Ashley Madison and Your Coupleship: Cheating Exposed Saved Our Relationship and Our Lives

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by Jami and Marla
CoFounders of Passion Provokers

Life is short. Have an affair. ~AM Tagline

Jami: The Ashley Madison client reveal hit very close to home…I cheated on Marla for the first 12 years of our marriage, and for another two years after I revealed my incredibly shameful secret I continued to be unfaithful. Getting caught saved my life, and finally exposed why I was doing these crazy, stupid things. Let’s face it; even just the disease risk is not worth sleeping around, but that’s not much of a deterrent when you are looking for approval from anywhere you can find it.
 
Having 27 years of marriage, and almost 16 years of recovery behind us, and being happier than ever together, we have incredible tools and also so much hope to share with those of you who are struggling to put the pieces of your relationship back together. What we realized on a deeper level is that the hook-up culture is more insidious than we even speculated. All you have to do is Google “discrete hook ups” and there are dozens of sites that will provide nude pictures of your neighbors that are willing to have sex tonight, or so they say. But, the amazing news is that it’s all fixable! We have couples tell us that they have gone to counseling for y e a r s  and had never experienced the relief and freedom found in just 3 short sessions with us. Wow! What a privilege and honor that is to hear.
 
The short version:
Marla: The whole truth came out through a family intervention on Christmas day. Not so fun (understatement of the year!), and very messy. Our daughters were in 3rd and 4th grade, and I had lost every one of my support systems because I chose to stay with Jami…my family except for my mom, all of our friends, our jobs, and our church support. I remember lying on the floor in a heartbroken puddle sobbing to the point of hoping I would not be able to take another breath because death seemed like the only relief from the gut-wrenching pain at that moment. (See Jami’s upcoming book Silhouette of a Man for the full story.)
 
The handling of our pain was devastatingly clumsy, and completely humiliating. As a result we had to re-evaluate everything. What we learned is that most people cheat because at their core they feel unworthy and need approval to feel good about themselves. Even if their partner is willing to be more connected and sexual with them, like I was, it feels to the cheater like there are strings attached, and like they can never do enough or be enough. This sounds crazy because there are even more strings and issues with an affair, but this wasn’t about logic, it was about honesty, or the lack of it, between Jami and I. And we have seen this over and over again with our clients who have asked us to come alongside of them to help them recover from infidelity in their relationship. (Note: not all cheating is sex.
 
A successful coupleship requires consistent growth and freedom to talk about what goes on in our minds, even if it is not politically, or morally correct. This means building a foundation of honesty with the ability to share and actively listen to feelings without judgment, and with compassion.
 
The important thing to realize, even if your relationship was not “outed” in the release of Ashley Madison’s client list, is that we live in a disposable culture that says, “I’m not getting what I want, I’m not happy, and all I need to do is disengage from this relationship and find someone who will make me happy.” Relationships cannot be sustained with status-quo. And it’s time to create a culture that says, “We choose to recover this relationship because the healing of this relationship can create a wave of healing around the globe, and heal the world.”
 
What every couple needs:

  1. Forgiveness: Even if there is no infidelity in the relationship, you need to start here. It will open up a new conversation, and you do have things to forgive, we promise, even if those things are simply your unmet expectations or the little resentments that creep in when you least expect them. We teach people how to do this in an easy and fast way (really the shortest short-cut, guys!), and our book How Men Make Women Crazy (and Visa Versa): Ending the Madness sheds some light on the subject. 
  2. A new Conversation: There has to be an ongoing intimacy and excitement about the two of you. This means learning how to be present to your partner’s feelings and sharing your own feelings safely. We’re not going to sugar-coat this and say it’s easy, but it is well worth doing. We use a Feeling Wheel to help get the feelings out and train people on its use. (Click HERE for your free one!) The goal is to drain the shame out of the middle of this “compass for your heart,” and learn to filter every difficult feeling through LOVE.
  3. Compassion: The reality is that your partner holds the key to unlocking your heart. We have seen it every time we work with a couple, even with the very small 3-5% who are not able to stay together using our process (we have a better than 95% success rate having only 8 to 12, seventy-five to ninety minute sessions, even if the couple is already separated or divorced). You chose your partner for a reason…help us help you keep that reason alive and healthy and full of passion!

 
What little thing can you do for your partner today to fan that flame of passion that your relationship started out with? Start with asking them, “What little thing can I do for you today?” And see what happens from there.