Posts tagged infidelity counseling
To ask, or not to ask?
 
Infidelity
 

“Every time she asks me who I was talking to it puts me on the defense.”

“I can’t do anything without being questioned!”

“He has the password to everything, I am an open book.”

These are some of the things I hear in sessions with couples who are trying to rebuild trust in their relationships. They come to me after they’ve discovered their partner has been unfaithful, and they are devastated and wanted to know what the next steps are.

After I help them through their initial crisis phase, we talk about rebuilding trust, and what that’s going to look like going forward. I’ve heard many creative solutions to this from wary spouses who have been cheated on, and sometimes they are exhausted with the constant checking they are doing.

Checking the emails, checking the texts, checking the location of their phone and making sure it matches up to their story. How long should it take to get home from the grocery store? Is that story about having to stay later at work even true?

This can become the reality in the aftermath of an affair, and quite frankly I too become exhausted just listening to all the extra lengths people go to in order make sure their spouses are being truthful.

But the honest truth is, if your partner wants to cheat, they will cheat.

You can’t affair-proof your relationship.

I know that can be incredibly difficult to hear for some.

But it can also be relieving when you really break it down. The truth is, no amount of checking is going to keep them faithful, so you can stop driving yourself crazy doing so.

In the initial stages after an affair has occurred it is important to negotiate boundaries. No contact with the affair partner, checking in frequently, and giving up passwords for devices if that’s what makes you feel better at the time.

However, trust is truly built on the interactions you have with one another after you decide to stay together. Trust is built on faith, and faith must sometimes be blind.

I often tell partners who have strayed, if you place even a tenth of the energy you put into your affair into your marriage, imagine the happiness you can have in this relationship. There’s a good amount of reconfiguring, time stolen, and effort put into meeting an affair partner. Imagine if you did that with your partner?

It’s easy to get defensive as the questions are asked over and over, but if you’ve strayed then you need to understand it’s not necessarily about your partner wanting to get a different answer from you. It’s really about them having gone through trauma and wanting to regain some sense of normalcy.

The person they trusted most and likely didn’t think was capable of cheating broke their trust, and so they are trying to regain their bearings and in some ways, their sense of control.

If you are the partner asking the questions, I suggest you ask yourself this: Do you want to know the answer to that question, or do you want your partner to know that you have this question?

Those two things are very different. It may seem like you want the answers to all your questions, but if you take a step back and really think about it, are the answers really helpful to you? Once you receive the information you can’t go back, and you can’t “un-see” the images that will float through your mind.

I’ll ask you again – do you want to know the answer to your question? Or do you just want your partner to know that you have this question?

You may want your partner to know that you have questions about how they were able to sneak away and make time for their affair. This question is different then, “when did it happen?” or “did you do it in the car? In the office? In our home?”

Similarly you may want to have access – phone, computer, and email passwords. Having access doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be checking daily. It’s really about your partner’s willingness to give you the passwords and access that means all the difference.

If you’re having difficulty navigating your way through reestablishing trust with your partner in the aftermath of an affair, I’d love to help. You can click here and schedule a phone consultation that’s totally free and we can talk about how therapy might help one or both of you through the recovery process. 

When Good People Cheat: The Unmet Needs Affair
 
 

“I never meant for this to happen,” is what I typically hear when I sit down with someone who has been unfaithful to their partner.

I genuinely believe them when they tell me this because doing this work, I’ve heard from plenty of partners who have strayed in some fashion, and this is a common thread. They are good people, and they’ve made a mistake, and it’s not my job to judge, but to help them understand what lead to their behaviors so that they can prevent it from happening again.

There are many types of affairs. The most common one that I see is what Mira Kirchenbaum calls, the “unmet needs” affair. In her book, When Good People have Affairs, she outlines many types of affairs and I often recommend her book to clients who have or are having an affair because it can really help them understand their behaviors better, in conjunction with the work we do in session.

The unmet needs affair happens when you feel as though there is something missing in your relationship with your partner.

It could be sex, intimacy, or intelligent conversation. But focusing on one aspect of the relationship that is missing is a trap, and many times people only come to realize what they’ve been missing after they’ve already crossed the line.

When you look outside of your relationship for that one unmet need, you are essentially negating all of the many other positive aspects that likely exist in your relationship.

A whole, healthy, relationship only includes sex or conversation as a very small piece that makes up the relationship, however the trap occurs when you begin to see this piece as a gaping hole – it has the potential to become everything, and with the help of an affair partner, you begin to negate the many other positive aspects that you once based your relationship on.

Getting involved with someone else in order to fulfill this unmet need is typically clouded by the electrifying rush that happens in new relationships. It’s quite normal for people to see their affair partner as the most amazing person they’ve ever met, however an affair relationship is only a façade – it exists in a vacuum, and lacks much of the other important aspects that secure, long-term relationships need to survive.

Using another person to fulfill that one aspect that was missing from your marriage is fundamentally flawed because without fully knowing your affair partner, you are unable to see all of their true characteristics, as this relationship will also have missing aspects to it.

