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Comparisons with the Third Party
by Peggy Vaughan

This is an extremely common problem - becoming obsessed with comparing yourself with the third party.

While the initial emotional reaction to the third party may be unavoidable, it's worth working to fight back against those emotions by working hard at thinking more clearly about this issue. The best way to deal with all those painful feelings (and the incredible emotional toll they take) is to remind yourself (over and over and over again) to THINK more clearly - in order to defuse the strong feelings that simply drain away energy better spent in other aspects of recovery.

The emotions don't just "go away" one day all by themselves. Since they come "involuntarily," it calls for making a "voluntary," deliberate effort to counteract them with clear thinking. It's a gradual process of replacing the strong emotions with more understanding of the whole situation - so you can eventually be in control of your emotions instead of them being in control of you.

It really saddens me to see so much pain and agony over the third party - because that gives them more power and attention than is warranted. The third party is primarily fulfilling a "role." The main difference between the spouse and the third party is that one has the role of "spouse" (with all the familiarity and responsibility involved in that role) - while the other has the role of "third party" (with all the newness and freedom involved in that role).

Personally, when I finally understood this for myself, I could step back and recognize that if my husband had been married to one of the women with whom he had an affair, he might very well have wanted to have an affair with ME - because then I would be in the role of being "new" and representing freedom rather than responsibility.

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