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9 Principles for Responding to a Friend in an Affair

This time last year I wrote a blog post that quickly became one of my most searched-for articles online: Help! Should I Tell My Friend that Her Husband is Cheating on Her?  In that post I mused that I should probably write a post to guide us through the angst when we find out it is our friend who has cheated. It has taken me a year to want to sit down and write it. Finding Out That Our Friend Has Cheated

While statistics are all over the board about how many of us actually admit to having extra-marital affairs, it does seem that due to women having more economic and sexual freedom, our numbers are on the rise in the last two decades. It appears that now one in every 5 or 6 of us will end up doing what we all of us swore we never would.  That means if you have 5 friends-- chances are high that this issue will impact you.

This is such a difficult subject to cover adequately due to all the possible complicating issues that could be present.  For example, is she confiding in you or are you finding out another way? Does she seem intent on trying to pull it off or is she confessing that it happened and she's trying to end it?  Do you know her partner and/or her lover?  Is your significant other involved in any way (i.e. as a friend to her partner)? Is she confessing or is she asking you to be an alibi for her and to aid her in the relationship?  Have you been wounded by marital affairs in the past, making it harder for you to come to this one without your own scabs getting pulled off? Are you happy in your own relationship?

Different answers to any of these questions would prompt different insights into the best way for you to respond, but without knowing you or the situation, all I can give are some principles that will hopefully lay a foundation for any choice you end up making.  Having been on both sides of this issue, and journeying closely with several friends over the years who have confided in me the angst of juggling a second relationship, I offer my wisdom with hope and humility.

Nine Principles to Remember:

  1. This is her crisis, not yours.  Yes, it could impact your friendship, your picture of her, your belief in love, and possibly even your own marriage, but, and this is important to remember: getting hit by some of the debris of an accident isn't the same as being in the accident. Keep this about her as much as possible. See my blog post about helping a friend in crisis to better provide a visual of how to act when you're in the outer rings.
  2. Nurture yourself and your relationships. With that said, if you are in a romantic relationship, be mindful that it may be impacted.  It may be as a result of conversations that you have with your significant other about the subject of infidelity, the insecurities it brings up in you, or simply the questions it raises about whether you're happy or not.  Recognize that while your friend is responsible for her life, she is not responsible for yours. Life will throw you a variety of subjects to process, this is your time to do so on this one.  In some ways it's a gift. Be extra gentle on yourself (and your partner) as you work yourself back to a place of alignment and peace through journaling, counseling, meditation, and other self-nurture and self-growth actions.
  3. Don't make it personal.  It is not because she doesn't trust you that she didn't tell you sooner.  It is not because you were in a happy relationship that she felt tempted to go find that, too.  It is not because you weren't there for her... blah, blah, blah.  She made choices and you are not to blame.  Additionally, there are a thousand reasons women don't tell their friends, many of them very valid reasons, so don't get steamed up about when and how you found out.  Just breathe deeply and acknowledge that in the big scheme of everything she's sorting through and trying to juggle and process-- the last thing she wants is to lose a friend and the last thing she needs is to spend energy now processing yet another relationship in her life. The more you can keep reminding yourself to not take this personally, the happier you (and she) will be.
  4. Draw your boundaries. It's okay to say that you're not willing to lie for her, be an alibi for her with her husband, or to talk about it ad nauseam.  It's okay to tell her that due to your religious beliefs, moral code, or personal history, this is a subject that you are very against or incredibly uncomfortable with.  It's okay for you to state what you are able to do and what you cannot do right now; but do so in as sensitive a way as possible, with as much respect as you can, and with the intention that you still want to do what you can.  It doesn't need to be all or nothing.  Perhaps start with something like, "This is such a hard situation for me, though I recognize it's even harder for you.  I want to love you and support you through this in the ways I can, and be honest with you where I can't right now.  In what ways do you most need me right now?" And then, ask her to tell you what would be most meaningful.  From there, you can honestly say yes to what you can and no to what you can't.
  5. You are her friend, not her counselor.  She may be so relieved to finally have you know her secret that she's at great risk of confiding waaay too much to you.  This is her affair, not yours, you don't need to hear all the details. Tell her with all the love you can, "I want to try to navigate this in a way that protects our friendship and serves us both as best as possible... and, I think, that includes you making sure you have the expert support in your corner to process this with."  It's unfair to put you in a place of counselor. And she needs one.
  6. Acknowledge that she is still a good person.  I really do believe that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have at the time. She didn't wake up one day with the intention to hurt anyone or to not live up to her own values.  She made bad choices, but that doesn't make her a bad person.  Be very cautious to protect your thoughts about her, whispering a form of the prayer, "Help me see her the way God sees her." Or, "I see that part of her that is beautiful, good, and pure."
  7. Her feelings are real.  We might not like them, but they're real. Real in that regardless of how we feel about her inappropriate relationship, she is feeling intense feelings of love, hope, and feelings of being valued, admired, and needed.  In other moments she is, undoubtedly, feeling shame, denial, and guilt.  We all know those feelings.  We might hate what is causing her to feel that way or disagree that she should feel them, but far better for us to try to empathize.  We know what it feels like to be torn; we know what it feels like to want to be loved, we know what it feels like to think about breaking up with someone you care about.  We don't have to condone her behavior to say, "It makes complete sense to me that you'd be drawn to that," or "I can't imagine how sad you must feel as you grieve the end of that relationship."  Love doesn't have to agree in order to support.
  8. Be mindful of our judgment.  From the Christian scriptures comes a saying: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." It was what Jesus said to the crowd who wanted to stone a woman for committing adultery.  I invite you to be mindful of the fact that we are all in process and all struggle with actions that are hurtful to ourselves and others.  Yours may not seem as glaring, so be thankful for that!  Then with humility recognize that you, too, have made mistakes, and that you're still struggling with discontent, jealousy, complaining, greed, criticism, or gossip. We are all learning the lessons we need to learn.  She will learn hers.  And she'll surprisingly learn it better when compassion is shown (so she doesn't have to feel defensive) as love is what empowers us to grow.  Shame simply paralyzes people.  We want her to grow so we want to act in as many ways as possible that invite her to courage, compassion, and hope.
  9. Know that this too shall pass.  Yes it will!  I promise.  It may feel like more drama than you can handle right now (and that's okay, try to be present as you can and honest when you can't) but someday she is going to wow you with the rebuilding of her life.  She's going to be laughing again, present again, and hopefully more healthy and mature because of the life lessons she is learning now. And when you find yourself in a crisis, she'll be someone you know you can trust to not judge you, to support you, and to understand.

