What If There’s Infidelity?

Can a relationship be saved after a partner strays? It’s one of the hardest questions a couple can face. It’s different for every couple.  What kind of bonds are still in place after an affair varies with each relationship.  What is a deal breaker for one couple may not be the same for another.  What if there are kids?  Do the rules change then?

So the big question, can you rebuild a relationship after an affair?  I say yes.  I say it can be done.  I say it is possible. There are hard parts, like can you ever trust your mate again.  There are difficult feelings surrounding guilt and remorse and there is the mystery of forgiveness.  Is it possible?

If you are in a relationship, will you want to fix the rupture or will you want to be done with the relationship because you are in such pain?  Could you consider that this could be an opportunity for a deeper connection with the one who hurt you?

When couples go through a crisis they turn inside out.  It’s an earthquake of the highest magnitude. There is no one right way to whether a catastrophe in your relationship.  There are however, techniques and tools to help you find a way through the trauma, repair the relationship and rebuild it into something even better.

Most of us grow up believing that true love means fidelity.  Most couples prize this above all else.  If a partner has an affair it is seen as an affront and grounds for separation.  That is the pattern for most couples.

Sometimes the couples decide to work through the crisis and seek counseling.  I see this moment as a unique opportunity to create understanding of each other in a way unknown to the couple before the incident.  This understanding and awareness is not available before going through something like this. It is also the key to being good partners in the future.

When there is an affair, chances are the person who strayed has felt isolated or disconnected from their partner, maybe for a long time. In counseling the person who strayed begins to understand his or her part; what was happening to them before they left the relationship, what they needed from their mate that they couldn’t ask for.  This understanding of buried feelings is one of the keys to rebuilding the relationship.  When the person who strayed begins to understand what led them to wander, then they become aware of the pain they caused their mate.  This leads to true feelings of remorse.

The person who was cheated is often filled with anger and rage.  It’s not uncommon for the faithful mate to want to know details of the affair.  This part is best done inside a counseling session.  It’s important for the injured party to feel heard, and curiosity is a natural component of the healing process. But true healing occurs when the person who strayed understand the pain they caused in his or her mate.  When the person who injured the other realizes what they’ve done to the person they love, that’s when true healing can occur, for both.

No one ever wants to go through this in a relationship.  And if it happens it is possible to survive it and even thrive.

Send me your thoughts and comments.  linda@lindanusbaum.com

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Top Five Relationship Killers and How to Avoid Them

Most people know what doesn’t work in a relationship. If you thought about it, you could probably come up with your own list and it might include; yelling, blaming, criticizing, and ignoring each other. I think we can all agree that any physical violence would definitely be a relationship killer too.

People know inside themselves what doesn’t work in a relationship. You can feel it. I think we all know whether our relationship is in a good place or not.

Relationship experts know there are certain behaviors that get in the way of good communication and trust.  These behaviors, over time, will corrode the quality and strength of the bond between two people.  Sometimes the thread between a couple has deteriorated over time and it’s just too hard to repair.

But for many relationships, repairing and strengthening is exactly what is needed.

So first, here are The Five Top Relationship Killers, according to John Gottman, PhD. The worst things you can do in a relationship are the following:

  1. Criticize – We all do it, and it hurts.  Just imagine what it feels like when someone criticizes you.  It feels terrible.  You might even feel bad, like you’ve done something wrong.  This is a top relationship killer.
  1. Contempt – If you’ve ever felt this you will not forget it.  It feels as if the one you love hates you.  If you have felt it toward your partner, they have felt your hate.  It hurts deeply.
  1. Defensiveness – It’s not uncommon to defend yourself against unkind words or accusations.  It’s something many of us do to protect ourselves.  But if we go immediately to a defensive posture every time we feel threatened there is little room for true communication.  The relationship loses.
  1. Stonewalling – Not communicating is a posture many of us find ourselves in also.  In this position we just don’t talk.  We keep our feelings stuffed inside ourselves and we don’t communicate them to our partner.  We just block them out and go about our business… alone.
  1. Blame – Sometimes when we accuse the other of something we might initially feel better, but blaming the other for things they did or did not do is a sure fire way of starting something even bigger between the two of you, and that may be really unpleasant.

If you are in a relationship chances are you may dip into the above positions.  That’s pretty normal.  If you live in them you probably are feeling pretty lousy about your relationship and could be helped by couples counseling.

For a quick guide to help couples get closer let’s explore the word “attune” which means “to bring into a harmonious or responsive relationship”.

Spelled out, here is your guide for closeness and understanding:

ATTUNE

A = Become aware of what you are feeling, especially if it is negative – This means you just look at what’s happening to you, that’s all, just get an idea of what you bring to the table.

T= Turn toward you partner, even if you are angry, don’t turn away and go upstairs and slam the door.  Even when you are feeling your worst, turn toward you partner, don’t shut him or her out.

T= Remember to be Tolerant; there are at least two different opinions here, yours and your partner’s.  Each of you is right. Take a step back to realize that both of you are here, not just you.

U= Understand where you partner is coming from.  This part is hard if you are still wanting to get some relief from your partner because you got your feelings hurt or something, but it’s important to understand that each of you come from some place different and they are both valid.

N= Non-reactive responding.  Don’t get upset when you talk.  This is a hard one too because if you are still angry you may not be able to be calm and understanding and be able to listen without reacting.  But if you can do it you are on your way to healing and connection.

E= Empathy, feeling your partners pain and other feelings.  This is a wonderful place for a couple to be in.  This is where you feel safe and you can say anything because you know your partner will listen and love you no matter what.  This is the place where you feel accepted.  When couples can get here, they pretty much can figure out the rest.

To improve our relationships, like anything else in life, it takes practice. It’s O.K. to try something new, especially when you realize the two of you could become happier.

Let me know what you think.  Send me your comments.  Let’s talk about it.


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Why Isn’t Love Enough?

Most people who grow up believing in the power of love don’t understand why relationships fall apart, especially when people love each other.  Why isn’t love enough to keep people together?

Falling in love is one of the most wonderful parts of being human.  When we feel connected to another person our soul feels as if it has found a home.  We feel understood and safe.  We feel whole.  This is the most exhilarating time in a relationship.  It is also a temporary phase. 

So when people find themselves in the next phase when the glow fades a little there is a reality check. When the intense feelings decrease a realization sets in.  You might be saying to yourself, “This is the person I married.  This is the person I am in relationship with.  Wow, he or she has behaviors that I don’t like.  Wow, this person doesn’t get me the way I thought they would.  How could I have missed this?  We had chemistry, such great chemistry in the beginning.  Isn’t that enough?  Why isn’t that enough?”

When we find ourselves in this stage we are really looking for our partner to morph into the person we want.  If he or she could just do what would make us happy we would feel great.  So we try and get them to do what we want so we will feel better.  We try and try.  Unfortunately our partner is doing the same to us, trying and trying to get us to change into the person he or she wants too.

Couples find themselves frustrated with each other and disconnected from the good stuff they shared earlier in the relationship.  Many couples stay in this stage for the length of their relationship.  They adjust to each other and just make do. Other couples break apart.

Before that happens I like to help couples understand what they need so they can ask their partner for it instead of expecting that partner to just know it and deliver.  When couples can take a look at their own needs, wants and desires, then they can get them met.  Until individuals understand what will make them happy there is no way another can deliver it for them.

So how does love fit into the relationship?   Love is the basis for everything else; companionship, support, comfort, security, safety.  Learning how to understand yourself, your partner and the relationship is key to getting there.

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