The Book of Dust« an older post

NOT "Just Friends"

Book Notes

This is a hard book review to write and a somewhat difficult book to admit to reading. People will make all sorts of assumptions about the book, about the topic, about people who must be involved if someone is reading this book, about me.

To which I would like to comment, you have it all wrong. If you don't believe you have it all wrong, then accept you have about 91% of it wrong, and you'd be 91% closer to being right.

This is a book about affairs, the infidelity kind not the state or paper kind. The book describes how they happen, how we don't recognize the slippery slope of relationships, how affairs differ in our society than they did from a century ago, how to recover from said infidelities, and how a relationship can survive.

The process isn't pretty, it isn't fast, and it isn't easy.

It is, apparently, doable.

I've read this book a couple times now. Please don't read more into the fact that I read it to assume anything. The book is about recognizing the differences between people, setting boundaries, understanding different approaches to relationships, and, let's admit it, accepting losses.

Those losses don't need to be physical object lossses, they can be the loss of youth, the loss of a love, the loss of opportunity for adventures, the loss of a fantasy of the perfect partner, the loss of a dream, the loss of comfort, the loss of trust, the loss of a belief about another person.

So many losses, but also opportunities for a better relationship with a chosen partner.

Emotional infidelity is a big part of this book and is part of affairs. It is nice to have someone who listens, who makes you feel like the most important person in the world. How sad that we don't all have that person, that we can't always be that person for the one we love most.

I recommend this book strongly for anyone who has been betrayed, has betrayed, or helped a betrayal. It provides a good lesson in communication and building trust, even in a relationship that hasn't been completely broken.

In the new infidelity, secret emotional intimacy is the first warning sign of impending betrayal.
Page 2

... if you both genuinely want to heal and are ready to do the serious work of repair.
Page 10

As I tell my clients, the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence only because we don’t have to mow it.
Page 18

Men and women tend to view friendship differently. For women, friendship is being vulnerable, open, self-disclosing, and emotionally supportive. For men, friendship is doing things together, side by side. When women treat men friends like their women friends, the emotional intimacy that is natural for a woman can send her male friend a signal she didn’t intend. Because husbands tend to save their emotional intimacy for their wives, when they do let themselves become open and vulnerable to another woman it is much more likely to jeopardize the marriage.
Page 32

Some people are born serene and nonreactive, whereas others come into this world prickly and hypersensitive.
Page 97

Hello every man I have ever been close to, meet me.

Want to know my type? "Serene and nonreactive."

Unfaithful partners should make it clear that they take responsibility for the injuries they have caused, but they do not have to accept days on end of verbal abuse.
Page 123

Don’t wait for your partner to make the first move. To give up now would be like buying high and selling low.
Page 162

Recount for yourselves examples of productive, caring interactions you’ve had with each other in the past. To make it safe to explore your past together, though, avoid comparing your glorious past with your miserable present: you don’t want remembering to become a chronicle of how much you’ve lost.
Page 165

Look ahead to the future. Think about what your lives together could be like in five years, after you have healed from this trauma.
Page 165

Don’t make the mistake of choosing righteousness over happiness, although the impulse to do so is understandable.
Page 167

Most people give what they wish to receive, rather than what the other person really desires. All this time, you may have been giving not what your partner wants but what you want.
Page 168

Avoidance: You may resist getting into the deep waters of the affair to avoid dealing with painful subjects. Perhaps your usual pattern is to avoid anything that creates conflict. If that’s the case, you can use this crisis to become more assertive by telling the whole story and facing up to your partner’s negative reactions.
Page 200

Before embarking on this exploration, you need to assure your partner that you will not use any new information as a weapon.
Page 202

If you’re worried about how your answers affect your partner, ask him or her “How is this information going to help you to heal?” Then, answer truthfully.
Page 203

It hurts, but you want to understand. The betrayed partner might say, “I know it will take time to get over the loss of the friendship you had with [the affair partner].” The unfaithful partner might say, “I understand that it will take a long time before you will be able to trust me again because of the lies I told you.”
Page 204

Information that quells the obsessive need to know is healing, but information that seems to fuel obsessiveness is retraumatizing and should be avoided.
Page 205

These projections lead to the error of assumed similarity. When we engage in the error of assumed similarity, we assume that something has the same meaning for our partner that it has for us.
Page 207

This is why "Let me repeat that back to you" is so important in these conversations.

