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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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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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Keeping your windows clean (DW#364)

As we have been saying, a healthy and loving relationship between spouses has large, open windows of communication. 

Sometimes, however, these windows can become clouded. Even the best relationships have times when communication is not great, there is unexpressed hurt or withholding of thought and feeling. If left alone, the windows will not clean themselves. In fact, they are likely to get more clouded over time.

When we build walls or opaque windows around ourselves to ward off hurt and disappointment, it also prevents us from feeling the joy, love and intimacy on the other side. 

To live in safe disconnection is like having cloudy windows - the light of love cannot get through. 


So how do we clean the windows of communication between ourselves and our loved ones?

It is quite simple really. 

Share your internal world, your thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams. 

Being open, honest and vulnerable is like cleaning your windows with water and vinegar. 

It is okay...

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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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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 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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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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