This is, by no means, a comprehensive list.  I could keep going for days.  And I'm very aware that you could get done reading the list and still not know the best way to respond.  I therefore write these words with a prayer that accompanies them that anyone who reads this looking sincerely for guidance will find it. May those who seek, find.  May those who are unsure, err on the side of love.  May you be given an extra dose of compassion, energy, strength, and love today... your friend needs it.

Making New Friends in a New City, by Christie Mims

Note from Shasta: I've been writing so many guest blogs to celebrate my new book "Friendships Don't Just Happen!" that I decided I may need to have a few women guest blog for me until I have more words to share!  :)  Soon, I'm goingto start blogging about any questions you have as you read the book, concepts you wish I would unpack more, or anything you wished I would have highlighted-- post those questions on our Facebook page and I'll answer them here! For now, this is Christie Mims-- a brand new mover-and-shaker here in the San Francisco area. (Her bio is at the end.) Christie Mims

 

Making New Friends in a New City, by Christie Mims

I like to think of myself as a fairly cool person who is easy to get to know. I shower regularly, I smile often, I like dogs (I distrust people who don’t like dogs), and I have a passionate love for 1981 (3?) killer movie: “Staying Alive.” There may have only been about five actual pages of dialogue, but boy do the large hair and hand gestures make up for it. John Travolta, you have my endless thanks.

I also love my friends.  Friendship, for a long time, has been one of my most important life values. My friends are like my family. They are my sanity, and the people who give me joy. I try to write, reach out, communicate, drink, and play with my friends as often as possible. And even when they are scattered all over the world,

I will travel to see them when I can. They matter to me.

So, when I decided on a bit of a whim to uproot my revolutionary Career Coaching business from DC to San Francisco, I thought I would be fine.  My business is global, so it would be easy, right?

