Friends often share deep secrets, writes Everett L. Worthington, Jr. Ph.D., in his book “When Someone Asks for Help: A Practical Guide for Counseling.” If your friend confides that she is thinking of having an affair, you probably know many details of her life that explain to you why she’s tempted and that you can use to help discourage her from having an affair. Your relationship can make a difference, if your friend will listen, writes Worthington.
1. Listen and Ask
Your friend’s disclosure can open the door for you to ask questions that make him think about what he is planning to do. You might ask if he has met someone specific he is planning to have the affair with, or if he is just generally fed up with his situation at home. With each question, you get a better picture of the situation, helping him feel heard and supported. You can ask why he doesn’t leave his partner instead of having an affair or how he thinks his partner will react if she finds out. Each question provides an opportunity for him to think before he acts.
2. Provide Information
Once you have established a connection in which your friend is listening to you, you can provide information that can persuade her not to engage in an affair. Pertinent information may include an assurance that many spouses feel unappreciated or have unmet needs at various times in the marriage, and that marital counseling can help, suggests the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. You might remind your friend that feelings of shame, guilt and unhappiness often accompany an affair and that spouses feel betrayed and angry, even if the affair never becomes physical. If your friend doesn’t want to end the marriage, remind her that the pain and anger felt by her betrayed spouse could result in a messy divorce and public shame.
3. Provide Perspective
You can suggest that there are better ways to find love, deep emotional connection, communication and feelings of self-worth than having an affair. You could share memories of a time when you felt dissatisfied with your marriage and things that helped you get through it, such as the support of friends, prayer, counseling, better communication with your spouse and a renewed commitment to work with your spouse to improve your relationship. Suggest that your friend's spouse could also be dissatisfied with the marriage and might agree to work with him to improve the relationship rather than tear it apart with secrecy, deceit and betrayal.
4. Build Support
Remind your friend that you aren’t a professional counselor and don’t have all the answers. Suggest that she seek professional counseling and provide references if possible. If some of the marriage problems are the result of addictive behaviors, you could suggest a 12-step program or other support group where she might find support. Offer to loan her books you have found helpful regarding marriage. Finally, remind her that you are her friend and you want her to be happy and healthy without the pain that accompanies an affair.
- When Someone Asks for Help: A Practical Guide for Counseling; Everett L. Worthington, Jr. Ph.D.
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: Infidelity
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