The following ten questions will guide your exploration of the circumstances of the infidelity and the meaning behind it.

1. What did you say to yourself that gave you permission to get involved?

2. After the first time you had sex, did you feel guilty? Asking about guilt reveals the internalized values of the unfaithful partner.

3. How could it go on so long if you knew it was wrong?

4. Did you think about me at all?

5. What did you share about us?

6. Did you talk about love or about a future together?

7. What did you see in the affair partner?

8. What did you like about yourself in the affair? How were you different?

9. Were there previous infidelities or opportunities, and how was this time similar or different?

10. Did you have unprotected sex?

.. [some are so] disgusted with themselves after their first extramarital sex that they get together again with the affair partner as soon as possible: another dose of the aphrodisiac offers them a temporary escape from their self-loathing.

Unfaithful spouses often appear to be addicted to their lovers. They fail in their efforts to end the affair time and time again, pulled back by a magnetic force they can’t seem to resist. Only with great determination are they able to break the spell.

If the affair ended abruptly, the attachment will be harder to break than if the affair died a natural death. It’s easier to put a relationship behind you if you’re the one who made the decision to leave.
Page 210

It is less likely that an infidelity will happen again when the involved partner owns up to having been a full participant.
Page 212

In fact, many betrayed partners are astounded to see affair partners looking rather ordinary. The appeal of the affair is frequently in the positive mirroring or the sounding board it provides, rather than in the lover’s charisma.
Page 213

A good question for the involved partner is: “What did you experience about yourself in the affair that you would like to experience in the marriage?”
Page 213

You are learning to be together as two hurting people who care about each other and want to understand each other’s pains and fears.
Page 216

When I ask husbands what they would like to change, they frequently answer, “I just want her to be happy.” Husbands report “We had a great week” because they had no conflict.
Page 221

Reasons for infidelity were linked to the type of marriage: an outlet for hostility in “conflict-habituated” marriages, an outlet for boredom in a “passive-congenial” marriage, or the recapture of lost romance in a “devitalized” marriage.
Page 222

Affairs that develop from friendships are usually influenced by emotional intimacy and sexual chemistry rather than by dissatisfaction with marital sex.
Page 222

One of the most frequent requests by husbands is for their wives to initiate sex. However, the partner who is perpetually pressed for sex before he or she senses any personal desire will never have the opportunity to feel enough desire to initiate lovemaking: “If you keep putting food in front of me whether I’m hungry or not, I will never have a chance to develop my own appetite.”
Page 223

Recreational activities: “Golf widow” is an apt description for wives whose husbands leave them to their own devices while they spend leisure time and weekends away from home. When the wives look for ways to fill up their empty time, their loneliness makes them susceptible to someone who values their companionship.
Page 230

There may have been red flags or warning signs during courtship that were ignored. For example, a relationship may have started with trust issues and jealousy or by cheating on previous partners.
Page 231

A couple facing a family crisis can pull together with renewed dedication or withdraw into separate camps. Some partners need to connect and talk things over, whereas others avoid discussions of upsetting topics by pretending they didn’t happen or dealing with them alone. A relationship can become very fractured when there is no healing communication about heart-rending events.
Page 239

People handle grief and loss in different ways. Those who don’t want to bring up painful memories can become estranged.
Page 239

Ignoring the wound is seldom a healing resolution.
Page 240

Creating a marriage that is intimate and safe takes work, just like any other worthwhile human endeavor.
Page 246

