Infidelity Recovery Group
Ann and I are completing an infidelity recovery group tomorrow with four courageous couples. It has been a wonderful experience to see couples bravely deal with life head on amidst tremendous, hurt, pain and shame. I'd like to share with you our process.
Week 2--Telling Our Story. We tell our story to let others know they aren't alone and to loan them the hope that exists in our story. They also get to mainly listen as they experience the nervousness that exists in any new group.
Week 3--Telling Your Story. Each couple shares their story in about 15-20 minutes. We do give them a couple of questions to help look for themes in the affair and their marriage.
Week 4--Family of Origin--Our Stories Before Marriage. What were themes in your family growing up? How did they handle conflict? What are some of your best memories? Worst memories? What do you want to bring into your family now from your family or origin? What do you want to leave out?
Week 5--Shame and Guilt. The couples respond to some reading that we give them from Cry of the Soul by Dan Allender about guilt, legitimate shame and illigitimate shame. Significant about the reading is our making an idol out of looking good and how that relates to our shame.
Week 6--Anger and Dealing with Reminders of the Affair. The betrayed spouse expressing anger is a key factor for conflict avoidant couples surviving an affair. What is your style of addressing anger? What does it look like to express anger well? Poorly?
Week 7--Grieving our Losses and Dealing with Reminders of the Affair. There are many losses associated with affairs. Some of those involve the marriage relationship, work, friends, church, kids, family etc. While the affair seems secret and isolated it eventually impacts many. What are your losses? Remember that anger is a part of grief.
Week 8--Rebuilding Trust. The couples talk through the pain of their chaotic struggles. We talk about low cost behavior changes, like calling if you will be even five minutes late, and high cost changes, like moving or quitting your job. It is important for the infidel to be accountable for each minute of the day and for the betrayed to affirm the efforts of change that are being made. If there isn't complete honesty trust can't be restored.
Week 9--Reestablishing Physical Intimacy. This is easier for some than others. It seems to depend on their level of healthy sexual intimacy before the revelation of the affair. We're all fallen in this area. It is an important area to redeem. We share from Patrick Carnes what healthy sexuality looks like. We talk about the importance of non-sexual touch and courting.
Week 10--Grace. We break up grace and forgiveness because here we want to focus mainly on God's grace for us and that we can still offer grace even if we haven't forgiven yet. It is possible to offer acts of kindness even if one is hurting, angry and hasn't forgiven at this point. We use a chapter from one of Philip Yancey's writings called We're All Bastards and God Loves Us Anyway to promote dialogue.
Week 11--Forgiveness. It is a process. Our biggest leap came 14 months after the revelation. I believe we forgive wounds and there are many from the lies and deception surrounding an affair. We utilize the anger list which leads to the loss list which leads here. We check in to see what they have been able to forgive and what they are still in the process of forgiving. Lewis Smedes The Art of Forgiving is helpful here.
The process is really a year or two or three so we know that in 11 weeks there is still much for a couple to work through and digest. At this point our desire is that they have a map to navigate the journey and hopefully to avoid some of the more dangerous potholes. It is important to deal with the fallout from the affair but more important to put it into context of the marriage as a whole.