Understanding Infidelity with Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife | Ep #53

This week I am joined by Jennifer Finlayson-Fife to discuss the intricacies of infidelity. There are many misconceptions surrounding infidelity, and those misconceptions can keep you stuck. In this episode, we take a closer look at how infidelity can be the catalyst for growth in both parties, why people engage in infidelity, and how to recover from it.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife is an LDS relationship and sexuality coach as well as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in the state of Illinois. She has a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. Her teaching and coaching focus on helping LDS individuals and couples achieve greater satisfaction and passion in their emotional and sexual relationships.

In addition to consultation with couples and individuals (in-person and online), she teaches online relationship and sexuality courses designed to foster self and sexual development and create happier relationships and individuals. Dr. Finlayson-Fife also offers many live workshops and retreats for couples and individuals.

Jennifer is a frequent guest on LDS-themed podcasts and writes articles for LDS-themed blogs and magazines, on the subjects of sexuality, relationships, mental health, and faith.

Episode Transcript

Andrea:

I’m Andrea Giles, and you’re listening to the Heal From Infidelity Podcast,
Understanding Infidelity with Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife.

Hello, and welcome to the Heal from Infidelity Podcast where courageous
women learn not only to heal from their spouses betrayal, but to become the
boldest, truest, most decisive and confident versions of themselves ever.
If you know there is more for you than the life you’re currently living,
but don’t quite know how to get there, you are in the right place. Stick
around to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks off. Is
it possible? It is and I’m here to show you how. I’m your host Andrea
Giles, are you ready? Let’s dive in.

Hello everybody, I have on the show today an amazing guest. I’ve been so
excited to have her on and very honored to have her on. Her name is Dr.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife. We’re going to be talking all about infidelity,
the myths surrounding infidelity. But before we dive in, I want Jennifer to
go ahead and introduce herself, tell you a little bit about who she is. Go
ahead Jennifer, tell us about you.

Jennifer:

Sure. Well I live in Chicago area. I grew up in Vermont. I have a PhD in
counseling psychology, and I do a lot of work specifically with LDS, Latter
-day Saint couples and individuals particularly around how to create more
emotionally and sexually intimate relationships because I see this as so
critical to living life joyfully and living life well. So I do a lot of
instruction online and coaching on how to develop your capacity for
intimacy in your life.

Andrea:

Perfect, thank you. So I want to share just a little bit about how I came
to know Jennifer. I went to one of her retreats. She does retreats a couple
times a year, right?

Jennifer:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.

Andrea:

I think you have one coming up, I [crosstalk] coming up.

Jennifer:

Yeah.

Andrea:

It’s in Hillsboro, Oregon. And I went to that very retreat two years ago,
and it was amazing. I went away with my mind blown, so much to think about
that I’ve gone back to again and again and again. And I can honestly say
that a lot of what I learned from Jennifer has really shaped my
philosophies, my methods, the way that I help my own clients. And so you’ve
been more influential than you know in the work that I do.

Jennifer:

That’s wonderful.

Andrea:

So thank you so much for being here. At the end of the show I’ll have
Jennifer tell where you can find her, where you can learn about how to work
with her, learn more from her, she has amazing courses, things like that.
We’ll talk about that at the end. But today we’re going to dive right into
infidelity. And we are going to be covering today some of the
misconceptions around infidelity that really get people hung up, can get in
the way of a healing process, and so we’re just going to dive in. So first
of all, I went to ask you Jennifer, with your experience, all of the people
that you’ve worked with, how do you define infidelity?

Jennifer:

Well, it’s a little bit of a tricky question because I don’t know that
there is a marker at exactly this point it’s now infidelity. But how I
think about infidelity in interpersonal relationships is on some level, and
of course it can go from extreme to mild, of deception about your
motivations, your behavior, and who you are. And it’s a deception that’s
designed to keep the other person making choices that serve you. So you’re
withholding information that they would want in order to make decisions for
themselves, so you’re kind of stealing people’s choices by withholding
information about you that allows you to exploit on some level. And that’s
different than necessarily adultery, I think adultery is specific, I mean
obviously adultery is infidelity, but adultery is one version of it, which
is explicitly sexual behavior. But you can be unfaithful in a lot of ways.

Andrea:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), yep. Perfect. So in short, you would define it as an
intentional deception in your marriage?

Jennifer:

Yes, exactly. You may do it without even having to think about it, but it
is intentional. You know what information not to reveal. Mm-hmm
(affirmative), right.

