Two Steps In The Affair Recovery Dance

help after discovering an affair

Even though I’ve worked with many couples to help them find a healing pathway after an affair, I recognize there is no foolproof measure for determining whether or not a marriage is going to “make it” in the end. There are certainly indicators, but there are really only two steps a couple must take on their way to marriage recovery.

When I say recovery, I don’t mean simply avoiding divorce. I mean the kind of healing that allows two people to return to a place of connection, intimacy, and trust even after a deep wound was inflicted in the marriage.

The first necessary step must be taken by the one who had the affair. The unfaithful spouse must be willing to STEP BACK. Everything in them wants to move forward and forget the affair as soon as possible, but for the sake of their spouse who needs to process the pain of the affair, the unfaithful spouse must be deliberate in turning back and joining their partner in the fire of the pain they have caused.

They must be willing to endure with the injured spouse until there is enough stability to begin moving ahead again. Enduring means witnessing the resolute spouse’s pain and resisting their own defensiveness. The unfaithful spouse usually wants to put it all in the rear-view mirror but it may take weeks or months to understand what happened and look for evidence that there is and will be a change. It is only by standing on the fire that it will reduce to embers.

The second necessary step is that eventually, the resolute spouse must be willing to STEP FORWARD. It will feel like a tremendous risk and it is common to cling to the affair as a way of protecting from future pain. At some point the affair must be left in the past. Forgiveness may be a long-term goal but is not immediately necessary.  A reasonable short-term goal is acceptance. This allows the focus to shift to the present and future issues of the relationship.

Both steps require a willingness to be vulnerable: the unfaithful spouse must face their shame and forgive themselves and the betrayed spouse must face their fear and acknowledge that perfect safety is never possible. If either step is left out, there is no dance of recovery together.

When a couple comes in for help after discovering an affair I try to be reassuring and calmly lay out the structure of what needs to happen to ‘get over’ this crisis.

 

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How To Save Your Marriage In 3 Hours

How to Save Your Marriage in 3 Hours

Saving your marriage doesn’t require long-term treatment.

What brought you here were tiny fissures in your relationship that gradually spread into cracks. They formed so subtly, grew so slowly that they were almost imperceptible. But they’re obvious now. You haven’t had a comfortable conversation in weeks, haven’t had sex in months.

Nothing, however, says that the road to recovery needs to be as long and winding. As a professional marriage counselor with over 11 years in private practice, Angela Winslow has developed a concentrated form of therapy she calls One-Session Counseling, or a Couples Intensive, in which the treatment unfolds over a single, three-hour session, rather than multiple, weekly meetings. One-Session Counseling is not an abbreviated version of the conventional marriage-counseling model. Because of its duration, it can be even more comprehensive in its examination and analysis, yielding, in turn, more dramatic shifts in behavior.

Virtually every conceivable issue a couple could encounter—building trust after an affair, increasing intimacy in a relationship, even coping with a separation or a divorce—is appropriate for One-Session Counseling. Urgency has a way of distilling concerns, however deeply rooted. You’ll confront them head-on and emerge, three hours later, armed with the necessary tools to continue restoring your relationship.

One-Session Counseling isn’t reserved for marriages in dire straits. It’s also a convenient option for couples who’ve become strangers to each other. Life can be relentless, and all too often we’re willing to sacrifice the personal connections in the name of the immediate tasks because they’re easier to cope with. But the excuses we tell ourselves lose their validity in light of a single, three-hour commitment.

Regardless of your reasons and the intricacy of your concerns, consider One-Session Counseling. Rather, consider who you’ll be when you exit that room, the frustration and insecurity left behind.

Call 619-327-9791 or email me today at couplescare@gmail.com and I can answer any questions and get a Couple’s Intensive on your schedule soon. Saturdays and evenings are available.

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How Love Can Kill Desire

What is the difference between love and desire?

What is the difference between love and desire?

So many couples come in with stale sex and relationship boredom – they feel ample love but desire has suffered. The reason for this is that love and desire conflict.

“Love is when you care, worry, feel responsible for someone. With love you want to minimize threats, reduce distance and be nurturing. Safety is the primary goal. In contrast desire is all about freedom and autonomy.

