Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Archive for the ‘Reconciliation’ Category

Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean You Have to Trust Someone Again

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

“I know I’m supposed to forgive,” a woman said to me at a recent seminar. “But, I just can’t open myself up to that kind of hurt anymore. I know I should forgive him and trust him, but if I let him back in, the same thing will happen, and I can’t go through that again.”

“Who said anything about ‘trusting’ him?” I asked. “I don’t think you should trust him either.”

“But you said I was supposed to forgive him, and if I do that, doesn’t that mean giving him another chance? Don’t I have to open up to him again?”

“No, you don’t,” I replied. “Forgiveness and trust are two totally different things. In fact, that’s part of your problem. Every time he’s done this, he’s come back and apologized, and you have just accepted him right back into your life, and nothing has changed. You trusted him, nothing was different, and he did it again. I don’t think that’s wise.”

“Well,” she asked, “How can I forgive him without opening myself up to being hurt again?”

Good question. We hear this problem over and over again. People have been hurt, and they do one of two things. Either they confront the other person about something that has happened, the other person says he’s sorry, and they forgive, open themselves up again, and blindly trust. Or, in fear of opening themselves up again, they avoid the conversation altogether and hold onto the hurt, fearing that forgiveness will make them vulnerable once again.

How do you resolve this dilemma?

The simplest way to help you to organize your thoughts as you confront this problem is to remember three points:

1. Forgiveness has to do with the past. Forgiveness is not holding something someone has done against you. It is letting it go. It only takes one to offer forgiveness.

2. Reconciliation has to do with the present. It occurs when the other person apologizes and accepts forgiveness. It takes two to reconcile.

3. Trust has to do with the future. It deals with both what you will risk happening again and what you will open yourself up to. A person must show through his actions that he is trustworthy before you trust him again.

You could have a conversation that deals with two of these issues, or all three. In some good boundary conversations, you forgive the other person for the past, reconcile in the present, and then discuss what the limits of trust will be in the future. The main point is this: Keep the future clearly differentiated from the past.

As you discuss the future, you clearly delineate what your expectations are, what limits you will set, what the conditions will be, or what the consequences (good or bad) of various actions will be.

Differentiating between forgiveness and trust does a number of things:

First, you prevent the other person from being able to say that not opening up again means you are “holding it against me.”

Second, you draw a clear line from the past to the possibility of a good future with a new beginning point of today, with a new plan and new expectations. If you have had flimsy boundaries in the past, you are sending a clear message that you are going to do things differently in the future.

Third, you give the relationship a new opportunity to go forward. You can make a new plan, with the other person potentially feeling cleansed and feeling as though the past will not be used to shame or hurt him. As a forgiven person, he can become an enthusiastic partner in the future of the relationship instead of a guilty convict trying to work his way out of relational purgatory. And you can feel free, not burdened, by bitterness and punitive feelings, while at the same time being wise about the future.

 

Advertisements

How to Save Your Marriage After an Affair

SOURCE:  David Mejia

Little compares to the devastation people feel upon discovering that their spouses have been unfaithful. Some marriages end right away. But many others hit agonizing impasses as couples struggle to get past the intense anger, sadness and mistrust.

These hurtful interactions wreak emotional havoc on both spouses, and typically neither one has a clue how to help the marriage recover. As a result, many couples who do in fact love each other decide to call it quits.

The good news is that it’s possible to move beyond the pain, put the past in the past, rebuild trust and reconnect with your spouse both emotionally and physically. In fact, many couples who have done the hard work of repairing their marriages after affairs report that their relationships are stronger than ever.

The first weeks and months after the affair is out in the open often are the “make-or-break” stage for the marriage. Here’s what the unfaithful spouse and the betrayed spouse need to do…

Unfaithful Spouse’s Tasks

The unfaithful partner needs to rebuild his/her spouse’s trust…

End the affair. It’s not realistic to expect a marriage to improve while an affair is ongoing. Yet sometimes, when an affair has filled a void in the unfaithful spouse’s life, the unfaithful spouse feels unsettled about ending it. This is natural and not to be interpreted as a sign that ending the affair is the wrong choice. It is normal to grieve the loss of the illicit relationship even if repairing the ­marriage is decidedly the desired outcome.

Answer questions. Most betrayed spouses have many questions about what happened and the meaning the affair had to the unfaithful spouse. As difficult as it might be, it is imperative to answer these questions openly and honestly. Withholding information—even very painful information—that eventually leaks out over time retraumatizes the betrayed spouse and can cause irreparable damage. As counterintuitive as it might seem, honesty is the best policy, particularly in the early stages of recovery when the marriage is fragile and trust is being rebuilt.

Be transparent. During the crisis period, it is necessary for the unfaithful spouse to be willing to be totally transparent and allow the betrayed spouse to have access to personal information including e-mail, cell-phone records, Facebook accounts, credit card bills and so on. Demonstrating a willingness to be an “open book,” though often uncomfortable, goes a long way to rebuilding trust. This level of personal accountability is temporary—it’s not intended to become a way of life. Once trust is rebuilt, most betrayed spouses tire of the constant vigilance and wish to focus on other, more positive aspects of life.

