Quote from Dr. James Hutt, therapist, Menlo Park, California.
I have been working with couples for 30 years who struggle with this issue and I must tell you that The Monogamy Myth is absolutely the finest piece of literature I have encountered on the subject. When I provide private supervision for therapists who bring in cases of infidelity, I recognize that there is no adequate coursework in most grad programs, but heartened to see them receive what for them is new and enlightening information when they read your book and discuss the principles.
The Monogamy Myth was originally published in 1989, with a revised edition in 1998, and a third edition in 200314 years after the first publication. Its longevity is partly due to the fact that this book is different from most books on affairs.
As the subtitle suggests, this book is first and foremost "a personal handbook for recovering from affairs." It provides a step-by-step process for dealing with:
suspicion and confrontation
the pain of knowing
rebuilding trust based on honesty
facing the marriage/divorce dilemma
and living with the decision.
It also provides information about preventing affairs and an explanation of the "combination of factors" that cause affairs. And it describes the impact of the Internet, both in offering resources for dealing with affairs as well as giving rise to the growing problem of "online affairs."
This new edition includes all the text from the previous editions, but adds updated information about resources for dealing with affairs, including the changes in BAN (Beyond Affairs Network), the support group organization that holds local meetings.
Finally, I have written a new "Personal Note" (which you can read below), describing some of the changes that have taken place during the years since the original publication, including the increased openness to public discussion of the issue of extramarital affairs.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
About the Author
Praise for The Monogamy Myth (included below)
A Personal Note from the Author (included below)
Introduction: The Myth and the Reality (included below)
- Part I: Why Affairs Happen
- 1. Beyond Personal Blame
- 2. How Society Contributes to Affairs
- Part II: The Experience
- 3. Suspicion and Confrontation
- 4. The Pain of Knowing
- Part III: The Healing Process
- 5. Rebuilding Self-esteem
- 6. Trust, Honesty, and Communication
- 7. Sexual Healing
- 8. Where and How to Get Help
- Part IV: A Time of Reckoning
- 9. The Marriage/Divorce Dilemma
- 10. Living With the Decision
- 11. A New Understanding of Affairs
Professional Praise for The Monogamy Myth
"An outstanding and wonderfully helpful book."
Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., Author of The Dance of Anger
"In a personal voice Peggy Vaughan packs years of expertise into a compelling, down-to-earth guide for couples seeking to survive the trauma of extramarital affairs."
Janis Abrahms Spring, Ph.D., Author of After the Affair
"This book belongs on the shelf of any person who is or has been involved in an affair, and on the shelf of all those who treat them."
Don-David Lusterman, Ph.D.
Author of Infidelity: A Survival Guide
"Reading this book will help couples avoid affairs in the first placeor, if the damage has been done, recover and rework their relationship, their trust and commitment. Every engaged couple should be required to read it and pass a written exam."
Diane Sollee, Director,
Coalition for Marriage, Family, and Couples Education
"Vaughan caringly and wisely explains how to recover if your spouseor youshould have an affair. Better yet, she gives advice indispensable to anyone who wants to be married monogamously and stay that way into the 21st Century."
Lynn Atwater, Ph.D.,
Professor Sociology, Seton Hall University
Media Praise for The Monogamy Myth
"Vaughan's practical advice about what to dobefore, during, and after the affairis this books' backbone. She blends commonsense advice with a fresh approach to an old problem."
Minnesota Public Radio
"Unlike so many advice columnists and therapists, Vaughan emphasizes the need for a couple to be open and honest about dealing with an affair. It's a subject that is not only likely to affect the couple itself, but all those around them."
San Mateo Times
Readers' Praise for The Monogamy Myth
"This book saved my marriage, and probably my sanityand maybe my very life."
"The Monogamy Myth is the best book I have found to help us work through the emotional turmoil of my partner's affair."
"Your book is incredible? I have been searching for answers to my wife's behavior, and your book was what I was looking for. It answered every one of my questions."
"I want to thank you for your book, which I believe has helped the very most in possibly preserving our marriage and our lives."
"I have read your book six times, and it's the most healing book I have found. It is the best!"
"Of about twenty books, yours was by far the most compassionate, comprehensive, and practical."
"I am so grateful that you wrote this book. I can't imagine a successful recovery from affairs without it."