Many women like ‘bad boys’ because you don’t have to worry about them. You don’t feel safe but it’s freeing in terms of desire. With people we are less emotionally involved in there is more freedom and less worry. It is the care, worry and feeling of responsibility we feel for our beloved that squashes the freedom necessary for desire. What nurtures love is not what fuels desire and what turns us on sexually isn’t always what is emotionally safe.

Long term relationships involve responsibility. Women are often challenged to give themselves he permission for pleasure, even when it is a simple matter of taking time for themselves. When attending to the needs of others -whether it be a husband or children- they can  forego their own needs more easily than men do. One example is giving in to sex when it is not desired over the long term breeds resentment and is a turn off erotically because of the lack of perceived choice in the matter/freedom.

Where there is nurturing women have a hard time sustaining desire. We choose love over desire because that’s what we feel we should do. When we pair up in a monogamous relationship both men and women trade off adventure for the predictability and exchange the erotic needs for security needs.

So how can love and desire coexist in a long term, committed relationship?

Introduce and cultivate the unexpected. Break the routine – what you talk about, activities, how you react to each other. Bring vitality back – shake things up! Fire needs air, couples need to fan the flame. Desire needs uncertainty—keep mystery and adventure alive by injecting the unpredictable and unexpected. Helping couples brainstorm on how to do this is an important part of any treatment plan to rekindle desire.

 

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How does co-dependence show up in relationships

11 Signs That You Are  In A Codependence Relationship

The word co-dependence was first used in the 70s to describe the pattern of coping behavior in the partner or family member of an alcoholic. I like Melodie Beattie’s simple definition:   “A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling or manipulating that person’s behavior or feelings.” Melodie Beattie from Codependent No More

In relationships where there is no issue with substances, co-dependence occurs and always becomes a source of confusion & guilt because of blurred boundaries.

Can you relate to having any of these codependent behaviors?

  • think and feel responsible for other people – their feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being or lack of well-being.
  • feel compelled to help a person with a problem such as offering advice, suggestions or changing their feelings.
  • Find yourself saying yes when you mean no
  • feel sad because you believe you spend your life giving to others, and nobody gives to you
  • believe deep inside that other people are somehow responsible for you
  • think and talk a lot about other people
  • have lived through events and with people that were out of control, causing sorrow and disappointment
  • become afraid to let other people be who they are and allow events to happen naturally, with natural consequences
  • think you know best how things should turn out and how people should behave
  • try to control others through helplessness, guilt, coercion, threats, advice giving, manipulation and domination
  • look to relationships to provide all your good feelings

These traits/behaviors show up often in therapy and are at the root of many confusing conflicts that people have. Statements like “he makes me feel guilty” and expectations of what the partner needs to do to make them happy indicate a quagmire of co-dependence that needs to be explored.

No one can make us feel guilty without our permission and behavioral prescriptions demanding change from others are not ways to improve any relationship. Clearly seeing what is and what is not our responsibility or within our control relieves stress and frees us from the trap of guilt at taking over-responsibility for others and their feelings. It also saves frustration when others do not comply with our demands. I’m not sure where it came from but I like the visual of the statement: What’s in my hula hoop?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Are You Getting Married But Worrying How To Avoid Divorce

Planning a Wedding Can Be a Lonely Time

The summer is wedding season. If you’re not attending one over the next few weekends, you’re probably planning one of your own. With so much ceremony and meaning packed into those 24 hours, weddings have a way of intensifying emotions—love and gratitude, naturally, but also anxiety, frustration and even fear. Faced with the growing awareness that you’re about to pledge a lifelong commitment to your partner, seemingly innocuous concerns suddenly begin to metastasize. Long-repressed traumatic episodes creep back toward the edges of your consciousness. In the run up to what should feel like one of the happiest days of your life, it can feel like you’re beginning to unravel.

No relationship is without its flaws and imbalances, and you’re going to feel them more keenly at certain times than at others. That said, you shouldn’t simply take a deep breath and shrug them off, especially if you’re sitting there on the eve of your wedding day worrying about how to avoid divorce.