Andrea:

Yes. Thank you. Something I see sometimes is people undermining themselves.
Like, “Well, he hasn’t done this and this and this.” And undermining their
own experience with it. And I like the way that you said it, it’s not so
much about what the exact thing is, it’s more about the deception that is
intentionally keeping you in the dark and how that affects the person,
right?

Jennifer:

That’s right. And how it affects your ability to make good decisions for
yourself if you’re the one who’s been betrayed.

Andrea:

Yep. Perfect. So what are some of the most common misconceptions you see
around this topic of infidelity?

Jennifer:

Okay, I think that I have several so let me just think about it. Let me see
if I can name them first and we can come back to them. One is making
perhaps a blurring between trusting your parent and trustworthiness, and I
can say more what I mean about that. Another is, blurring the issue of
forgiveness and trust, which are two different things. And I think the
other is that the solution lies in trusting your spouse rather than
becoming more discerning around trustworthiness and being more awake if
you’re the one that’s betrayed. So a lot of times you’re looking for the
betraying partner to answer that question for you, and there’s often work
that the one who is betrayed needs to do for himself or herself to be more
capable of an intimate relationship, and I can say what I mean about all
those things. Those are the ones that come to mind, there may be more.

Andrea:

Yeah, okay. So let’s go back to the difference between trusting your
partner, the responsibility of being trustworthy. Tell us more about that.

Jennifer:

Well, a lot of times what happens with couples is when it’s become exposed
or revealed that one has betrayed the shared, even if implicit, contract of
the marriage, of the partnership, that the focus gets on trusting the one
who was untrustworthy. So the betraying partner is like, “Do you trust me?
When are you ever going to trust me?” It’s kind of like as soon as you stop
questioning me, then we’re going to be good. And there’s often that idea
rather than whether or not the betraying partner has really confronted who
they are and become a more honest person, a more trustworthy person. It’s
easier to be like, “When are you going to get over your hurt and pain and
not see me as the worst person?” As opposed to, “My spouse is going to have
their reaction to this and they’re going to have their own crisis. Who am
I? And am I going to deal with who I have become or how I’ve operated in
this marriage? And am I going to address myself?”

Andrea:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jennifer:

And that’s easy to get away from if you don’t want to deal with who you are
and you want to instead just get the reflected sense of self managed, get
your spouse to see you like they used to look at you. And so that’s an easy
focus, but it’s a wrong headed one. And then I think it’s similar that the
person that’s betrayed is often saying, “I don’t trust, I don’t trust,”
kind of like it’s a character flaw on their part sometimes, rather than
well you might have very good reasons for not trusting and trusting right
now would be a bad idea because your spouse has just exposed that they’re
willing to lie to you, they’re willing to deceive you. And that’s something
you need to integrate into your map of who your partner is. And that
doesn’t mean your spouse isn’t capable of changing or addressing herself or
himself, but that’s something that you want to, this issue of trust is not
a virtue, trustworthiness is. And there’s also a distinction to be made
between having confidence in another person and their capacity to grow and
change versus trusting them. Trusting them is, “I see that you are living
up to what you say.” So you can love somebody and care about them but still
not trust them, because their behavior and what they say about their
behavior do not align.

Andrea:

Thank you.

Jennifer:

And you can ask for any clarification, I know I’m saying a lot there. So if
there’s anything that’s, yeah.

Andrea:

No, it’s perfect. So something I see a lot is this, I’m sure you see this
all the time too. Is like on the side of the betrayer, for like of a better
word, the betrayer is wanting to put the burden on the other person of,
“Well, why can’t you just trust me? When are you going to stop asking me?”
And then I work with the women for the most part, I actually have a couple
male clients, but mostly with women, and they go into this sense of, “Is
there something wrong with me that I don’t feel settled?” But then they
feel guilty for wanting to know more. What would you [inaudible] speaking
for both parties in the relationship?

Jennifer:

Sure. So what I would say is that often in infidelity, these are often two
people who are operating from a reflected sense of self. Most of humanity
is, so look, everyone’s in good company here. But often that’s the issue
that’s playing itself out in the marriage. So what I mean by that is often
the person that goes to another partner while married is angry about the
validation they don’t get from their spouse, either emotional or sexual,
and they find somebody else with whom they can get this albeit cheap
validation, but they can get that approval, that desire, that
acknowledgement from. And in defense of somebody who does that, it is very
hard and painful to be in a marriage where you don’t feel like you are
acknowledge or understood or received, and so it can certainly be a
tempting idea that you’re going to get it elsewhere, something that you
really want. And so often times when a person is unfaithful or goes and
gets that external validation, when the marriage comes into crisis it’s
easy for them to go and want that same reflected sense of self now from
their marriage partner and now it’s harder than ever to get.

