When One Person Is Unfaithful

Can a couple survive an affair?  I get this question a lot as a marriage and family therapist.  I’d like to say yes, but that is not always the case.  And yet, sometimes yes is absolutely the right answer.  Couples can survive an affair; an affair of the heart, an affair of the flesh, and an internet or phone affair.  Not all couples survive.  Sometimes there’s just too much pain to overcome.

But for others, two people sometimes find a way to move closer together.  They don’t ever put things back the way they were.  How can it ever be the way it was after one person finds interest in another outside the relationship?  A couple can’t go back to a place of innocence where true love blossomed and each believed in fidelity for ever and ever.  Something is irrevocably broken.

In many cases when an affair is discovered the person who finds out becomes devastated.  Often the first response is anger and disbelief.  How can this happen?  How can this be?  It’s almost unforgivable.  How could their partner have lied to them?

It’s also possible the person who finds out begins to worry what they might have done to create a situation where the other one left.  They also might wonder how they just didn’t know what was happening.  Often they feel stupid and duped, foolish and embarrassed.

If the other person is remorseful and wants to keep the relationship together he or she probably feels terrible seeing the pain they have caused their partner.  This guilt and shame can cause this mate to spin out of control.

Both are hit with something that feels like an explosion in their house.  They used to rely on things being a certain way.  Now everything is turned upside down and nothing is familiar.  What does a couple do when their world has been rocked with an affair?  Couples counseling can be a good place to start.  First it helps to have an objective individual listen to each person.  Chances are there have been a lot of conversations, and lots of tears and heartfelt apologies and promises.  Even so this is not enough to mend the damage.  That’s why a trained counselor is probably needed.

The first session is usually about figuring out what foot to put in front of the other.  Both people are in such a state of shock and the marriage or relationship has just imploded.  Slowly each person will unload what he or she has been feeling.  This is very helpful as many deep feelings get stirred up in this kind of crisis.  It’s helpful to talk about what one is feeling.  When you are guided by a trained professional you might even feel better.  That’s the first step.

What happens next is up to the individual couple.  Each person will have to decide what they want to do.  What would be right for them?  Sometimes both want to work on mending the relationship or marriage.  Sometimes one doesn’t know if he or she can.  This can also be explored in counseling.

If a couple decides to stay together this type of crisis often makes way for deeper understanding and compassion.  Couples learn to move more openly into their emotions and say a lot of the things they have kept hidden from their mate.  This allows a stronger relationship to emerge.  It’s possible to even heal from deep wounds.  It’s possible to build something better and become even stronger.

Interested in free counseling?  If you are dealing with infidelity in your marriage you may qualify.  Send me an email linda@lindanusbaum.com

Read More

Help With Communication Issues

What Do We Do When We Don’t Speak The Same Language? 

This is not a post about people speaking two different languages such as English and Spanish.  This is a story about couples that talk to each other but it feels as if they just don’t speak the same language; they talk but they can’t hear each other, as if both are speaking in a foreign dialect. Couples who fall into this category try to communicate but usually end up giving up because it gets too frustrating.  Both people want to get their points across but it’s so difficult many couples just stop trying.

This is more common than you might think. I often see couples come into my office for counseling; they will look at me as if I am a translator and can help them decipher their partner and help them understand each other.  They both hope that I can bridge the gap that’s been keeping them separate, sometimes for a long time.

Most couples in this predicament have spent a lot of time trying to fix the problem.  They’ve also probably grown tired of trying because they each feel as if they already know what the other person is going to say and they just don’t want to hear it.  In this case they often just stop talking to them.  These couples are at an impasse, and that’s not uncommon either.

Each person had needs that have not been met.  They each want to convey something to the other person, only they don’t know how.  They have been trying to accomplish this, maybe for years and they are so tired of trying they have just given up and accepted that this is how they are going to feel in the relationship… frustrated, disappointed, discouraged.

When people have been living with this situation for a long period of time it’s not uncommon for one or the other to say, “It’s not working.”  The truth is; it’s not.  This relationship is not working in terms of two people feeling good about it and each other.  That’s why counseling can be helpful.  As a marriage and family therapist in private practice in Long Beach, California I am able to hear what’s missing.  I can understand what a conversation would sound like if the couple was having one where each got his and her point across and could be heard.

When I meet with a couple in this kind of situation I start by asking each to tell me about their life.  As a third party I have no trouble hearing each as individuals.  I gather information and then I help them decode what they can’t seem to hear or understand about the other.  Since I am not invested in the outcome of what I am hearing I can easily investigate what one person is trying to say to the other.  Sometimes it sounds like, “He never listens to me,” or “She always nags me.”

These complaints are loaded with emotions.  It’s not just the words I am interested in; it’s what feelings accompany the discomfort.   I often can hear what is missing, which usually encompasses longing or attention.  When she says “He never listens”, I hear a longing to feel valued.  When he says “She always nags”, I hear “I feel invisible.”  Some of what’s not being said could sound like this, the wife wants to be heard when she tells her husband about something. The husband wants the wife to understand that he doesn’t feel appreciated.  It’s very frustrating to live in a relationship where you don’t feel your partner values or appreciates you.  These are important aspects of a good partnership.

Couples that find themselves in this sort of struggle are in need of new ways to communicate to get their points across.  To achieve this, each person has to do some internal work to learn what they need.  When each person knows what he or she needs they can then ask for it from the other person – instead of just being upset because they are not getting it.  No more expecting from the partner, no more disappointment and loneliness either.  Just two people relating openly and honestly about how they feel and what they would like.

When couples do this, then they get true communication, where each person can be heard.  And that’s a whole lot easier than speaking a foreign language.

Call for a free pnone consultation with Linda (562) 293-1737

Send your comments to linda@lindanusbaum.com

Visit her website www.lindanusbaum.com

Read More