Apologize. Betrayed spouses need to know that their partners are remorseful about the hurt they caused. Apologies must be heartfelt and include ­explanations of why the unfaithful spouse feels contrite.

Example: It will help to say, “I am very sorry that I had an affair. You’ve trusted me throughout our marriage, and I betrayed your trust. I understand why you are so devastated.”

Apologies that are defensive typically don’t work as well. For instance, “I’m sorry you’re feeling hurt. But our marriage hasn’t been going so well, and I needed some emotional support.” Keep in mind that a single apology is never enough, because a betrayed spouse’s pain comes in waves. Express your regrets often about having hurt your spouse.

Betrayed Spouse’s Tasks

After an affair, if you want your marriage to survive, you can’t leave the ball only in the unfaithful spouse’s court…

Express emotions—but constructively. The betrayed spouse often will be overwhelmed by intense feelings of hurt, anger, sadness and utter confusion. Express those feelings when they arise, but express them in helpful rather than combative ways. Rather than resorting to name calling, use “I-messages” to talk about how you feel.

Example: It’s reasonable to say, “I don’t know if I can ever trust you again because you hurt me so much. I feel like I’m dying inside.” But it simply won’t help your marriage to say, “You’re the worst person in the world. You’re a liar and have no integrity.”

Ask questions—but know when to stop. It is very common for a betrayed spouse to have questions about the affair partner, the length of the affair, the places and times they met, what took place during those times and what the relationship meant to the unfaithful spouse.

Sometimes asking questions can be very helpful—the answers often confirm long-standing suspicions, and that enables the betrayed spouse to regain trust in his/her own instincts. Plus, there usually is an overwhelming need to try to make sense of what happened and to connect the dots. Asking pertinent questions often satisfies this need.

However, knowing more and more details about the affair can cause the betrayed spouse to fume and ruminate even more. It’s important for the ­betrayed spouse to decide at some point whether these conversations are healing or hurtful…and when it’s time to stop gathering information.

In the early stages of recovery from an affair, many couples have marathon discussions about the infidelity, but eventually they must strike a balance between talking about the affair and focusing on other aspects of their lives—otherwise, the relationship will become too problem-saturated, and it simply won’t feel good to either partner. Intentionally engaging in neutral or even positive interactions will improve the relationship exponentially. That’s because what you focus on expands quickly.

If you ask your unfaithful spouse a question and the honest response is hurtful to you, it’s important not to lash out angrily. It may take courage to share hurtful information, and it’s important for the betrayed spouse to encourage honesty. Therefore, even though your mind may be roiling, state your feelings as calmly as possible by using I-messages and acknowledge the unfaithful partner’s willingness to come clean.

Keep track of what helps you. Although it may seem as if the hurt is ever-present following the discovery of an affair, the truth is, there are times when sadness and anger dissipate. It’s helpful to ask yourself, What’s different about the times during the day when I feel just a little bit better? and keep a running list of what works.

Example: Many people say that it helps to exercise, be with friends, meditate, do yoga, pray, spend time with kids if you have them, keep a journal and so on. After taking an emotional hit, knowing how to help yourself feel more at peace can be extremely empowering.

Examine what might need to change in the marriage. Although it usually doesn’t occur during the initial crisis period, it will be important for the betrayed spouse eventually to take a close look at the factors that might have contributed to the affair. Though some people stray even though they’re perfectly happy in their marriages, others feel that there has been an emotional or a physical void. Addressing these issues leads to deeper empathy and intimacy on all levels.

————————————————————————————————-

Source: Michele Weiner-Davis, LCSW, is founder of The Divorce Busting Center in Boulder, Colorado, that helps on-the-brink couples save their marriages. She is the best-selling author of eight books, including Healing from Infidelity, The Sex-Starved Marriage and Divorce Busting. DivorceBusting.com

Am I a DOMINEERING Husband?

SOURCE:  

Counseling domineering husbands

In my practice as a biblical counselor, I counsel a lot of men who have hurt their wives—emotionally, verbally, or even physically. Every counselor who has worked with a couple in an abusive marriage knows how often Christian men will misuse the teaching of 1 Peter 3:1–6 to manipulate, control, and dominate their wives. Sadly, many Christian men haven’t thought much, if at all, on the instructions in verse 7: “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (ESV).

I spend time in this text with men who are belittling and controlling toward their wives because there is so much here for Christian husbands to consider. First Peter 3:7 teaches that there is a particular view that Christian husbands should have of their wives that will help them love their wives well. I tell my Christian husbands who have hurt their wives that God wants them to become “3:7” husbands, and I even use this text as a template for men who are ready to reconcile with their wives.

