LOVE your little boysRead More
Welcome to our Marriage Blog!
MARRIAGE COUNSELING | TULSA OK
When your not connecting with your spouse the way you know you can and have in the past, it can cause you to feel alone, resentful, and sometimes sad. To help you see the improvement you want I have limited my practice to focusing on just couples. The couples I see are couples like you and in situations similar to yours. When getting help for your marriage it's best, in my opinion, to go with someone who works with couples fulltime.
If you go to a cardiologist for your heart and an OBGYN to deliver your children why not go to an expert who focuses solely on couple's issues for your marriage? The average couple waits 6 years to get help for their marriage. Why wait any longer? Why not get the right help for your marriage the first time?
You may have heard the saying "cradle to the grave" attached to physical intimacy. While that is very true. We don't always think of childlike temper tantrums as something acceptable in adult love relationships. Instead we hear things like, "Your acting like a such a baby"....I think that has come out of all of our mouths at one time or another!
We think of childish tantrums as totally unacceptable, right? No one thinks it's okay to scream in a grocery stores and strip naked in front of guests in our home. But the more "adult" tantrums still don't have us really exploring why our partner does what they do...we might ask why the heck are you acting like a child?...but we truly believe they are acting irrationally or ridiculously, right? Mostly because we don't understand why they do what they do.
Well what if science can explain why your spouse sometimes acts like a total baby in your relationship?
There was a youtube sensation (or at least among counselors) by the name of Dr. Ed Tronic. He studied attachment in parenting and how parental responsiveness, or lack thereof, has a real impact on our children.
When he meets up with Dr. Sue Johnson one of the founders of Emotion Focused Couples Therapy we learn why our spouse seems to pout like a baby. Watch the video to learn more!
When you bring your sweet baby home you will likely be met with challenges that are hard to prepare for. Things like colic and any array of surprise health issues your baby comes home with can weigh heavy on any relationship.
But many people don't consider how even the best relationship can be stretched and challenged. Let's consider 5 Ways To Prepare so you and your sweetheart can thrive during what should be a very happy time.
1. What About SEX?
Many ladies experience a decrease in desire for sex. Big shock, right? I mean when you've had an entire HUMAN BEING, no matter how small they look, coming out of your BODY and all they want to do is hang on you 24/7 it's no shock that your desire for sex is not really there.
But not every new mom feels this way. Many moms really crave the adult connection with their beloved. Sometimes sex is a way to connect...but what happens when your doctor doesn't release you to "romp in the hay" as your mom might put it?
How can you know that your spouse will be okay during this time of chastity? That's when you need to have a plan. My husband and I were in this exact situation. I wasn't able to get pregnant because I had a tumor that was growing in my uterus.
When we finally had it removed we had to wait 3 months before we could come together again. Then a year later we got pregnant. My hormones were all over the place and sex was so uncomfortable. But then I was high risk for uterine rupture and had to have a c-section. Now we are 2 months post-partum and my doctor is adamant about not getting pregnant for at least 18 months so I don't...well...so I don't die.
For faith, and a myriad of other reasons, I do not do contraception....so you can probably understand my conundrum. Can't count how long we've had to abstain from sex from the timeline above?...let's just say...it's been a long time.
So what do you do when life throws you a curve ball and you have to put away your needs for the good of another? That's when we need to have a plan. It's a very personal plan. We also need to know where we draw the line in the sand. What are we okay with and what are we not okay with as a couple?
2. What About Protection...For Your Love Life?
I read a blog post that was hilarious but so incredibly true. The blogger was making a point about how all the advice we get is contradictory. On one hand we hear don't let your baby cry because they will be emotionally scarred and on the other hand we hear some crying is okay. We hear co-sleeping will kill your child but clearly those people never tried to feed a crying baby all. night. long.
Much of the advice we read about child rearing is opinion and yet some is really valuable. I have really appreciated much of the insight other moms have given me about products and things to look out for. I especially love the lactation cookies!
But what about the advice for your love life? Many of these same moms and dads do NOT have their relationship in order. Many parents are incredibly unhappy...but why?
Well the most obvious is that it can be incredibly lonely being a parent. If moms and dads don't know how to come together and comfort one another and connect in a meaningful way, with the very little alone time they have, that void can grow until one day you wake up and realize that your babies are leaving the nest, and you don't even know your spouse anymore.
So it's important to use protection for your marriage. Some say have boundaries and others say get more alone time...and while those are very important and helpful...we would like to add learn how to connect on a deeper emotional level.
Learn to see the warning signs of a marriage heading for rough times before the rough times happen and swallow up every bit of your love life until it's non-existent.
3. What About Expectations?
It didn't occur to me that I had as many expectations for myself as a mom until the unvoiced expectations were challenged.
