Honesty, secrets and privacy

Honesty, secrets and privacy

In many cases, lying to a husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, takes a lot less energy and effort than telling the truth and starting a fight over every issue that may arise.

When it comes to love and romance, self-deception can be useful because the truth about our close relationships can be difficult to acknowledge.

Out of 7,000 cases in 39 years, I’ve seen only five established first marriages ending in divorce without somebody being unfaithful. Every year I think I’ve seen the sixth, but I wait and sure enough the other man or woman surfaces even though they deny and deny and deny. Frank Pitman

Girls bond by sharing secrets, boys by sharing toys.

Usually, men pursue sexual connection and women pursue emotional connection. In heterosexual couple trouble, women tend to withdraw sexual connection and men tend to withdraw emotional connection. It’s a common couple dance.

An illicit sexual affair is a cauldron for all of it, delivering an endorphin rush directly into the brains of both genders. It gives temporary relief from the couple dance and yet, starts another for three.

Our almost limitless capacity for self-deception will kick in to protect the high of the dance hormones?

Well, that’s one explanation. Choice is a more useful explanation for human behavior in my map of the world. Hormones merely raise the likelihood that under certain circumstances certain behavior will occur. Quote: ‘The Female Brain’ by Louann Brizendine.


The happy couple met through her boyfriend at the time, who is the groom’s former best friend. It took four months to lure her away.

Secrets are opaque – they allow neither communication nor love through the no go zone that surrounds them.

The very lack of illumination indicates that something is missing, something cloaked, which the secret holder is careful to steer the inquirer away from.

Accountability vanishes with a secret. That is the choice point, and the reason they are so cruelly guarded in both private and public domains.

An equal partnership has democratic ideals of openness and accountability. These don’t fit a culture of secrets.

Witnesses at commitment ceremonies are sometimes asked to support the sanctity of the couple’s relationship. Despite those solemn vows and public appearance of togetherness, it is sometimes the ideal couple who reveal to their shocked friends the secrets that have undone them and involving one of those witnesses.

Some friends just don’t want to hear that stuff. You’re dropped off their dinner party list.

Others, being more righteous stay to judge and to ‘help’.

Both are the dead wood that gets pruned in the resurgent growth of recovery from betrayal.

It is surprising and heart warming to meet those who come out of the woodwork. They offer profound, equal and non-judgmental support.

Often these are the ones who share their own pain of recovery from intimate betrayal.

They are not always the closest friends or family.

That is in the nature of re-growth after a good winter pruning.

There is grief and celebration in that discovery as well.

Those recovering from betrayal rarely support a culture of secrets.

Sometimes they even want to open out to the world, transparent in their wounding and in the healing. Something like showing the stigmata of resurrection from the ashes of betrayal.

Sometimes survivors talk openly about the betrayal to test the social support in their network for truthful, secure relationships.

This is especially so if the betrayed are still excavating the friendship/family circle to find others who were complicit in the cover up.

Best friends sometimes do not want to blow the whistle and feel responsible for destroying their friend’s marriage.

Sometimes the best messengers are cruelly shot for speaking the truth.

Practiced keepers of secrets like the couple below, can finesse the interface of potential disjunctions in conversation with such seamless skill that the interpellator can feel foolish imagining their loved one or best friend, for example, would ever deceive them.

They may even apologize for asking about the ‘phone calls that drop out just after I say hello’.

Open secrets in sanctioned affairs and polyamorous arrangements

Adrian and Dominique were a compatible couple. They never spoke about it but both knew what the other was up to in their secret lives. Theirs was a consensual non-monogamy.

It’s hard to say how it started, it would be a bit like separating squabbling children and trying to find out who hit whom back first. Perhaps it began when Dom’s parents were asked to remove the pre-teen from a series of schools for her ‘inappropriate interest’ in physical relationships. For Adrian, when aged around 10, had taken to following older girls home from school and sometimes into their bedrooms.