"I just finished reading your book The Monogamy Myth. It was like reading about my own life. All my feelings, thoughts, and actions were on those pages."
"I found your book to be very helpful in dealing with my husband's affair after twenty years of marriage. I read your book more times than I can count."
"Reading your book made me feel validated and less crazyand also less ashamed."
"Your book accomplished what our counseling fell short of. Your unraveling of the startling complexity of honesty…will be with me to the grave.
"After approximately ten readings, your book has almost become a bible to me."
If you're interested, you can read MANY more Testimonials by Readers.
A PERSONAL NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
There have been some significant changes related to the issue of affairs since The Monogamy Myth was first published more than a decade ago.
--There's more public exposure of people having affairs
--More married women are having affairs and more husbands are reaching out for help
--The Internet is exploding with opportunities for developing Online Affairs
--There are more resources (like my own Website) for helping people recover from affairs
--There's a constantly growing focus on this issue by the media
--People are becoming more aware of the prevalence and the importance of this issue
There is now an openness to the ideas and the help offered in The Monogamy Myth that simply didn't exist when it was originally published. However, despite the increased attention to this problem, I have NOT seen a change in the degree of pain and devastation experienced by the person whose partner has an affair. The myths reinforcing the idea that affairs happen only because of personal failure have made it extremely difficult for people to recover their self-esteem and rebuild their relationships. So the message of The Monogamy Myth is still desperately needed, both by those personally facing this issue in their own livesand by society as a whole.
Much of the increased openness to discussing affairs is due to the growing public exposure of this behavior. For instance, there was a wall of silence (until after their deaths) about the affairs of some past Presidents of the United Statesmost notably President Roosevelt's long-term affair and President Kennedy's multiple affairs. In contrast, there is detailed public exposure and an almost insatiable public discussion of this issue regarding President Clinton. And it's hard to pick up a paper or turn on the TV without being confronted with glaring headlines of the latest scandal or exposé.
While this exposure serves to break through some of the secrecy of the past, there's still an enormous amount of hypocrisy involved. We still act as if the people who are at the center of the stories (whether in the military, the government, or the private sector) are somehow different or uniquewhen, in fact, they are simply the ones who get caught and are put in the position of either "lying" or receiving "punishment." Their uniqueness is not in their behavior; it's in the fact that their behavior was exposed. This is not an excuse for their behavior, but it's important perspective if we are to overcome our hypocrisy and acknowledge the prevalence of affairs as the first step to addressing this problem in a responsible way.
In fact, we see growing numbers of "regular people" coming forward to tell their story. Back in 1980, James and I were the first couple to appear on a daytime talk show discussing their personal experience in dealing with extramarital affairs and staying together as a couple. It was very responsibly handled and was a positive experience. But through the years, talk shows have contributed to both the best and the worst aspects of dealing with affairs. They have promoted the idea of talking more openly about this issuebut they have increasingly done so in an irresponsible way. It's my hope that we can continue to deal more openly with the issue of affairs while protecting and respecting the feelings of those who struggle personally with this experience.
While much of the media attention is based on appealing to the sensationalistic aspects of this problem, more and more often it is being treated with the importance it deserves. For instance, I was pleased to be involved in a newsmagazine show that did an entire hour on affairs, focusing less on the typical titillation and voyeurism and more on providing a glimpse into the human toll of our general failure to deal responsibly with this issue.
So while we might once have dismissed the story of an affair as being irrelevant to our lives, we're beginning to pay more attention now that those who are publicly accused of having affairs include people from all walks of life: the military, clergy, high-ranking politicianseven royalty. Despite the growing numbers of affairs that are exposed in this way, we still tend to think (hope?) this problem is limited only to certain kinds of people in bad marriages. This thinking is seriously challenged when exposures include people we believe to have exemplary marriages, like Frank Gifford or Bill Cosby.
While every individual is responsible for their own actions (and the consequences of those actions), it's a mistake to think that only people with personal weaknesses have affairs. It's far more complicated than that. As I explain in The Monogamy Myth, the prevalence of affairs makes this more than just a personal problem; it's a societal problem as well.