Things like breastfeeding or bottle feeding, staying home versus working outside the home, and homeschooling versus public schooling were all issues I assumed were going to be a certain way. I didn't even really talk with my husband about it until I started doing things my way and he started doing things his way.
Honestly, some of these things were not possible to be planned for but it would have been nice to have a way to think through the important aspects of becoming a parent and becoming a family.
Sometimes our parents and friends are afraid to give advice because they don't want to seem too nosey or judgmental or stereotypical for that matter. Sometimes people will give you advice or even force their expectations on you without even realizing it.
One thing that stuck out to me was with the baby's nursery. I am an entrepreneur and am busy about building businesses and in the midst of that I didn't really decorate or plan a baby's nursery. I sometimes feel guilty about that but my baby doesn't care.
He would much rather co-sleep with Brad and me anyways. Plus it's much more convenient to have his stuff in our bedroom instead of trudging across the house at all hours of the night. But others moms feel differently and that's okay.
It's all about what works for your family. The important thing is you make the time to plan and discuss expectations.
To Avoid Risk and Pain in your marriage you must ask the therapist these 5 questions:
1. What Kind of Training Have You Had in Couple Therapy since School?
Something the general public doesn’t understand is that couples therapy is vastly different from individual therapy. Couples counseling as opposed to individual or family counseling requires completely different methods and theories. One can be a superior individual therapist but a weak couples therapist. It is important to find a therapist you can trust with your marriage. Does the couples therapist you’re looking at invest time and energy in developing themselves or is it something that they do with a bunch of other stuff?
A therapist who has a license to practice isn’t enough. You should be wary of therapists who are still practicing what they learned in school even 10 years ago. When you ask a therapist about his/her training, they may mention they went to grad school and have a license, but they should also talk about other training they have received in the years since.
All of our therapist at Marriage Solutions have advanced training in working with couples. Some therapists take a home study course to improve their skills, doing that isn’t good enough for your relationship, you deserve better from the person who works on your relationship. We’ve actually spent thousands of dollars and traveled to places like Chicago and Houston to learn from the best. You’ll have a far different experience with someone who has put their time and money where their mouth is.
We’ve taken great strides to be excellent at what we do, because when you’re looking for help, you need the therapist to deliver, and we understand that. 70% of therapist say they do couples counseling, but only 17% have any form of advanced training. You can relax at Marriage Solutions knowing you are in good hands.
2. What Approach Do You Use in Couple Therapy?
At Marriage Solutions we believe if you’re going to put your relationship and money in the hands of a professional, you should know that the therapist is working from a clinical approach that has been researched, tested, and demonstrates positive results.
We use Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy because it has strong research showing that 86%-90% of couples make significant improvement and 75% fully recover after a 5 month period. As it currently stands, EFT is the best method for couples therapy. If you’re considering couples counseling make sure your therapist has extensive training in EFT.
Another popular method is Behavioral Couples Therapy, which unfortunately only has about 35% of couples improving. It helps some couples, but in our opinion that isn’t good enough. And we hope that isn’t good enough for you either. Another method that is popular is the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy, as it currently stands there is no research published on how effective the method is, sadly many therapists use that model because its easy to learn but their is no research to document its effectiveness.
3. How many couples do you see a week?
This is a telling figure. It will tell you if your therapist specializes or only says they do. You want a therapist that sees 15 couples a week or more, because that speaks volumes about their experience. It’s worth finding a therapist who focuses just on couple’s issues.
4. Do You Mainly Meet with Partners as a Couple or as Individuals?
At Marriage Solutions, we do see individuals from time to time when their spouse has left them, or who have been caught in an affair, or have been betrayed, we do this to help manage the crisis and provide education on what may be helpful to resolve the crisis, but it is something that is typically short term. Contemporary couple therapy experts don’t recommend treating couples by working with individuals in isolation. Without both people in the room it’s difficult to change that relationship.
You should be cautious of a therapist who says, “If your spouse won’t come to counseling, we should begin anyway until they decide to join us.” I consider that short sighted and dangerous simply because your spouse may feel like they are walking into a trap if they do decide to go with you to a counselor you’ve already developed a relationship with.
5. What Kind of Advice Will I Get?
A. You will get advice that is current with contemporary experts in couples therapy.
B. You will get advice that is pro your relationship working out.
C. Advice that is respectful of your religious beliefs.
What Past Clients Have Told Me
An affair can the most devastating person experience the betrayed spouse experiences in their lifetime. I’ve had people tell me they would rather go back to Iraq and be shot at than to experience their spouse’s betrayal again. I’ve had a woman say that her husbands affair was worse than her child passing away. Just because an affair is so devastating doesn’t mean a marriage can not be rebuilt. An affair can be put behind you if the trauma is properly dealt with.
If the Involved spouse doesn’t really know how traumatic their actions have been for their injured spouse, that can serve as a severe hinderance to recovery. The involved spouse just won’t “get it” and fail to be a resource of support and compassion.