There’s was a spontaneous flowering of precocious sexual interest without prior conditions. They managed to explore it despite parental and community concerns, simply by building a secret life.

‘It was great training in deception?’ I asked.

They both agreed.

They were canny, rebellious, promiscuous teenagers who ate life with a passion. The sort of kids you couldn’t help but warm to, marvel at and be troubled by all at the same time.

In their twenties they surprised everyone – each settling into a serious relationship. Both had been living with that someone else for a number of years when they began the affair that turned into this marriage, their children and a mortgage.

After marriage maintained their secret lives without discussion or overt conflict and with a few well tried, unspoken rules: never at home; never in the family/friendship circle; never at work; never to know the other’s secrets, and always in balance with each other.

This was their unspoken, moral contract. It was understood as binding.

As a psychologist I thought for a while their version of history was a whitewash. Who comes to see a shrink with a happy childhood? I’ve come to expect precocious sexual interest associated with unhappiness or abuse. But not so in this case.

Now, mid-life with teenage children of their own, Dominique was tiring of the complications of extramarital affairs but Adrian wanted to keep going.

The imbalance was intolerable to them both and threatened to betray that rule of their unspoken moral contract – to always be in balance with each other’s affairs.

They had little practice in dealing with incompatibility or conflict in an overt, intimate and transparent way.

They first had to learn to speak the unspoken rules, which was confounded by the rule not to know each other’s secrets. Almost as if there was a rule at another level – do not discuss the rules.

This how we began the therapy. Unpacking history and later, rewriting the rules. Adrian came to accept the change because it involved a lesser loss, and he was tiring of the complications.

The key to successful polyamorous relationships are rules, but they need to be discussed, explored openly and mutually agreed without duress.

An open marriage without rules and regular reviews of rules is a one-sided recipe for anguish and betrayal.

The ‘other woman’

The other woman is the more usual constellation of heterosexual affairs, both in extended and brief liaisons. It is more likely than a single ‘other man’ with a married woman. The subject is well covered in the books and web sites on this subject. Some also provide support for the third party, often scorned, dehumanized and abandoned.

The other woman in the office romance is also the one more likely to leave/lose the job after the affair ends. Ultimately, these affairs devolve into the power imbalance in which the affair was ill conceived. They can trigger work place sexual harrassment code violations.

Extra-marital affairs are triangles, each one more complex and intertwined than those who judge them will allow.

It takes a big broken heart to know the good in all the players and include them as people, just like us, with broken hearts as well.

That willing compassion makes strong, clear, robust boundaries an absolute necessity for de-triangulating a committed relationship.

This is not for the faint-hearted.

It seems easier to blame the affair for a break up and for subsequent damage to the children from a divorce. Then we can treat the ‘other woman’ or ‘other man’ as we do refugee non-persons in Australia.

However, in my extensive experience it is rarely that simple.

The isolation, pain and anguish of a sincere, committed other woman or man is every bit as challenging for them, their friends and family as it is for the primary couple.

Many an unstable marriage with children and on the brink of disaster, has passed through to the other side intact because of the sexual and emotional support of a secret, third party who understood the terms of endearment.

Affairs for better and for worse can become the third leg of an unstable marital table.

The other woman or man knowingly support that wobbly table. For some that is a freedom. For others a prison, a tyranny of secrets.

Some hope s/he will leave him/her, but in my experience marriages formed out of an illicit affair are haunted by their beginnings in betrayal. Particularly when they move into the challenges of everyday life and of step families, could one betray the other again?

Long term stable affairs

A small number of my clients have been in an enduring affair for decades.

Each says it allowed them to make a significant contribution to the world without fearing lack of intimacy or a sense of belonging. Some are single and others are in both stable marriages and a 20+ year extra-marital affair on the side.

Some get to know their lover’s children as they become aware of their parent’s other life, usually but not always as they grow into adulthood.

