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The value of knowing where the walls and windows are (DW#363)

We have been talking about protecting our relationships by knowing and recognizing the difference between friendships and marriage so that we can keep our commitments strong.

Hopefully you have recognized how easy it is, especially in modern times, to slide into the danger zone of infidelity and why we need to be mindful of the boundaries in our marriage. 

The wall and windows metaphor that we have been exploring can help us
 
·  Assess the overall health of the relationship.
 
·  Determine whether an outside relationship has moved from a friendship to an affair.
 
·  If you are recovering from an affair, it can help determine a partner’s level of commitment. Or for example, does your partner say he or she is committed, but then allow a wall to remain between you? If a window is still open for the affair partner, that’s a sign that the appropriate level of commitment isn’t there for the marriage....
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A reversal of boundaries leads to instability of structure (DW#362)

Shirley Glass explains that when a marriage is sliding towards infidelity, the arrangement of walls and windows gradually shifts, until the window and wall situation is completely reversed. 

Over time, a wall is built between married partners. The big picture window, once so clear, shrinks down between them. Soon, a wall is put up in its place. There may still be a window there, but it’s very small and cloudy. There’s very little communication, and eventually, at least one partner has shut out the other.

Simultaneously, a window has opened up between one of the partners and a separate love interest, the affair partner. That person then becomes the person they are primarily communicating with routinely.
 
In this situation, the affair partner is now the one on the inside. The relationship partner is on the outside, behind a wall.

Once this happens, it is very challenging to reverse the situation (because there is pleasure on one hand and guilt on the other -...
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Boundary walls are necessary but not sufficient (DW#361)

We spent all of last week talking about the importance of boundaries and walls around your relationship to keep it protected.

Walls around the relationship, however, are not enough. In a healthy relationship, spouses have what Shirley Glass calls "large open windows" of intimacy between themselves.

On the safe side of the wall, a couple looks at each other through this clear, large, open window. This is where there is an open and honest exchange of ideas and feelings. The couple communicates well through this large opening between them.

In this healthy situation, the couple may also have close meaningful relationships outside of their connection. However, the windows between partners and their other relationships are much smaller and not as transparent.

How do we keep these "windows of intimacy" clear and transparent?

By connecting with each other by asking questions, telling stories, being honest and vulnerable, and committing to regular and reliable periods of connection. 

If...

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The smart phone affair (DW#360)

As we have been discussing, it is important to set intentional boundaries in the technological age simply because it is so easy to wander outside the marital relationship to meet our emotional and physical needs. By enabling continuous and private connection, the smart phone, for example, has vastly expanded the opportunities for marital infidelity.

Lori Cluff Schade, Ph.D., a marriage and family therapist and faculty member at Brigham Young University, writes that emotional affairs facilitated by the cell phone are among the most difficult to deal with because they are fragments of a relationship which never need to face the challenges of real face to face relationships. This keeps them fresh, alluring and difficult to break off. 

She outlines 7 ways that smartphones encourage and exacerbate marital infidelity that are really worth understanding: 

1.    Immediate and ongoing connection: Since your phone is always with you, you...
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Boundaries online (DW#359)

In the age of digital technology, giving in to temptation is only a click away. 

On social media, for example, it is easy to track down old friendships that may have meant something in the past. Or you may encounter someone who appears to have the same interests as yourself, who likes the same things, responds to your actions on social media. You find yourself looking for them and their interactions when you are online. Their engagement and reactions to your postings begin to mean something to you. 

Even if you realize that you are in close call territory at this point, the nature of social media interaction is such that you find yourself unable to stop. You are faced with the choice of stopping it or hiding it. In such situations, hiding it usually wins. You convince yourself that you are not doing anything wrong. That no one is being harmed. 

At times like this we need to remind ourselves that the above thought process itself is a sign that we are on the threshold of...