But before I go any further, here is my important counseling caveat: there are narcissistic, self-exalting, power-hungry men who will never “get” this until Christ humbles their hearts. No amount of teaching of this verse will help them have this biblical perspective of their wives, because they don’t want it. Those men are the ones who will continue to encounter the active opposition of God (James 4:6b) and whose communion with the Lord will be hindered due to their arrogant, disobedient hearts.1 However, when working with a humble, repentant man who truly does not understand the role of a husband rightly, yet who desires marital health, 1 Peter 3:7 is a good start.

Seven truths about Christ and the gospel

The most important word in 1 Peter 3:7 is likewise, which calls us back to the description of Christ and the gospel at the end of the previous chapter (1 Pet. 2:22–25), where Peter draws heavily from Isaiah 53 to demonstrate that Jesus’ exemplary life gave us an example to follow in the way that He responded to difficult circumstances:

  1. He didn’t sin (v. 22a).
  2. He was not deceitful (v. 22b).
  3. When He was abused, He didn’t abuse back (v. 23a).
  4. Not only did Jesus not harm His abusers, He didn’t even threaten them with intimidating words (v. 23b).
  5. Instead, Jesus kept “handing over” (sometimes translated “entrusted”) every aspect of His life—His mission, His cause, and those who hurt Him—to God the Father. Jesus trusted that the Father “judges justly,” that God would both vindicate Him and punish His enemies if they didn’t repent. And this verse reminds us that this “handing over” to the Father has to be a continual act (v. 23c).
  6. And, just in case we start to think, “But that was Jesus. He was the Son of God, God in the flesh. I lack the power or the strength to respond as He did,” Peter also reminds us of the gospel itself, which gives us the power to live righteously (v. 24).
  7. Peter further reminds us of Christ’s lordship of our lives, as we have “now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer” of our souls (v. 25).

Peter points to the gospel and Christ’s active shepherding and oversight as all the resources that we need to follow His example. These seven truths are the motivation and fuel that enable men to be 3:7 husbands.

Now, let’s look at three applications of these seven truths and how they might help those we counsel to grow in Christ’s likeness.

Three applications of the seven truths

First Peter 3:7 begins with “likewise”—that is, in view of Christ’s example, His gracious response to our waywardness and abuse, His righteousness exchanged for our unrighteousness, His substitutionary atonement, the healing that He purchased for us, and His lordship over our lives—husbands should (literally) “live with your wives according to knowledge” (WEB). This is a command, and the first application of the seven truths named in 1 Peter 2:22–25.

While I think it is true that “according to knowledge” refers to “understanding” or “being considerate of” one’s wife, I would also agree with Tom Schreiner (The New American Commentary, Vol. 37, pp. 159–160) that this text primarily refers to the husband’s relationship with God. This phrase, together with the last phrase of the verse (“that your prayers may not be hindered”), makes clear that the way a husband treats his wife is to represent the way God has treated him, and this representation has implications for his ongoing relationship to God.

How reminiscent this is of James 4:1–4, where James speaks of our prayers going unanswered because they are asked for selfish ends, “to spend it on your passions” (ESV). When a husband is focused on his own desires and passions, making their fulfillment ultimate in marriage, his prayers (typically for his wife to change) will be hindered. Only when the idols of comfort, approval, power, control, etc., are identified, confessed, mourned over, and repented of can a husband enjoy the amazing grace offered by Christ and begin to truly understand the value of another—his wife.

A 3:7 husband lives with his wife according to his knowledge of how God has designed her, and more importantly, according to his knowledge of God. Therefore, here are questions you can ask husbands to ask themselves (and their wives):

  • Do I seek to understand God’s unique design of my wife and try to live with her accordingly?
  • Am I considerate of my wife?
  • Do I understand God’s call on my life to love my wife as Christ loves His bride, the church?
  • What examples can I give of living with my wife according to this knowledge?
  • What examples might she give to the contrary?

Second, husbands are called to “show honor” to their wives, and all women, “as the weaker vessel” (ESV). (Peter uses the word for “female” or “woman” here, instead of the word for “wife.”) The term “weaker vessel” is commonly misunderstood and misapplied to imply some kind of inferiority, but Peter isn’t implying that at all. A “vessel” in Peter’s day would have been universally understood as some type of container. In 2 Timothy 2:20–21, Paul speaks of types of household vessels made of gold and silver and vessels made of wood and clay—vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor.

Think of the difference between the honor shown for the everyday dishes in a home versus the respect shown for the fine china. In my home, we have the everyday dishes that we eat off of most of the time. We’ve been through several sets of those dishes in our marriage, as various plates, cups, and bowls have gotten chipped, cracked, and broken from everyday use. But we also have the really fancy plates, bowls, and cups that we were given when we got married. We bring those out only on special occasions, and we treat them very carefully, because we wouldn’t be able to replace them if something happened to them and because they are special to us since they were wedding gifts. In view of this consideration of women as “weaker vessels,” husbands should not be harsh with them (Col. 3:19), but instead be gentle with them.