Whilst respecting the significance of those affairs, and the wisdom with which they have been navigated through many life changes of their married lovers (including divorce and re-marriage to another partner), I am always left with concern for those involved who did not choose it as a part of their life. If they had been asked most would have withheld their blessing.

Posthumous discovery

Secrets push accountability out into the distance, sometimes until after death.

Posthumous discovery of long term affairs by spouses and children, for example, going through the deceased’s personal belongings, can be completely overwhelming at a time of mourning. Some of the correspondence they find may suggest their parent or partner maintained a shrine to the memory of their lovers or worse, kept trophies of their conquests.

Some third parties feel entitled to attend the funeral, sitting at the front as a member of the family. This is especially anguished if their lover died in their home, in their bed rather than their wife or husband’s. Sometimes the funeral is the first time the bereaved get an inkling of the secret life later found in a forgotten filing cabinet.

With the protection racket having passed its use by date, others feel freed to talk more openly about what they had known for years. Cruelly, at times.

Yet, I have met some adult children who on discovering their parent’s long term affair after death, breathe a sigh of relief and say, ‘Thank god s/he had a life, because mum and dad were never that happy.’

And I have met some widowed, who have finally accepted or perhaps resigned to the fact of a third party AND the children conceived in an affair some years after a bereavement.

And there are some who will never do that under any circumstances. There are even exceptions to that when one of their own children needs organ or tissue donation. There are many twists and turns in the journey toward inclusion.

The trouble with the world is that we draw too small a circle around family. Mother Theresa

The ‘other friends’, their secrets and whether to disclose

Should I tell my friend or relative that their partner is cheating?

Is autonomy a principle of non interference? In the case of the adulterer and the snitch, withholding information from the wronged partner is also a lack of respect for autonomy (especially if you’re friends with both).

The closer a friend you are and the more you know about their family the harder this is. But, if you know it’s on and your friend/relative doesn’t, then you are part of a malignant system that supports infidelity with silence.

However, are you sure you’re part of the solution?

It’s a time bomb and everyone who ‘knows’ or thinks they know has a finger on a detonator and you may wonder if you are the one to set it off.

There are probably no innocent bystanders to an affair, BUT if you have decided to intervene you are about to enter a web of lies and loyalties with which you may have had little experience.

You may become a target of vilification or blame for breaking up a family. Your friend might want to have nothing more to do with you.

They may not thank you for snitching, not only because you may be crashing through their carefully constructed system of complicity and denial but also because your evidence may be insufficient to counter the absolute faith and trust they have in their partner.

Despite their own doubts, they might put loyalty to partner ahead of belief in friend or relative.

Friends with the ‘best’ intentions can nevertheless pick the worst time to drop a bombshell.

For example, just when the couple are coming to terms with an affair, which he disclosed voluntarily months ago but with significant omissions.

Or just after she miscarries the baby of the affair, which the husband believed was his.

Ask yourself these questions

If despite all these concerns you intend to go ahead, then can I slow you down a bit and ask you to examine yourself very closely as you consider these issues:

  • how will you benefit by revealing what you know
  • have you listed the costs and benefits of telling
  • are you acting without duplicity, moral judgment or righteousness
  • are you doing this with the support of your own partner or is it a secret in your own situation too
  • from all your previous interactions with the couple, are you and are you seen to be an ally of both and also of their relationship, rather than of one partner or one point of view
  • can you stand in both their shoes and empathize with what each is about to go through and has been going through
  • are you willing to draw deeply on your own experiences of shame and betrayal and share them when your honesty is confronted
  • have you tried role playing this disclosure to iron out the problems in your plan, preferably with some friends who are out of the loop
  • practiced disclosing in your role play, to each of them separately and to them together at the same time
  • are you willing to stick with them both, support them both and hold them both equally with a tough love that they will need through a long journey you are about to join, and finally
  • is your own life in good enough shape to make that offer and deliver it without harm to you or your family?