On the other side, the person that’s been betrayed is also often operating
from this reflected sense of self, and the question is, often a part of it
is their anger and all of that, but also, “Is it me? Was it about me? And
is the issue that I’m not enough? Is it that I wasn’t fulfilling you?” And
so I think it’s always worthy to look at your role in a marriage dynamic,
which is different than saying anyone’s every responsible for their spouses
behavior because we are always ultimately responsible for the choices that
we make. But we may be part of a context in which a spouse made a decision
and so there is this balance of, what is my puncture to my sense of self
and I’m actually taking on way more than is in fact mine and not in a
valuable way? And is there something here that my conscious knows I need to
address or deal with about the role I played in the bad marriage that has
now gone into crisis?

And that’s a different question, that’s about taking responsibility for
yourself in an honest way, not out of a desire to have control over what
you don’t have control over. There’s plenty of perfectly desirable partners
whose spouses still cheat on them. So it doesn’t mean, “Oh, I brought this
on myself.” But is there something I do need to deal with and is this
coming from the best in me or is it coming from my desire or fear that I’m
basically insufficient and this is the evidence? When you’re in that fear,
again there’s a distinction between I want to know what happens because I
want to know who I’m married to and I want to know how he or she made the
choices that they made because it’s a way of mapping who they are. Versus,
was she prettier than me? That’s more of this reflected sense of self and
there’s no solution in it. You can’t compete with an affair partner because
an affair partner isn’t real life. And so to try to compete with it isn’t a
way to set yourself up to feel insufficient, nor should you compete with
it. It’s not real life, it’s a validation seeking context that’s devoid of
the realities of real life, of the flaws of having to negotiate together,
having to collaborate together, and so it’s an escape hatch or a loop hole
in the system, or least one that one can imagine will be that.

Andrea:

Yep, perfect. Thank you, thank you. So, when we think of infidelity, just
infidelity has a negative connotation right? There are assumptions about
it, and you hear people, “Oh, if my spouse ever did this and this, I would
be out. For sure.” And part of the reason why I am doing what I’m doing is
because I had my own experience in my first marriage and learned a lot. And
what I learned, one of the things that I learned and one of the things that
I see all the time is that it’s not as simple as it sounds. And another
huge piece that I want to ask you about is, I think that we have this
notion that people who participate, who participate in various forms of
infidelity are just bad or weak. I want to hear your take on that, what do
you think?

Jennifer:

Yeah, well first of all, we have big reactions to infidelity. Both because
if we are the one betrayed how hurtful that would be, but also in part
maybe because we distrust ourselves a bit or we acknowledge we could be
tempted. So society has big reactions to infidelity, but lots of people are
unfaithful. And it comes back to this reflected sense of self issue.
Marriage is, a lot of us get married with the idea that we’re locking
somebody in who’s going to just sit around and say how lucky they are. And
there might be one person out there who’s had that, but for the rest of us,
it can be one insult after another in terms of just waking up to yourself
in a marriage and what it’s not going to provide for you in many respects.
And so that’s not an easy process. And how honestly one handles that, how
willing one is to confront themselves, it takes tremendous courage.

And on the other hand, your sexuality does not shut off when you get
married, you continue to have sexual feelings that may not all be directed
at your spouse. You continue to be attractive to others. And so you are
making a decision regularly around fidelity, it’s not a one time decision,
it’s a consistent and regular decision. And when you can get that easy
validation and you’re in a conflict with your spouse at home, okay well not
only does it just feel good, but there’s also some biochemistry that’s at
work there too. When you fall in love, the dopamine and when you first fell
in love with your spouse, you just are like, “I’m going to be happy
forever. Everything is amazing. The sky is blue, everything’s funnier.”
Well, you can have those feelings with a co-worker, and it’s distorting of
judgment, it feels extraordinarily hopeful.