I know firsthand the pain that comes from viewing affairs strictly as a personal failure. I suffered silently for 7 years while suspecting my husband's affairsbecause I was too embarrassed to tell anyone. My own personal struggle is what sustains my effort to help those who continue to suffer in silence because of that false belief. When a person is privately dealing with the emotional impact of a partner's affair, they can dramatically increase their chances of recovery by understanding the prevalence of affairs, the societal factors that contribute to themand ultimately the fact that it's more than just personal failure.
When I learned this lesson myself, it allowed me to go from feeling like a victim ("Why me?") to realizing that it wasn't just me; this could have happened to anyone. I also found this thinking helpful the next time I faced a serious life crisis. Three years after The Monogamy Myth was first published, I developed breast cancerand I was able to draw on my earlier experience in several ways: first, I felt no need to keep it secret, and being able to openly discuss it allowed me to gain invaluable information and support. And second, I didn't have the inclination to say, Why me? I had learned the lesson that many life problems we tend to think are personal (and possibly our fault) are in fact more a reflection of their prevalence in society as a whole.
One of the changes in my life that developed as a result of my experience in dealing with affairs was one that was quite unexpected. An early reviewer of The Monogamy Myth, who gave the book a very positive review, added this personal comment: "When some women's husbands have affairs, they get a divorce. Others stay married, but suffer in silence. Peggy Vaughan's husband had affairsand she made a career out of it!"
While I would never have chosen to go through this experience, I proudly accept that description of what happened as a result. I have, in fact, devoted almost all my time to helping people deal with the issue of affairs since I went public with my own story in 1980. Through the years I have learned an enormous amount from the people who have shared their experiences with me. In the early 80s I formed a support group called
BAN (Beyond Affairs Network), and it was due to what I learned from those early BAN members that I developed the perspective I share in this book.
Since 1996 I have been able to reach many more people through my Website on the Internet. As I continue to hear from people who openly and candidly share their innermost feelings about their efforts to cope with a partner's affair, I find that everything I originally wrote in The Monogamy Myth is right on target. Of the thousands of questions I've been asked about dealing with affairs, I rarely hear a question that I haven't already addressed in the book.
One development related to affairs (which many people still tend to ignore) is that this has become an "equal opportunity" problem in that both men and women regularly face this devastating experience. In fact, many of the current BAN members are men. And one of the most striking aspects of BAN is that there is virtually NO difference between men and women in their efforts to cope with a partner's affairor in their ability to be supportive of others in similar circumstances. Without noting the sex of the person making any particular comment, it is virtually impossible to determine whether it came from a man or a woman. Unfortunately, there has been very little support available to help men in working on these issues; but since The Monogamy Myth is not slanted toward one sex or the other, it is a resource for all alike.
Of course, the increase in men dealing with their wives' affairs highlights the fact that there has been a continuing increase in married women having affairs. Some factors that may have contributed to this include: having increased opportunities (through work or through contacts on the Internet), being more willing to risk divorce (due to financial independence), or less willing to conform to traditional expectations of the role of "wife." Also, the societal "message" to women reflects a more accepting attitude toward women's affairsas illustrated by the generally positive light in which they are depicted in books and movies, most notably "The Bridges of Madison County." This attitude is also reflected in the material used to promote several nonfiction books on the subject and in the words of encouragement used to promote one popular novel about affairs: "Every woman should have at least one in her lifetime."
Another major change related to this issue is the tremendous rise in what has become known as Online Affairsaffairs that begin (and supposedly will remain) on the Internet. The growing popularity of this medium for affairs might be thought to be an effort to avoid AIDS or other risks associated with physical contact. But there has been no discernable decline in affairs due to AIDS or to any other factor. People having affairs tend to rationalize their behavior, and a part of that rationalization is ignoring or denying the possibility of any negative consequences.
I have had a front-row seat to the specific process of rationalization associated with having Online Affairs by virtue of my survey research project on this topic. I received input both from those who had had online affairs as well as from spouses of people involved online. I have included some detailed information about Online Affairs in the last chapter of this book under the section on Preventing Affairs. Like other issues related to affairs, this should be of interest and concern to everyonewhether or not you are currently on the Internet.
The bottom line is that few people will avoid being personally touched by an affair. If not in your own relationship, you will almost certainly be affected through the experience of a friend or family member. Since you're unlikely to avoid this issue, you are wise to be prepared in advance by having as much understanding as possible. It's very difficult to think clearly if you wait until you're in the midst of trying to deal it.