Research has shown that at least half of betrayed spouses have high levels of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression after an affair.
You're Not Crazy
Many times, injured partners feel they are going crazy after discovering their spouse had an affair. But instead of going crazy they are exhibiting very normal and healthy defense mechanisms that are meant to help them survive.
Some of the common feelings and reactions include:
- Intrusive memories about the affair, feeling like their mind can't control the onslaught of questions about the affair.
- Flashbacks, or reliving the discovery of the affair, and feeling like they did the first time they heard about the affair.
- Nightmares about the traumatic event.
- Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the affair.
- Feeling emotionally numb.
- Avoiding activities they once enjoyed.
- Hopelessness about the future.
- Having problems with their memory.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships.
- Rage, irritability, or anger.
- Overwhelming guilt or shame.
- Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Being easily startled or frightened.
- Hearing or seeing things that aren't there.
- Experiencing amnesia by forgetting all of the affair or parts of it.
- Feeling like the affair did not really happen, as if it were a dream or "covered by a fog."
- Feeling like they are outside observers, like they are watching this happen to someone else.
These are symptoms of trauma can come and go. Individuals may have more trauma symptoms when things are stressful in general, or when they run into reminders of what they went through. They may hear a car backfire and relive combat experiences, for instance. Or they may see a report on the news about a rape and feel overcome by memories of their own assault. And if they feel like their spouse is talking to their affair partner again they will freak out.
Recovering from an affair for most people is difficult, but not impossible.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is a deep emotional wound. It is something that combat veterans experience as well as those who have been raped, mugged, physically and sexually abused, held hostage, hijacked, victims of cult abuse, terrorism, bombings, witnesses of homicides, the sexually assaulted, battered, and tortured, and of course, those who have discovered their partner has had an affair.
What specifically makes this so hard to recover from? Intentional human causes are the most difficult traumas to recover from, followed by unintentional human traumas. Recovering from an affair isn't as easy as recovering from being mugged or witnessing a riot. The simple reason for that is the injured spouse thought he or she knew the betrayer. The betrayer was someone he or she once thought was safe and dependable. The pain of an affair hurts worst when injured spouses feel their partner was someone who wouldn't in a million years have an affair.
The betrayed partner’s pain from an affair creates feelings of being stigmatized, being marked or different, or feeling like an outcast. This type of situation can cause betrayed spouses to lose faith and trust in humanity, in love, and in themselves.
A common roadblock to rebuilding after an affair is the relentless emotion of shame in the betrayer. Most people are aware of how painful an affair is to the betrayed spouse, but few are aware of what it does to the spouse who had an affair. I’ll try to give a nice concise summary. Commonly the betrayer starts with guilt and a harsh critical voice of self-hatred. Many times betrayers refuse to think or discuss the affair because doing so brings up such strong feelings of disgust that is directed at themselves. They are in pain when discussing it because they do not want to see their injured spouse struggle with the devastation they caused and they don’t want to think of themselves as someone who could do something so inhuman. Once guilt has crossed the line into shame, spouses who had the affair commonly feel repairing the marriage is hopeless.
Guilt says “I feel bad about what I did.” Shame says, “I am bad, because of my actions.” People who experience shame commonly feel embarrassed, unacceptable, inferior or inadequate about themselves. Shame is a problem when rebuilding the marriage for one specific reason (and there are others), it causes people to hide and withdraw and makes it difficult to be vulnerable with their spouse. It creates a barrier to intimacy. It’s believed, “If only you knew how bad I was you’d reject me.” Shame also makes it difficult to recover from an affair because the betrayer is so distraught they don’t want to discuss it or talk about any aspect of the affair. Typically the spouse who has been betrayed has a need to discuss the affair and ask questions to make sense of it. The shame filled betrayer commonly has a problem discussing the affair. Often it makes them sick to their stomach to think about their actions. It’s believed, “Why talk about it when I’m disgusted by it and it hurts you?” Clearly this can lead to a couple experiencing a negative cycle every time the affair is discussed.
Shame usually crystallizes for most betrayers after the affair is over. Guilt and shame can be experienced while the affair is ongoing. In fact it may be what causes the betrayer to end the affair.
Commonly Shame is Experienced Like This:
- Feeling uncertain and insecure
- Being afraid to be seen as stupid or incompetent
- Feeling inferior
- Feeling like you don’t fit in
- Feeling like an imposter
- Feeling unwanted and rejected, ineffective or deficient.
Someone who is experiencing shame may say something like this, “I don’t like him crying, I think I hurt him enough, I feel I let him down. I don’t feel adequate for him. I’ve done nothing, but pull him down. I’m convinced you'd be better off without me. I’m afraid of discussions about the affair coming back up. I know I need him, but he is better off without me.”
The antidote to shame is self-compassion, and the adoration and praise of the non-shamed spouse.