Sure, a lot of my friends were in DC, “but - I’ve got friends all over the world!” I thought to myself jauntily as I packed up my car, fresh from a trip to Germany to see some of said friends.

“I’ll be fine!” I said as I drove across country with my mom “I’ve got two amazing friends already in SF, plus all the people I’m sure I’ll meet. It’ll be great!”

“I’m good at staying in touch over email!” I said as I unpacked my stuff, alone in my new apartment for the first time.

“I’ll hang out with my friends here all the time!” I thought, as I sat around wondering what to do with myself...knowing that one of my friends was a new mom, and the other was deep in the throes of an all-consuming start-up.

Making New Friends isn't as Easy as it Sounds

And then it hit me.

I was alone in a new city, far from home and in an inconvenient time zone.  When I was lonely at night in my new home, my east coast friends were fast asleep (to say nothing of the Europeans).  And my friends here, while AMAZING, are pretty busy and not that close to me in terms of location. The bay area is bigger than I realized (I’m really terrible with geography...I blame the US school system. Also, who needs algebra? Really?).

The truth is that it was awful.

Weekends were the worst - I had full days stretching in front of me with nothing but time, and no one to share that time with.  And, I was also working hard on my business, stretching out of my comfort zone, building up my visibility in San Francisco, and learning about the city and the culture.  It was exhausting, and at the end of the day, I just wanted to be with someone who knew me. Who would come over for a glass of wine and watch bad tv and talk about boys or shoes.

I was lonely.

I was sad.

And I felt so lost.

But I Made My Friendships Happen!

So I did what I know how to do.  I networked (I’m from DC, it’s what we do). At events with women.  Hoping that maybe I would meet someone cool, and at minimum I would make business connections.  I reached out.  I introduced myself awkwardly and invited people to lunch or coffee.

I stalked some people over email if I thought we would hit it off.

I signed myself up for Shasta’s Friendship Accelerator (Note from Shasta: see below for description of these workshops!), hoping that I would at least kill some time on a lonely Saturday, and thinking it would probably teach me something interesting. I told myself I needed to smile a lot and enjoy the city that I chose.

And I kept doing it.

It was not easy.  Most of the time, especially in the beginning, it wasn’t even particularly fun.

But I was open to it.  And cognizant of the fact that friendship has to start somewhere - and I needed to keep pushing myself out there so I would go from random coffees to full on friends.  Friendship, as Shasta sagely says, is based on consistency and intimacy.  You need to have both to have close friends.

So I threw myself into weekly dinners with my accelerator group.

I set up regular card nights with old and new friends (trying to integrate groups!).

I asked friends to introduce me to their friends in the area.

I joined new meetups and  organizations such as A Band of Wives (abusing google search in my attempts to find all possibilities).

And I kept going back.

I’ve been in the Bay Area now for roughly four months.  My social life, which felt a little like a broken puzzle when I first arrived, is now starting to snap into focus.

I’ve got friends, and plans, and some consistency with the friends and plans in my life. It matters. I remember when I had a week in the fall where I spent time with old and new friends almost every night, and at the end of it I felt like a new person.  It honestly impacted my health, and made making friends here an even bigger priority in my life.

I feel like I finally made it...and I’m so grateful to be building a life.

I know how difficult it is to just land, so, if you are new to the city - shoot me an email, I’m happy to have a glass of wine and say hello!  And if you are in another city, spend some time to get out there and connect with interesting new people.  Most importantly don’t give up - you’ll get there.  I did (and if I did, anyone can do it. I mean, I love Stayin’ Alive, so that is one strike against me :))!

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About Christie:  Christie holds a BA from the University of Virginia, a MA from the University of Kent, Brussels School of International Studies, and is a certified mediator and certified professional coach. Feeling stuck in your job and want free concrete ways to get UNstuck? Get Christie’s free kit here at The Revolutionary Club! And see what else she’s doing that is unprecedented over here!

About Friendship Accelerators: I (Shasta) facilitate Friendship Accelerators which are small groups of  women that I've matched for potential friendship who commit to attend seven hours of a friendship-workshop and group-bonding day, followed by 4 weekly get-togethers as a group. In one month, these groups experience more bonding than what most of us can do over a year with women we've met. They've been fabulously successful with the majority of women saying the value of the workshop alone was worth it, but how thrilled they are that nearly 80% of the groups are still meeting months after their commitment ended!  This is by far the most effective way I've yet seen to introduce women to each other and give them the best chance ever to foster local friendships that matter. I'm considering possible Accelerators in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle the coming months-- but will decide bases on where I have the most interest so sign up here to indicate your interest in being notified if I host a Friendship Accelerator near you!