A 3:7 husband treats his wife (and all women) with honor, as precious fine china—irreplaceable, priceless, and worthy of special care. Therefore, here are questions you can ask husbands to ask themselves (and their wives):

  • Does my wife feel irreplaceable and highly valued to me?
  • Does she feel more like the everyday dishes or the fine china?
  • In what ways do I honor her?
  • In what ways do I take her for granted?
  • What examples would she give?
  • Would she feel safe mentioning that she does not feel honored?
  • How do I respond when she shares concerns with me?

Finally, husbands are to treat their wives with respect—as equals in value, worth, and dignity, “since they are heirs with you of the grace of life” (ESV). This teaching would have been very countercultural when Peter wrote it, during a time when gender inequality was considered the norm. But Jesus and the New Testament writers taught a radically different view of gender roles than was commonly held, recognizing the intrinsic worth of women as individuals and granting them a respect and dignity that they were not accorded in the society at large. There is no place in the Christian home for one spouse to look down on the other in any way. Such a view would be completely antithetical to the Christian view of marriage as a one-flesh relationship.

A 3:7 husband recognizes his wife as equal to him in value, worth, and dignity, and he treats her with the respect that she deserves as a co-heir with him of the grace of life. Therefore, here are questions you can ask husbands to ask themselves (and their wives):

  • Does my wife feel respected as an equal partner in this marriage?
  • Is responsibility shared in our marriage?
  • Do I invite and honestly value my wife’s feedback on how I am doing as a husband?
  • Can my wife disagree with me without punishment or retribution?
  • Do I apologize to and ask forgiveness of my wife when I am wrong? Does she believe that her opinions matter?

The 3:7 husband knows, honors, and respects his wife—regardless

The 3:7 husband will grow steadily in these three areas: knowing God and God’s unique design for his wife, honoring his wife as a precious and irreplaceable gift from God, and respecting his wife as a co-heir with him in the grace of life. His growth in these areas will often be of the two-steps-forward-one-step-back variety, but steady growth will ensue if he continually reminds himself of the seven truths of Christ and the gospel given in 1 Peter 2:22–25, and if he is willing to humble himself, submit himself to God, and repent when he fails. The 3:7 husband may not get a happy marriage or a reconciled marriage if his marriage is already broken. But he will know Christ more deeply and image Him more truly.

10 Things You Must Know About Infidelity and Cheating

SOURCE:  Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW

I can’t tell you the number of people who tell themselves early in marriage, “If my spouse ever has an affair, I’m outta here.” And then it happens. Their spouse was unfaithful.

That’s when reality sets in. It’s easy to think you will leave if your spouse betrays you, but when confronted with the reality of divorce and dissolving your marriage, the stakes are really high. It’s not that overcoming the devastation of infidelity is easy, it isn’t. But it can be done.

In fact, believe it or not, most people decide to stay in their marriages after infidelity. The important thing is to address the issues that might have led to the infidelity and get the necessary help to recover.

Divorce isn’t the solution, particularly when the unfaithful spouse is remorseful and devoted to changing. Here are some things you need to know if you are dealing with the fallout of infidelity in your marriage.

1) Betrayal is in the eye of the beholder.

Many times people want to know the definition of betrayal. To some, it is about having intercourse and other sexual contact with another person. To others, betrayal is more about one’s spouse feeling emotionally connected to someone else — late conversations of a personal nature with a co-worker, or an on-going, intimate friendship with another person.

To others, it is secrecy. This may involve secret email accounts, cell phones, Internet behavior, or an unwillingness to share information about whereabouts, spending habits, or life plans.

The fact is, there is no universal definition of betrayal. When two people are married, they must care about each others’ feelings. They don’t always have to agree, but they must behave in ways that make the relationship feel safe.

Therefore, if one person feels threatened or betrayed, his or her spouse must do some soul searching and change in ways to accommodate those feelings. In other words, betrayal is in the eye of the beholder. If you or your partner feel betrayed, you need to change what you’re doing to make the marriage work.

2) Infidelity is not a marital deal breaker.

Many people think that affairs signal the end of a marriage. This is simply not true. Although healing from infidelity is a challenging endeavor, most marriages not only survive, but they can actually grow from the experience.

This is not to say that affairs are good for marriages — they aren’t. Affairs are very, very destructive because the bond of trust has been broken. But after years of working with couples who have experienced betrayal and affairs, I can vouch for the fact that it is possible to get marriages back on track and rediscover trust, caring, friendship and passion.

3) Most affairs end.

It’s important to know that, while affairs can be incredibly sexy, compelling, addictive and renewing, most of them end. That’s because after the thrill wears off, most people recognize that everyone, even the affair partner, is a package deal.

This means that we all have good points and bad points. When two people are in the throes of infatuation, they are only focusing on what’s good. This is short-lived, generally speaking. That’s because reality sets in and infatuation fades. If the betrayed spouse doesn’t run to a divorce attorney prematurely, it’s entirely possible that an affair will die a natural death.

4) Temporary insanity is the only sane response.

Because betrayal is so threatening to marriage and so devastating, many people feel they are losing their minds when they learn that their spouses have been cheating. They can’t eat, sleep, work, think, or function in any substantial way. This causes another layer of concern and self-doubt which often leads to depression and anxiety.