The Monogamy Myth is an invaluable life preserver for the person who is already facing this problem and needs help in dealing with the emotional impact. This book is, as the subtitle suggests, a personal handbook for recovering from affairs. It is also a unique resource for anyone who genuinely wants to understand the public's role and responsibility in addressing this issue.
I encourage you to read this book and to discuss it with others. The more responsible, open discussion we can have about affairs, the less pain there will be for everyone concerned. For ongoing support in your effort to deal with all important life issues, especially the life-altering issue of affairs, I hope you will read the information on my Website at www.dearpeggy.com.
THE MYTH AND THE REALITY
Most of us expect monogamy to be a normal part of marriage (or any committed relationship). This was certainly my assumption when I married my childhood sweetheart at age nineteen. I grew up with no first-hand knowledge of affairs and no idea that it was a subject of any concern to me. I simply took it for granted that my marriage would be monogamous.
My expectations of monogamy were shattered after eleven years of marriage. It was at that point that my husband, James, started having affairs. When I first began to suspect it, I couldn't bring myself to believe this could happen. He was a pre-ministerial college student when we married, and we shared the same traditional values of marriage and monogamy. But there were many changes in our lives during those first years of marriage. He decided to become a psychologist, and later a professor, and I moved into a more traditional role as wife and mother. It was during this period that he began having affairs.
James' affairs continued for seven years, and during that time my suspicions grew stronger and stronger. But I found myself incapable of confronting him. If it were true, I felt I'd have to get a divorce to save my pride. And I felt anxious and uncertain about my ability to make it on my own with two small children. So instead of confronting him, I began working on myself, trying to gain strength and confidence in my ability to deal with whatever might happen.
The real breakthrough came when he left the university setting and we began working together as psychological consultants to corporations and other organizations. A major part of this work involved our conducting workshops and seminars on communication, trust, and life/work planning. James became uncomfortable with the idea of working together on issues of honesty and trust while being dishonest with me about something so important to our relationship. Eventually, he volunteered the information I had wondered about for so long, admitting that he had had a series of affairs.
Fortunately, by the time he told me about his affairs, I had grown strong enough to face the situation and see if we could work through it. By continuing to talk about everything related to the affairs and our feelings during that time, we were able to develop an honest, monogamous marriage again.
We gradually began using our experience in dealing with affairs in the workshops we were conducting, to illustrate how honest communication can allow people to work through problems and differences, regardless of how difficult or seemingly insurmountable. The positive reactions to what we had to say gradually led us to begin writing a book about our experience, a process that took six years. However, we didn't anticipate the difficulty we encountered in getting it published. We finally resorted to self-publishing the book, putting a second mortgage on our home to finance the project. It was 1980 when Beyond Affairs finally came out. Despite our belief in what we were doing, we were unprepared for the reactions we received. The response completely changed my life.
I didn't realize at the time just how unusual it was for a couple to talk personally about their own experience with affairs, but the reaction from the media was overwhelming. We appeared on about a hundred television and radio talk shows, from Donahue to To Tell the Truth, to publicize the book. This allowed us to reach a large number of people, and our openness brought a wide range of reactionsfrom business associates, family, friends, and the general public.
The most unexpected (and unpleasant) reaction was from some business associates. As independent consultants, we'd been working with a large corporation for several years at the time the book was published. The top people at the company knew about James' affairs and knew that I knew about them (since we had used examples from this experience in helping companies deal more effectively with interpersonal issues). They even knew in advance that we were writing the book, and they assured us it made no difference to our work with them.
However, following our appearance on the Today program, we were told that our contract would not be renewed. They acknowledged that our public discussion of the subject of affairs was the reason. So even though we were professionals who were sharing our experience as a way of bringing more understanding to this problem, they couldn't accept the idea that we had "gone public."
Within my own family, there were a variety of reactions, both to the knowledge of the affairs themselves and to the fact that we publicly discussed them. I had told my mother the whole story several years before the publication of the book, so she was not shocked by the revelations it contained. But, understandably, she was not thrilled with the idea of my talking publicly about something she considered so personal. She acknowledged, however, that she thought the book would be a significant benefit to others; she just wished someone other than her daughter had written it.
