BAN developed as a result of my own personal experience in dealing with my husband's affairs many years ago. In 1980 when we "went public" with our story in our book, Beyond Affairs, I heard from many people who identified with my experience and wanted to stay in touch. This was the beginning of my personal dedication to helping others, which led to my founding BAN.
Actually, I "set the stage" for BAN even before 1980 when I was writing the book, making a strong case for the importance of support groups. Below is an excerpt from the last chapter of Beyond Affairs.
But you're not alone! There are thousands of women who share this common experience...and there are many counselors who have dealt with this issue. We can seek help from understanding professionals who are sensitive to our feelings, and we certainly can share with each other in a way that isn't possible with someone who hasn't "been there." Sharing with other women who have had similar experiences can have a strong healing effect. This kind of sharing can take place with one woman or a group of women-with friends or with strangers. The important thing is to come together to support each other in working through your feelings.
Men whose wives have had affairs frequently have similar feelings to deal with. The conditioning men have received to act strong and deny their need for help makes it difficult for them to get the support they need. The damage to their pride may feel too devastating. But the sense of isolation in dealing with it alone may keep them bogged down for years. They can benefit from sharing in a group with other men, just as women can with other women.
The power in a group is that you see other people at different stages of recovery. You'll see some who are like yousome who are better offand some that are a lot worse. You can get a perspective that isn't possible when dealing with it alone. And more importantly, you can get the support you need to get on top of your life and feel like a whole person again."
Not only did I describe the importance of connecting with others who have "been there," but in this same early book, I also included a list of 11 BAN Guidelines for group participationwhich are the same guidelines still used today.
To return to the story of how BAN evolved through the years...
But I could see I wouldn't be able to keep up with all the contacts on an individual basis. If I were to continue, I had to bring some organization to the effort. So I asked those who would like to maintain the contact to fill out a sheet providing some basic information: how long they'd been married, how long since the affair, how much it had been discussed, whether they had sought counseling, and whether or not they were still married.
I asked them to agree to have their names and addresses put on a list that would be distributed only to others in the same situation. This formed the basis of "BAN," making it possible for them to contact each other, as well as allowing me to put people in touch who might be especially helpful to each other. Since they were scattered all over the country, as well as Canada, there were only a few locations with enough people to hold face-to-face meetings. Otherwise, all the contact was by mail. Even this kind of contact was difficult for some people, since they felt they had to keep the information hidden from their mates. Those who knew their spouse didn't want them to discuss their personal life with anyone else arranged to have friends or family members receive their BAN mail, and several even rented special post office boxes just for this correspondence.
I began to write a monthly newsletter about affairs, using their letters to me to determine the most common issues to be addressed. I wrote the newsletter every month for the next three years, but I also continued to write personal letters, developing a deep friendship with many of the people. Through the years, either due to my own travel or because of trips they made to my area of the country, I met with about 20 of the BAN members in person. After all these years, I'm still in touch with several members of this original group, and they continue to provide a source of insight and perspective.
As I realized the need for so much more understanding and perspective about affairs, I wrote another book, The Monogamy Myth, that was published in 1989. The Acknowledgments of the book includes the following:
The publication of this book reignited the responses from people looking for supportand again, I tried to connect people with each other for ongoing support. But in 1996 we were able to take a giant step in connecting people when I launched my website and made BAN an integral part of the site.
For several years, BAN functioned as an "online community" with a private password-protected area. But in an effort to include more people, I began a couple of public Message Boards and Chat Rooms. After awhile, I began to see that the anonymity of the Internet and the difficulty in monitoring all this online activity meant that all too often there was more "heat" than "light," so I knew it was time for another transition.
In 2000, I launched BAN as a community-based local support group organization, with volunteers serving as Local BAN Coordinators. Since that time it has continued to grow to include many Cities around the world and to serve the many people who want and need this kind of connection and support.
In 2006, I felt it was time to "pass the torch" to someone else who would continue to move BAN forward. Therefore, after a year of gradually working on the transition, on June 1, 2006, I turned over the leaderhip of BAN to my successor, Anne Bercht.
I am proud of BAN and of all the people who have contributed to its efforts through the years. I hope you will support Anne Bercht's efforts to bring about an even brighter future, with the goal of eventually having BAN be as widely available as AA, Al-Anon and other well-known support groups.