When Good People Have Affairs…


Are you involved in a love triangle?  Have you been looking for someone who gets it and can offer clear advice? I have a book for you!

I have read two book recently –

When Good People Have affairs: Inside the Hearts and Minds of People in Two Relationships by Mira Kirshenbaum

Will He Really Leave Her For Me?: Understanding Your Situation and Making Decisions for Your Happiness by Rona Subotnik (I’ll review this one at a later date)

I think they are both very good and enlightening books with a lot of information.  I said I would write a blog on both books, I’m going to start with When Good People Have Affairs (WGPHA) because I think it is the book that can help the most people.

This book is written for the married person having an affair, male or female.  It is not written for the betrayed spouse, or the affair partner. While I highly, highly recommend that the married person balancing two relationships read this book, I would also recommend that the AP or BS read this book as well.  Although, I found some parts of the book difficult to read from the AP perspective, I found it insightful and it answered many questions.  I would imagine the BS would find some parts difficult too, but again will also allow them to have answers to many of the questions they might have as to why their spouse strayed, how to help fix their marriage or accept why it is over.

Mira Kirshenbaum is a licensed marriage counselor who has worked with families and married couples for over 30 years.  She says in the introduction that she believes that affairs are not a good thing and she does not condone them, but she often gets people after the affair has begun and she counsels them with where they are.  She also says she is on the side of love and happiness and her goal is to help these people to make decisions based on what will make them happiest in the long run, and then giving them the tools to help everyone navigate whatever decision they make.  She does not ever say in the book that continuing the affair is an option.  In fact, she says that they have three choices: stay in their marriage and mend it, leave their marriage to be with their AP, or leave both BS and AP and be single. Whether the affair has been discovered or not, or the affair is on going – her goal is to get the person to make a decision and begin to mend all involved.

How hungry are you? – She begins the book with saying that most people who enter into affairs are good people.  She compares them to very hungry people.  Kirshenbaum says that even in the most moral of people willpower will only hold out for so long.  She says that if a person is starving they will eat a hamburger if it is presented them or begin to look for a hamburger.  The need for human love and affection is a primal need, just like hunger. Thus, this is how many affairs begin. She acknowledges that not all are like this, but the vast majority are.

She identifies 17 types of affairs.  She tries to get the reader to break down their affair into one, or a combination of these affairs.  By doing this it will help them understand what was missing and why they entered into the affair.  After figuring out what affair(s) they are engaged in, she breaks the 17 affairs down into two categories: Stay in your marriage or Make a decision as to whether to leave or stay. Thus if the reader finds that they have identified a type, or types of affairs that are in the “Stay in your marriage” category the decision has already been made. If they find they land in the “Make a decision category” they have some more work to do to make a decision.

In the middle part of the book, she has the reader compare their spouse with their lover. If you are like me, I cringed, but she is trying to get them to be objective.  She does this through a variety of exercises and examples.  One way she does this is by having them examine 5 components of chemistry.

– Easy connections – Do you feel good with the person?  Is it easy and comfortable to be with the other person? Do you feel comfortable in your own skin and being who you are with the person? Can you talk freely?

– Fun – Can you two have fun even when there aren’t others around? If just the two of you were in room, could you have find fun together when there aren’t any distractions?

-Safety – Do you feel emotionally and physically safe with this person?  Do you trust them?

– Mutual respect – Do you respect them?  Do you value them and their judgement? Do they respect you and value you?

– physical chemistry – Do you feel good with them?  Does it feel good to kiss them?  Do you enjoy being physically close to them? Does it feel natural and not forced?

She also has them evaluate six characteristics which she says are deal breakers.  If the person doesn’t pass one they don’t pass any of them.  These characteristics are:

– not stupid – Do they make good decisions? little and small? Do they always seem to be making good decisions more often than not?

– not crazy – This goes along with not stupid.

– not creepy – Does this person feel comfortable in their own skin? Do they mix well with others? Do they make others comfortable in their presence? Are they goofy?

– not mean – Not just mean in an obvious way, but do they make cutting comments that leave you feeling beaten up? Are they generous of spirit and offer things freely?

– not ugly – She recognizes this can seem cruel, but says that when people don’t find their partners physically attractive and try to rise above it, it doesn’t last.  She says physical attraction is essential in relationships.

– not smelly – She isn’t talking about hygiene (she says that would fall under not stupid, not crazy and not creepy).  She is talking about pheromones.

She recognizes that many people having affairs may be looking at their spouses through a cloudy lens and may be looking at their AP through a rose colored lens.  So she tells them to remember the times when things were great with their spouses.  If they had all these things with them at one point they can have it again (she gives them tools in the end to get back there).  However, she says if these were issues in the beginning, it will be hard to achieve that if they weren’t there in the beginning of the relationship when everything is rose colored. In her experience in marriage counseling, she says the happiest couples have these components in their relationships and this is what sustains them when things get tough in marriage. This part of the book is much more in depth and examines more closely other factors of each relationship, this is a very, very broad overview.

She also encourages her reader to look at what is closest to their heart.  Being with someone I really love? Having a family? Being with someone who really gets me? Being with someone I can have fun with? – whatever they feel is most important to them it can be anything.

She then has them eliminate it down to one, and then has them focus on that.

There is also a section on children. Should you stay married because of the children? How to help children navigate a divorce, if they decide to divorce.   How to help children heal if they should stay in the marriage.  To tell the children of the affair or not.

Once the reader reaches a decision she gives them the tools to achieve this at the end of the book to help them achieve the decision.  She gives the reader a crash course in how to break up with someone. Remember, her goal is to get the reader to break it off with either the spouse, AP or both, so a break up is inevitable. However, she gives them the tools on how to deliver that news in the least hurtful manner and how they can help them to accept the breakup and heal.  If they have chosen to stay with their spouse she gives them advice on how to help their spouse heal and to get their marriage to a healthy place (she gives advice for both situations – if the spouse knows of the affair and if they don’t).  If they choose to be with their AP, she tells them they still have work to do there too, and gives advice on how to heal that relationship.  She talks about how to reestablish trust.

All in all I found the book enlightening and insightful.  I think this is a must read for married people who are involved in an affair.  For BSs and APs I think this book can help them to understand their role in the affair, and why it has happened. Here are some limitations I found with the book.  She doesn’t address people who have serial affairs.  These are people who have multiple affairs over the years.  Nor does she address the people who purposefully look to engage in an affair.  She does acknowledge that that happens, but she minimizes it by saying it is not the norm.  However, I believe it is a bigger issue than she acknowledges.  This book is really written for people who find themselves caught up in an affair and are very torn between what to do.  These people want to be happy and are concerned with everyone’s welfare: their spouse, children, AP, families, themselves.  This book is not for the person who is trying to stay married and have their cake too. For $7.99 for the kindle edition on Amazon, this book could be life changing.  I give it a thumb’s up!