 

Celebrating All Love, Not Just the Romantic Kind!

I am a big fan of romantic love.  A very big fan. And I'm all for having a day where we can celebrate those loving feelings. But... every Valentines I find myself worrying more about all the women who are so obsessed about being chosen by some dream man (or woman, as the case may be) that they forget that love comes from so many other places!  Today isn't just about whether we are "in love," but rather about whether we are living loving lives.  What a huge difference!

Anne Lamott (a popular author who writes spiritual memoirs such as her latest, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers) wrote this on her Facebook page this last week:

"I would estimate that approximately 17% of people enjoy Valentine's day. Mostly, women will be given boxes of chocolates that they don't want and can't resist, and will be really mad at themselves for inhaling. Many people will be filled with resentment, anxiety, and guilt at having forgotten, or having shown up late, or having accidentally been having affairs with other people. Many people will feel a sheet-metal sense of loneliness and rejection. They will be comparing their insides with other people's outsides, especially those happy valentines actors in advertisements and commercials. Most of the day, except for the lucky few, will be a nightmare."

That's a pretty depressing view.  And I so hope the number is higher than 17% of people who step into today with joy, contentment, and gratitude.  But it illustrates my point that for many, today has the potential to be depressing or disappointing.

Lamott is calling for an Occupy Valentines Day where women focus today on radical self-care instead of looking for external validation.  That is certainly in alignment with my friend Christine Arylo, the Queen of Self-Love and author of Madly in Love with ME: The Daring Adventure of Becoming Your Own Best Friend who has declared every Feb. 13 as the International Day of Self-Love.  The message that I am so glad is entering our consciousness is the reminder that love has to start with us.

Let's Choose All Love Today!

I invite all of us to decide today that we are going to choose to remember that we are loved. That means recognizing that whether we are in a romantic relationship or not, that we are valuable, worthy, loveable, and amazing.  We are no less so, no matter what our relationship status.  That means that we're going to pry our little fingers open and let go of any set expectation of what someone has to do for us today to make us feel good.  We can choose to feel loved all by ourselves.  Yes, we can.

Choosing to celebrate our own worthiness can take on many different forms. Whether it's planning this evening to be filled with the things that bring us personal joy, scheduling some 30 minutes of self-care that we give ourselves, or setting aside time to journal and ground ourselves in what we know is lovingly true about us, we can decide if we want to choose love or fear today.

Choosing love is an inside job.

Proof of that is that we have all been in relationship before and still not felt like we were "enough."  A relationship doesn't mean we're in anymore loved or able to receive love any easier.  So let's not fall for the delusion that we need someone else before we can feel it.

And then, after accepting our own personal love, let's also commit to reach out to others we love.  So for some of us it may include a romantic partner, but for all of us it also includes family members, co-workers, and friends.  It means showing up in ways that remind others that they are loved.  Let's make sure our very presence invites others to feel good about themselves.

This can include such things as:

  • Leaving a voice mail for a girlfriend telling her 5 things we love about her.
  • Taking 2 minutes to write an email (or send an e-card) to any of our friends who have recently gone through a break-up or divorce and reminding them,"Just in case you are tempted to doubt your amazing-ness today-- I just wanted to jump in your inbox and tell you how absolutely love-able, wonderful, and beautiful you are. You are so loved and thought of on this Valentines Day!"
  • Calling your parents and thanking them for showing you so much love over the years.
  • Scheduling an impromptu Valentines happy hour at your apartment after work and inviting anyone you think of or see throughout the day!
  • Give hugs everywhere you go.  Few of us get too much healthy and loving touch in our lives.
  • And commit to just really listen and see people tomorrow.  Everyone you encounter in meetings, during sales calls, and in the break room is fighting their own battles-- be sure they know you saw them and valued them.