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Emotional boundaries (DW#358)

All of us crave to be seen, known and understood. We benefit from having relationships where we can share our hopes, dreams and fears, occasionally vent our emotions and also seek advice. When we allow ourselves to be known in this way, it creates vulnerability and a deep emotional bond. 

It can be difficult for one person (our spouse) to meet all of our emotional and friendship needs, and both men and women benefit from having good friends outside our marital relationships. 

Having said that, sharing such an emotional bond with a member of the opposite sex leads us into a big danger zone. Confiding in the opposite sex opens doors to emotional bonds that can easily turn others into more than "just friends". 

As Shirley Glass explains, "The new infidelity is between people who unwittingly form deep, passionate connections before realizing that they’ve crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love. Eighty-two percent of the unfaithful partners...

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The kinds of walls we need (DW#357)

Yesterday we started exploring the metaphor of building walls around our relationship to keep it secure. Now let’s take this concept a little deeper and discover the different kinds of walls that we need.

Mental walls

Keeping a mental boundary means that we become aware of where our attention is. While our thoughts can wander into danger zones, we need not let them dwell there. If we become masters of our attention, we can protect our relationship by not letting our fantasies run away with our better judgment. A stray thought can be quashed right at the beginning which will prevent repeated thoughts turning into actions. 

Mental boundaries can also involve intentionally thinking positive thoughts about our spouses when we are away from them and reminding ourselves of our commitment, especially when we encounter temptation.

Physical walls

These involve practical ways in which you can avoid slipping. Physical boundaries come in many different forms.

Being alone
Avoiding spending...

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Build walls (DW#356)

Not "Just Friends": Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity by Shirley Glass is a classic and very helpful resource for couples attempting recovery from the ravages of infidelity.

In this book, Shirley Glass uses the metaphor of "walls and windows" to explain how a marriage slides from security to vulnerability. Let us stay with this metaphor for a few days to try and understand what puts a relationship at risk.

When we get married and form a new family, it is creating a new entity, an entity which needs to be safeguarded from outside influences and threats to the relationship. 

 
Healthy couples therefore create boundaries by constructing a metaphorical "wall" between them and the many forces that could damage the relationship. It’s not a wall that shuts the world out, but a necessary safety buffer. On one side, protected, is "us" and what is sacred between "us", and on the other side of the wall is anything that could hurt "us."
 
...
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Understand the difference between privacy and secrecy (DW#355)

One of the things that makes marriages vulnerable to infidelity is the keeping of secrets. Sometimes people try to rationalize the keeping of secrets by claiming the right to privacy but there are major differences between privacy and secrecy that we need to understand to protect the integrity of our relationships.

Privacy is the state of being unobserved, being free from public attention such as when you are changing your clothes or grooming yourself, for example. It comes from a sense of modesty or of having a need for personal boundaries and space. It is healthy to have privacy for oneself, even in a relationship. It is important for spouses to give each other privacy based on a sense of trust and respect.

Secrecy, on the other hand, is the act of keeping things hidden or of withholding information in order to mislead. This sometimes comes from a sense of fear – fear of being found out or of the other person’s reaction if they were to find out. People keep secrets...

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Four kinds of marriage which are particularly vulnerable (DW#354)

As we have been discussing this week, infidelity can happen in any marriage, even strong and happy relationships are not immune from temptations.

According to research, there are some kinds of marriages which are more vulnerable to infidelity than others.

1) The intimacy-avoidant marriage.

In this kind of relationship, couples don’t talk about anything personal. Intimacy feels too vulnerable for one or both spouses so a lot of areas of internal life, thoughts and emotions are not shared with each other.

Conversation is all about external events and issues, because sharing something personal feels too risky.

On the hand, confiding of fears, sharing of hopes, and encouraging each other’s dreams builds a bond of emotional intimacy between couples that makes them less vulnerable to look outside the relationship to meet these core human needs.

2) The conflict-avoidant marriage (also called the "Dial-Tone Marriage")

This is similar to the first one. In this relationship, there...

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