Couples therapy can refresh your perspective by identifying each partner’s role within the unhealthy patterns that are gradually undermining your relationship. If you’re new to it, here’s a basic idea of what to expect in couples counseling. We’ll create a safe place in which you and your partner can begin expressing your feelings honestly and without fear of reproach. It’s in those vulnerable but protected moments that we’ll develop a better understanding of your partner’s perspective and, together, trace your concerns to their root. From there, we’ll rebuild your relationship by practicing new communication skills that’ll fortify your bond as a couple without sacrificing your individual identities.

Those concerns that are gnawing at you now, if left unacknowledged and untended to, are likely to only weigh heavier on you with exchange of vows and the passage of time. Trust problems in a relationship, for one, will eventually undermine your every thought and action. Intimacy will fade. Arguments will increase. The weight of the moment may be compounding your concerns, but they are valid. And you’re not alone.

Allow CouplesCare in San Diego licensed marriage therapist to help restore your faith in each other.

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“45 Years” A Film looks at separateness’ in marriage

I happened to see this sweet, thoughtful movie on a long plane journey titled “45 Years” It’s a story about a couple who have been married for 45 years and are weeks away from an anniversary party celebrating their marriage. The pacing is slow and the acting is thoughtful . I’m sure it didn’t last long in the theaters – we are so accustomed to action and sex to keep our attention.

So the husband (listed as next of kin) gets a letter indicating that the remains of his lover (prior to meeting and marrying Jane) had been found. Fifty years ago there had been a vague, tragic accident hiking in the Alps where she had fallen in a crevice and was unrecoverable. Kate (Charlotte Rampling) sees his distraction , they talk a bit about that time of his life, what it meant to him. She begins to worry about how much thought he was giving to the resurrected memories of this long ago relationship. Eventually she heads to the attic and digs out photos that show that the lover had been pregnant on that trip long ago. Her husband had never told her this. Subtly you can see her weighing thoughts of her choice to be childless. She begins to feel insecure just as plans for the party are imminent. She doesn’t say that she has discovered the fact of the pregnancy. While at first asking him to feel free to talk about the prior relationship and his memories, she eventually requested that he stop –trying to protect herself and her sense of the happy 45 year marriage they had achieved. All of this is processed internally and magically in Kate’s beautifully aged face. She watches as Richard starts to smoking again (a habit they gave up together so it feels like an infidelity) and that he begins to walk alone from time to time. She knows that he is reflecting on this long ago memory and she has to balance understanding with the feeling that after all these years she did not know all about her husband.

There is a triumphant entry into the gala party room, surrounded by friends and family from decades – smiles all around and good cheer. Richard makes a toast to his marriage full of all the right things to have said- even with tears at one point – but we sense that Kate feels something missing –her face with a relaxed smile and confused eyes – though no one else would have noticed she hides it so well. They take the floor for their first dance together and all are enthralled by the happy couple. Fantastic acting as she appears a bit less than exuberant and he is jolly but his eyes are closed a lot as they dance…. A slight disconnection.– a going through the motions. After the final twirl he holds her hand up high as they finish – and then after a moment which should have been triumphant she suddenly yanks her arm down and out of his grasp.. Her face an exquisite mix of emotions. And the film ends there.

This struck me as comparable to that time in a relationship where we learn something about a prior love or time of life that we were not a part of.

It’s that piece of a person that is not ‘with’ us. It is their history which cannot be undone. Like a jealous lover Kate feels betrayed by this piece of her husband – that his lost lover was pregnant- that was kept from her. At this stage of her life it is magnified in meaning since she chose to be childless. She thought she was everything to him but she was not. Another woman and their child were there first and still active now in his memory. Kate is an adult and grapples with her internal reactions to these feelings – disguising them, denying them and ultimately unable to keep her hand aloft with his at the final dance twirl-pulling it from his grasp.

Kate realizes she did not really ‘have’ all of her husband, as she had thought after 45 years together. In relationship we think we want to merge and be one. Much conflict in the relationship is a result of the fact that we are NOT one, but two….. with respect for each other’s differing feelings and experiences….not merged….an uncomfortable fact and brave to accept..

Angela Winslow specializes in marriage counseling and couples therapy in San Diego. Affairs, infidelity, communication skills, sex therapy and parenting are areas of expertise.