There is a very real spiritual truth and it is that love goes every direction; meaning that it's impossible for you to give love and have any less of it yourself.  As we give, we receive.  As we hug, we get hugged. As we smile at others, we feel happier.  As we remind others of their inherent worth, we remember our own.

Today, let's be a community of women that loves.  May we exude the love we crave.  May we be the love this world needs.

With love and hope,

Shasta

p.s.  Want to buy a gift for a girlfriend, sister, or mother? Send a note telling them you just purchased "Friendships Don't Just Happen!" and are having it sent to them as a thank you for how much love they have shown you over the years!

p.s.s.  Just went through a recent break-up or feeling bad about being alone this year? My friend, Ellen Smoak of Break-ups are a Bitch has begun a free 1-month Cupid's Roast filled with interviews with all kinds of sex, dating, relationship, and love coaches to help inspire and heal you.  (I'll be featured toward the end!)

 

5 Tips for Finding Time for Friends

If you're anything like me-- and you don't have to admit it if so!--I can get caught up in the idea of doing things more than the actual doing of those things. I like the idea of being someone who reads the classic books and authors, but when my reading time is limited, those aren't the books I pick up.  I think of myself as a traveler, though wonder how many years I can go without traveling abroad and still have that self-identity?  I want to do more physical activities outside, but often choose sitting at a cafe when free time arises. I love the picture of having friends over all the time, entertaining in those magazine-inspired ways, and effortlessly throwing together parties on a regular basis.

clock running out of time

And while I want to keep holding the ideal version of myself... I also know I need to create a way to still lean into what I value even if it's not ideal.  For we don't all have unlimited time to read all the books we want, the budget to travel every year, the energy to choose tennis over a drink in a cafe, or the space in our lives for ongoing party-hosting.  So I can't always have it all.  But surely I can have some of it?

Time-Saving Ways to Connect with Friends

So in our ideal worlds we have 3-7 women we keep in touch with, hopefully getting together regularly and easily for potlucks, parties, barbeques and girls nights out.  But what about when life doesn't warrant that all the time? Or, any of the time?

We have jobs, relationships, kids, mortgages, yard work, a growing pile of mail, parents to call, emails to respond to, facebook to check in on, a toilet that needs scrubbing... the list goes on.  There is no doubt that we live busy lives.  And that list doesn't even include the hope that we can find time to have our "me-time" to include our exercise, yoga, meditation, or at least a glass of wine and fifteen minutes on the couch before bed. We're tired.  Busy. Stressed. Where are we expected to fit in our friends?

Here are five friendship ideas I gave to the Chicago Tribune last year:

  1. Book it: Make a standing appointment with your nearest and dearest. Say every Tuesday night. Or first Sunday of the month. Or get really creative and buy yourselves a season subscription to a theater, or orchestra, or sports team. That way there are no five e-mails back and forth figuring out what works. You've got the slot; stick to it.
  2. Piggyback it: Figure out what you need to get done, what your dear friend needs to get done, and do it together. Be it a pedicure, or shopping for undies, or a trip to the gym.
  3. Bond it: When you do make time to be together, don't dawdle around on the surface, take it deeper. Ask questions that matter. Don't just get updates on the kids but find out how she's feeling about her parenting. Use the time to actually bond, not just be together.
  4. Make it multiples: See a few nearest and dearest friends at the same time. Get together in groups of anywhere from three to six close friends. I don't want to sound crass, but it takes less time to share stuff once, instead of calling each of those friends and retelling the same story. And that way you get four unique responses at once. This generous approach helps more of you reconnect — and if a pressing deadline or last-minute obligation forces one person to cancel, the rest still get to bond.
  5. Pare it: The challenge for some women is that their network of friends is so vast, they feel they can't possibly keep up with everyone. Pick anywhere from three to five friends who matter the most. You simply don't have to be friends with everyone as that risks you not really feeling close to anyone. Prioritize. Give the most time to the ones who matter most and who feed you the most.

The honest truth is that time spent with friends really will boost our energy so it's worth adding into a busy schedule.  But we're gonna have to cut out the guilt trips we're placing on ourselves to do everything!  Find a few women who are your priority and start leaning into more time with them in creative ways.

It's not all-or-nothing.  We can have meaningful friendships with a little something.  :)

What other ideas do you have?  How do you make time for your friends?  Leave comments sharing your tips!