If you were the one whose partner was cheating, there may be other questions that you would want a whistle blower to have sincerely asked themselves before telling you.

What are they?

The final hurdle is the evidence.

What evidence would you want if it were you? Second hand or hearsay is rarely worth the pain you are about to inflict.

Most betrayed want hard evidence that is why they go through the hell of looking for it themselves, stripping everything out of the family car, out of the cupboards, in the weekender anywhere to find anything, which they can hang on to.

Even having taken all that care with your friend, they can still attack you when you tell them the truth.

Remaining friends with the lover after affair has ended

It is possible to remain friends after the extra-marital affair ends but how do you keep it from harming the committed, primary relationship when emotions are involved?

Many openly and some secretly work for this outcome by finessing both the truth and the promises of changed boundaries. It is hard work and can twist you, your partner and the lover into knots. If it can be negotiated, it can only work with a win-win-win outcome that plays strictly by agreed rules, with very clear sanctions if the agreement is broken.

The distress would have to be worth it before even considering this as an option.

Betrayed partners usually find the presence of a continuing friend or business relationship after an illicit affair has ended (or of even suspecting that desire in their partner) is out of integrity with the stated intention of fidelity and healing. It is still a triangle even if we’re ‘just friends’. Remaining friends can keep hope alive for one or the other. In the stages of grieving, this is called bargaining.

Divorce or separation rarely follow an affair that has ended. But some of us believe a loving and inclusive solution must be possible, especially with so much religious hatred and blood feuds in the world that grow from schisms born of circumstances like these.

Some of us want a solution in which we are all just friends and not a solution that evolves into an open marriage or a polyamorous family. In my view, the only time that kind of inclusive reconciliation is absolutely necessary, though not always possible, is when it involves one of the 10 – 15% of children who are conceived in extra marital affairs.

In that case the best interests of the child are paramount. Various jurisdictions decide on those best interest differently.

The other time where it may be necessary, is when the third party is a member of the immediate family.

One of my clients had an affair with his partner’s younger sister when the latter provided baby sitting for them. This involved complex betrayals of the partner and their family. A very sticky process ensued, which required an inclusive resolution to free everyone in the family from twisted loyalties. My sense is that the issues hung around for years like a bad smell. Particularly difficult were family occasions like Christmas.

Another family rang me and asked if I would work with the aftermath of an identical situation that arose 15 years ago and still had them in knots. Eight members of that family wanted to attend! It’s a family system that has a life of its own, fed by the game of chinese whispers.

How does someone betrayed go on with their primary relationship when their partner continues in the affair?

Affairs can last from one night to 25+ years, so you will need an excellent support group and a good reason to continue supporting your partner two timing you. Otherwise you commit a crime against your own wisdom and that leads inevitably to ill health for you and your family. The infidels freedom bought with your health is also a lousy deal especially when the cost of it is in part born by others, such as children, who have no choice in the matter.

Truth, lies and ambiguity

Every lawyer knows how difficult it is for witnesses to distinguish between what they have seen and what they have inferred. This is particularly noticeable in the case of a person who is describing the performances of a juggler. The difficulty is so great that the juggler himself is often astonished at the discrepancy between the actual facts and the statement of an intelligent witness who has not understood the trick.

Philosophy games with the truth show how a liar can play on ambiguity in a similar way – a linguistic sleight of hand.

When a fact is questioned they can later say, ‘what I meant was …’ and nuance another ambiguity for the next time you return to doubt.

Vagueness is another over used tactic for cloaking deceit.

Prevarication or equivocation is another.

You can come away from those conversations sensing something doesn’t add up and years later replay it and beat yourself up for not pursuing your doubts more aggressively.

You will forgive yourself for the expectation that you ought to have been smarter in the dark, but you can feel so damned stupid at the time.

We all hope that the truth is transparent.