You come home and then your spouse is like, “Why are you late? Where were
you? What about the kids?” You come home to a variety of criticisms often
that are deserved, but nonetheless don’t feel good. So I guess my point is,
I don’t have a simple minded judgment about it personally because there is
real forces on our natural man response in life to pressure for infidelity.
And so true monogamy is a courageous reality, and can offer enormous
benefit if you bring your best self and are partnered with someone who
brings their most courageous self. However, for the normal human
experience, there’s a lot to push you away from it. And a lot of people
want the security of a marriage, they don’t want their spouse to be
unfaithful, but they want to have the validation outside plus the security.
And a lot of people are trying to negotiate that through dishonesty.

Andrea:

Perfectly said, thank you. Yeah, I think that you’re right. Just noticing
all of the different, even the normalizing of certain behaviors in the
culture that we live in can be a pole. Some of the things in society that
are deemed as acceptable, normal, and how they can play on our desire. Our
desire for validation, for all of those things that we’re wired for.

Jennifer:

That’s right. And I think just one more thought as you’re saying that, I
think especially in religious culture there’s a lot of focus on who you
should be, on responsibility, on keeping your sexuality tamped down. And
that the good people are the dutiful ones. Well, that’s true,
responsibility matters and living in ways that serve others matters. But
often times, the way we’re inculturated is so heavy handed that there’s no
sense of freedom. And sexuality is very much linked to a sense of freedom.
So often times, couples collude in a marriage that’s devoid of freedom and
of playfulness because it’s so entrapped by shoulds and responsibility and
dutifulness and how you look in the community. And there’s no play,
freedom, joy, belonging to yourself. You kind of feel like you’ve given
your life over to every other responsibility.

And if their partner can hold the idea of freedom, freedom from that
responsibility, freedom to be yourself. Because you can be freer with them
because you may never see them again and you don’t have a mortgage and kids
with them. And so it’s an immature version and an immature split. And by
immature I’m not trying to insult, I’m saying quite literally
developmentally if you haven’t learned how to really be yourself and be in
your marriage, this will feel tempting because the affair gives the promise
of freedom. And we all want to be responsible, but we want to be free too,
we don’t want to feel like our life is shackled by demands from everyone
else.

And so that’s often a part of the complicit marriage is one in which it
sort of looks good, but there’s no room for realness there, and that makes
infidelity or resentment highly likely.

Andrea:

Yeah, so marriage is where maybe you check all the boxes of all the things.
Remembering dates and coming home for dinner on time and all the different
things while seriously lacking actually intimacy [crosstalk]

Jennifer:

Yeah. Intimacy and passion and aliveness, something that we all really
want. And often because we want security also, we will trade out that real
sense of choice and intimacy for a role based marriage, a safe marriage.
Even I work with people who kind of were complicit in a low sexuality
marriage because they wanted something that felt safer and familial and
dutiful because it would allow them in a way to get away from a part of
themselves they’re afraid of. But again, then an affair seems to hold the
key to something you’ve shut down, but almost invariably will blow up your
life. If there’s anything that’s been an insurance policy for me against
having an affair is seeing what happens for people because it’s so costly.

Andrea:

Yep. I want to backtrack to something you just said about using certain
behaviors to hide from ourselves. So you were [crosstalk] context about
sexuality and marriage, and I’ve worked with a lot of women who they’re
often in childbearing years, where their bodies are physiologically doing
different things than they were when they first got married. And sometimes
the partner involved will use that as, “Well, you have changed, you this
and that, you this and that.” But I want to hear for the women, how do we
sometimes use our own sexuality to hide?

Jennifer:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah for sure. Well, some men make that easy, I will
say that. And if you’ve grown up in a very patriarchal family or faith or
way of thinking, it can be easy to use dutifulness to mask who you are, in
part because you don’t trust that you will be loved, that you will be
chosen, that you will be actually related to as an equal human being. So
while there’s messaging often in patriarchal institutions that women’s
sexuality exists for men’s sake, that women can hide even from themselves
their own awareness of their sexuality, of their desire, of their
authenticity, of their deep sensual nature, really. Because it feels unwise
to get in touch with that in a system that’s afraid of it, in a system that
if I just reinforce the man and make sure he provides for me economically,
I can then have the babies that I value having and I can just keep this
from getting anywhere dangerous. And that’s a very easy instinctive move to
make, even though it’s unwittingly self betraying and complicit in a system
in which you don’t thrive.

So the retreat that you went to, the Art of Desire course and so on, is
very much about waking people up to that system and their unwitting
complicity in it because, now bring me back to your question, what do I say
to women, how they hide, right. So, there can be this, when I say unwitting
in mean you literally kind of get inducted and you’re just doing it even
though something feels off inside you, something feels dead inside,
something feels like you are resentful but you can’t quite figure out why
because you should be happy. But in order to really be treated like an
equal, you have to operate like an equal. And in order to really operate
like an equal, it requires exposure and it requires strength. And to have
both is to claim your sexuality.