 

 

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Mothers and sex

getting over an affair and depression with medications

After marriage, for many women sex becomes an obligation rather than an expression of desire, love and affection.

They lose track of their own desire and pleasure, and feel like sex has become “just another thing that I have to do to take care of someone else.” Women with young children are stressed by care-giving responsibilities sex becomes just another resentment. Many women cannot even think about having sex until the chores are done. The list never ends – dishes, laundry, bills, and the dog. The chores win and couple time gets lost in the shuffle. Frequently when asked ‘What would you rather do, fold the laundry, or make love to your husband?’ most would pick sex. But in real life husbands get pushed away. With children needing 24/7 attention, women want time for themselves – if there is any left! The husband seems like just one more person wanting something when it feels like there is nothing left to give – one more child who needs something.

When I work with women in this situation I address feelings of resentment, help them learn to ask for help and how to stop and notice how they are over-functioning. They feel like they have no choice when in fact they do – to some degree. Learning to stop and take care of themselves is key. The image of a family sitting down for breakfast and a mother running around serving everyone like a chicken without a head is the standard of good mothering that must change. Mothers can start by giving themselves permission to sit down for just a few minutes to drink their coffee.

We look at their lost sense of ownership over their sexuality and sensuality, and try to help them reconnect with who THEY are sensually, what THEY like sexually, and with their own sense of pleasure. I help them understand that their husband’s (usually) are “using” sex as a path to feeling emotionally connected — not just “using” their wives bodies to get their own pleasure. But here’s the snag. In the course of reclaiming themselves, they often have to learn to take care of themselves by saying, “no.” They have to learn that they really can be their own separate person and that they won’t WANT to say yes until they allow themselves to say no.

I like the idea of the “sex date” to help couples’ break the habit of avoiding or simply not making time and space for intimacy, and to help them bring intentionality to connecting emotionally and physically.

“Sex dates” with the woman in charge, can give her a sense of control over the situation. It puts a break to the repeated dance where he wants sex and her only sexual independence is to say no. Of course, this will only work as long as it gives her a real sense of control and doesn’t trigger the feeling of duty and responsibility, and again block contact with her own sexual drive. In this experiment, only the woman can initiate and there should be a mutual agreement as to how long it can go before sex happens. Then on the sex date, she needs to ask for exactly what she wants- cuddling, sharing a glass of wine, a foot massage, kissing. His task is to step back, appreciate her gestures and not put pressure to go further. This is important because she will often resist any contact for fear that this will lead to unwanted sex.

As for the husband, he needs to step up his game helping with the home and kids, monitor his frustrations and be kind. He can show he cares in multiple ways, that don’t need to be rewarded with sex. This doesn’t directly connect his wife to her erotic self, nor make her interested in sex, but it goes a long way to reduce the resentment and the avoidance that is so very common in couples with small children.

 

 

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Infidelity & Texting

Texting is one way the other woman or man enters the family.

Many couples struggle with infidelity. Affairs can happen at work, in bars, at school reunions, meetings and with your phone. Texting is one way the “other woman or man” enters the family.

If trust is low, couples become aware of the degree to which their partner needs to guard their phone. Do they take the phone everywhere? Is the phone immediately hidden if you are around? If your spouse refuses to let you see their phone is that is reason enough to be suspicious?

Also partners may become aware if their spouse has difficulty setting boundaries with others which is correlated with inappropriate relationships.

Lastly, they are suspicious when their spouse begins sending texts during dinner, bedtime, in the middle of the night, and first thing in the morning. This could indicate a boundary invasion and is inappropriate no matter who you work for, or what they are going through.

Many couples don’t address or communicate their feelings about texting or emailing until there is a violation and at that point it is too late.

If you have crossed boundaries in the past or have been accused of texting someone too much, you should take it seriously and talk to your spouse about it. Remember, telling your spouse you never had sex with this person, so you aren’t cheating is not true. You are cheating if you are texting someone and would feel ashamed or embarrassed if your spouse read them.