It is important to know that finding out that one’s spouse is cheating can be extremely traumatic. In fact, current research suggests that betrayed spouses exhibit symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. It is a major loss and as with most losses, betrayal is intensely disorienting and distressing.

5) You are not alone.

When infidelity occurs, the betrayed spouse feels alone and lonely, but it is essential to keep in mind that countless people have experienced the same problem and have felt the same way. This offers little consolation when one first learns about his or her spouse’s affair, but over time, it can take the sting out of feeling so out-of-sorts.

It would be wonderful if everyone upheld their marital vows, but the truth is, that doesn’t happen. It should, but it doesn’t. The good news is that there is a great deal of support available because many people have walked in your shoes and can be empathetic to your feelings.

6) It helps to get help.

But beyond talking with those who have experienced infidelity in their own marriages, it helps to get professional help. Feelings that surface after the discovery of an affair are often so overwhelming that it is difficult to know what to do to begin to get one’s marriage back on track.

A good marriage therapist or a marriage education class can help lead the way. But be certain to seek help that is “marriage-friendly.” Some therapists believe that infidelity destroys the fabric of a relationship which cannot be repaired. These therapists declare marriages dead on arrival. It is essential that you get a good referral if you want your marriage to recover.

7) Healing takes time.

Although people naturally want to be pain-free as quickly as possible, when it comes to healing from infidelity, it just isn’t going to happen. In fact, if things are “business as usual” too quickly, it probably just means that intense feelings have been swept under the carpet.

This will not help in the long run. In order for a marriage to mend, it takes a great deal of hard work to confront all the necessary issues. This takes time — often year — to truly get things back on track.

When couples enter my office and they’ve been dealing with the aftermath of infidelity for a year or so and they are still struggling, they think something is wrong with them. When I hear that, I tell them that nothing is wrong with them because the pain is still fresh and the news of infidelity is hot off the press. Yes, even a year after learning about betrayal isn’t a very long time.

Healing from infidelity is a slow process for most people.

8 ) Count on ups and downs.

One of the most frustrating and confusing aspects to the healing process is the fact that just when people think things have improved and are resolved, there is another major setback. This is not surprising at all.

That’s because the path to recovery is not a straight line. It is jagged and beset with many, many ups and downs. I tell people that it is two steps forward and one step back. Unfortunately, when people have a setback, they believe that they have slid back to square one. This is not the case. Every setback is a bit different.

And as long as there is a general upward trend, progress is being made. Maintaining patience is difficult, but it is absolutely necessary. Don’t give up when there has been a relapse. Just get back on track.

9) Don’t be quick to tell friends and family.

It is important not to be too quick to tell friends and family about the problem of infidelity. If everyone in one’s family is apprised of the infidelity, even if the marriage improves, family members may not support the idea of staying in the marriage. They may pressure the betrayed spouse to leave.

So while emotional support during this rough time is absolutely necessary, it’s important to get professional help or talk to friends or family who will support the marriage and be less judgmental. Those people should have the perspective that no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and as long as the unfaithful spouse takes responsibility to change, marriages can mend.

10) You won’t forget, but forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.

When there has been infidelity, people just don’t forget about it. In fact, they don’t ever forget it. What does happen is that memories of the discovery and the pain tend to fade. The thoughts about betrayal become less frequent and less intense over time. In fact, people should NOT forget because we all learn from our experiences, both good and bad.

And although people don’t forget betrayal or affairs, forgiveness is still mandatory — not to let the unfaithful person off the hook, but because holding a grudge shackles people to the past. It is bad for one’s health, both emotionally and physically. There is no intimacy when there are grudges. Life is painful because there is a wall separating people. When betrayed spouses allow themselves to have feelings of forgiveness, life lightens up. It is freeing. Love begins to flow again. Letting go of the past begins to make room for happiness in the present. Forgiveness isn’t meant for the unfaithful, it is a gift betrayed spouses give themselves.

An Affair Does Not Have to Mean the End

SOURCE:  Carrie Cole M.Ed., LPC/The Gottman Institute

Ralph and Susan had been married for 13 years with two adorable children. Their suburban life was packed with work, school, and the kids’ extra-curricular activities. Neither made their marriage a priority, but overall they felt their relationship was good.

Susan withheld her suspicion when she noticed that Ralph was on his phone more than usual. At times she couldn’t help but ask “What’s going on?” only to receive “Nothing. Just checking the news,” or “There’s a lot of drama at the office that I need to take care of.” She trusted him.

When Susan discovered that Ralph had been texting another woman, she was devastated. Her world came crashing down. In her mind, Ralph was not the kind of person to ever have an affair.

Ralph lied about it at first. He felt like he needed to protect Susan from the ugly truth. But as more evidence came out, he couldn’t lie anymore. He was having an affair.

He didn’t know how he had got involved so deeply with someone else. It just happened. He and a co-worker had become close friends over time. It felt good to have someone to talk to who listened and made him feel special. He hadn’t had that in a long time with Susan.