[M]arriage is reflected in a variety of assets and deficits.
Page 246

Some couples are bonded because of a high level of understanding, affection, and companionship. Others are distanced by criticism, disrespect, and a failure to enhance each other’s self-esteem.
Page 246

They are not blithely saying that they didn’t do anything wrong; they are explaining why they did something wrong but are attempting to minimize their wrongdoing by giving a reason for their actions.
Page 252

[Those who believe] that nothing justifies extramarital involvement make a special effort to avoid opportunities — even more so if they are feeling vulnerable.
Page 255

One man told me, “On a good day, when things are going well, I am committed to my wife. On a day when things are just okay, I am committed to my marriage. And on a day when things aren’t so great, I satisfy myself by being committed to my commitment.”
Page 255

After a wrongful act, wallowing in self-recrimination can serve as a way to avoid changing your inappropriate behavior. Allow yourself to feel guilty for five minutes only. Then it’s time to take responsibility for reparation.
Page 256

100 percent of the husbands in my clinical practice who were sexually intimate without having intercourse said they were inhibited from further involvement by devotion to spouse and commitment to marriage. My data indicate that women view any type of sexual intimacy (even kissing) as crossing the line, but men are more apt to view sexual intercourse as the place to draw the line.
Page 257

Others are driven to disregard their own principles because their psychological needs are too consuming for a single relationship to satisfy.
Page 259

Partners often turn to affairs to meet needs that are not being satisfied in their marriages.
Page 259

People who are running on empty may unconsciously seek an adrenaline high as a way to escape from an internal void or external stressors. An affair can provide an oasis in the midst of an arid desert or a refuge in a stormy sea. The quest for extramarital excitement can be an attempt to “fix” an internal problem, such as boredom, low self-esteem, or existential angst.
Page 259

To a great extent, how you cope with transitions in your life depends on how you perceive them. Transitions can be times of reflection or times of loss. Birthdays and anniversaries can be occasions to ask where you want to go or times of regret about where you’ve been.
Page 273

Here is the irony: we live in a culture that professes to value monogamy but at the same time undercuts monogamy significantly by glamorizing illicit love affairs and commercializing sexual titillation. This is analogous to the way our society prizes thinness while it pushes junk food.
Page 279

A woman who is caught in an affair is blamed for having loose morals. A woman whose husband is caught in an affair is blamed for not meeting his needs. In reality, this is the opposite of the truth: men tend to have extramarital sex regardless of their satisfaction with the marriage, but women are unlikely to engage in extramarital sex unless they are unhappy.
Page 290

The basic guidelines for healing are the same for the betrayed spouse and the affair partner: once the affair is over, mourn your losses, understand yourself better in the context of the affair, humanize your rival, and get on with your life. You don’t have to see the affair as a story that is confined to perpetrators and victims.
Page 310

There are no winners in the resolution of extramarital triangles—only survivors.
Page 310

In difficult times, we all need to be reminded that insight and strength are born from pain and struggle. Moving forward means letting go of the anger and suffering that keep you tied to the past.
Page 313

Healing takes time. No matter how many times you hear it, it’s still true.
Page 313

Hope had learned that when she was upset about an intrusive thought, she should bring it up in a gentle way without accusing Harold. She knew it was painful and embarrassing for him to recall his shameful behavior.
Page 322

It’s possible to reach a functional level of recovery without forgiveness, but it’s not possible to achieve final healing of yourself or your relationship without forgiveness.
Page 340

• Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.

• Forgiveness is a choice.

• Forgiveness is a process.

• Forgiveness is letting go of obsessiveness, bitterness, and resentment.

• Forgiveness is built on a sincere desire to let go of anger and resentment and a conscious decision to take positive steps to move on with your life.

• Forgiveness is letting go of the pain.

• Forgiveness is letting go of revenge and the need to punish.

