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Archive for the ‘Infidelity/affairs/cheating’ Category

What is a Boundary Anyway?

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

 

 

 

cowbigeyes

Good boundaries are a part of any good relationship. In fact, a relationship without boundaries will almost always have other symptoms: violence, emotional arguments, infidelity, addiction, emotional cutoffs, or debilitating enabling. The problem with boundaries? They can be hard on a relationship. The boundary-setter finds it hard because he dreads retaliation from the boundary-receiver. The boundary-receiver finds it hard because, well, no one really LIKES to receive a boundary. Here are three things everyone in a relationship needs to know about boundaries:

  1. Boundaries are designed to protect the boundary-setter, not the boundary receiver. Let’s say you love your neighbor, you love your neighbor’s cows, and you love your yard. You do not, however, love your neighbor’s cows IN your yard. In fact, you are starting to lose your serenity because of it. Since you value your yard and your serenity, you decide to build a fence. The cows are a little miffed because they can’t get to your grass and your neighbor is a little miffed because his view is now marred by your fence. You, on the other hand, feel pretty good because you have your serenity and your yard. Maybe your neighbor will realize your serenity helps the relationship and grow to appreciate your fence. Maybe he will harbor hurt feelings over your fence and never speak to you again.

Lesson: You built a fence because you started valuing your peace more than your neighbor’s peace. There is a possibility the relationship with your neighbor will suffer because of this shift. There is also a possibility the relationship will become better than ever.

  1. Boundaries are not the same as telling someone what to do. Let’s say you have the same neighbor, the same cows, the same yard, and the same budding resentment. You realize that a fence might hurt your neighbor’s feelings so you are going to try some things that are ‘less offending’ than a fence. Here’s what you try:
    1. You try to talk to your neighbor and tell him that if he cared about you he’d keep his cows on his own side.
    2. You tell your neighbor that it’s just common sense to keep his cows under control and if had any common sense, he would do that.
    3. You repeat 1. and 2. at all social gatherings, barbecues, and kids’ birthday parties until eventually he goes the other way when he sees you coming.
    4. You file a restraining order against your neighbor and his cows.
    5. You shoot the cows when they come in your yard.

Lesson: Nagging, guilt trips, threats, and acts of violence are attempts to change or control another person. Unlike boundaries they rarely protect your yard or your serenity and they always damage relationships.

  1. Boundaries will always require a change in your behavior, not your neighbor’s. Did the neighbor have a right to graze his cows on your grass? No. Did you have a right to be angry? Sure. Is it fair that you had to spend money and time and energy to build the fence when his cows are the problem? Yes. After all, you care more about your serenity (and your yard) than your neighbor does. Lesson: If you value it, then it’s up to you to protect it.

So the next time you are considering action because of a partner (or a neighbor) remember the difference between boundary setting and controlling. Boundaries are uncomfortable, sometimes costly, strategies designed to protect you. Controlling strategies are designed to change someone else’s behavior so you are more comfortable. Boundaries have the added benefit of improving a relationship. Controlling almost always results in relationship damage.

Kate Walker Ph.D., LPC, LMFT

Infidelity: A Blueprint for Recovery Part 3 – Apologizer versus Rebuilder

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

In the last blog, I talked about triggers and grief, especially over the holidays. Emotions can be surprisingly intense due to the anniversary effect and the pressure to have a ‘perfect’ holiday for family and in-laws despite the disharmony. The final steps in our blueprint for recovery for couples surviving betrayal, infidelity, and cheating is understanding and explaining the difference between an Apologizer and a Rebuilder.

When an affair is discovered or revealed in a committed relationship and the couple decides to stay together, the betrayed *partner will probably expect an apology from the betrayer. What *she may not know, however, is it is much more powerful if her apologizing spouse becomes a rebuilding spouse. An apologizer does just that; he apologizes. A rebuilder not only apologizes, he makes a conscious, visible effort to change.

I’ll give you an example. I live in a part of the country where the freeways are enormous and overcrowded. When there is a lull in traffic, or lots of empty space, or the traffic is free to move, it is not uncommon for me to speed. Yes I will put the pedal to the metal and push my little Jeep over the posted speed limit. I don’t feel like I am being dangerous, I only do it once in a while, and usually it is because even though I planned ahead, there is a wreck so I am running late. But yes I speed. And I am sorry.

So let’s see what just happened. I admitted wrongdoing (I broke the law) and I apologized. That puts me in the category of ‘Apologizer.’ I am not a ‘Rebuilder’ though because I justified my actions by explaining I’m not dangerous, I blamed a wreck, and I minimized my actions by saying ‘I only do it once in a while.’ Justifying minimizing and blaming are relationship killers and they can derail affair recovery efforts. I could have continued by saying things like, “I said I was sorry. Can’t you drop it?” or, “Why can’t you trust me? I’m not speeding right now!”

Rebuilding takes apologizing to another level. First, Rebuilders are quiet. They apologize and then stop talking. They don’t justify, minimize, and blame and they leave lots of empty conversation space. Second, Rebuilders are busy. They are going to therapy (or in my case defensive driving), meeting with healthy peers, reading books, and generally working on themselves, without pressure from the betrayed spouse, so they don’t ever do the behavior again. Finally, Rebuilders are humble. In most of the literature on affair recovery, this is the most important quality. They don’t fight for their rights in arguments and they allow the betrayed partner to grieve.

If you betrayed (or broke the law) remember, apologizing is not the same as rebuilding a relationship. If you have been betrayed, don’t settle for an apologizer.

*Genders and the words ‘partner’ and ‘spouse’ will be interchanged throughout these articles.

 

Infidelity: A Blueprint for Recovery Part 2 – Taking infidelity recovery into the holiday season and dealing with grief, trauma, and triggers

Monday, November 16th, 2015

In my last blog, I talked about a blueprint for recovery for couples surviving betrayal, infidelity, and cheating. I explained that the *betrayed spouse’s reaction to The Discovery, or revelation, of sexual, emotional, or financial infidelity could be compared to, or diagnosed as, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As we approach the holidays, it’s important to understand that the betrayed spouse’s feelings of sadness, despondency, anger, and disengagement can be exacerbated by environmental triggers such as the ‘anniversary effect’ and holiday sensory overload.

The anniversary effect is the term we use to describe the return of the intense pain on or near the anniversary of The Discovery. This can be devastating for the betrayed spouse because he may have been feeling as though the pain was finally manageable. When intense emotions such as difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, or becoming emotional with little provocation return, he may find himself questioning his marriage and his sanity. What happened?

When an affair is discovered or revealed the betrayed spouse feels intense pain immediately. Unbeknownst to him while he was experiencing the pain, his body was recording stimuli such as the angle of the sun, the temperature outside, sunrise and sunset times, aromas, and sounds (read The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk). If he discovered his partner’s infidelity around the winter holiday season in the United States, his body was registering some pretty intense stimuli: the end of daylight savings, holiday decoration displays, and holiday music in stores, the smell of traditional food. As the anniversary of The Discovery approached, his body was registering the stimuli, remembering, and feeling.

Even if The Discovery occurred at another time during the year, holidays (even those without the intense environmental overload) can still be difficult. Surviving an affair may mean grieving the idea of a ‘perfect’ holiday, vacation, reunion, or other traditional family time. Betrayed spouses may notice they feel like they are ‘faking it’ for the sake of the kids or the in-laws, or trying to create an ‘amazing’ holiday in spite of their pain.

If you are recovering from infidelity and you notice you are feeling emotional, disconnected, angry, or sad and you can’t pinpoint why, take a look at the calendar. Remember, triggers are on your radio, at the movie theater, outside your window, and in your shopping mall. You are not going crazy – your body is just remembering.

Next time: Infidelity Recovery Part 3: Apologizer vs. Rebuilder

*Genders and the words ‘partner’ and ‘spouse’ will be interchanged throughout these articles.

Infidelity: A Blueprint for Recovery Part 1 – The Why

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

So what exactly is a blueprint for recovery when it comes to betrayal, infidelity, and cheating?

It might help to look at traditional marriage counseling and make a comparison. Traditional marriage counseling, when infidelity is not involved, means the therapist asks questions about strengths, weaknesses, recurring arguments, each individual’s perception of the problem, what does ‘better’ look like, etc.

In affair-recovery counseling the therapist asks the same questions, but he is mindful of one critical issue: no matter how the couple answers the questions, he cannot draw the conclusion that the non-betraying spouse caused the betrayal. How do we know this, you ask? Because human behavior is complex and we can never establish cause and effect relationships. I’ll give you my bank robber example.

Let’s say you line up five hungry people. Four of those people decide to apply for a job, go to work, get paid, and buy food. The fifth person robs a bank. Did hunger cause the fifth person to rob the bank? Of course not. Robbing the bank was a choice. A blueprint for recovery acknowledges there may be problems in the marriage, but problems can never cause a betraying spouse to act unfaithfully.

At Achievebalance and Ann’s Place we take a lot of time to train our Licensed Professionals and our Resident interns to work with couples trying to survive infidelity. Many times, therapists need to work through their own issues about cheating and betrayal so they don’t lay their faulty beliefs about the ‘why’ on the couple they are trying to help. If you are a betrayed partner and a friend, family member, or therapist is trying to tell you that something you did or did not do caused your partner to cheat, just walk away. Quickly.

When a spouse discovers his partner’s infidelity he experiences emotions like the grief one experiences when learning about the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one. The shock is so intense research has compared it to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A blueprint for affair recovery accommodates those symptoms and describes step-by-step how the betraying partner can earn her partner’s trust again.

Next time:

Infidelity: A Blueprint for Recovery

Part 2: Grief, trauma, and triggers. Why does it take so long to heal?

 

You Found an Affair, Now What?

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

Maybe you were looking through your husband’s phone and you accidentally came upon an undeleted text. Perhaps you were already suspicious and you were intentionally accessing your wife’s facebook account. Whatever your motives were, what you found is unmistakable evidence your spouse is having an affair. Now what?

First, don’t get hung up on definitions. An affair is a betrayal. My favorite definition of betrayal is: to be unfaithful in guarding, maintaining, or fulfilling; to disappoint the hopes or expectations of; be disloyal to; or to reveal or disclose in violation of confidence. This can cover everything from flirtations on Facebook to one night stands. In fact, we are finding that financial infidelity is outpacing sexual and emotional affairs when it comes to leading causes of divorce. Bottom line, if you feel that what you discovered meets the criteria for a betrayal, then you get to define it as an affair.

Next, take some time. An affair does not mean your marriage has to end in divorce. What you feel right now is grief. This grief can feel as sharp as grief you would feel if you lost a loved one. You will go through the stages of grief: shock, anger, denial, bargaining, depression/sadness, and acceptance. If your discovery is recent, you may be in shock. In seconds you could feel angry, then sad. Making major decisions right now is probably not a good idea so call a friend, go on a walk, take the weekend and go away for awhile but don’t pull the plug on your marriage.

Finally, after you have taken the time you need, decide if you want help. An affair is survivable. There are lots of great books including Harley’s “Surviving an Affair,” and MacDonald’s “How to Help Your Spouse Heal From Your Affair,” that can guide your next steps. If you choose to get professional help you must find someone who understands the process of recovery. Affair Recovery must come before ‘marriage counseling’ and any therapist who confuses the two may damage things further.

One last thing: an affair is not your fault. Every married person feels lonely, abandoned, frustrated, or angry at some point, but not everyone steps out of the marriage vows and betrays a spouse. An affair is a choice just like robbing a bank.

Help Your Wife Survive Your Affair

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Help Your Wife Survive Your Affair:

http://youtu.be/VuyWBCQvG90

After an Affair: Affair Recovery for Couples After Infidelity has Occurred

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

The tough work after an affair starts with the revelation. Once both the partners are aware of the infidelity and the choice is made to stay married then it’s time to dive into the recovery process. In my experience helping people survive an affair I’ve been taught there’s almost no bounds to the desire to try to save the marriage. My job is to help couples divide the work and work smarter.

The partner who had the affair must work on humility. Frequently I call this staying low. Humility means there’s never any push back when the betrayed partner makes a request never any editing when replying to a direct inquiry and never any exhibiting hostility when responding to the deceived partner’s hostility.

Humility can be very tough for the partner who had the affair for a few reasons. First and foremost she most likely has anger she never dealt with that let her excuse or rationalize her affair. She may feel like she isn’t permitted to exhibit her unmet needs in the restoration process and so the process of stuffing the emotion may begin all over again leading to bitterness and possibly acting out.

The partner who was deceived has very well the hardest task of all in counseling. He must choose to offer forgiveness after infidelity has happened. If recovering couples decide they do not want counseling forgiveness may never be addressed or it may be ignored in favor of punishment. In treatment the marriage counselor helps the deceived partner release the frustration which leaves room for forgiving if he decides. The counselor also helps the deceived partner understand that forgiveness is not for the partner who had the affair it is for him and his well-being.

Working diligently during affair recovery isn’t enough. Both partners must divide the work and focus their energy on working smart. The result will be contented individuals and a marriage on its way to recovery.

Managing Anger during Infidelity Recovery: Coping with Anger and Anger Outbursts

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

When couples struggle to survive an affair, they may select treatment as a choice. Initially there is relief because they feel just like the specialist understands their heartache and can sincerely assist them. What may very well surprise them nonetheless, is the sensation that they’re moving two steps forward and one step back.