If you think back to the beginning of your marriage, I’m sure there were fireworks. Things in the beginning of relationships tend to be intense and full of passion.

I once read that falling in love has the same impact as a drug on the brain. It’s easy to become addicted to that feeling, and those intense emotions cloud your judgment.

The beginning of a relationship is when you go out of your way for that other person – you stay up all night talking even if you’ve got to be at work at 7am, you write silly love poems, and drive an hour both ways just to spend an hour in the arms of your love.

If you’re stuck in the difficult spot of having already crossed the line and engaged in an affair to fulfill a need that was lacking in your marriage, you’re not alone. I know that there is a great deal of shame and pain that comes from making that decision, but there is also support for you to right your wrongs.

Although the road is long and difficult, I’ve seen some wonderful things come from those who are willing to look at themselves, their decisions, and learn from their mistakes.

Relationships can be repaired, and that shame can go away, but the first step is asking for help. If you could use some support and want to begin the process of understanding your behavior, give me a call at (909) 226-6124, and we can talk about ways therapy can help. 

How to love your Cheating Partner
 
 

 

Your partner has shattered your world.

The relationship that you once had is no longer, and maybe you’re still on the fence about staying in the relationship, but you certainly don’t know how to love them at the moment, and should you?

I have so many injured partners who sit on my couch and tell me similar stories. Stories of hating and loving their cheating partner all at the same time.

They often say things like, “I feel sick to my stomach when I think about the fact that I still want to be with this person, shouldn’t I hate them for what they’ve done to me?”

Dealing with infidelity is like getting on a roller coaster that you didn’t know you got strapped into. The emotions are high, and they are also really low, and they are incredibly confusing.

The only way to love your partner through something like this is to try understand them. But you also need to understand yourself.  

The greatest misconception that people have about cheaters is if they do it once, they will always do it – “once a cheater, always a cheater, right? Wrong.

Affairs happen more than people think. It’s really easy to say, “If my partner ever did that, I’d leave in a heartbeat!” But when push comes to shove, there’s often way too much at stake. There’s a long history and relationship that’s been cultivated for years, and ending it abruptly is often so difficult to fathom.

More people are staying together after infidelity than the public thinks – they just aren’t talking about it.

I advise my clients who are struggling in this area not to share it with family and friends. When they are working to repair their relationship either by themselves or along with their partner, they are taking the time to heal and to learn new ways of approaching the relationship so that it doesn’t happen again.

When the affair is disclosed to close friends and family that surround them, they are rightfully upset and angered that their sister/brother/friend/daughter/son was treated in such a way. But when the couple comes out on the other end of it with a new perspective, a new relationship, and have healed, their friends and family haven’t done the work that they have, and can be stuck in their anger towards the cheating spouse and often find it difficult to forgive.

Another common misconception about cheating partners is that they are solely responsible for what’s transpired in the relationship. People cheat for many different reasons, but both partners have some responsibility in what was happening in the relationship prior to the infidelity.

It can be incredibly difficult for an injured partner to hear that they somehow played a role in the infidelity. I’m not saying that the infidelity was their fault, and it’s important not to misconstrue or take this out of context, but there are often challenges that are occurring in the relationship prior to a partner stepping outside of it.

It could be as simple as not communicating in a way that one’s partner can hear. Is that totally your fault? No, absolutely not. But that’s when the work in couples counseling becomes about learning how to communicate in a way that will allow your partner to be receptive.

Most people who cheat want their partners to know that they didn’t go into the relationship with the intent to do so.

Sometimes there is a breakdown that happens during the course of the relationship, and the cheating partner feels lost and unable to find their way back. People who cheat don’t always understand why they did it, and it can take months for them to get to a place where they have learned enough about themselves to identify where they got off track, and what lead them to make the horrible decision to cheat.

If your partner has cheated there are a couple of things that you can start doing today to improve your relationship:

1.     Get support. Seek out counseling for yourself with someone who specializes in infidelity issues. You need a sounding board and a safe place to vent your anger and frustration. While it might seem like a good idea to use your partner as that sounding board, it’s really not the greatest way to go about it – you may say things you’ll regret later.

2.     Start journaling. While you’re looking for a therapist get a journal and start writing down your thoughts. This will help you understand your emotions and organize your thoughts in such a way that you can be a better communicator with your partner when you do have those difficult conversations.

3.     Decide what is important to know about the affair and what isn’t. Things like: how does this impact our relationship? Do you understand why you made the decision to go outside of our marriage to find something? Where do you want our relationship to go in the future?

All of those questions are very different than things like: where did you do it? Was she better than me? What types of things did you talk about? These questions fall into the category of what I call, emotional cutting, things that you want to know out of curiosity, even though you know that hearing them is just going to cause you pain.

4.     Start thinking about the boundaries and things that need to happen in order for you to want to move forward and repair your relationship. For most, the first thing is that the affair needs to stop, as does any and all types of communication with the affair partner.

But would you feel more comfortable if you had all email and cell phone passwords for the first few months as you work on the relationship together? Do you need your partner to move to a different department at work so they are no longer in close proximity to the other person? This is where your support and journaling will help to keep you on track, and making sure that you’re asking for things to better your relationship and not just to spite your partner.