Earlier in our blog I discussed two other common affairs in the blog series on "2 Different Types of Limerent Affairs." It is worth reading to get a completely rounded view of the different types of affairs.
The Emotional Affair
Although some would not consider an emotional entanglement an affair, this type of relationship can be just as devastating and destructive as a sexual affair. Emotional affairs are not commonly discussed, and frequently, their lack of sexual involvement is used as a rationalization as to why it’s not an affair. But technicalities in no way absolve the reality of the situation.
The notion that a lack of sexual involvement somehow prevents this type of relational intimacy from being an affair is baffling. Anytime someone other than our mate is permitted to enter the most intimate areas of our life, we are giving something that we have no right to give; we have already given and committed our heart and being to another.
Questions to ask to determine if it is an emotional affair:
- Am I keeping details about my relationship secret from my spouse?
- Am I saying and doing things with this person that I wouldn't do with my spouse watching?
- Am I sharing things with the other person that I don't share with my spouse?
- Am I making an effort to arrange time to spend with this other person?
- Boundary issues are a factor.
- The betrayer is better friends with that individual than with his or her spouse.
- The betrayer keeps secrets with this friend instead of with his or her spouse.
- The betrayer does not want to choose between the friend and the spouse.
- The betrayer wants to stay married.
Earlier in our blog I discussed two other common affairs in the blog series on "2 Different Types of Limerent Affairs." It is worth reading to get a completely rounded view of the different types of affairs.
The Shared Interest Affair
In this situation, the betrayer is involved with the affair partner, but at the same time, the betrayer does not want to leave the marriage. The betrayer considers the affair partner a soul mate.
These affairs frequently spring from a relationship in which the two individuals share something in common such as music, art, movies, video games or another interest. Typically, this interest is something they don't share in common with the spouse, so they turn to the affair partner for understanding, companionship, and support.
It is as if the betrayers develop two lives; they share one part of themselves with their mate and then they reserve another aspect of life for their affair partner. Daily activities and information are divided into two realms: that which will be shared with the spouse and that which will be shared with the affair partner. Usually, this type of affair indicates that there are other deficits in the marriage, but like I stated before, these marital problems in no way excuse the infidelity. They are areas that will need to be addressed in order to strengthen the marriage.
Earlier in our blog I discussed two other common affairs in the blog series on "2 Different Types of Limerent Affairs." It is worth reading to get a completely rounded view of the different types of affairs.
The Revenge Affair
This affair occurs after an injured spouse feels like they are not healing and they want to make their betraying spouse understand the pain they are in. Typically this occurs after several months of trying to recover from the affair and they feel like are not getting answers as to why it occurred. The betrayer may have an affair in this scenario for several different reasons i.e. to boaster their self-esteem, feel desired, or they rationalize, "I'm a person too you can't keep treating me this way."
- Want the attention and support of their spouse
- Doesn't care if they remain remarried or not
- Is getting burned out and using their own affair as a means to get their spouse's attention.
The Burned Out Affair
Most affairs have characteristics of this type of affair, but this also can be its own separate category.
This is an affair that occurs because the spouse doesn’t care about the future of the marriage. They have reached a place where they simply don’t care about being with their spouse. The betrayer feels beat up by the negative cycle the couple has experienced and as a result they start to feel resentment, alone, sad and simply start caring less about the marriage. They get into an affair either as a way to end the relationship or they are very susceptible to an affair because they are investing so little into the marriage. When working with this type of affair the betrayer may experience the feelings of ambiguity about staying in the marriage.
The Sexual Abuse “Affair”
This type of affair occurs when somebody has been raped or forced into sex by another individual, but the spouse doesn't believe that he or she has been taken advantage, as a result the spouse was sexually coerced is in a horrible position because they've been sexually assualted and their spouse believes they were an active participant in an affair.
- Sexual contact was attempted or forced on a spouse.
- It is possible the spouse may have started to be a willing participant at first, but changed their mind at some time during sexual activity.
- It is possible the spouse was a passive participant to the abuse.
- Because this is rare the spouse who wasn’t "involved" doesn’t believe they were raped or taken advantage of, which only leads to more shame for the “involved” spouse.
- This happens with both men and women. I’ve seen these couples in my office.
The Philanderer’s Affair
The Philanderer’s Affair occurs because the betrayer believes that having an affair is “normal.” These betrayers are different from sex addicts and those who have one night stands. They believe that cheating is a way of life. They were probably taught cheating is okay by a parent, coworker, or friend. They live by the motto, “As long as no one gets hurt, it’s okay.” Often times couples who have clearly defined “roles” as a husband and wife, (such as the man is the provider and the wife is a stay at home mom), can easily fall into this trap. As distinctions between roles diminish and spouses share roles affairs of this type will be less likely. This type of an affair feeds off of their being an unequal share of power in the relationship.