Now, by claiming your sexuality, I mean that you are at peace with
yourself, your femininity, your femaleness, your embodiment. That you are
not trying to be something for someone else or be what the system says you
should be, but that you are at peace with the gift of your sexuality and
the gift of your embodiment and the gift of who you are, whoever that is
and whoever that’s expressed. And that you start being true to that, not to
bulldoze other people, but you’re true to yourself to bring who you
genuinely are to your interpersonal relationships. Living your life, living
it honestly, not living for other people’s approval, living for your own
approval in a context of relationships. And that sounds selfish to people,
and I don’t mean it in a simple minded way, I mean that you live up to your
best self and that you expect yourself to love as well as you would be
loved. That you are accepting of your sexuality and your imperfectness, as
much as you would expect a loving partner to do the same towards you. And
so that takes a lot more courage than to sit around and just resent our
spouse for the love we don’t get and the love they don’t offer us, rather
than who am I really in this marriage and how am I even in relationship to
myself?

Andrea:

Yes. Now, something that I think can be an obstacle that I would love for
you to speak about here is in particular with sexual infidelity, with that
particular brand of infidelity. I think for some women who are trying to do
this work, do this work of really seeing themselves, knowing themselves,
and that courageous work of it feels so risky. It feels so risky, like I’m
going to be seen, I’m going [crosstalk] be seen. And so I can see how, and
I’m going to ask you this, how would you encourage women who are doing this
work, who have been hurt in that very way, in a sexual [crosstalk] where
the message that they’re receiving is, “You were not quite enough in this
way,” that’s how they’re interpreting it. But they have this sincere,
honest desire to develop. How would you [crosstalk]

Jennifer:

Well, I have a couple maybe three ways of thinking about that. One is that
to see weakness for weakness, so it hurts when someone rejects you, but if
they’ve rejected you out of their own weakness, out of their own limited
self, out of their own indulgence, why would I, and again I’m saying this
like it’s super rational, I understand that you have to work with your
emotional self that just can easily fall into the invalidation. So I’m not
saying it like, “Hey, don’t be an idiot.” I understand that it’s hard to
not accept sometimes the low opinion someone seems to have of us. But I
think that why would I turn judgment about who I am over to somebody who’s
self absorbed enough or limited enough in their development that this is
the choice they would make?

So if I’m going to turn the question of who I am over to anyone, do it to a
wise, sound person, who really can see me. Now, that may be God, that might
be a helpful friend, that might be a good counselor or coach. So you want
to be thoughtful about if someone has thought ill of me, what was driving
their thinking? And if it is a wise person who is offering some
invalidation, then what is it that I do need to look at in myself for me to
be more at peace with myself? Not to earn favor with others, but for myself
to be more in line with my best self and to be more at peace with who I am.

So it’s an opportunity. When you don’t get the validation you want, as hard
as that is, it is an opportunity to grow out of such a dependency on it,
that’s the one gift in it. And so I think questioning the source of that
invalidation, looking at is there a pattern of seeing myself poorly? Did I
grow up in a family where I was often treated as a lesser? A lot of times
affairs happen that the one who’s in the one up position is the one who
goes and has the affair often, it’s not always that way. But they sort of
see themselves as superior, they see themselves as entitled. And the
betrayed often grew up in a family where he or she was treated as less
then, and so they go and replicate the pattern by marrying somebody who
thinks they’re better than and more entitled.

And so it can often come and puncture the very wound that allowed them to
be in that dynamic in the first place. Again, it’s like learning how to
swim by getting flung in to the deep end, and it’s not easy. But it’s also,
when I see people often go for their strength because they’re going to
drowned otherwise. And so a lot of times in crisis is when the brain is
most flexible and most able to find something they didn’t even know was
there for themselves, and to find an inner confidence and an inner
dependency not so externally focused.

And I think your view of God, if it’s evolved enough to be, I had one more
thought, so to rely on an understanding of God in which God is on your
side, meaning God wants your strength, wants your capacity. You need to be
careful that it’s not a misogynistic God or a cruel God because a lot of
times people interpret a God from their own family of origin, and so their
notion of God is not particularly helpful.

