Chat with Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil, author of Make Up, Don't Break Up

Cmrebecca: Welcome to our chat with Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil, author of Adultery: The Forgivable Sin and Make Up, Don't Break Up, for no-nonsense advice to anyone who has given up on ever finding or keeping true love.
DrBonnieWeil: Hello. I just wanted to mention that most people can "Make Up" and don't have to break up, even when adultery is the problem. Second marriages are higher in divorce and adultery than first marriages. Sixty percent of second marriages fail -- that's almost two out of three. That is why we wanted to have this chat tonight about "Making Up, Not Breaking Up." Most relationships in which adultery is the problem can be saved, except when there is abuse, no remorse for what the person has done, repeating the adultery or when there has been no change or movement. It is my pleasure to be with you all tonight. I feel very strongly about this topic.
tom_y: My wife has become very belligerent for no apparent reason. There is nothing but criticism. Sex is non-existent and I have no idea what to do.
DrBonnieWeil: Tom, are you worried she is having an affair?
tom_y: She may be but I am not sure.
DrBonnieWeil: Tom, those are some warning signals. The first thing I want you to do is to make it safe for her to talk about how lonely she may be feeling. Then, without blame or judgement -- very important -- say that you wonder if she may have been so lonely that she looked for someone else to comfort or bond with. You have to take some responsibility, even if you don't believe it, for the part that you may have played.
tom_y: This as been going on for about two years.
DrBonnieWeil: Tom, this will help her to feel more open and safe and be able to admit it may be happening. Say that you love her and that you want to work it out with her. And tell her you know she has been detaching from you and that you will do whatever it takes, because you think the relationship is worth it. Now expect her to be provocative and angry if she has done it because it is just guilt, but don't respond to it in kind, respond to it with love.


tom_y: She is very judgmental -- may I give a concrete example?
DrBonnieWeil: Sure, Tom.
tom_y: On vacation in July (a family reunion) a bunch of us were having a small disagreement about where to go for dinner and I piped up with where I wanted to go. We went back to our rented house and she told me, "I hate you because you are so much like your father and I dread it when you come home."
DrBonnieWeil: Tom, in what way does she say you are like your father?
tom_y: I am not sure.
DrBonnieWeil: Tom, I think what you want to focus on is talking to her about what she dreads, to find out what she is looking for that she is not getting. Saying she dreads you coming home is serious. You both need to communicate. This is a very serious situation. Look to see if there are any other stressful situations going on in your lives right now and definitely seek counseling. The good news is that you are both talking a bit, because she is telling you there is something wrong. But seek counseling immediately.
Pammypanda: Is adultery a form of abuse?
DrBonnieWeil: Pam, yes. It is emotional abuse. Anytime you hurt another person -- that is a form of abuse. The trouble with any kind of addiction, which adultery usually is, is that it is not necessarily a malicious type of abuse, but it's an addiction most of the time. It takes over all reasoning, consideration and such, and becomes 'number one' instead of the partner.
Pammypanda: I have taken a stand against abuse.
DrBonnieWeil: Pam, that is why we say you have to set your own limits and be prepared to give an ultimatum to an adulterer. That is why you must have a commitment from that person to stop. Because there can be no change in a relationship if the person is still cheating. I often make people write contracts for fidelity. If you want to know the details, they're in the book Adultery, the Forgivable Sin. I put an example of a fidelity contract in there.


Pammypanda: I feel any abuse should not be tolerated -- we as women have put up with enough.
DrBonnieWeil: Pam, that is exactly why you must take a stand and not allow it. Remember that it's a wakeup call and a cry for help. Not usually meant as abuse, although it comes out as abuse. It's not okay, and it's not necessarily only men, in fact 50 percent of women commit adultery. But a relationship takes two.
Dancess: I am not having an affair, but every time I go out my husband accuses me of it because when we were dating 19 years ago I cheated on him. I hate going out because of all the accusations, and I feel trapped like I'm in a prison. I have remained overweight because when I lose weight, the accusations get worse. I hate being overweight. I do love my husband, but how do I deal with this and be happy?
DrBonnieWeil: Dancess, it is very important to have a "Fight Fair," which is a certain form of smart heart dialogue that I talk about. You can sit down with your husband, put on your emotional bulletproof vest and allow him to throw emotional darts around you for the "betrayal" he felt from 19 years ago. He is still punishing you because it is not over for him, which is why he keeps bringing it up.
Dancess: I am just so tired of crying all the time. Even today we got in a big fight about it and he just says he can't get over it. He told me to leave him -- well, he screamed that in my face.
DrBonnieWeil: Dancess, what you can do is read the part about fighting fair in my new book Make Up Don't Break Up, and use the ground rules as a way to get this issue cleared up so you can restore the magic and repair the damage.
Dancess: He said he hates feeling like that and he wants me to leave. I don't want to leave but I want to be happy.
DrBonnieWeil: Dancess, it doesn't sound like he really means it -- it sounds like he feels like a pain in the butt because he can't get over it. I don't think he really means that. I think he needs some consoling from you and a feeling of you walking in his shoes.