- The betrayers want to stay in the marriage.
- Betrayers will have multiple affairs.
- They want to feel attractive to the opposite sex and know they still “have it.”
- They experience low self-esteem.
- Cheating is morally acceptable to them—as long as it isn’t done to them.
Some cultures have an unsaid expectation that men will have women on the side.
The Sex Addict’s Affair
- These affairs are committed by individuals who have an ongoing pattern of sexual betrayal, such as frequenting topless bars or adult bookstores, viewing pornography, compulsive masturbation, prostitution, repetitive encounters with sexual partners, and other behaviors that are destructive to both the individual and to the marital relationship.
- These individuals, though in a committed relationship, have never been able to find complete fulfillment from their relationship. Rather, they are enslaved by a drive to satisfy their longings. Driven by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, they are powerless over their extramarital attachments to behaviors, people, or objects like pornography. These individuals look to these extramarital attachments to meet their need for love and acceptance instead of allowing their mate to fulfill these needs.
- Interestingly, this category of affair is not about the marriage, and often these betrayers will state that they don't want to lose their marriage. Most likely, they would have pursued the same behaviors regardless of whom they married. The fear and shame associated with this behavior perpetuates the dual life of an addict, propelling the destructive behaviors. They often feel hopelessly trapped by these behaviors, but are afraid to come clean because they don't want to lose their marriage or give up their addictive behavior.
- This type of betrayal is especially difficult for the spouses because their suffering is not just from the betrayal, but also from their inability to understand their mate's behavior. What the addict has done seems so foreign the spouse cannot comprehend it. Or they are in shock when they discover the sheer magnitude of the compulsive behavior (like a man who has visited more than 20 prostitutes).
- There is a habitual pattern of extramarital behaviors that are either sexually-related and/or relational.
- Typically, the betrayer wants to save the marriage, but still has a compelling drive to look elsewhere to meet his or her needs.
- Often these behaviors began before the marriage, stopped after the marriage, and then began again after the addict realized that the marriage couldn't meet the need in the same way as the addictive behavior could.
- It is common for the betrayer to have made past efforts to stop the behavior and to have actually been successful for a season, only to relapse after believing things were better.
- The betrayer frequently has a deep sense of shame and guilt.
- The sex addict needs to be in individual counseling for their addiction. Being remorseful will not cure a sex addict. You need to go to a therapist who specializes in this. Affair recovery is not possible until the betrayer gets the help they need for their addiction. I say that because unless they get the help they need it will happen again and again until this is dealt with directly.
In this series of blog posts I'll discuss the 10 different types of affairs. Earlier in our blog I discussed two other common affairs in the blog series on "2 Different Types of Limerent Affairs." It is worth reading to get a completely rounded view of the different types of affairs.
These affairs are descriptions of common affairs I see. These descriptions are not necessarily meant to be a one size fits all description of your experience. Some affairs can have similarities of other types of affairs, and your situation can fit more than one of these categeories.
The One-Night Stand
- Commonly a one-night stand occurs when a spouse is away from home
- Alcohol and anonymity maybe involved.
- The betrayer gets caught up in the heat of the moment, and gives in to temptation.
- It is important to note that a one-night stand is doesn’t happen necessarily because of a lack of emotional connection in the marriage
- This doesn’t necessarily happen because the betrayer is dissatisfied with his or her mate, (even sexually).
- With this type of affair one of the distinguishing points is the desire of the betrayer to stay in his or her marriage. Their fear and desire to keep it a secret are indicators that they don’t want to lose the marriage.
- The core of this betrayal is based on bad choices, poor boundaries, the lack of integrity, and the opportunity to act.
- Frequently, there is no emotional involvement; it may occur with a perfect stranger who is befriended in the situation.
- It may be motivated out of loneliness or curiosity.
- Typically it is the result of poor boundaries and the false belief that, “If I put myself in this situation I won’t cross the line.”
- Individuals who have had one-night stands tell themselves that they will go to the grave with their secret.
- The betrayer has intense amounts of shame and disgust for themselves because of what they did.
- It is an affair of convenience or opportunity. It is not something that is sought-out, but rather, occurs as the result of an opportunity that is presented.
- There is not an ongoing relationship.
- This type of affair may very well be a one-time betrayal.
- Someone having a one-night stand does not go on Craigslist to meet someone for an affair. That is preplanned, a one night stand is more in the heat of the moment.
- This is different than the behavior of a sex addict, who may behave this way very frequently. See the blog post on sex addiction.
This is an example of what a typical couples negative cycle looks like in action.
The story of Jack and Molly.
Jack was betrayed by his wife Molly. She had an affair with his best friend, who was his boss at work. As they try to work through the affair Jack feels feels unsafe with Molly. He believes he has no security and feels like he is having to guess what is on her mind. Having to guess only creates more uncertainty and fear for Jack. Jack responds to this uncertainty by questioning, lecturing, blowing up with anger, and experiencing deep levels of anxiety. Jack and Molly are caught in a nasty cycle of criticize/withdrawal.
Molly withdraws when she sees Jack’s pain or when she is reminded of how she betrayed Jack. Talking about the affair is difficult for her to do because many times she doesn’t see it helping or making things better for Jack. Molly sees it as only creating more pain and frustration for him. She withdrawals when experiencing guilt or when she feels like Jack is disappointed in her. What she needs is acceptance and to feel like she isn’t a huge disappointment to her him. Feeling wanted and accepted helps Molly feel like her guilt and shame for the affair can be put in the past; as a result Molly feels like she can be there for Jack as a nurturer. When she hears complaints or criticisms of how what she is giving isn’t enough she feels hopeless that the marriage can be restored, so she withdrawals, which in turns causes Jack to become anxious. Jack starts to wonder if Molly is cheating on him again because she is distant. Jack doesn’t say anything to her for a couple of days and then he blows up when she doesn’t return his phone call right away. Jack attacks sensing that Molly is distant. Jack believes he can’t trust Molly because he needs her love and affection to do so.
This entry is part 3 in the series of blog post on how what each spouse is experiencing in recovering from an affair can easily turn negative. This entry covers what betrayers typically experience when recovering from an affair. In part 2 I described what injured spouses typically experience when recovering from an affair. Part 1 in this series discussed the 6 components of a negative cycle.
Triggers for betrayers that kick off the negative cycle can include:
- The emotional or physical withdraw of the injured spouse.
- Being judged or condemned by their spouse.
- Blamed or criticized by injured spouse.
- Injured spouse bringing up the same questions over and over again. (Primarily because they feel their spouse doesn’t trust them, and is trying to catch them in a lie.)
- Feeling shutoff from their spouse.
What does the betrayer think about their spouse in a negative cycle:
- I can never make him/her happy or pleased, no matter what I try to do.
- I can never make him/her feel better.
- Seeing their pain hurts me and makes me sad, so I withdrawal when I see it.
- I want them to know I’m not doing anything wrong.
- I don’t think being honest will help him/her, but only make it worse.
- I can’t do anything that I am certain will cause them more pain, so I avoid talking about the affair.
- I am worried a random trigger will pull him/her into re-experiencing the affair.
- How long will this go on?
- I feel like a punching bag.
- You’re in so much pain, I don’t want to share mine with you. I don’t see how that helps you.
- I feel like I am such a huge disappointment to him/her. I want to hide. I hate disappointing you.
What the betrayer typically thinks about themselves during a negative cycle:
- I literally don’t know what I can say or do to help him/her. It isn’t enough.
- I don’t deserve to have my needs recognized, because I screwed up.
- Its my guilt and sadness that causes me to want to avoid talking about the affair.
- I can't look at myself in the mirror.
- I have no self esteem.
Typical Behaviors of betrayers caught in a negative cycle:
- Avoid talk about the affair because they don’t want to hurt their spouse or avoid because they know their spouse is mad at them.
- Occassionally fight back because they feel they have their back against the wall.
Typical Secondary Emotions of Betrayers (Emotions at the top of the iceberg.)
- Powerless/Overwhelmed - How do I help you?
- I feel horrible
- Panic - Oh, crap feeling.
- Upset/mad about feeling grilled.
- Pain from knowing I broke his/her heart.
Typical Primary Emotions of Betrayers (Emotions at the bottom of the iceberg.)
- Sad - I can’t believe I did this to you.
- Fear - I am scared of doing something that causes him/her more pain.
- Shame - I feel unworthy. I feel worthless. I can’t face myself or what I’ve done. I don’t
Common Attachment Needs of the Betrayers:
- I need to know I am not a huge disappointment to you. Feeling that way is demotivating and causes me to distance myself from you.
- Listen to me
- I need to feel needed and useful
- I need to know you can trust me.
- I need to know you are going to be okay.
Listed below are 6 components that spouses who have been betrayed typically experience that keeps them caught in a negative cycle. I've outlined this to help you understand yourself and your spouse. Realize you are not alone in what you are both experiencing.
So what sets off the negative cycle for betrayed spouses? Triggers can include:
- The silence or emotional, and physical distance of the betrayer.
- Anything that causes the injured spouse to feel like “Here we go again, I’ve seen this when the affair was happening.” (This could be 1,000 different things.)
- Obviously the betrayer being mean and rude.
- Trust being broken again, even in smaller matters.
What the injured spouse can believe about their spouse during the negative cycle:
A lot of guessing is going on to try to understand the betrayer. Having to guess is keeping the betrayer alert, hyper-vigilant, and creates a feeling like their is no safety in the marriage, “So I must keep protecting myself,” which only feeds more into the negative cycle.
- Their heart really isn’t in this to help me heal, they are only here for _______.
- I don’t think he/she is honest, so I can’t let my guard down.
- When will this happen again?
- Why did this happen?
- I don’t get understand why they won’t talk to me about this when it makes me feel so much better.
- He/She is just making excuses, they were able to do what I’m asking for their affair partner.
- He/She doesn’t want to be with me. I only have them back from a rebound.
What are injured spouses thinking about themselves during a negative cycle, examples include:
- I don’t want to be stupid or humiliated again and believe them so easily.
- I don’t want to go back to that place of pain, so I need to know its safe before I let my defenses down.
- I can’t trust them right now even though I really want too.
- I’m I stupid for being here?
- I’m all alone in trying to deal with this pain, I nobody really knows what this is like until they’ve gone through this.
- I don’t want to get my hopes up again just to later be disappointed.
Behaviors of injured spouses caught in a negative cycle can include:
- Hurl accusations
- Withdrawal (by being stand offish).
- Angry explosions
- Because I don’t know if I can trust him/her I hold back what I feel many times.
Secondary Emotions of Injured Spouses (Emotions at the top of the iceberg.) Can include:
- Worried/Anxiety - feeling like something bad is about to happen.
Primary Emotions of Injured Spouses (Emotions at the bottom of the iceberg.) Can include:
- Fear - Am I wanted? Will this happen again? Can I depend on him/her? (Having to guess only makes this worse.)
- Sadness - This isn’t what I expected my life to be. I didn’t expect this to happen to us.
Attachment Needs of the Injured Spouse, can include:
- Honesty - it takes out the guess work, and helps the betrayer become more predictable. It is when the betrayer is perceived to be unpredictable that most negative cycles develop for the injured spouse.
- Constant reassurance - hugs, kisses, holding my hand. Just be close to me.
- I need you to talk to me - ask me how I feeling, ask me how my day is, Call me, text me, etc.
- I need you to talk to me about the affair. I feel like you are more predictable. It lowers my need to protect myself because I feel more secure with you.
- I need to know you choose me. I need to know you want “us.”
- I need to see him/her remorseful. Hiding your remorse from me doesn’t help me heal.
The typical negative cycle of a couple recovering from an affair is similar to the classic pursuer/distancer cycle. (Mentioned in an earlier blog post.) In this case the pursuer typically is the injured spouse from the affair while the distancer is the betrayer.
Negative cycles include 6 distinct components. These components keep us stuck in a negative cycle and make it difficult to get out of a negative cycle. They are:
- Triggers: these triggers to a negative pattern could be a rude remark, a facial expression, tone of voice, sarcastic comment or literally anything at rubs your spouse the wrong way.
- Appraisals: these are perceptions during a negative cycle you have of yourself and of your spouse. Appraisals of your spouse may be: he/she doesn’t care, he/she is cold, he/she is controlling, etc. Appraisals of yourself may be: I give more than I am getting back in return, I feel like I am not good enough, I see myself as weak, etc.
- Behaviors: these behaviors in a negative cycle tend to be things like yelling, screaming, criticizing, insults, or avoiding your spouse, finding yourself getting busy with distractions or no longer disclosing information with your spouse.
- Secondary Emotions: These emotions are like the emotions that are visibly seen, much like the top of an iceberg is seen. These emotions are often worded as: rejected, lonely, angry (because I’m annoyed), ticked off, mad, hurt, painful etc.
- Primary Emotions: These emotions are like the emotions that are unseen like the bottom of an iceberg. There are only six of these emotions: Anger (assertive anger that defends against wounds), sadness, surprise/excitement, disgust/shame, fear and joy.
- Attachment needs: These needs are the final piece in a negative cycle. Attachment needs could often be: I need to feel needed, I need to feel wanted, I need to feel accepted, I need to feel listened to, etc.
These 6, very unique components, are examined in more detail in parts 2 & 3. These are what keep couples caught in negative cycles. I hope this helps you understand what is happening with your spouse when you two are caught in a negative cycle.
Today’s culture promotes love in earnest, but few resources exist that explain how to fall out of love.
First and foremost, the most important bit of wisdom we give involved spouses is that it is possible to fall out of love with an affair partner—if you want to. But just like falling in love is a learned emotional process, falling out of love is something that has to be learned, requires some effort, and may take some time.
Here are some principles from behavioral psychology that can be helpful for falling out of love with an affair partner.
A common technique in cognitive behavioral therapy, thought replacement is the most powerful method for falling out of love. It involves training certain thoughts to stay away and learning not to encourage destructive thoughts.
With thought replacement, we encourage individuals to make a list of positive items, events, places, and situations that don’t involve the affair partner. The first instant the affair partner comes to mind, the individual should yell, “STOP!” and immediately think about something from that list. Repeating this practice and keeping track of progress will help the affair partner train himself or herself to gradually decrease instances of thinking about the affair partner.