Our kids were not a problem for us, but they were a problem for a lot of other people. I don't believe there was a single talk show where someone (either the host or a member of the audience) didn't ask, rather incredulously, what our children thought of the book, or of our telling our story. Our kids were 16 and 18 at the time, but they had known about our situation for five years and were well aware of our work with this issue during that time, both personally and professionally. So our public discussion of the experience wasn't strange or troublesome to them. Their only problem was wondering why everyone thought they should have a problem.
We found that our close friends became even closer and our social acquaintances became more distant following the publicity around the book. I guess this shouldn't have been surprising, but it was something we simply hadn't considered in advance.
The most gratifying of all the reactions were the ones from the general public. We had anticipated some criticism based on people misunderstanding our motives or simply disagreeing with the idea of speaking publicly about our experience in dealing with affairs. To our surprise, we received very little criticism; and when it came, it was invariably from someone who only saw us on media appearances and had not read the book.
We wrote Beyond Affairs because we genuinely believed that what we had to say would be helpful to others, and the overall response bore that out. A clergyman in Seattle, who operated a counseling center, told us he was using our book in his group sessions with couples dealing with the issue of affairs. A sociologist in New Jersey began using the book in courses on marriage and the family. We heard from other professionals as well, but the most significant reaction came from those people struggling with affairs themselves. By the time the mass market edition of the book came out the following year, we'd received hundreds of letters and phone calls from people who identified with our story.
While many of the letters were from women who felt I had perfectly expressed their feelings, I also heard from men who had dealt with their wives' affairs, from couples in which both partners had had affairs, from unmarried couples who were struggling with monogamy, and from a few same-sex couples who were dealing with the pain that affairs can bring. I was extremely moved by the outpouring of feelings that came from these people who were strangers, but who were talking like close friends.
I wanted to support their efforts to survive their experience with affairs, so I responded personally to every letter. I also received many phone calls late at night. It was painful to hear the sense of desperation and isolation expressed by most of the people who called. I felt inadequate to do much in a one-time response, whether by mail or by phone, and always invited them to write or call again.
This was the beginning of my personal dedication to helping others in dealing with the experience of affairs. But I could see I wouldn't be able to keep up with all the contacts on an individual basis. If I were to continue, I had to bring some organization to the effort. So I asked those who would like to maintain the contact to fill out a sheet providing some basic information: how long they'd been married, how long since the affair, how much it had been discussed, whether they had sought counseling, and whether or not they were still married.
I asked them to agree to have their names and addresses put on a list that would be distributed only to others in the same situation. This formed the basis of a support network ("Beyond Affairs Network" or BAN) where they could contact each other, as well as make it possible for me to put people in touch who might be especially helpful to each other. Since they were scattered all over the country, as well as Canada, there were only a few locations with enough people to hold face-to-face meetings. Otherwise, all the contact was by mail. Even this kind of contact was difficult for some people, since they felt they had to keep the information hidden from their mates. Those who knew their spouse didn't want them to discuss their personal life with anyone else arranged to have friends or family members receive their BAN mail, and several even rented special post office boxes just for this correspondence.
I began to write a monthly newsletter about affairs, using their letters to me to determine the most common issues to be addressed. I wrote the newsletter every month for the next three years, but I also continued to write personal letters, developing a deep friendship with many of the people. Through the years, either due to my own travel or because of trips they made to my area of the country, I met with about 20 of the BAN members in person. After all these years, I'm still in touch with several members of this original group, and they continue to provide a source of insight and perspective.
The overwhelming message I've gotten from this group through the years is that dealing with extramarital affairs is a life-altering experience. Their quotes and case histories used throughout this book illustrate its devastating impact. Some of them had been married only two years at the time an affair was discovered; others had been married as long as 39 years. Regardless of when or how it happened in the marriage, it became an issue that rocked the relationship to its core and constituted a dramatic change in their lives. Here's the way one person described its effect.
When a person witnesses a murder, they describe how they relive it, and how the shock is still with them and has changed their whole perception of the world. This is so easily accepted by people; yet dealing with the trauma of an affair is notthough it too dramatically changes life, and your perception of it, forever.
The reason dealing with an affair is such a devastating experience with such long-lasting effects is that our beliefs about monogamy have led us to expect that we won't have to face the issue of affairsand to feel like a personal failure if it happens. This way of thinking is based on what I have come to call the Monogamy Myth.