It’s difficult to know the exact statistics surrounding infidelity, but it’s estimated that 35% of couples decide to stay together after infidelity, and according to the American Association of Marriage and Family therapists, about 15% of women, and 25% of men say they’ve had sex outside of their marriage. When you factor in things like cyber relationships, and emotional affairs, those numbers increase by 20% according to AAMFT.

The number of couples staying together after infidelity may be even higher, as I stated earlier, many people experiences it but don’t talk about it. It’s a difficult thing to bring up, especially when you’re not sure what the fate of the relationship will be. But the future can be promising if both partners are able to own their faults and learn to create a new relationship that is more fulfilling.

In seeing those statistics, my hope is that you take away the fact that you are not alone.

If your partner has been unfaithful, know that you are not crazy to want to stay, or to want to go, or to have no idea what it is you want, and you’re not crazy for still loving them.

What you’ve experienced is a psychological trauma, and you must treat it as such. Take care of yourself first, and you can make the big decisions later after you’ve started to regain your strength and have gotten the support that you need. 

If you could use some more support in understanding your relationship and what you really want after experiencing infidelity, please reach out and we can talk about ways therapy can help (909) 226-6124

5 Things that come between Couples And Cause Affairs

I’ve sat across from enough couples trying to repair their marriages after an affair to know that they don’t just happen. There are some telltale signs that a relationship is ripe for an affair. No one thinks it will happen to them, and its easy to see in hindsight that there were in fact signals leading up to it.

While we can’t affair-proof our relationships, we can invest in them enough that an affair will be much less likely.

Here are 5 things that commonly come between couples and have the ability to cause an affair:

1.     Time

In the beginning of a relationship things are usually the best they will be. Couples have plenty of time to enjoy one another, they spend a significant amount of time together, they talk openly, and they share hobbies and interests that keep them connected.

As time passes two becomes three and then four, and the focus shifts from the couple to the family. Responsibilities increase, stresses increase, and time and energy decrease. The lack of time and energy once used towards one another dwindles, and a lack of connection that once kept the relationship fresh, diminishes.

2.     Caring for Children

Children are one of the most amazing gifts, and in order to be a good parent it takes time, energy, and a great amount of effort. Sometimes that effort and energy comes at the detriment of the marital relationship.

I often see parents killing themselves to put their kids in all the right sports and extracurricular activities, running them around like an über driver on a Friday night. They angst over participation in activities because “they look good on college admission essays,” or even preschool applications.

All that running around, over-committing, and overextending leads to exhaustion and under-commitment to the marital relationship. Who has the energy for intimate conversation or sex after running on empty with kids all day?

When children leave the nest I often have couples coming into my office wondering who the person is sitting next to them. After years of committing to their children, they forget they were once committed to one another, and lack the intimacy that comes with regular connection. 

3.     Career

Work/life balance is often elusive. As couples work to provide the biggest and the best for their children, it’s easy to continually strive for the next promotion, which usually comes with an increase in responsibility, and longer hours.

Working long hours can lead to a lack of connection at home. Often times, inter-office friendships can spark as a result of all the time spent on the job, and although they may seem innocent at first, feelings of loneliness can surface and be a cause for infidelity.

4.     Outside Hobbies and Interests

I tend to be a big cheerleader when it comes to both partners having interests of their own. I encourage the individuality that comes with doing something that doesn’t include your partner or kids because I think it makes us more whole. It’s what we bring back to the relationship and talk about, and it’s what makes us unique.

However, there is a fine line, and balance is always key. When there’s no regular connection in the relationship, and date nights aren’t happening nearly as often as the kid’s play-dates, it’s difficult to justify an out of town fishing trip with the guys, or a daily 2-hour gym routine.

5.     Difficult life-transitions

The transition into parenthood, a career change, caring for an aging parent, a move to a new state - all of these are examples of life-transitions. When things change in a big way, there are lots of feelings that go along with these transitions.

When the feelings are not outwardly expressed in the relationship, and one partner feels as thought they aren’t able to confide in the other, it can cause a wedge that leads to loneliness.

What all 5 of the things I’ve listed have in common are their ability to cause disconnection and loneliness. Loneliness and disconnection often lead to vulnerability, and vulnerability has the ability to lead to an affair if the right person comes around at the right time.

The bottom line is that connection is key.

If you’re connecting with your partner, sharing intimate moments with one another, and each of you feels valued and satisfied with your relationship, any of the above listed things can come into your lives. While they may be challenging, the strength you feel from the friendship and connection with your partner will help push you through the storm together.  

Find ways to sneak 15 minutes out of your day to be alone.

Create routines that encompass connection. Make it a habit to connect through text or email throughout the day, and sit together after the kids go to bed and talk before getting into bed.

If you’re having trouble finding the connection you need with your partner, I’m just a phone call or email away. My passion is helping couples find their stride and connection with one another, so don’t hesitate to reach out! Let’s set up a quick phone consultation, and I’ll be happy to discuss ways to connect more with your partner (909) 226-6124.