The practice of silent contempt helps betrayers diminish thoughts of the affair partner further, especially if contact with that person is inevitable. This is accomplished by replacing the high esteem of the affair partner with a ridiculous, humorous image that emphasizes his or her flaws. But it’s only effective if this image doesn’t incite a sense of pity within the involved spouse.
Silent contempt removes the affair partner from a pedestal, simultaneously placing the focus on his or her flaws and exercising the betrayer’s sense of humor. After a period of practice and perseverance, the affair partner eventually becomes associated with the absurd or exaggerated image.
Covert sensitization, also called repulsion, is a more extreme technique that can be useful if thought replacement and silent contempt aren’t working as well. It’s also effective at taming physical attraction toward the affair partner.
This process involves creating a list of vivid images that overwhelm the senses with their extreme, repulsive associations. Then, the involved spouse attaches one of those images with physical contact with the affair partner, so that contact becomes associated with a repulsive sight, sound, or smell. The final part of this process involves envisioning turning away from the affair partner, helping the involved spouse unlearn the physical attraction he or she has previously felt.
The process of falling out of love with an affair partner is inhibited if there’s jealousy in the equation. Since the deeply emotive jealousy is learned at a young age, it can’t be overcome by simply deciding to not be jealous anymore; it has to be emotionally unlearned. Thought replacement can be helpful in the process, but the most effective technique, is called graduated calming. This technique can also be effective for injured spouses struggling with jealousy.
Best conducted by a trained therapist, thought calming is a three-step process involving deep muscle relaxation, determining and making a list of things that trigger jealousy in order of intensity, and the graduated calming process—envisioning scenarios on that list until they no longer elicit anxiety. Like the above techniques, graduating calming retrains the emotions to cope with jealousy in a healthy way.
Limerence or romantic love grows in stages. First the betrayer is content to see the affair partner now and then. But as the addiction escalates, they need more and more of their “drug.” As the addiction grows, they feel the need to be with their affair partner more and more until it develops into a craving and eventually they feel like they can’t not live without their affair partner.
If the betrayer is uncertain if they want to give the marriage a second chance or be with the affair partner, they need to follow the advice given below. As limerence, this addictive romantic feeling grows the betrayer is more likely to want to leave the marriage and have a much greater potential for having a “relapse” much like a drug addict would. So how does a betrayer end their feelings of limerence?
These things I’ve written below are not suggestions, if you are serious about rebuilding the marriage you need to follow what I am laying out. Remember this addiction can be ended, it just takes determination and time.
- Remove all evidence of the affair partner, throw out cards, letters and delete them off of all social networking websites i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
- Don’t call or write under any circumstance. If you see them at work or on the street you need to depart immediately. I’ve worked with couples where the briefest contact with the affair partner can fire up the brain chemicals associated with romantic love and you’ll be very close to having a relapse.
- You need to have a note card that you carry with you that has written down the negative traits of the affair partner. When you find yourself thinking of that person pull out the note card with their negative traits, this will help you overcome the romantic attraction and feelings you have of that person.
- Next you need to spend regular time fantasizing about walking arm in arm with your spouse.
- Stay busy. Keep your mind on other things. Reinvest yourself back into the marriage. Stay busy rebuilding the marriage.
- Distract yourself from the affair partner. Call friends, go back to church, get involved in hobbies, etc. But don’t ignore your spouse while rebuilding the marriage.
- Start exercising. Any kind of physical exercise will make you feel better. Physically strentuous exercise is known to drive up levels of serotonin, endorphin and dopamine in the brain giving you a feelings of euphoria and calmness.
- Have a proper diet. Avoid foods that you know will harm your body, especially avoid sweets.
- Stay out of the places you and the affair partner went. Go to new and different places. Don’t listen to the same songs. In a word, avoid the people, places and things that can trigger a desire to be with the affair partner.
- If for whatever reason you are very tempted to contact the affair partner you need to think it through. What will happen if you contact this person? What will happen to your family? What impact will this have on your spouse as you two are rebuilding the marriage?
- Antidepressants. Commonly people who are have recently ended an affair have difficulty remembering events or duties, obsessive thinking about their problems and their pain. Their mood is altered, struggling with despair, anxiety, fear, anger and maybe other disabling mood states. Also, problems in the body can arise, and depressed people can have trouble eating, sleeping, or engaging in sex. Many contemplate suicide. What people find themselves experiencing on antidepressants is they are able to sleep through the night, eat, and go about life in a more timely and effective manner. Eventually you become less impulsively drawn to contact the affair partner. Medications do have side effects and they are not a magic bullet, but remember what they promise is better than going back to the affair partner or contemplating suicide.
- Nothing beats your the romantic feelings you had with your affair partner like creating that kind of romantic love with your spouse.