Dancess: He was in my face today screaming LEAVE ME LEAVE ME.
DrBonnieWeil: He is dealing with a sense of betrayal and doesn't know how to handle it. He needs to be made to feel safe. Fighting Fair is just one page in the book … it's a good start. Also counseling so you can heal and move forward. This isn't a marriage that sounds like it needs to end, he is just feeling abandoned and he needs your help and a therapist's help.
Dancess: Sometimes I just want to run away and never come back and just disappear from him so I won't hurt him.DrBonnieWeil: Dancess, also tell him you will not leave him, to reassure him. Your leaving is his biggest fear. He's actually testing you because that is what he is really afraid of. Tell him you can both work this out with help and learning to talk it out. Don't leave.
Daddy_mike: Why would someone have a need to flirt if they already get an enormous amount of affection and love? Does flirting lead to cheating?
DrBonnieWeil: Daddy, yes, it can lead to cheating. It is very unusual for someone who is getting a lot of love and affection to flirt. Even though you feel you may be giving a lot of love and affection, you may not be giving it to the point they want it. We usually give the way we want to receive. Is it possible that your spouse's "script" is different from yours?
Daddy_mike: Someone told me that it was because of her low self-esteem.
DrBonnieWeil: Daddy, that's too easy and too much psychological jargon. Everyone in the world has it to a certain degree. If she has low self-esteem then she needs building up. Again, if she is being loved the way she needs to be loved, is she conveying it to you, and are you asking? Use the Fight Fair formula and go for it.
Daddy_mike: What could be missing? Sex is awesome.
DrBonnieWeil: Daddy, maybe she needs emotional connection, not physical. Men act physically, women need to talk and be validated and be heard.


confusedat23: I was with my fiancé for seven years and he broke up with me for no other reason than it was not working. I know he had a girlfriend not even a month after our split. Is this common?
DrBonnieWeil: Confused, two things -- he replaced you to avoid grieving for the loss of the seven-year relationship and yes, it is common but it never works. The second thing I am wondering is if he was scared of commitment, because it is common that someone may commit adultery due to the fear of being so close to commitment. It is very common for someone to replace another to prove they don't really need you. The other possibility is that he already had someone. Or, there may have been a lot of relationship debris and he could have been looking for that "hormonal high" that is called the "Honey Moan" stage with a new partner (which really never works). It's only a matter of time before it happens in his new relationship as well.
confusedat23: Should I give him his space and move on and maybe we will get back together in the future?
DrBonnieWeil: Confused, that is exactly my point. He's doing it again. He is so scared about the closeness of the new girl that he is running to something more comfortable. When that's too close for comfort, he'll run to a new person to take care of the fear of a relationship. You need to give him a gentle ultimatum and tell him he has to choose, that you will not see him if he is with another person and that he needs to go to therapy to get rid of the phobia. Stay firm.
PROVIDER39: My husband recently had a flirtation with a coworker, which came close to being an infidelity (he made a date, but backed out). I'm so hurt over this. I found out because he told me and apologized but I feel like I don't know him anymore. When will this stop hurting. I love him and want things back the way they were. Any advice?
DrBonnieWeil: Provider, good for him! He didn't act out and he told you, which was a cry for help. Try, I know how hard it is because you are hurting very badly, but try to give him acknowledgement for the two steps he took. One, he did not act out sexually, two he told you. What he wants to do is work it out with you. Tell him you love him and want to understand why he felt so lonely that he had to go to someone else. Ask him what he needs from you, without blaming yourself. Soul search -- have you been spending too much time with the kids or at work or on the phone? Have you been leaving him out of things, or is he going through a crisis of some kind and is looking for an escape?


PROVIDER39: How do I get over being suspicious? We were always best friends and I miss that closeness we shared.
DrBonnieWeil: Get counseling and perhaps take a look at my book Adultery, the Forgivable Sin, which explains "emotional" affairs -- that will help you better understand this. And read the new book Make Up Don't Break Up to help you to restore the magic in your marriage.
Jennifertwin: My husband never gives me any attention. When I try to hug or kiss him he tells me to leave him alone. I love him very much but have found that affection in another man. I have been with my husband for a total of nine years and am not sure if I'm willing to give up. How can I get my husband to give me the affection I need and deserve?
DrBonnieWeil: Jennifer, first you will need to give up the affair with the other man and go back with your husband because if you are getting the affection you need from someone else, no one can compete with that.
Jennifertwin: But how do I get my husband to do it for me?
DrBonnieWeil: You need to tell your husband you feel taken for granted and unappreciated, and that you need quality time. Ask him if he will go for help to bring back the relationship. If he doesn't agree that there is a problem and is willing to go for help or change his behavior, then you may have to give him the "brush with death," where you must disconnect with your husband in order to reconnect. If that fails, then you may want to consider what you really want to do and which man you really want to be with.
Malacis: I'm involved with a man who is married with two small children and I don't know what to do. I'm confused.
DrBonnieWeil: Malacis, there is not too much to be confused about: You are going to get hurt. Get out now and tell him to go take his wife for counseling. If the counseling with his wife doesn't work and he is willing to leave, then you can go out with him. But only five to ten percent of men actually do leave their wives.
Malacis: I would feel bad for the kids.
DrBonnieWeil: Malacis, that is normal, because most people who go out with married men have an intimacy problem and don't want to get that close. And the wife in the middle keeps it safe.
Dlynettef: I was in a five-year relationship with a man who I thought was my 'soul mate.' He cheated and after a long, drawn-out breakup a year ago, I am feeling awfully lonely and sad. I still wish Prince Charming would show up. But how can I be sure the next man won't do something similar?
DrBonnieWeil: Def, great question. I would suggest therapy to work through any patterns you may have in your family where adultery was the issue, so you can trust yourself better in terms of your picking mechanism. And when you do date someone, ask him how he feels about fidelity?
Dlynettef: Thanks. I have a lot of baggage, so it's not the men, it's me.
DrBonnieWeil: Also look in my book Adultery, the Forgivable Sin for the warning signs of self-centered people who could commit adultery. And ask if there may be some adultery in your family that you may not know about. This was a wonderful chat tonight. I also want to say that I hope this chat helps you to "Make Up, Don't Break Up" and to see "Adultery" as the forgivable sin. I look forward to seeing all of you on the message board. Thanks for coming tonight.

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