During the affair he had to convince himself that Susan didn’t care. He felt she wasn’t interested in him sexually anymore. They were more like roommates than soulmates.

As a Certified Gottman Therapist, I have heard many versions of this story in my couples therapy practice over the last 15 years. An affair, whether emotional or sexual, is devastating. Both partners suffer tremendous pain. But an affair does not have to mean the end.

The PTSD of an Affair

The betrayed partner experiences a tidal wave of emotion. The pain, hurt, anger, humiliation, and despair are overwhelming. After the traumatic moment the affair is realized, they become fearful, anxious, and hypervigilant, wondering where or when the next blow is going to come – not unlike symptoms of PTSD felt by military veterans.

Their mind races with thoughts of What don’t they know? What’s the whole story? Scenes of their partner with someone else appear in their mind when awake and when asleep, making life a living nightmare.

The Guilt of Betrayal

The betrayer also experiences a great deal of emotion. The hopeless feeling of witnessing your partner in pain and knowing you can do nothing to alleviate their suffering is a horrible experience. The feelings of guilt, shame, and humiliation are almost unbearable.

So, what causes an affair? Why do partners choose to cheat? The answers are complicated and may take months to unravel.

Recovering From an Affair

Is it possible to recover from an affair? The answer for most couples is yes.

Many couples I’ve worked with have actually created a stronger, more emotionally connected, and richer relationship from the ashes of an affair. However, it’s not quick or easy. As with any serious injury, it takes time to heal. And it usually takes therapy.

It’s tempting to think that it will automatically get better with time. The problem with “sweeping it under the rug” is that the anxiety, fear, anger, and guilt felt early on by the betrayed person often give way to resentment – a slow seething anger that leads to total contempt for the betrayer. Dr. John Gottman’s research has shown that contempt is deadly in relationships and very difficult to recover from.

Couples therapy can help partners explore and understand what happened. The betrayed partner needs to have their questions answered, such as:

  • When did you meet?
  • Where did you meet?
  • How long did the affair last?

The betrayed partner attempts to understand how it happened and how they can prevent it from happening again. They also seek consistency in the stories from one telling to the next. Do I know everything? Are you lying to me now? These questions are best asked and answered in the emotionally safe environment of a therapist’s office.

It is best not to ask questions about the specifics of the sexual nature of the affair. Those questions usually do more bad than good in that they conjure up images that might haunt the betrayed partner’s thoughts.

When the betrayed partner feels that they have all the answers they need, the couple can begin to work on rebuilding trust. Couples like Susan and Ralph have turned away from each other in many small ways over time, which compounds into the feelings that ultimately led Ralph astray. They neglected the relationship.

Once couples process what happened, they need to begin to tune back into each other. Susan and Ralph found that they avoided each other to avoid conflict. Tuning back in requires dialoguing about problems – both ongoing perpetual problems and past issues that might have caused some injury to the relationship.

Recognize That Conflict is Inevitable

Conflict is a natural part of your happily ever after. Every relationship has conflict due to different values, beliefs, and philosophies of life. When these differences are discussed safely, and when honored and respected, the couple will experience greater intimacy. At times this can feel uncomfortable and take some push and pull. Communication skills provided by a therapist can help the navigation of these discussions go more smoothly.

Once the couple has tuned back into each other, it will be helpful to create some meaningful rituals to stay connected. Couples can be creative about ways to do that which are special and unique to them. One couple I worked with decided to have morning coffee together for 30 minutes. They would discuss the events of the day, check in with each other emotionally, and take the time to really listen to each other’s hearts.

Another couple developed a ritual of a bubble bath after the kids were in bed. They said they did their best talking in their big round Jacuzzi tub.

Sexual and emotional betrayals are a hefty blow to a relationship, but an affair does not have to be the end. Couples who have the emotional fortitude to reach out and seek the help they need can create a much more meaningful and intimate relationship in the aftermath of infidelity.

 

4 Steps Every Couple Needs to Take When Trust Is Broken

SOURCE:  MARISSA GOLD/Women’s Day

How to Rebuild Broken Trust:  Experts Share a Four-Step Plan

When trust is broken in a relationship, it can seem impossible to repair. But many couples have dealt with dishonesty—from financial problems to infidelity—and made it through to a happier, more honest place. Here, experts share the exact steps to take to get back on track.

We may enter a relationship with high hopes and rose-colored glasses, but nobody’s perfect. Most couples will run into a trust issue of some sort over the course of their relationship. The most common? “Cheating,” says M. Gary Neuman, LMHC, creator of the Neuman Method. But that doesn’t necessarily mean catching your husband in bed with another woman is the only thing that can cause a rift between you and your partner. “Trust is broken whenever there is lying that creates a shift in the couple’s life,” says Neuman. “Gambling, drug use, and even emotional and online infidelity often lead to severe trust issues.”

