you found our site beneficial, I hope you'll pass our URL around to your friends, mail list buddies, and others. http://www.healthyplace.com
Thanks again, Elissa, for coming tonight.
Elissa Gough: Thank you so much for having me as a guest. I hope the information I provided was helpful.
David: It was. Good night everyone.
Disclaimer: We are not recommending or endorsing any of the suggestions of our guest. In fact, we strongly encourage you to talk over any therapies, remedies or suggestions with your doctor BEFORE you implement them or make any changes in your treatment.
Last Updated: 26 March 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD