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Archive for the ‘Financial’ Category

How to Forgive

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

In my business it’s pretty common to hear “I forgave her but I’m never going to forget,” or, “I’m a [insert religion of choice] and so I HAVE to forgive him/her.” My favorite, “Forgive your brother right now!” is one I heard a lot growing up.

When an offense occurs in a relationship the ‘Receiver’ (the one who was offended or impacted by the thing) will probably expect an apology from the ‘Actor’ (the one who did the thing). If the ‘Actor’ has read my blog on what makes a good apology, then he will know how to be more than just an apologizer. He will be a Rebuilder/Amends-Maker. A Rebuilder not only apologizes, he makes a conscious, visible effort to change. If he has not read my blog, then he may resort to justifying his actions, blaming situations outside of himself, blaming the Receiver, or minimizing the impact of his actions by saying things like, “I’ve been getting a lot better at quitting this behavior,” or, “I only hit you once this time!” or “If we had sex more often I wouldn’t cheat!”

This blog is about forgiveness. Forgiving the apologizer who tries to be a Rebuilder or Amends-Maker. Forgiving an Actor who justifies, minimizes, blames the receiver, or never apologizes in the first place. Yes, this blog is about how to forgive anyone easily. Because here’s the thing: Forgiveness isn’t a process or an event.

It is an AWAKENING.

When you get stung by a bee, you get angry and hurt and you may even kill the bee. In retrospect, you may say to yourself something like, “I hope I never get stung again,” and “well that’s what bees do.” From that day forward you may run away from bees, swat bees, or spray bees with insecticide (please don’t do that, bees are endangered), but you will never say “I wonder if I should keep that bee as a pet,” or “I think I’ll start a beehive in the middle of my kitchen.” Why? Because you learned that a bee sting hurts and distance from a bee keeps you both safe, comfortable, and alive.

This is acceptance. This is forgiveness.

Forgiveness/AWAKENING begins by recognizing the nature of the person who offended you, then choosing to draw near or create distance, and validating the feelings that follow.

Recognize

Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Too many of us don’t believe our friends, family, and lovers when they show us who they are the first time. When they cheat on the relationship, assault us physically and emotionally, betray us again and again, we choose to believe our own rose-colored glasses that tell us who we wish they would be. We feel anger rise up in us and we attack or retreat in the battle with the offender, but we refuse to let ourselves see them for who they are trying so desperately to show us they are.

So we go back. And we fight. And we run away. And we come back.

Recognizing the humanity in the offender is one of the deepest forms of love and respect we can offer. Recognizing that the offender will only change when he/she is ready and ending the battle to change him or her is life-changing. Letting go of ‘what could be’ and ‘what I want’ and surrendering to the free-fall of what is, can be terrifying. But it is in that moment of surrender, that we can choose.

Draw near or create distance

We can choose to draw near the offender. We can ask them to come to counseling. We can offer resources like rehab or residential treatment. We can let them know we are in this with them as long as there is positive movement toward relationship goals.

Or we can choose to distance from the offender. We can realize that we have been stung too many times. We can decide our health and comfort and safety are important too and seek to save ourselves. And finally, we can decide to let our offender remain who they choose to be without interference from us.

Validate the feelings that follow

If our offender chooses to unite with us and work on the relationship with a third party and become a rebuilder then we will validate our feelings of joy because we may yet get to experience intimacy. We will validate feelings of anger because after all, why didn’t they change before now? We will validate feelings of fear because what if they go back to their old ways? And finally, we will validate feelings of anxiousness as we watch our offender become someone who is open and healed, someone we’ve never met before.

If our offender chooses to sting again, then we will validate our grief. Shock, anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance, will all need their turn in our consciousness. If we try to run back and put the beehive back in our kitchen, then our reliable offender will be sure to sting again and again. They will do this to remind us they are not a chunk of clay to be molded into the next comfort object; that they are who they are and they will change on their terms. So eventually, as our AWAKENING progresses, we will move through the stages of grief and understand that our offender has been trying to show us who they are for a long, long time.

Forgiveness is the moment when we AWAKEN to who our offender is and not who we wish they would be. When we save ourselves and allow the grief free reign over our consciousness and our decisions.

The bee, after all, is not bad. She is only a bee.

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What Makes a GOOD Apology?

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Apologies and forgiveness are two terms we (humans) tend to throw around quite a bit. What makes a good apology? Most of us know how it feels when we receive a sincere one, but it can be tough to explain to another person (especially if they have offended us) what a good apology is. Luckily, like most things I write about, there are three steps to understanding what makes a good apology:

  1. Divide the scene into ‘actor,’ and ‘receiver;’
  2. Validate your own feelings
  3. Ask/Act.

An offense usually involves an ‘actor’ and a ‘receiver.’

  • A car swerved on the freeway and your car received a dent.
  • Your wife had sex with your best friend and your marriage received a dent.
  • Your sister took a swing and your bicep received a dent.

Even if we know the driver was on the way to a hospital emergency, your wife was lonely, or your sister was mad because you called her ugly, we can still identify the person who ‘acted’ (did the thing), and the person who ‘received’ (was impacted by the thing). Dividing the scene not only allows us to identify the ‘actor’ and the ‘receiver,’ it allows us to have empathy with the actor without excusing his or her actions. For example, we can all empathize with a father who is driving erratically because his son is in the hospital, the wife who is lonely, or the sister who is angry. This empathy won’t pay for a damaged fender, repair a marriage, or heal an arm though. Furthermore, hospital emergencies don’t cause dents; loneliness doesn’t cause cheating; and teasing your sister doesn’t cause assault. Rule number one, filed under “things I was supposed to learn in Kindergarten,” is I am responsible for my own actions. This means we can have empathy for the actor AND expect her to exhibit self-control.

Validate your own feelings.

Empathy will help you forgive the actor in time, but for now we’ll put it aside so you can focus on how you feel. This can be tricky because so many of us get locked into the role of empathizer. We can all empathize with a parent who is out of sorts because he just found out his child had an accident. We’ve all been lonely in a relationship. We even know teasing is verbal abuse and recognize our sister’s anger when she pulls her fist back to hit us in the arm. Feelings don’t predict actions (for example, just because I feel hungry doesn’t mean I will go rob a bank to get the money to buy food). Rather, feelings help us tune in to what we need. When we feel hungry, we eat. When we feel the need to go to the bathroom, we excuse ourselves and try to locate the facilities. It’s vitally important as the ‘receiver’ that, for a time, you put aside empathy and recognize any feelings you have in this moment. You may feel scared after a car accident, betrayed after an affair is discovered, or shocked after getting hit in the arm. Take a moment and validate those feelings. Think about what you need, and decide what you might ask the actor to do or say in order to repair the relationship.

Act/Ask

First and foremost, you may ask the actor to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Then, you may ask the actor to take responsibility for his or her actions without blaming, justifying, or minimizing the behavior. Finally, you may ask the actor to make a special effort to repair the relationship (often referred to as rebuilding or making amends). Put all of those together and voila! You have the makings of a great apology.

Let’s look at an example.

I live in a part of the country where the freeways are enormous and overcrowded. When there is a lull in traffic, 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.

Is this a good apology or a bad apology? After all, I admitted my actions, (I broke the law) and I said, ‘I’m sorry.’

It was terrible!

  • I justified my actions by explaining, “I’m not dangerous”
  • I blamed a wreck for my actions
  • I minimized my actions by saying, “I only do it once in a while” (justifying, minimizing, and blaming are relationship killers by the way).

I could have made it even worse by saying things like, “I said I was sorry. Can’t you just drop it?” or, “Why can’t you trust me? I’m not speeding right now!”

On the other hand, a Rebuilder/Amends-Maker:

  • Is quiet. She apologizes and stops talking. She won’t justify, minimize, or blame and she will leave lots of empty conversation space.
  • Is busy. She is willing to go to therapy (or in my example, defensive driving), meet with healthy peers, read books, and generally work on herself, without pressure from the receiver.
  • Is humble. She won’t fight for her rights in an argument and she allows the receiver to feel (be sad or angry) after her actions.

If you find that the person who ‘acted’ is not able to make a good apology and rebuild, then you may need to act. If it’s a relationship you don’t care to maintain, then you may need to just walk away. If it’s a relationship that is important to you, then you may need a mediator to help you work on what’s going on. Don’t be surprised if you need to make some apologies and amends too, but don’t get ahead of yourself. Divide the scene and validate your feelings. Your important relationships will thrive from this model because old wounds will finally have a chance to heal.

 

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.

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.

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.

Defining Infidelity in Pop Culture

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Infidelity is often defined as a betrayal of trust. More specifically; it is a sexual or emotional betrayal of trust within a committed relationship. For women, the thought of great sex usually involves a scenario in which there is flirtation, romance, and foreplay. Men, on the other hand, usually imagine great sex as the time when there were interesting positions or long duration. These facts are well known in the publishing industry which has responded readily with such visual magazines as Playboy and books that are more story and plot-based like Harlequin Romances and 50 Shades of Grey.

But does simply reading stories about people having romantic sex or looking at pictures of the sex act qualify as infidelity? We know that infidelity involves some core conditions. For example:

  • You are keeping a relationship a secret from your partner.
  • There is a sexual chemistry between you and a friend. You notice you become aroused when you see, interact with, or think of your friend.
  • You become less aroused by your committed partner, or, you picture your friend when you are having sex with your partner.

So although you are reading and not interacting with a person, your partner may feel betrayed if the core conditions are being met. For instance:

  • You may have no problem describing your reading material to your partner (or you may even share the material with your partner) but you find you resist telling your partner the exact amount of time you spend engaged in the activity.
  • If your reading results in increased sexual arousal that leads to masturbation you may find you seek the material out more often leading to less frequent and/or less satisfying sex with your partner.

If your partner notices he or she is competing for your attention and affection, or it is discovered you are keeping the reading a secret, then feelings of betrayal and infidelity may result.

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