Though not uncommon, affairs are still a taboo subject. Victims of infidelity often deal with the pain of betrayal in silence; not wanting friends and family to know their spouse has cheated on them. But there is a place where they can find support.
The Beyond Affairs Network (BAN) provides an opportunity for betrayed spouses to begin to heal through sharing their story with others dealing with infidelity.
Anne Bercht has been the director of the Beyond Affairs Network since 2003. She found the group after surviving her own husband’s affair.
“The purpose of BAN is to provide peer-to-peer support to help betrayed spouses heal from infidelity,” Bercht says. “BAN does not replace counseling, therapy or seminars or any other kind of professional help that a person might be seeking – it enhances it.”
In addition to leading the not-for-profit Beyond Affairs Network, Bercht is also the author of My Husband’s Affair Became the Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me. She and her husband, Brian, now offer Passionate Life seminars and healing retreats for couples dealing with infidelity.
Bercht and her husband repaired their marriage, but the director says the support group is for anyone suffering because of a partner’s affair regardless of their marital status.
“Whether you’re going through divorce or you are choosing to reconcile your marriage, it’s for the healing of the intense personal pain that betrayal causes,” Bercht says. “And that pain is the same really, whether you reconcile or divorce.”
The Beyond Affairs Network has 150 support groups in 16 countries and the Edmonton chapter began meeting in April of this year. The group meets monthly in the summer and every two to three weeks beginning in the fall.
The Edmonton BAN co-ordinator, who chose not to be identified while reconciling with her husband, says there are currently about 28 members from areas as far as Hinton.
Potential members are screened and granted registration by the co-ordinator.
“It is only for the betrayed spouses,” she says. “It is not for the people who have had the affairs.”
The co-ordinator says members range from people in their 20s to their 70s.
“It’s for men or women, divorced or single, people who are in limbo and don’t know which direction to go,” she says. “And not just for married people, it’s for anyone with a partner who’s had an affair.”
Attending BAN meetings was instrumental in helping Denis (who asked that his last name not be used) to heal after discovering his wife had been having an affair with his brother for over a year.
While friends and family tried to be supportive by offering advice, Denis says they didn’t truly understand how he was feeling, and that’s where the support group was very beneficial.
“You don’t understand until you’ve been there, and that’s the beauty of BAN,” he says. “Everybody’s been there and everybody has had similar situations and will be able to understand each other’s stories.”
Denis and his wife survived her affair and he says their relationship is better than ever. The BAN group gave him the means to start processing and understanding what was happening and help him to heal.
“Every time you tell your story it kind of helps to bring you closer to a place of healing is what I’ve found, and that’s really been one of the big beneficial things I’ve experienced from BAN,” says Denis. “Often there’s not any questions being asked, it’s just this is my story, and people can empathize and hear you.’
The Edmonton co-ordinator says group meetings usually last a few hours.
“The first hour is basically sharing our stories and then what I generally do is have a topic like forgiveness or how to get trust back,” she says. “And people know ahead of time what the topic is and they can bring their questions or suggestions.”
Denis says that most people are afraid of going to their first meeting, but he urges them to come out regardless.
“Their first time, they’re hesitant of going because of the stigma involved,” says Denis. “They don’t want it to get out and they end up coming just kind of not knowing what to do. And there’s no pressure to share. There’s no pressure to do anything other than just be there.”
The next Beyond Affairs Network meeting in Edmonton is Tuesday, Aug. 20 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting location is provided to members a few days prior.
For more information or to join the group, email email@example.com.
For those who cannot or do not want to attend a support meeting, the BAN website offers online resources including teleseminars and articles at www.beyondaffairs.com.
“It’s surprising to me how impactful those articles and the teleseminars are to people,” Anne Bercht says. “We get e-mails every day from people thanking us and saying that we saved their lives or we saved their marriage.”