The fact is, all of the phones, laptops, and social networks we’re glued to 24/7 provide ample opportunity for foul play. “It’s more common now for affairs to be emotional—on social media, reconnecting with a high school sweetheart—or using office chat apps or email accounts to carry on a flirtation,” says Dr. Vagdevi Meunier, PsyD, a Gottman Institute master therapist. “As Shirley Glass, author of Not Just Friends, has said, affairs are about access and opportunity.”

If trust has been broken between you and your partner, whether it was a physical affair, an emotional affair, or a gambling or drug habit, we’ve asked relationship experts to outline the exact steps you need to take if you want to work on rebuilding your relationship.

Step One: Confrontation

First things first (and no, we’re not talking about yelling and screaming): Have the confrontation in person. “Once you’ve discovered the infidelity, you need to evaluate your partner’s response,” says Neuman. “Is he apologetic and remorseful, or confused and ‘in love’ with this other person?” Don’t assume anything, fight via text or email, or make decisions about your future before having a face-to-face conversation.

In addition to talking to your partner, “you’ll feel a need to tell some people what happened because you’ll need to vent,” says Neuman. “But try to limit this sharing to those who will really be there for you and give you a safe space to share—NOT a lot of advice.” The idea is to get support without being swayed one way or another. You also don’t want to be sitting around the Thanksgiving table a year from now knowing that everyone in your family knows your dirty laundry. So be careful about who you tell, and how much you tell them.

Finally, watch out for urges to “even the score” or make some questionable decisions of your own. “Don’t create a toxic relationship by taking revenge, being vindictive, or bringing other people in,” warns Meunier. In other words, reconnecting with your own high school sweetheart for comfort is not the best idea, nor is recruiting your in-laws to chastise your partner about what he did.

Step Two: Atonement

This is a time for full transparency: “The person who made the choice to commit the act of betrayal should take time to understand the impact of his or her actions, tell the full story of the betrayal, and answer any questions their partner has,” says Meunier. “Your spouse has to want to make this relationship work, be apologetic and—in the case of an affair—be willing to completely end it with the other woman,” stresses Neuman.

It’s also a time for emotional support. It’s not uncommon to lose sleep, stop eating, or even have trouble functioning after discovering an infidelity, so Meunier encourages the offending partner to “be available to support and comfort the hurt partner.” Translation: He needs to be patient and kind and cater to you for a bit, not pop off angrily every time you want to talk about the issue.

You also need to give yourself some extra love right now: “Practicing meditation, daily gratitude, reading books on affair recovery (the ones based on scientific research are best) yoga, and journaling are all good techniques,” says Meunier. “I also encourage both partners to engage in light and easy activities that preserves a sense of continuity, fun, and a feeling of family. This can be as simple as having breakfast or dinner, watching a show on the couch together, or going grocery shopping. If there are children present, this is even more important.”

Step Three: Reconnecting

 

Once you’ve talked through all the details of the betrayal and have decided to recommit to one another, it’s time to start limiting how often you bring up the infidelity. “I encourage couples to only talk about the betrayal in the counselor’s office, or to set a scheduled meeting, like lunch, to do this,” says Meunier. “Avoid talking about it in closed intense environments such as the car or in the bedroom. Instead, go out on the porch—the fear of neighbors hearing will make both of you behave better.”

After you eliminate the constant “threat” environment that comes with discussing the issue, you can begin to learn how to be more connected and emotionally present with each other. How do you do that, exactly? “Once broken, trust has to be earned by small things each person does every day,” says Meunier. It’s about consistency and kindness: Be home when you say you will, avoid that work event where you know the affair partner might be, and give regular, sincere compliments to build back your partner’s self-esteem. It may take time, but if your partner is willing to show you he is committed and consistent in his actions, he’ll slowly earn back your trust. This isn’t always easy—the betraying partner has more of a burden during this time, explains Meunier—but if he sticks it out, you’ll see results. And remember, the effort shouldn’t feel one-sided: “Eventually both people need to be making small gestures of kindness,” adds Meunier.

Step Four: Building a New Relationship

At this point, you’re building a brand new emotional, physical, and social contract for the relationship. You’re connecting in a more honest way, asking for what you really need, and, “Doing whatever is necessary to affair-proof your relationship going forward,” says Meunier.

The key here on out is positive responses: “We use a term developed by Dr. Gottman called turning towards,” says Meunier. “Intimacy is built by repeated experiences of one partner bidding for their partner’s attention or affection and receiving a positive response,” says Meunier. When you receive consistent, positive reactions from one another in everyday life, trust returns. Here’s an example: “If the betraying spouse says ‘Will you watch Real Housewives with me?’ I want the hurt partner to say ‘yes’ not because they suddenly forgive their partner or love the show, but because they recognize that it costs nothing to sit quietly next to someone and watch a television show, and that doing so gives them points in the emotional bank account. Similarly, if the hurt spouse calls while you’re apart and says ‘Can you turn on Facetime and show me who is in the room with you?’ I encourage the betraying partner to do that whenever possible. Not ignoring your partner, not rejecting each other, and being kind are all ways we build a sense of normalcy and safety, which in turn builds trust.”