Here are a few suggestions to “text proof” your relationship. If you talk to your partner about this now, it will safeguard your marriage from cheating:

  • Talk together about texting. What is acceptable, and what is crossing the line? How does each of you feel about sexting? It is not true that if you ignore it, it won’t happen. Talking about these issues and preparing makes them less likely to happen.
  • Agree on a plan regarding when and where cell phones are permitted. Shutting off your cell during a dinner out is wise, as that is your time. However, having your phone on during a coffee break with your spouse may be permitted if you are still on the clock.
  • Couples who agree to shut their phones off at a specific time each evening protect their marriage from people who lack boundaries and will text any time of the day or night.
  • Phone passwords should be made readily available to both spouses.
  • Do an inside check. Would you be anxious if your spouse left with your phone for the day? Is there anything on there you would be ashamed of if they saw? If so, deal with it now.

The only fool-proof way to protect your marriage is to discuss these topics prior to letting them into your marriage. Establishing healthy boundaries so neither spouse feels monitored, but both feel protected and secure will safe guard your marriage and family.

 

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Stop Fighting with Relational Mindfulness

how to stop fighting with your partner

Many couples come in asking how to stop fighting.

Often it’s described as a need for communication skills when it’s really that there is too much communication going on – and it’s not the listening part of the communication process!

Terry Real talks about resisting that first impulse of reactivity when we’re irritated and emotionally triggered by our partner. He refers to it as 2nd Consciousness. 1st Consciousness is “the Woosh “ aka the wave or flood of emotion that leads to anger, defensiveness and attacks. Our knee jerk reaction or woosh occurs in the primitive part of the brain interested in self preservation. Fight, flight or freeze! When we become mindful of this primal response we can also learn to shift from 1st to 2nd Consciousness and stop the escalation which damages our relationships.

Awareness is the first part of self change. Relational Mindfulness is learned by practice – pausing and being aware when the reactive childlike part of us wants to take over the show – and then reaching down inside for that functional adult part to react differently. Unlike other animals we are blessed with consciousness – the ability to distinguish these parts of ourself and using the one we want. The more we practice, the better we get at mindfulness, bringing more measured and healthy responses into our relationship conflicts.

 

 

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Looking at expectations

couples counseling online. Codependcy, relationships, marriage, cheating

Condensed and edited from Andrew Goldman’s interview with Rebecca Miller, Julianne Moore, Ethan Hawke and Greta Gerwig. Wall Street Journal.

EH: I see people breaking up because they just have such extremely high expectations for every aspect of their life. That makes life really hard. It doesn’t allow for much compromise or forgiveness. Like what you said—“I’m no prize either”—which I think is so funny. There’s a fundamental humility to that, whereas I’ve had a couple of friends who are breaking up, and their problems with each other are so minute.

AG: Like what?

EH: Oh, just what the other one doesn’t do for the other one. They are both amazing people, and I look at these two friends and I think, I wish you could see each other for what you are and not the tiny part of the puzzle you’re not.  

I ran across this interview of the director and cast of Maggie’s Plan and was struck by the truth in this excerpt. So often it is the piece of the puzzle that is not there that drives a partner crazy about the relationship. It’s like a sore tooth – you can’t keep from touching it with your tongue.

We all have a vision of the relationship we want. Notwithstanding dealbreakers like violence and abuse- the vision or the puzzle is an amalgam of societal and family expectations, family of origin loading and a hurt ‘little person’ trying to get whole. Often the relationship we land in solves most of these expections – but there’s usually one thing. And that thing may look minor to a friend on the outside but is major to the one in the relationship.

Part of therapy is getting to that ‘one thing’ that is missing. Where did it come from, why is it important, what would it look like if it showed up in the relationship and do I want it bad enough to look at myself as the instigator of the change that might make it appear?

A sense of humility is so key in the process. “I’m not such a prize either” helps to put things in perspective. We are all imperfect. Are my expectations out of line? Is there enough good in the relationship? What happens when an imperfection is found in a new relationship. Do you leave again? Remember you take you with you when you go.

Couples therapy is a growth experience for the individuals and the relationship. It challenges you to look at yourselves and your expectations. It’s like putting the puzzle pieces out there on the card table and working to bring them together….which pieces you and your partner bring in to complete the puzzle and how important any imperfection is – with at least a small dose of humility.

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