The Nagging Question

Usually the partner hurt by the affair questions what attraction the ‘other person’ had for their partner. Was she sexier than me? Smarter? Did he have more money?

The more pertinent question for the one who strayed is “What part of myself did I bring to the affair that I do not bring into my marriage?”

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Reaching ‘critical mass’ in therapy

David Snarsch talks about this concept in his book Intimacy & Desire. which refers to that point in a relationship where anxiety and pressure converge to a point where pivotal change is inevitable.  The idea is that therapy should move the couple toward this uncomfortable point because that is where real change can happen.

Often one partner is changing and the challenge is to see whether the relationship can change and grow as well. Change disrupts a safe and static time in the relationship and pressure increases as the status quo feels more and more untenable. There comes a point where core change is necessary and change is almost always uncomfortable and anxiety producing. At ‘critical mass’ there is no turning back and partners have to either change and adapt to a new reality or the relationship stops growing. 

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Trusting Self Again

One of the biggest hurdles in healing from infidelity is to trust yourself again. When the affair is discovered, your world is rocked. What you thought was true and stable has turned out not to be as you thought. Deciding to stay in the relationship involves going against all that you told yourself you would do if this happened. What does it say about me, if I agree to go to counseling and accept that this event has happened does this mean I am weak? What about what my family or friends would say? Healing means that you are willing to accept that you love your partner despite what she/he did – that you see the value in him/her that goes beyond the mistake that was made. So you must trust that your choice to stay and work through this is not born of weakness but of strength.

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What is Marriage For?

Mostly influenced by a conversation with his father, this essay makes one think about the reasons we decide to get married!


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Relationship Life Cycle

I like the way Dr. Tammy Nelson describes the life phases of a monogamous relationship. Beginning phases are attraction and longing which are usually called ‘falling in love….. then it’s on to attachment and safety –a placid time of low anxiety where partners feel a secure foundation and can blossom individually. But then comes boredom – routine sex, child focused lives and predictability often lays the fertile ground for an affair or an outside attraction. A detachment phase ensues where the marriage and partner are scrutinized and found lacking – usually before they are even aware it is happening and have a chance to respond and perhaps grow. This is the crisis which acts as a wake up call for the marriage and then reassessment that hopefully takes place as much with self examination as criticism of the partner. An affair is not necessarily caused by faults in the relationship or partner – I believe it is more often a matter of individual development and a lack of courage to be honest with another.

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Some Unrealistic Ideas About Love & Marriage

I attended a seminar by Janis Abrahms last week. She’s the author of the often recommended book for healing after infidelity called After the Affair, nowwith a second edition that includes new chapters addressing the internet and emotional affairs. One simple list she had in her handout was a good reminder of common fallacies about love and marriage. Here are a few I encounter a lot.

*My partner should be able to anticipate my needs.
*I shouldn’t have to work to be trusted.
*My partner should be emotionally available to me whenever I need him/her.
*Love is a feeling that can’t be forced or manufactured. It either exists or it doesn’t.
*We shouldn’t have to work at feeling sexual desire for each other. It should come naturally or not at all.

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War and marriage

USA Today 4-25-12

Excellent article describing how the individual experience of wartime deployment causes emotional detachment and rage and negatively affecting marriages and family relationships.

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The Lure of Infatuation

A divorce is like an amputation: you survive it, but there’s less of you.
- Margaret Atwood

Many times I see couples who are deciding whether or not to get divorced. Usually there is one partner who is wanting the marriage more than the other – the concept of two people amicably agreeing to divorce is a myth in my opinion. There is always one person more in favor of the decision and in the other goes along unwillingly. Though not all marriages can survive I believe it is important to slow this decision process down so that the lifelong implications can be weighed realistically and each partner has an opportunity to understand what brings them to this point. If there is an outside emotional relationship with a promise of those heady times of infatuation, it is very difficult to halt the demise of the marriage. Often this important piece of information is not disclosed in therapy and the focus is on what is missing. This leaves the more committed partner believing it is his/her fault and potentially a lifelong mystery as to what went wrong. 

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Myth of the Blended Family

In working with stepfamilies I find that there are often unrealistic expectations of a ‘Brady bunch’ blending and confusion about how to handle discipline with step children. My opinion is that the bio parent should be the one to handle discipline with their own children with the step parent backing them up. Too often the step parent feels the ambiguity of their role and wants to assert power by directly disciplining the step kids which can cause resentment and ongoing problems.  foundation for respect and open communication. Understanding the children’s point of view is key. They’ll likely feel uncertain about the changes and how they will affect relationships with their natural parents. Acknowledging and respecting their conflicted feelings will lay a good foundation for respect and open communication. Most importantly expect this adjustment to take time!

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Infidelity…Fight or flight?

“Do not make a life altering decision while you are in the initial stages of surviving infidelity. Even though it may feel as though there is no hope at all for your relationship, there may still be hope. Even though your spouse has done this awful thing, it is possible that he/she still loves you very much and perhaps you still love your spouse as well. …Many people have completely ended their relationships in the emotion of the moment, only to find themselves later in a 2nd marriage to someone who is 2nd best. Later both spouses realize that they both had actually loved each other more than anyone else and they could have worked it out, had they only tried. Don’t doom yourself to a future filled with “what ifs.” (Anne Bercht, from article “Ten Strategies for Surviving Infidelity”)

I’ve seen this happen before. It’s easier to flee then stand in the fire. And the fire can temper a material into something stronger than it was before.

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