Ten Questions to Ask after a Nasty Fight

SOURCE:  DEEPAK REJU/Biblical Counseling Coalition

Picture your last fight. For some of you, it was nasty—maybe something akin to nuclear war where there’s total devastation. For others, it was tense and hard, like a mild earthquake, but by the grace of God, you got through it. But now, as you sit back and reflect on why you fought, you are just not sure. In the aftermath of an earthquake, you sort through the mess. Windows shattered. Foundations damaged. But where do you start? Take a moment and use some of the questions below to help you think about what happened in your last fight.

  1. What was the problem/conflict/fight about and when did it happen? What were the basic facts of the situation—who, where and when? What were you fighting about? You need to get this straight before you can do anything else.
  2. What was each of you coveting, desiring, or hoping for? James 4:1: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from the desires (or passions) that battle within you?” You know that with every fight, there is something you want. When you are angry or frustrated, you spend so much time focused on the other person that you might forget (or even ignore) the war going on in your own heart. What desires or cravings or hopes rule your heart?Ruling desires can ruin your relationships. So get ahold of ungodly ruling desires before they wreak havoc in your life.
  3. What fears, lies, rationalizations, or self-justifications are you wrestling with? Which of these have a grip on your heart? Fears, lies, rationalizations, or self-justifications will shape and define what you do and say. Repent of these things (James 4:4-10), because they will lead you astray from what God wants.
  4. At what point did you get disappointed, annoyed, frustrated, or angry with your spouse or friend? And, why did you respond that way? In the midst of the mess created by conflict, you need to consider your reaction to your spouse or friend.
  5. Did you really understand the other person’s perspective? Ask that person if he or she feels like you understood him/her? Solomon warns that the fool is not interested in understanding someone else, but only in stating his or her own opinions (Proverbs 18:2). The fool is impulsive; he answers before he hears (Proverbs 18:13). To sort through a fight, you must understand the other person. If you don’t take the time to understand him or her, you can be misled by your assumptions.
  6. What are your typical rules of engagement in a fight? If you don’t have any, what should they be? If you are a Christian, slamming doors, screaming, cursing at your spouse or friend, throwing things, walking away, or ignoring others are not acceptable options. A Christian should be defined by grace, kindness, and love, even in the heat of “battle” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6; Galatians 5:22-23; Colossians 4:6). Sadly, that’s not true for many Christians. So define your rules of engagement so that if you fight, you can fight well.
  7. Have you noticed any patterns—good and bad—in how you handle conflict? Look for the patterns that characterize your conflicts. Do you scream? Do you pout? Do you make accusations? Do you use exaggerated language—“you never come on time” or “you always forget”?
  8. What sins do you need to own up to and confess to God and your spouse or friend? Without repentance, conflict never gets truly resolved. Do you feel grief over your sin? Is it worldly sorrow or godly sorrow? If you feel regret after your conflict, but slip immediately back into the same old patterns of fighting, maybe you are experiencing worldly sorrow. Godly sorrow leads to repentance, and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death (2 Corinthians 7:9-11). Are you truly and genuinely grieved over your sin in your conflicts? Or have you grown comfortable with your conflicts and with your sin? You might think the conflict is about you and your friend, but ultimately it’s about you and God. When you fight with someone, your selfish desires have gotten the best of you (James 3:13). James 3:16 reminds us: “For where you have envy and selfish ambitions, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” Turn from your sin and turn back to God. After you reconcile with God, go back to the other person and confess your sin to him or her.
  9. When you fight, what helps you to reconcile with each other? Every couple learns in the midst of fighting what works for them. I know one couple, who after a fight in the morning, start texting each other as soon as they get to work, so that they can work through the different parts of the conflict. By the time they get home in the evening, they’ve worked through a lot. They desire to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). They are quick to reconcile and keep short accounts. In conflict, what helps you to deal with sin and build greater understanding? Do you initiate reconciliation in the midst of the conflict? If not, why not? Are you willing to humbly compromise, or are you stubborn as a bull with your opinions?
  10. Do you typically apologize to each other and ask for forgiveness? Reconciliation is not complete until you grant forgiveness to each other. Withholding forgiveness, holding onto grudges, or ignoring the problem is not an option for Christians.

Your forgiveness in Christ was not cheap. After all, blood was shed for your sins. Because of what God has done for you in Christ, you should quickly and freely forgive others (Matthew 18:21-33; Ephesians 4:32). A thoughtful pastor has often reminded me—forgiven sinners forgive sin. Verbalize your wrong and take responsibility for it. Ask for forgiveness. Offer restitution if needed. Don’t blame the other person—“I’m sorry, but if you hadn’t done that…” Focus on your sin only

As you consider these ten questions, remember this is not a step-by-step formal or quick fix for your fights. Heart work is hard work. Be patient, honest, and humble. Ask God to help you. Work through heart issues, mistaken expectations, and sinful patterns of communication.

And trust that God can redeem any marriage or tense relationship, even yours.

Tag Cloud