Leaving a session may make them feel as though they have the tools and are headed straight for success, only to be sidelined for days by unexpected emotional turmoil. This phenomenon has been called a roller coaster, but might be more accurately described as a dance with anger. When the partners arrive for treatment, what they might not get is that three people actually show up for the appointment. Just two wear skin, but the third is just as real and influential: anger.

Analysts are only now spotting the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms, including anger, which the betrayed better half experiences following the discovery of an affair. The wrath could be displayed through anger outbursts or concealed away, but it is almost always at work impacting the direction therapy will take. Will the specialist help the partners talk about the factors that made the marriage ready for the affair, or will the focus be on the stress experienced by the deceived partner? Anger will decide.

The betraying spouse may be unable to identify her very own anger in the primary sessions as she may be working awfully tough to continue handling her wrath and not further offend the partner she betrayed. By ignoring her anger however, she is not coping with anger. In ignoring anger, she ignores the frustration, discontent, and antagonism that led to her to justifying, minimizing, and executing a successful affair. If the consultant fails to recognize her outrage in session, he may leave her in the same emotionally charged situation.

In infidelity recovery, angriness must be identified and met head on by all participators in therapy. Ignoring angriness doesn’t make it go away; it only makes it a much more powerful dance partner.

Infidelity in Elder Care

Monday, January 14th, 2013

When two nursing home residents Art and Frieda started to hold hands, kiss, and generally enjoy one another’s company, family members became livid. Why? Art and Frieda are married, however, not to each other.
When family members tried to intervene by contacting and asking the nursing home staff to prohibit contact between the two, the ethics governing body responded that the autonomy of the couple superseded the wishes of the family. Not only that, but when it came to taking care of the elderly, the staff had no right to keep the two apart nor administer medication to ‘dampen’ their desires. This case, reported from Sweden, reflects that infidelity is a growing problem for senior citizen homes, nursing home staff and nursing home patient family members. How should family members respond to this type of infidelity in marriage?
Family members can help each other by first assessing whether this attraction is due to who Dad really is (talkative, funny, gregarious) or if some personality change has taken place due to the dementia. After the initial shock, families who see Dad spending time with someone in the nursing home who is not his wife often report how happy he looks and how much joy they seem to share. If a personality change has occurred the attraction may be a reflection of this different personality and not a reflection of the dad they love and remember.
If a cognitive deficit has taken place (long term memory loss) then families must consider: if we cannot recall past promises are we morally bound by them? Many poignant movies have been written about an individual successfully wooing his partner who has forgotten her vows due to brain injury or dementia.
This is a romantic portrayal, however, and the reality is spouses of unfaithful dementia patients feel betrayed. Emotional distress increases if Dad has had a history of infidelity. Family members can respond to this by supporting Mom, one another, and getting outside help if needed.

Affair Recovery: How to Recover After an Affair

Monday, January 7th, 2013

In my years counseling, I have worked with several couples through the tragedy of sexual, emotional, and now the common financial cheating. I have seen some amazing recoveries. Couples who recover use affair recovery as an opportunity to create the best marriage they presumably can. The following is a summary of some “lessons learned” by couples have experienced after an affair (the pronouns “he” and “she” are swapped for simplicity).

First, sexual attraction and desire are normal, whereas acting on that behavior is where trouble starts. Accept the incontrovertible fact that you and your partner could be interested in people during your marriage, and target your energy on what is satisfactory to get on with next.

Second, life brings enticement and we really need to have plans to nip it in the bud if and when it strikes. Ask, “If my better half was feeling interested in somebody outside the relationship, could she trust me to handle those feelings and help her?” If the answer’s no, the plan should ideally include allowing anyone at any time to talk about feelings with a therapist or a reliable advisor.

3rd, take resposibility for your love language! Are you attracted to a certain appearance? Does the ability to make funny banter get your pulse racing? Does a particular talent or pursuit make your knees weak? Listen to these triggers, and ensure you don’t hire, go to lunch with alone, work out at the gymnasium, or Facebook with anyone who speaks your love language.

4th, Don’t put down or make excuses for your struggling spouse. Affairs require logistical back-flips and mental moral gymnastics that would put Cirque de Soleil to embarrassment. If you have the time to cheat, you have the time to prevent it. Eventually, if you have enough time to cheat, you have sufficient time to recover. Telling your other half you don’t have time for a wedding recovery activity like marriage advice, a church wedding retreat, or a once-per-week check-in breakfast with a trainer is a cop-out. The time after infidelity can seem just like predicting a cliff-dive; be brave and take the plunge not only for you but for your spouse.

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