159 of 189 people found the following review helpful
Odd mix of good info, illogic, and ignorance
, March 21, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful (Paperback)
This book has some nice bits and pieces, mostly when it reports what patients have said. The interpretive framework, and much of the attendant advice, is shockingly illogical and worse.
Dr. Spring says, "I don't make blanket judgments about whether affairs are, in themselves, good or bad. What may be enhancing for one of you may devastate the other, and destroy the relationship." That's emblematic of the reasoning in this book: By definition, seeking one's own welfare at the expense of another, violating contracts and promises out of self-seeking, is wrong. That's not even a close call: It is THE bright-line, paradigm, primary-level case of wrong behavior, and has been for a few thousand years of ethical reflection and teaching. Dr. Spring somehow infers from the DEFINITION of immoral behavior a reason NOT to judge? That says a lot about the knowledge of ethics and moral psychology contained in this book.
And the dogma that the betrayed of necessity contributes to the affair? Let's face facts: No one can make you drop your pants, or make you decide that betraying your partner is an acceptable way to feel good, except yourself. Your partner can make you miserable, and you have lots of legitimate, honorable ways of confronting that. Your lack of honor, willingness to violate trusts and promises, egoism, willingness to lie--your partner cannot cause these.
Another fact: It simply is not necessarily the case that a person who has been betrayed caused the betraying partner any significant amount of pain. The betraying partner's pain, if any is involved, may come from other sources. Furthermore, the betraying partner may have been emotionally unwilling or unable to accept help from the spouse, whether from pride or some other personal limitation.
It is also not the case that the betraying partner has necessarily been the one on whom marital stress has been greatest. The betrayed partner has often suffered more at the hands of the wayward spouse, yet had the strength and honor to keep his or her pants on.
Despite Dr. Spring's presenting it as fact, the dogma that "Both partners contributed" is not the result of research. It is not even a testable idea. It is like the notion, "Everything that happens is God's will." If you want to believe it, you can always find a way to believe it--it simply is not falsifiable. But it simply isn't something that research has shown.
I find myself flummoxed at Dr. Spring's "normalizing" feelings by saying that since they are natural consequences of the situation you are in, they are normal, not crazy. Now, think about an analogy: The natural consequences of being hit in the head with a baseball bat include concussion, brain damage, even death. Does that make these things "normal"? Only in the statistical sense-not in the sense that they are in any way healthy. Craziness, illness, disorder, injury-call it what you will--always has causes. It is always the "normal" result of certain events. That does not make it perfectly "normal" in anything like the sense of "nothing to worry about" or "healthy." Betrayal does real damage--it causes serious injury. As a matter of fact, not arm-chair pronouncement, in many cases individuals never recover from the causally-inevitable damage that betrayal entails, damage that is often beyond the power of any victim or therapist to fix. If Dr. Spring admitted that, though, she might have to admit that infidelity is just flat wrong.
The notions about mental disorders in here are at best debatable. I should know--I wrote a book widely used as a graduate-level textbook on psychotherapy. For instance, in spite of over seven decades of serious research, no one has been able to find correlations between early childhood and adult behavior. Most serious researchers have just given up the idea.
I guess when people are devastated, anything that seems to make some sense of their confusion, give them a new and intelligible orientation, and provide a promise (whether well- or ill-founded) of control over the outcome--well, anything like that seems helpful. That's the only way I can understand so many people saying this book helped them. But I find it very disturbing that so many people consider this illogical, ethically-uninformed book admirable.
While real research (as opposed to therapists' assurances) on recovering from infidelity is not as good as we'd like, one of the better studies shows that about one marriage in seven actually recovers from infidelity. Nearly half of those "successful recoveries" come in cases of "one night stands," not on-going affairs.
But about two in three marriages "survives" infidelity. About three out of four "surviving" marriages are seriously crippled.
Chances are, then, that your marriage will "survive" infidelity, but the odds of surviving infidelity in good shape are extremely small--about one in seven--and in the case of protracted affairs that shrinks to about one in twelve. (Charny and Parnass, J Sex Marital Ther 1995 Summer;21(2):100-15)
These figures are for couples who have been in marriage counseling to deal with the infidelity. Before you sign up for marriage counseling to "save" your marriage, you might want to be aware of these data.
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