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What if the worst happens? (DW#370)

I know that we have been talking about affair-proofing our relationships. But what if your worst nightmare has already come to pass? What if you are in the midst of the catastrophic discovery that your marriage has been shaken to its core because of an affair?

The first question that couples going through this trauma ask is: Can our marriage be saved? Can we rebuild trust to the point where we can live with each other again?

I will not lie to you: affairs destroy marriages (not to mention the sense of self of those who are betrayed). And that is why we have been talking about prevention. 

It’s far far better and much much easier to address these issues before a storm hits. Talking about what draws us outside our boundaries, in an atmosphere of trust, can actually foster intimacy and commitment. But for many couples, unfortunately, the crisis of an affair is the first time they talk about any of what we have been discussing. 

Catastrophe, explains Esther Perel, has a way...

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Affair proofing your marriage (DW#369)

As we wrap up the discussion on infidelity, let’s do a quick review on how best to protect our relationships:

  • Given how easy it is to become emotionally attached, we need to invest our attention wisely
  • When we feed a friendship inappropriately, we are starving our marriage
  • We need to become aware of the myths and realities around marital infidelity
  • We need to recognize and evaluate the risk of infidelity and become intentional in setting boundaries in our marriage
  • There are four kinds of marriage which are particularly susceptible to infidelity and we can take steps to avoid our relationships being
o   Intimacy avoidant
o   Conflict avoidant
o   Too focused on children (or work, family etc.) at the expense of our spouses
o   Sexually starved
  • We need to understand the difference between privacy and secrecy to make sure that we not keeping secrets from our spouse which will lead to an erosion of trust
  • We need to...
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Why do people in happy marriages cheat? (DW#368)

Esther Perel is a world-renowned authority on committed relationships and on infidelity in those committed relationships. 

In her ground-breaking new book, The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, she provides new insight into why people cheat. 

I found this book extremely useful in working with people reeling from the devastation of affairs because of one very important insight.

It is common for the betrayed spouse to lose their confidence, their sense of identity and undergo signs of emotional trauma when they discover that the person whom they trusted most in the world has betrayed them. It is common for these spouses (especially women) to question themselves and what they could have done to prevent the affair from taking place. 

This book explains that affairs have little or nothing to do with the marriage or the betrayed spouse and everything to do with the spouse who has been unfaithful. 

She explains that people have affairs as a form of...

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The myths around infidelity (DW#367)

For some of us, this discussion about infidelity in marriage has been a difficult subject to explore. And others may feel that it is irrelevant because it is not something that they will likely deal with. 

Given the temptations that we have been discussing, and the ease with which friends can cross boundaries into becoming "Not Just Friends", it is wise to be aware of the risk and be proactive and intentional in protecting our families. 

Just before we wrap up the discussion, let's consider some myths about affairs that Shirley Glass shatters in her book Not "Just Friends": Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity 

·       Myth: Affairs happen in unhappy or unloving marriages.
 
Fact: Affairs can happen in good marriages. Affairs are less about love and more about sliding across boundaries.

 

·       Myth: Affairs occur mostly because of sexual attraction.

Fact: The...
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The 36 Questions that lead to love (DW#366)

Have you heard of the 36 questions that lead to love?

 
The theory behind this experiment was that mutual vulnerability fosters closeness.
 
The authors said: "One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personal self-disclosure."

Being vulnerable with another person can be exceedingly difficult (especially these days when we spend so much effort in self-protection), and so this exercise encouraged self disclosure by asking a set of structured and increasingly personal questions. 

The study involved asking strangers to engage in a 45 minute conversation where they asked each other the set questions. After 45 minutes of engaging in such a dialogue, the participants that they felt closer to the other person and...
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Falling in love again – with the same person (DW#365)

When we are going through a period of "drought" in our relationships, it can feel sad and hopeless. The spark feels like it is just not there. Where there was tenderness and love, there is now distance and hurt.

When a relationship is in this stage, can it be saved? Can you rekindle the feelings that were once there?

Experts like Dr. Gottman believe that an easy and reliable way to stay in love or fall in love again is to maintain or rekindle the marital friendship. When you talk and act like friends, you know each other and you like each other. In other words, to know someone is to love them. 

Dr. Gottman’s term for getting to know your partner’s world is called Building Love Maps

One way to think of it is this: When you choose to spend your life with someone, you hand them a map to your inner world. Your inner world is, of course, quite complex including the memories of your past, the details of your present, your hopes for the future. It includes your...

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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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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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