How Can An Affair Be Defined As A Life of Truth?

It may seem strange to hear someone attribute their affair to wanting to “live a life of truth” but that’s exactly what John Edwards’ mistress did on a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey. “Our hearts were louder than the minds,” is how Rielle Hunter explained her decision to have an affair with a presidential candidate whose wife has cancer. Additionally, Hunter insisted that she wasn’t a homewrecker because the Edwards’ marriage was over long before she got involved and that she isn’t sure whether she hurt John’s wife Elizabeth. According to the New York Times, Hunter justified the affair:

[Hunter] said she didn’t regret the affair, and instead painted the whole sordid scandal as a perhaps necessary stage in Mr. Edwards’s “process” of self actualization. “I followed my heart, and I believe it was the right thing to do … I was supporting him in his process, and his intentions never wavered. I knew that he wanted — he just had a really unique way of getting there — to live a life of truth.”

Could Edwards’ Relationship Be Saved?

Most people would look at this situation and make the determination that there is definitely something wrong here, whether or not you believe that John Edwards‘ relationship could have been saved. While I am in the camp that believes just about any marriage can be salvaged, hearing someone justify an affair should lead us to examine what happened in the communication breakdown of this relationship and how we can keep something similar from happening in our own lives.

If, as Hunter says, Edwards’ marriage was over before she stepped on the scene, why had this deterioration not been discussed by the married couple? Of course it’s not as simple as that – talking about tough topics is, well, tough! But I believe that when you commit to a relationship you commit to a level of honesty and integrity out of respect for the other person, no matter what life throws your way. Here are some tools I discuss in my book, Make Up Don’t Break Up, and use with my patients to help them in their pursuit of building (or rebuilding) a healthy relationship.

How To Save Your Marriage

• Learn how to fight fair: It’s a misperception that fighting is bad; a relationship without passion enough to launch arguments likely won’t last for the long haul. However, arguing in the wrong way can also drive a relationship into the ground.

• “Smart-heart”-to-heart: I encourage having a weekly ten minute open discussion with a figurative emotional “bullet proof vest” to protect from hurt, anger and defensiveness, as you listen and echo back what you heard.

• Be aware of your Biochemical Craving for Connection: we all need to connect in a deep and meaningful way with our partners. But some people have exaggerated feelings of stress, separation and loss that cause them to seek out illicit behavior in order to fill this craving. If you’re in this situation, you can avoid a lot of heartache by identifying it and dealing with it early on.

• Know your Imago: When looking to fulfill your “imago” when it comes to a mate, subconsciously, you’re looking for someone that will “fill in the holes” left by your experience growing up and your parents – or to adults who were formative in your childhood – and you’ll be attracted to these traits right away on a subconscious level. Ideas that you’re carrying around from your parents and from your childhood WILL affect your relationship. Don’t forget, however, that you have control over HOW they affect it.


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