There are a lot of untrustworthy people, there are people that do indecent
things. But don’t let one indecent person define all men or all women.
Don’t let one indecent person become the measure of what’s possible in
human relationships. And while you want to be awake to that and you want to
know it’s real and you want to think about, “How do I get hooked into
people like that?”, you don’t want that to define all possibilities. And
one way to do that is by being awake and trusting your own judgment more,
but also by becoming a more trustworthy person yourself. That is, when
sometimes people say, “I don’t believe in love,” well it says something
about how they’ve been treated and what’s happened to them and they come by
that honestly often. But it also says something about themselves, they
don’t believe in love because they also do not love. And so they are in a
system of use, people use each other, people try to extract something for
themselves from each other, but if I want to live differently than that, I
need to also grow out of that system as well and grow into a person capable
of loving myself and loving others because I will then attract somebody who
will operate in the same frame with me.

Andrea:

Perfect, thank you. Okay, I have two questions. One, one thing that I hear
a lot and that I really, really grappled with a lot, struggled with this a
lot, is how did I miss it? How did I not know? And that can undermine your
own trust in yourself moving forward, right?

Jennifer:

Absolutely.

Andrea:

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on that.

Jennifer:

Yes, it’s an extremely important question because that’s the issue of
you’re not just in crisis with your spouse’s trustworthiness, but you’re in
crisis with your own trustworthiness. Like, “Am I able to keep myself
safe?” Because a lot of times this is kind of going back to the earlier
stuff, we’re looking to others to make us safe. It’s the wrong idea. And
especially people that aren’t making you safe, you don’t want to look to
them to make you safe. You need to know that, “I can navigate a world that
is not safe.” And the way that you get better at that is by getting wiser
and more awake. So the question of, “How as I asleep at the switch? How did
I not see it?” Again, you want to do this from the best in you, not the
worst in you. Not like, “Oh, I deserved it because I was so clueless,” not
that. But, “What are the signals that I pushed away?”

Okay first of all, was this person just so sociopathic that I’ve got to
have some compassion for myself. But if I was partnered with somebody
that’s sociopathic, why? What was it that I thought they were going to give
me? What was the thing that I thought I was going to get by being on
connection? What seduced me about them? And that’s a very, very important
question, because often you’re trying to answer something about yourself by
offering over trust that isn’t deserved. And the more you can see that
vulnerability in you, the more awake you can be to not do it again or not
repeat it.

And then often the questions of, what were signals or, sometimes I see
people when they actually find out their spouse was unfaithful, they feel
some strange relief because they’re like, “I kept thinking I was crazy. I
kept pushing that signal away and then I would be like don’t be so
jealous.” And they would rather have seen themselves as flawed than
actually trusting their own instincts and their own perceptions. So
learning to not push those away so readily and to ferret them out. I
[inaudible], I would never be in a marriage where I’m just 100% and I’m
never asking any questions, because I think a good way to be in marriage is
you’re just tracking, “Do things always line up?” And if they don’t, you
would go towards that misalignment right away to understand yourself or
your spouse, that’s a part of being in a collaborative partnership.

Andrea:

Yeah, I can speak for myself here with myself, is that there were things I
did not want to see because it meant I had to do something about it, that
terrified me. [crosstalk] so threatening and so scary that it was easier to
just look away to, “Oh, Andrea you’re just probably making it up.” Like
really going blind, just going blind.

Jennifer:

Yep, absolutely. That’s right.

Andrea:

And so yeah, I think that yeah, whatever choice, which this is going to
lead me to my next question, whatever choice of staying or leaving, like do
I stay do I leave? This work of coming awake, seeing [crosstalk] thing.

Jennifer:

That’s right, will deeply inform that choice, that’s right.

Andrea:

Yes, exactly. Which takes me to my next question. This is [crosstalk]
people want to know and feel really pulled about is, is it possible to have
a great marriage after infidelity? Can it really be done? Can it really be
done?

Jennifer:

It is possible, but I would say it’s rare. And the reason why it’s rare is
not because once broken it can never be repaired and you just duct tape it
back together kind of thing, it’s whether or not a couple, and Esther Perel
talks about this, the sort of differences in how people handle infidelity,
but is this a couple that’s both going to use the crisis to confront
themselves and to grow themselves into people who are more capable of trust
for themselves and with the other, trustworthiness with the other? And grow
themselves into people more capable of living honestly and intimately.