We tend to believe:

  • the truth doesn’t need to be remembered
    nor truth fear its trial
  • that truth stands on its own, naked and unashamed,
    for all to see
  • that the body doesn’t lie
  • that our instincts are not wrong and
  • that we can rely on our intuition

That set of common sense beliefs about the truth are not always correct.

The trauma of betrayal leaves those beliefs useless for navigating life without radical modifications. Core beliefs either adapt as a sane response to trauma or the healing cannot proceed. We then remain frozen around the injury.

Naming and claiming the injury begins its healing but that is not always the common sense response. Silence is.

Skillful liars defeat lie detectors, truth serum and interrogation. Security organizations train their staff in every form of dissimulation and deception. Hiding the truth for a very long time is a skill anyone can learn.

It is a matter of how you live with the guilt and shame. Some folk don’t feel either guilt or shame.

Truth is not simple and yet it is. Intimate betrayal takes us around the circle from being simple and naive, through the confusing contradictions of postponing confrontation and the self-doubt of discovery and then back through some kind of resolution to simple, skillful and wise.

Getting to the secrets takes time, patience and willingness on both parts. Open ended questions, which avoid yes and no answers and include soft eye contact with joining and empathy skills, tend to work better than interrogative, closed questioning.

You might learn from the techniques therapists use in mirroring, validation and empathy.

There is great power in being listened to and taken seriously, even if the listener’s ‘understanding’ is partly an illusion.

A policy on secrets

In the last analysis, we see only what we are prepared to see, what we have been taught to see. We eliminate and ignore everything that is not part of our prejudices. Jean Martin Charcot ‘De l’expectation’

Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen. Albert Einstein

When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others. Oscar Wilde

A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation. Saki

As a consequence of the agony and ultimate impossibility of extracting a secret from an unwilling secret keeper, it helps to begin an intimate relationship with an agreement on privacy rights and obligations. And what, if anything, constitutes justification for unilaterally cancelling those rights and obligations. For example by trawling your partners diary, email, phone accounts and social networking avatars.

As well it is important to agree early to a sign that signals when the unspeakable is present, a problem-solving method to deal with that revelation and how to signal STOP in the fight that follows so that it can continue later when each have rested.

In harmonizing conflict it is not the content but the tactics people use to manage it that most damages trust.

Privacy is an issue early in relationships and one transacted around toilet doors open or closed, private telephone calls, in laws, sexual fantasies, past relationships, money and finance.

Is it okay to look through your partner’s private journal, overhear their conversations, track their visits on the net or investigate their mobile phone use and credit card transactions? Does betrayal make it so?

It does not matter so much what the policy is, as long as it is reciprocal, understood and agreed to voluntarily. In my experience, however, once an illicit affair is reasonably suspected, confronted and denied all agreements tend to be thrown out as if one betrayal justifies inflicting others.

The unconscious relationship and deep democracy

Deep democracy in this context is commitment to a relationship process that is non-violent, transparent, inclusive, reciprocal and self-reflective, with a playful curiosity about difference and conflict that is neither deferential nor judgmental.

Secrets struggle to thrive in that relationship ecology.

A young couple are highly unlikely to arrive at those understandings and commitments in the first decade of a relationship.

In this there is much forgiveness for our failings to meet the ideal of equal partnership early in life.

Almost the entire population of the world is born to young and inexperienced lovers.

That is the culture we imprint and draw on in our later patterns of intimate bonding. It is like a template on which future experience is measured.

From that family foundation we trial intimacy with the passions of adolescence whilst struggling with the inherited imprint of our young parents’ model of intimate bonding.

When our parents are later the grandparents of our children, they are likely to be very different in their capacity for intimacy than when they were our parents. When the grandparents are close this can set another wiser template for later use by our children.

These experiences form part of the unconscious relationship that comes into awareness in order for us to mature into walking the talk of equality.

Example 1

One of my clients had a critical father who wounded her self esteem repeatedly as a child.

