Q: A friend of mine claims he's heard that having an affair can actually spice up your marriage. That sounds wrong to me, but I'm not really sure what to say to him. What's your take?
Jim: Having an affair will certainly NOT "spice up" the relationship. Infidelity has been described as a nuclear bomb detonating within a marriage. From the people I've known who've suffered through an affair, that imagery seems entirely appropriate. The effects on everyone involved are devastating.
Affairs are driven almost exclusively by emotion. The euphoria and excitement of infidelity is intoxicating. In fact, "intoxication" is a perfect descriptor because, at their core, affairs are virtually identical to alcohol and drug addiction. Neither addiction nor infidelity is a rational, logical solution to life's challenges. They're both attempts at escaping reality.
We all have legitimate desires for love and significance. But filling those needs with the emotional "high" of an affair is an illusion. You're not in love with a human being; you're in love with the fantasy of what you wish your relationship could be. The truth is that if the other person doesn't truly know you, they can't truly love you. What they love about you is no deeper than the surface. It's not the real, authentic you who can be known only through years of a healthy, intimate relationship. And just like every addiction, it'll only leave you feeling empty when it's over.
So, I would say to your friend: "Maybe you're struggling in your marriage, and the idea of an affair has crossed your mind. Or maybe you're already in one, and you feel trapped. Let me urge you to seek the help of a professional counselor now. There is still hope. Your marriage and your life can be restored."
Our counselors can help; see FocusOnTheFamily.com.
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Q: As a recently remarried stepparent, what can I do to make the transition to blended family life as smooth as possible for my children, my spouse's kids and everyone else concerned?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: The task of building a successful blended family is challenging and complicated. Even under the most ideal circumstances, it takes lots of time. So the most important thing is to be patient.
It's crucial to have realistic goals; don't expect to become "The Brady Bunch" overnight. Also, allow sufficient room for grieving. The kids in particular should have permission to mourn the breakup of their original family and the loss of everything that went along with it -- their house, neighborhood, friends, school, etc.
In all you do, try your best to give lots of affection to everyone in your new family. That means spending time alone with your spouse, working on your "couple" relationship, and making marital intimacy and communication a priority.
Meanwhile, since you've both brought children into the marriage, be sure to continue devoting plenty of attention to your own kids, so they don't feel abandoned in your attempt to bond with your new stepchildren. When you do show affection to your stepchildren, don't try to "prove yourself" to them, and don't make them feel as if they have to "earn" your love. Be patient as they catch up with their parent's decision to love this new person and go through their own process of deciding how to love you.
Finally, make an intentional effort to begin building a history together. Family bonding involves common experiences and shared memories. So start looking for ways to build a sense of "us" and "we" in your new home. Plan trips. Play games. Establish holiday traditions. Take lots of