So if that’s a crisis that allows you to become more solid as a person, a
couple can grow out of it. Sometimes one person will do it and the other
will not do it, often times nobody wants to do it and just continue to be a
victim of their spouse, rather than looking at what they can learn from the
crisis and what they need to address in themselves. When you have two
people that are willing to do that, I don’t meant to say that it’s easy,
but the couple creates a narrative ultimately that this was a crisis that
gave us what we have now, and that they can honestly account for it,
there’s not pretense. And they see it as when they came into their better
self is through that loss and through that. A lot of times we’re doing
things in the world that we can’t see until the world acts back on us in a
crisis, and then we see ourselves better. And as painful as that is, it’s a
gift or it’s a potential gift if you use it to really evolve into someone
more solid and stronger. So it’s when couples do that.

Andrea:

Yes, I actually did a podcast several episodes ago, I talked about Esther
Perel and her talking, if I’m remember the words, it was like the
explorers, I want to say, like that are willing to go and create something
new. Like that was marriage number one, this is a completely different
marriage in that it’s all about both of you being willing to do your work
to build something far more honest than ever was before, right?

Jennifer:

That’s right. That’s right, yes.

Andrea:

A simple way that I like to think about this, this false concept of
thinking, “If I just leave, then it’ll be better. If I just leave, I’ll be
better.” And I’ve learned this from one of my mentors and she’s a therapist
and coach, her name’s Aimee Gianni, and she explains it this way of taking
two balls of yarn and we collude and we get into this tangled mess, can’t
see whose is whose, can’t see it. You have this false notion that, “Well,
if I just leave, just walk away, then everything will be fine.” And it’s
easy to be tempted by that, like I’ll be fine, I’ll heal, I won’t have to
be around this person all the time. But what I’ve learned from Aimee is the
real work is unraveling your side. Disentangling and pulling yourself
apart, and if both partners are willing to do that, you can come back
together and create something stronger and beautiful and intentional.

Jennifer:

Yes, absolutely. So if we don’t use crisis to see ourselves more clearly,
we’re doomed to repeat it. It’s just because we know how to relate in that
way and if we think, “Oh, it’s just the wrong person.” You’re setting
yourself up to get the wrong person to attach to again. And people are good
at knowing the vulnerabilities of their spouse or their partner and they
know how to exploit those vulnerabilities to stay blind to themselves. So
when you were talking about your own crisis and how you’re kind of waking
up to yourself, it’s very easy to have the unfaithful spouse keep pushing
on those vulnerabilities to keep you in this self doubting, questioning
place, because it keeps them in a kind of control. And so if you don’t see
those and get stronger, you’re kind of open season for another person that
would do that.

Andrea:

Exactly, it comes with you. And that’s where when people say to me, “Well,
how is it fair that I am working so hard, I’m doing all this work and I
don’t see them,” and I believe this to my core, there is no downside to
this work. There’s no downside because you do this work and you get to
bring it with you. Staying married or not is actually, in my humble
opinion, irrelevant to [crosstalk] this work that no one takes from you.
It’s yours, you get to keep it.

Jennifer:

Right. Because my goal in working with couples, and I think of working with
couples as not about trying to force a marriage to stay together, but using
the experience of the couple to understand and develop the individual
because I want people to be bringing their best selves to their lives
because it helps them to either create a good marriage or leave a bad one.
And you need that strength to do it, to do either.

Andrea:

Yes. So we’re running out of time, but I have one more question that I
think will be really helpful for my listeners. And this is around triggers,
managing triggers as they are moving through this growth. They’re moving
through it and out of nowhere a song will come on or whatever, how do you
help your clients manage triggers?

Jennifer:

Yeah, well I have what may seem like an un-compassionate response to it,
which is we kind of live in a culture currently where avoidance of triggers
is the way to be safe, and the problem is it keeps you weak. First of all,
the world is not going to be safe and it’s not going to provide safety for
you, and who exactly is the entity that’s going to provide that safety? You
need to be strong enough to live in a fractured world and a world that will
upset you at times. And so the way I think about triggers is, you deserve
compassion for the fact that something is overwhelming, something creates
and pressures regression in you, and that’s real. So I’m not in any way
suggesting that’s not real and that it’s not really hard. But the best way
is to keep subjecting yourself to what is hard to develop your capacity to
handle it. So if there’s a song on the radio that reminds you of when your
spouse had the affair, I would say if you don’t want to be triggered
anymore, keep listening to it.

Andrea:

Over and over.