The first words he spoke when he re-entered the house were critical. Anglo-celtic, her own limits became like a tyranny for her. She turned that weakness into a strength through high achievement. In her thirties she found love and a husband who was a ‘gorgeous Mediterranean creature’. She described him as having almost bloated self-confidence and esteem. Opposite to her own – irresistible!

By contrast, her husband’s father had lived like a carefree child and set no limits for anyone, least of all for her lover. No doubt his mother managed his father as another child rather than as a partner in life. He idealised his dad.

Both of these people identified with their fathers. They identified with where the overt power lay.

One father modeled few useful limits and the other cruelly, too many. Opposite and yet the same.

Can you guess which one of these partners had the emotional affair and who couldn’t accept the other feeling betrayed?

In truth it could be either – the wife to shake off the historically imposed limits set by her father, maintained by hersef and projected onto her husband. Or the husband just because he could or in order to test the limits of his wife, which he had learned you did from watching the dance of his parents.

But in this case it was the the husband who cheated. He just didnt get his wife’s reaction.

In this way lovers take their parents, metaphorically speaking, into the bedroom.

In every couple’s bed lie the unresolved relationships with their parents who first taught them how to love, how to hold the space of intimacy or not.

That can make for a crowded bed! Hence, same bed different dreams.

We are attracted to lovers who, out of our awareness connect us deeply to parts of our personal and family history that we might think didn’t have much effect or that we are ‘so over’ that we discount its influence in the present day.

Like the fathers above, until the sand paper of intimacy rubs the hidden stuff in our face.

Committed intimate relationships are confronting personal development workshops,

We can’t get away from our blind spots when our lover is feeling, watching and listening for them so closely, and when our parents in the bedroom are telling us how to perceive intimacy.

It takes decades for an intimate relationship to shape response-ability for intimate, deep democracy. Those who manifest it in less time are rare and gifted communicators. They are not always from happy or intact families.

For the rest of us it comes through painful trial and error, no matter what the promises were at the outset. We grow into the love of transparency and inclusiveness through a hard won intimacy. Few of us are born into it and all around we hear democracy espoused and then violated.

Climate of secrets and of self-deception

Where we first come unstuck with non-violence is with ourselves, in putting ourselves down with negative self-talk.

It is a challenge to wholeheartedly accept all that we are and to be fearless, respectful and kind with our wants, desires, failings and successes.

Some of our wants and needs and the actions, thoughts, and feelings that attempt to meet them are automatic.

They are inherited unexamined from our families.

They can be outside of our day to day awareness.

These are a kind of secret kept from ourselves until we are ready to welcome them in.

It takes time to soften our ignorance and to welcome into our self-concept those wants and needs and then finally to expose them in our primary relationship.

That is the vulnerability in which intimacy grows.

In a conscious relationship and an intentional marriage ‘you are actually safer when you lower your defenses than when you keep them engaged’.

For example, sometimes we feel a little ashamed to admit to ourselves and to our partner what it is we want. It feels very edgy to come clean with a part of ourselves such as an unacknowledged desire to feel special.

Feeling special may be something that never happened as a child, but as an adult it can be met through a great welcome every time you come home and a longing goodbye when you leave; candle lit romantic evenings, or just a long loving gaze into each other’s eyes for minutes on end; to eat dinner without the TV, or to be heard out to the end of a thought or feeling.

Lack of acknowledgement about this stuff can drive both self-deception about our real motivations and willful denial of who we are – ‘I would never do/feel/say/want that’ or ‘that’s not me’ or ‘I don’t need to feel special’ or ‘how could anyone believe that of me’ or as another of my clients put it ‘introspection is not my thing’.

Unawareness is persistent.

It can drive looking for awareness outside of the relationship to meet those wants and needs in a clandestine, unaware way. Almost accidentally, it seems, we bump into what we need. Conceived in secret, it gives birth to secrets even from oneself. ‘I didn’t go looking for it! I never meant to hurt anyone’, said one of my unfaithful clients protesting their innocence.