Forgiveness frees you from the tyranny of people and events from the past and decreases the likelihood that you will misdirect your anger in other relationships.
Page 341-342

How good it feels to cast yourself as the master of your own life rather than as the victim of circumstances!
Page 342

Waiting too long to forgive can reinforce your hopelessness and despair.
Page 344

It may be hard to understand why betrayed spouses would want to perpetuate suffering by intentionally probing an open wound. Whenever the wound starts to close, they poke it again, ensuring that it doesn’t heal. These betrayed partners are similar to victims of incest and domestic violence who do not permit their psychic wounds to heal.
Page 347

Needless to say, neither partner is ever justified in inflicting cruelty as a reaction to his or her own injury.
Page 349

Seeking Forgiveness

1. Forgive yourself. Stop chastising yourself and learn from your mistakes. You may be unable to forgive your partner if you have not yet forgiven yourself.
Page 350

2. Identify your transgressions. Enumerate what you wish to be forgiven for. Articulate all of the ways you failed to protect the relationship. This is not a confession, but an assumption of personal responsibility.
Page 350

3. Make a heartfelt apology.


If you cannot apologize for having the affair because you view it as a special event in your life, you can apologize for the anguish that your adventure caused your spouse.
Page 351

4. Make a formal request to be forgiven: “Please forgive me.”
Page 351

5. Offer some tangible action to back up your words.
Page 351

Granting Forgiveness

It’s easier to forgive if your partner feels your pain, doesn’t want to hurt you again, and follows words of apology with actions.
Page 352

1. Acknowledge your own pain and express your emotions clearly without yelling or attacking.
Page 352

2. Understand the personal weaknesses and emotional vulnerabilities of your partner.
Page 352

3. Be specific about what you expect and what you cannot tolerate.
Page 352

4. Be specific about what you are forgiving your partner for.
Page 352

5. Perform an overt act of forgiveness verbally, physically, or in writing.
Page 352

6. Stop blaming and start living.
Page 352

One of the greatest fears couples have is that “things will never be the same again.” The reality is that things will never be the same again—no matter how spectacular the recovery and how sincere the apologies. The knots of infidelity are now woven within the threads of your marital quilt.
Page 354

The following checklist will allow you to validate your positive resources and how hard you have worked to get to this point.

• You both have increased clarity about appropriate thresholds in friendships.
• You make sure that all of your friends are friends of the marriage.
• You agree on what commitment and exclusivity mean.
• You can talk together about individual vulnerabilities and danger signs without defensiveness.
• You recognize problems in the marriage that could threaten your commitment.
• You show understanding for each other in everyday interactions.
• Your relationship is a priority that comes before everything and everyone else. If you feel comfortable right now that your partner is not violating your trust, don’t sacrifice the pleasure of today because of what might happen tomorrow.
Page 355

You may have been dealt a hand you didn’t choose.
Page 356

Almost everyone has been scarred to some degree by people and events that have treated them roughly, or even unjustly. The question is: What are you going to do now? Is the memory of your wound going to poison you, or are you going to find a way to use your painful memories to grow beyond the boundaries of your injuries?
Page 356

Betrayed partners who are left behind are often ready to forgive and work through the problems but have no say in the matter. They were powerless to stop the affair, and they end up being powerless to preserve the marriage. Many are abandoned against their wishes and against their values.
Page 357

You miss the physical presence of someone warming up the bed. If you don’t mourn the loss of your mate as a person, you mourn the loss of your dreams of growing old together. You grapple with the loss of identity and self-concept that being married represents.
Page 363

Individuals with a strong commitment to marriage and family can feel embarrassed to present themselves publicly as divorced.
Page 364

In the beginning it’s important to feel whatever anger, bitterness, despondency, or hopelessness there is. But after a while, it’s equally important to ask: Do I want to remain stuck in these events? If I stay stuck in the rage, I become angry and embittered. If I stay stuck in the punishment, I punish myself. If I stay stuck in the hurt, I let my partner continue to control my feelings. By letting that happen, I allow someone else’s offense to become a permanent part of who I am. I limit my own options if I allow myself to wallow in self-pity.
Page 365

As the poet Mary Oliver writes, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Page 378

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