By Kimberley McGee
LAS VEGAS SUN
When two people are attracted to each other, the heart quickens and there is A moment ripe with tension and excitement at the new venture.
It can also be a moment when a married man or woman must decide to turn from A potential affair or face the consequences.
Confronting the repercussions of an affair is the mission behind Face Reality, Inc., a local support group and resource for men and women involved in a love triangle.
The company was created from the life experiences of CEO and founder, Elissa Gough.
"Face Reality is an extension of therapy," Gough, a self-described mental health advocate, said. "It's a referral to and from therapists for couples who are coping with adultery."
In relationships Gough has been the betrayed, the betrayer and the person who, she said, is not supposed to have an opinion the other woman.
Gough, who recently moved to Las Vegas from Palm Springs, Calif., has yet to offer Face Reality's seminars or group sessions here, but plans to host events at area facilities by the summer.
"In Las Vegas you have a lot of temptation that in some other places you might not be as tempted," she said.
The support groups, tentatively titled "Infidelity Anonymous," will be offered free of charge. One-day workshops, which include materials and therapists for each part of the triangle, will start at $195.
Gough, who has a bachelor's degree in education, an associate's degree in nursing and a master's degree in health planning, will also teach a Continuing Education class about infidelity at UNLV beginning in the fall.
She has written eight books and workbooks for men, women, teens and homosexual partners coping with an affair in the family. Her book,"Infidelity" ($11.95, Avery Publishing Group/Penguin, Putnam, 1998), offers advice for recovery from adultery.
She also hosts chat groups on her website, facereality.com, and provides individual coaching.
"We have so much shame and guilt over it that we don't talk about it," Gough said. "We think it's going to go away, but it stays."
The idea for Face Reality came to Gough in 1992 while she consoled friends in Palm Springs who were going through crumbling marriages and affairs of their own.
Gough realized that infidelity was an epidemic.
Part of the solution, she said, was to have an open forum. She placed an ad in a Palm Springs newspaper and invited the public into her living room to discuss what was happening behind closed doors.
"I had all these wives and husbands and other women, and they were all coming to this group," Gough said. "They were not getting along very well."
She encountered women who had cheated on their husbands with other women, men who cheated with other men and single women who were attracted to married men (and vice versa).
Each wanted to talk about their pain -- desperately.
"It runs the gamut," Gough said. "What can you say? People cheat. Let's do something about why they cheat and help them recover from the pain it causes."
The demand for separate groups, as well as one-on-one sessions with the cheater, the cheated and the third party, was intense. Gough began to have groups meet at public places, and personally sought out quality therapists for couples who wanted to save their marriages.
The betrayed spouse often suffers from feelings of guilt, anger and shame as much as the betrayer.
Shane (who requested that his last name not be used) was close to his wife of five years. They had a son in 1999 and their Las Vegas postal-services business was thriving.
Shane never saw her affair coming.
"She was the one I looked up to as doing everything right," he said. "I would never have thought ..."
Suspicious thoughts occasionally entered his mind, but he quickly dismissed them until one day last June, when his wife told him she'd had a four-month affair with a man Shane knew.
In retrospect there were clear signs of an affair, he said. Shane's wife retreated from him physically, picked fights, and "she was always going to Wal-Mart," he said.
"It was a complete devastation," Shane said. "She was the last person in the world I thought would do that. I thought she was it for the rest of my life."
The couple, in their early 20s, reconciled and tried to move on, but his wife couldn't completely give up the affair.
"It felt like you've lost everything you've worked for,"Shane said."It was like a death."
Shane confided in his tight circle of family and friends, but was still conflicted by his emotions.
That's when he found Face Reality.
Gough had sent and received packages regarding infidelity for the Face Reality company through Shane's postal business. He turned to her with his unanswered questions.
She talked to him openly about his fears, self-blame and options, and handed him a copy of "Infidelity."
"The book helped me to understand the struggle my wife had in ending the affair and coming back to me," Shane said. "I was more patient with her."
The patience, late-night talks and tearful admissions of problems in their marriage did not relieve the couple from the damage done. They divorced amicably last year and share custody of their 18-month-old son. Shane has plans to marry again in August.
The support he received from the Face Reality material and talks with Gough, he said, helped him to emerge from the experience a stronger man.
Shane has wondered if he can trust again, but said that he has worked through the pain of the past betrayal.
"I learned an affair has everything to do with the insecurities of the person having the affair," he said. "It's not what I can do about it, it's about them."
The experience has made him more aware of his partner's needs, he said. His first wife had become bored and he unwittingly took her for granted, which led to the affair. Never again, he said.
Solace in support
Face Reality's original support groups in Palm Springs assisted Roxy (who also requested that her last name not be used) out of a nine-year affair with a married man in 1994.
He was exciting, Roxy said. He would fly her around the world to be by his side, spend romantic holidays with her and promised to marry her -- after he divorced his wife.
"I loved him, but I knew it had to end," she said. "He was just promises, promises, promises."
Alone and heartbroken in Palm Springs, she stumbled upon Face Reality's ad in a local newspaper.
"I was surprised to find this group of people with the same problems, emotions" that she'd had, Roxy said. "There were some men, too, who had been with married women. It was therapy for me."
The group met in a room in the back of a restaurant and discussed how they felt before, during and after the affair, why they involved a married person in their single lives and how to recover from the experience.
"I cried, I was angry, devastated," Roxy said. "In hindsight I thought, 'How could I do that to another person (her lover's wife)?' "
Roxy had also cheated on her first husband. "So, I've been on both sides and it's not fun," she said.
After five years with the group, she realized the affair mentality came from boredom and a need to feel loved.
"It was a developing experience," Roxy said. "I'd never do it again because I wouldn't want to ruin" a relationship.
Dr. Walter Harley, Jr., who wrote the best-seller "His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage" ($18.99, Revell Publishing, 1986), said that 60 to 70 percent of married couples will experience infidelity at some point in their marriage.
"If you have an affair in your marriage you are part of the majority," he said.
Harley's novel, "Surviving an Affair" ($16.99, Revell Publishing, 1998), attempts to counsel couples who want to repair their relationship.
People who cheat feel ashamed largely because of the damage it does, he said.
"When you have an affair it isn't something that you do with another person in isolation of everything else," Harley said. "An affair means you are hurting all the people you said you would protect -- your spouse, children, in-laws."
Therapy is ideal, but simply discussing it and bringing it out in the open to your spouse -- and yourself -- is important to moving past the pain. Books, seminars and support groups can help to stabilize a rocky relationship, he said.
Diane Easterwood, a marriage and family therapist for Lifeworks Therapy in northwest Las Vegas, has used the Face Reality materials in sessions with couples.
Face Reality seminars and support groups, as well as books, offer tools the public can use before, instead of or after therapy, Easterwood said.
More than 50 percent of couples she sees have an infidelity issue. Either it's a betrayal that happened in the past that hasn't adequately been resolved, or there is an active affair.
"It is an earthquake in a marriage and it affects everyone," she said.
It takes at least five years for a couple and their family to work through the consequences of an affair, Easterwood said. The pain lurks behind the strained smiles and worried expressions of those betrayed until it destroys the foundation of a marriage and a family, she said.
"This is a problem with a solution that is so accessible to people in Face Reality," Easterwood said. "It's about time we made this a public discussion, without shame."
Contents copyright 2001 Las Vegas Sun, Inc.
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