Maybe not consciously, but it came looking for you and somewhere you had a kite flying, which said ‘AVAILABLE’. So they offered, you accepted and forbidden sparks flew. Unbelievably, some of these affairs develop out of a pattern of people pleasing. Some think about leaving their marriage because the lover needs them more.

The right to privacy

You have the right to privacy in marriage, in a family, in any relationship, in any group. The right to keep a part of your life secret, no matter how trivial or how important, merely because you want it to be that way. And you have the right to be alone part of each day, each week, and each year, to spend time with yourself. Source

There is a thin line between being open and honest, and garbage dumping. Source

My grandparents were not subject to an expectation of equal inquiry into their personal lives. I know both my grandmother and grandfather kept significant secrets from each other and considered that the norm. To some extent my parents inherited the meme.

Some of my clients argue that a higher standard of privacy ought to apply in marriage.

Some argue for the impossibility of not having secrets and of not having a secret life.

Others claim an entitlement to secrets based on family history, class, gender, race, religion or personal anguish.

However, refusal to disclose reasonably suspected infidelity could derive from:

  • a supremacist belief that there is no injury if the other is kept in the dark
  • from an authoritarian attitude like the ‘need to know’
  • or as a result of a perceived right or privilege to veil a secret life or not to disclose shame
  • age, gender, race, status and/or religion can be used to justify the position

However we construct it, the standard of privacy is less important than that both are conscious of it, agree to it and apply it consistently.

Some couples like Dom and Adrian above live at peace with an agreed right to a secret life past and present, but not a right to a double life where another’s children are fed and educated.

However, to get to any agreement requires a willingness to fairly explore the emotional, sexual and social climate one intends for a committed relationship or that latterly, one has discovered applies as a result of infidelity.

The right to explore our partner’s secrets after betrayal derives from a principle of natural justice:

That ‘I have a right to defend myself from the judgment that I was so lacking in intimacy skills that my partner could attack our promises to each other by going outside for it’.

And of restorative justice following injury: that, ‘I have a right to the security, trust and intimacy that existed before the betrayal’.

Some families and some cultures don’t celebrate those rights.

I don’t like this intrusion of legal concepts into our personal lives, but those two aspects of due process became entrenched in our culture after the time of William the Conqueror in the 11th Century.

There are other rights and obligations that have wide support today and when betrayed tend to result in psychological trauma.

Trauma increases in severity in proportion to the intensity and duration of the human rights violation.

‘Abused’ in this context is best defined as the inability to defend oneself immediately after an attack.

Ultimatums to end the affair or coerce a boundary

Ultimatum – a final demand made without intent of negotiation

The only ultimatum that can work in a committed relationship is a mutually agreed one, discovered collaboratively and executed cooperatively.

Mutual growth is the prize of a healthy negotiation like that.

Mutual resentment is the poisoned chalice of a one sided ultimatum that fulfills it’s purpose.

Ultimatums, coercion and threats are a lose-lose strategy.

Resentment from forced compliance with an ultimatum is an investment in unfinished business for both people. It is likely to be carried for some years, whether you separate or remain together, whether the affair finishes or just completes another ending. Hankering for more in the after glow of an affair is a bit like an emotional addiction. Joint, non-coerced behaviour is more likely self-sustaining and regenerating in those tides of longing.

A win-win solution takes time and mutual respect to formulate and in some cases also with the help of a neutral third party or mediator who has been given the power by both to slow the proceedings and find a collaborative outcome. If the third party is not honoured with that gift s/he cannot help.

The consequences of not reconciling in the years after an affair has concluded are not pretty. Like being haunted and hunted by the past. Truth, justice, mercy, and peace are the four critical components of reconciliation.

Anyone can become angry – that is easy . But to be angry at the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not easy. Aristotle