"Infidelity" (and other Loaded Words) Make it Worse
by Peggy Vaughan

Trying to recover from a partner's extramarital affair is made more difficult by the "loaded" words most often used to discuss this situation. The emotions are usually so intense that it's very difficult to think straight. Unfortunately, the words that are most commonly used only serve to inflame the already raw emotions created by this experience.

We need to raise our awareness of the impact of words and make a conscientious effort to defuse the personal pain caused by the language we use to discuss affairs. Because of the power of words to affect the way we think, in The Monogamy Myth I deliberately avoided the long list of judgmental, blaming words so common to the language of affairs. Unfortunately, many of the books dealing with this subject use words that contribute to the problem. The trio of words used most often are Adultery, Infidelity, and Betrayal.

The words Adultery and Infidelity reflect a personal assessment of the person who has an affair as an "adulterer" or an "infidel." The word Betrayal implies that the person having an affair is fully aware of the pain this will cause their partner, and proceeds to "betray" them anyway. This reinforces the idea of personal blame and adds to the difficulty of coping with the emotions and gaining a broader understanding of what has happened and what to do about it.

Whether dealing with this pain personally or trying to be helpful to a friend or loved one who is struggling with the intense emotions generated by discovery of a partner's affair, remember that words do make a difference. Using "loaded" words that trigger those emotions can make a difficult experience even worse.

Adapted from The Monogamy Myth, Copyright © 2003 Peggy Vaughan

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