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"Choosing" an Affair

In Compassionate Communication the working premise is that all behavior is an attempt to meet a life giving need or align with a universal value.  Unfortunately that same behavior may put needs for oneself and others at cost.  Choices to meet a need at a high cost to yourself or others are not true choices, but rather behavior arising from reactivity and a limited view.

Let's look at having an affair* as an example.  The most obvious needs that "choosing" an affair might meet include:  intimacy, love, affection, discovery, acceptance, and aliveness.  The most likely needs at cost with an affair include: honesty, trust, consideration, integrity, harmony, respect, and caring.

When engaging in a high cost behavior like an affair, there are many limiting beliefs present that repeatedly trigger a reactive state. Here are some beliefs that could influence the decision to have an affair.  You might believe:

  • Your partner will never like or respect you.
  • Your partner will never be able to hear you the way you want to be heard.
  • The relationship isn't strong enough to contain the expression of your unmet needs and there is no way to change this.
  • Your partner will fall apart if you leave and there is no other support for them.
  • You have a right to not consider them because there are so many times they didn't consider you.
  • You are not good enough or worth anything unless someone is sexually attracted to you.
  • You can only get your need for acceptance met with the person of the affair
  • This person of the affair is the only one in the world for you.

Knowing that limiting beliefs are present, in itself, doesn't change anything.  Noticing how they are expressed in myriad and subtle ways in both thoughts and behavior begins to create a platform for change.  For example, if you carry the belief that your partner can't hear you and catch yourself noticing in a single instance that you are holding back from expressing your feelings and needs, you create a moment of choice.  In this moment you can choose to act from your belief or consider another possible reality.  Acting from a new belief that your partner can hear you might say this, "I want to share something and I am feeling nervous.  I need some reassurance. Could you reassure me that you want to listen and understand where I'm coming from?"

Part of living and communicating from compassion and wisdom means attending to your thoughts and beliefs moment by moment and deciding if that is the approach to life you would really like to take.  Put another way, notice "who" is responding to life.  Is it limited fearful you or an expansive loving you?  The moment you notice, "I am in a small fearful place", you are not in that place.  You are in the position of the observer and you have become a little bit bigger in that moment.  From this bigger you, you can immediately engage a practice like loving-kindness for the fearful part of you, self-empathy, or self-soothing.

Relating to yourself consistently with attentiveness and compassion builds a sense of self-trust.  Trusting in your own self-care you are less likely to make high cost decisions like having an affair or staying in a dead end job.  Regardless of what reactivity says, you trust that at a fundamental level you are okay and you can take care of yourself without betraying your integrity.

This week, set your intention to notice moments when you are responding to life from a fearful and limited view.  The moment you notice it, name it and turns towards yourself with compassion by engaging any specific practice like:  a hand on your heart, a prayer for your happiness, a soothing tone, a big stretch with eyes to the sky, a thought of someone who cares for you, etc.

*Affair could be defined as a series of behaviors that includes breaking of an agreement regarding intimacy that is shared and not shared with others and then maintaining secrecy around that broken agreement which typically includes the omission of facts and lying.

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4 Responses

  1. Sep 28, 2017
    Jackie Porter

    Hi LaShelle! Thank you for this Gem. I loved it. When I started I didn't think it was for me, But I LOVE the script for myself which I am taking away for this message. It is simple and quick:
    Who IS this? Am I small fearful being or large loving being. I am an observer and I can care for my hurting self. I have a CHOICE. and I loved all you responses for empathy. I also added self-hug which I personally like.I remember you so fondly and am forever grateful for your teaching. You are the greatest!

  2. Sep 29, 2017

    Hi Jackie,

    So sweet to hear from you. I have checked in on you over the years via our mutual contacts.

    Thank you for your feedback here. Very nourishing to hear how this landed and contributed!

    Sending love!

  3. Oct 01, 2017
    Ed Halloran

    Hi LaShello,
    Reading this Gem I felt happy and excited, especially for two points on which I feel curious.
    In the first paragraph, last sentence,"Choices to meet a need at a high cost to yourself or others are not true choices, but rather behavior arising from reactivity and a limited view. I am wondering if there is a word for either these choices or this behavior. I tend to think of it as acting out, compulsive or addictive behavior and wonder if there is another distinction.
    Also curious about the definition of "Affair" which seems to emphasize emotional or psychological infidelity. Is this your definition for the Gem or is it from something else?
    Thanks for shedding your light in my world!

  4. Oct 03, 2017

    Thanks Ed.

    Maybe tragic choices is the most apt as it points to the result rather than having to analyze the mind-state the choice came from. In NVC communities the term Tragic Strategies is often used.

    Hmm, yes, that's a definition I developed through my work with couples, it's not meant to leave out physical infidelity but rather simply include all types.

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