Jennifer:

Over and over. And you could be reading a mantra about I’m worthy, I
matter, I did not deserve it, and you can bring your mind to its higher
self. You can also do it, and I strongly recommend it, do it in doses.
Like, “Okay, I’m not just going to turn this off and cry, I’m going to see
if I can turn it off and pull from my stronger self. But I’m going to get
[inaudible] of that recording because I’m not going to live in my life
recording of my partner’s bad choices and afraid of indulgent things people
do. And as much as it hurts, I’m going to master this because I owe that to
myself.” So it’s not done out of, “I’m so bad because I’m triggered,” not
that. But that, “I don’t want to live my life reactively and I can handle
hard things and so I’m going to in a wise way subject myself to what’s hard
until I’ve developed the capacity.

Andrea:

That’s so powerful, such a powerful, powerful place to come from. Instead
of backing away, ducking away, just we’re going in, let’s do this.

Jennifer:

That’s right. And people coming out of trauma in their marriages, trauma in
childhood, that’s a very similar path, and again I’m not minimizing what
some people are up against, but it’s about not that I should develop my
sexuality because then my spouse will like me better, not that. But do I
want to claim it for me? Claim my strength, claim it back from the abusive
person. And so I’m going towards this hard thing where I get reactive
because I’m doing it from my own capacity. It also channels the courage, it
channels your ability to cope much better because the meaning of it is
about your strength and your freedom.

Andrea:

Yes. Instead of the weak standpoint of, “I need to be afraid and dodge the
bullets and take cover.”

Jennifer:

Yes, exactly.

Andrea:

Wow, that’s so powerful. I love that. Thank you so much. I wish we had all
the time in the world. I enjoyed this conversation so much. I know that it
will help a lot of people. We have touched on so many important things, so
thank you so much.

Jennifer:

You’re welcome, Andrea.

Andrea:

I admire your work so much and just kind of want to be you when I grow up.
I just love you so much.

Jennifer:

Thank you, you’re so kind.

Andrea:

You’ve been a real force for good for me personally, and I know that others
in my audience will love to learn more about you. So could you tell them
where they can find you?

Jennifer:

Sure. So my website is just my slightly complicated name, which is,
finlayson-fife.com, and there’s a hyphen between Finlayson and Fife. So
finlayson-fife.com, and on there you can find my podcast archive which is
interviews like this that I’ve done with a variety of people on a variety
of topics from spirituality to sexuality to intimacy, infidelity, all of
that. And then I also have online courses that are there. I did these
courses with an LDS audience in mind, but they’re really applicable to
anyone, just like this podcast, applicable to anyone that wants to develop
their capacity for more emotional and sexual intimacy. So I have individual
courses of self and sexual development for men and women and then couple’s
courses. And then I am also just about to start my own podcast called room
for two and I’ll be doing coaching with couples anonymously. But a lot of
the principles and ideas that you hear me talk about in my podcast archive,
you then can see me putting into action in a couples coaching session to
help them see where they’re self betraying or not being fair to their
partner, and so on. So that’s going to be available in the fall.

Andrea:

I’m so excited about that, awesome. Can’t wait. Okay, well thank you so
much for your time and for your expertise and I just appreciate it so much.
So thank you for being here.

Jennifer:

My pleasure, thank you.

Andrea:

Thank you for listening to the Heal From Infidelity Podcast. If you would
like to be kept in the know about upcoming free classes, new podcast
episodes and other ways of working with me, go subscribe to my weekly
email. You can subscribe at andreagiles.com/lies/about/infidelity/. Again,
it’s andreagiles.com/life/about/infidelity/. I will see you next time.

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Hi. I’m Andrea Giles and I am so glad you are here.

Not many years back I found myself in a life I didn’t recognize, feeling confused, sad, and so small. My “forever” marriage was in shambles, and I didn’t know if I could ever trust my own judgment again.  Through my faith and some great tools, I was able to completely change my life and find myself again. Now it is my mission to help others who are right where I was. Click the button below to read more about my story.

Why was I not enough?

Does this question torment you? It did me too until I learned that the actions of my spouse had nothing to do with me, my worth, or my lovability. Click on the link below for a free guide that will teach you the 3 biggest lies about infidelity and why they are keeping you stuck.

Hi. I’m Andrea Giles and I am so glad you are here.

Not many years back I found myself in a life I didn’t recognize, feeling confused, sad, and so small. My “forever” marriage was in shambles, and I didn’t know if I could ever trust my own judgment again.  Through my faith and some great tools, I was able to completely change my life and find myself again. Now it is my mission to help others who are right where I was. Click the button below to read more about my story.

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