When an affair is discovered, a relationship is changed forever. Two people are grieving different things at different times and the world seems to go into a tailspin. Partners who have the affair have their own list of challenges and I will reserve those challenges for another post. This post is about how the very identity of the betrayed partner is shaken to the core.
There must be something wrong with me.
Betrayed partners (at varying levels) will internalize the affair as an insult to who they are and what they provided to the relationship. "If I were younger, more attractive, more attentive"; the list goes on and on. This partner will put their very being under a microscope to extract some kind of meaning out of what they are going through. Most will blame themselves, some only for a short while until the anger sets in. Others may carry that blame for years.
The betrayed partner is trying to make sense of this somehow. The research and my experience with counseling couples recovering from infidelity teaches in most relationships the answer is much more complex than simply lost attraction. Even some of most desirable people in the world have been cheated on.
Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms Betrayed partners seem to experience a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in many ways. They may experience:
This is a traumatic experience. Trauma is a highly stressful event that is emotionally overwhelming and exhausts a person's ability to cope. This is our brain and body's way to manage risk for re-injury and to regulate emotion.
Crisis of Identity and Loss of Trust in Many Facets of Life
To extend the understanding of the crisis in identity, many betrayed partners will ask: "What does this mean to the world around me?" . They lose trust in themselves to understand the world around them. They lose trust in their partner's love and fidelity. They also lose trust in the "realness" of the world around them. "If I didn't know this, what else is there I don't know?"
Many betrayed partners have to find a new place to put their identity, because the person or relationship they put it in is not as it seems. They are faced with the potential of no longer being part of a couple, and perhaps explaining to other people why the couple split. If they stay, the betrayed partner must contend with the embarrassment of this decision; even if only few people know. The person they were bonded to is not who they thought and the wake of that shock can spread to many (if not all) other aspects of life.
Finding Hope in a Dire Situation
Knowing that this event does not have to permanently define who you are is key. It also does not define your relationship. Affairs are such a taboo subject that statistics vary widely; between 30-60% of all marriages will experience infidelity. It is very likely that you know someone who has survived this. Getting support is key to recovery. For some support is reading books, others it is talking with a pastor or trusted friend. Most couples who are trying to stay together find a trusted therapist to assist them. The most important key to recovery is understanding that you must work to recover. Many couples are able to rebuild after an affair and emerge stronger and better than ever before. Some are better apart. Working toward recovery will help BOTH partners decide if they will be better together or on their own; but better is possible.
Many times couples find it difficult to be intimate in their relationship. Between work, kids, family, and other activities, there is not much time energy left for love. Here are 3 things you can do today to rekindle the spark you are missing.
Touch Her Heart- That is right, we are talking about romance. You MUST continue to pursue your partner. This means doing the things you did when the relationship was still new. Do you still tell your love that certain love songs remind you of her? Do you still bring home little gifts or cards to let her know you are thinking of her. I am sure over time you have learned a thing or two that makes her heart melt. This is your way back to her heart. If you have forgotten, this is the time to relearn. If you ask earnestly her to share her heart, she is more likely to share her body.
Touch Her Mind- When is the last time you asked her opinion or had an adult discussion? Are your conversations centered around work, kids or complaints? These types of conversations are mood-killers. Try having a conversation about her dreams. What about her fears? Do you know what makes her "tick"? The answers may surprise you and will build toward the emotional intimacy she craves. A woman who feels emotionally intimate is far more likely to be physically intimate.
Touch Her To-Do List- In many cases women who feel overwhelmed by the demands of life experience a drastic reduction in sexual arousal. If her plate is full with life, she will struggle to find the energy to be the goddess you want in the bedroom. Do you and her a favor; help her with her to-do list. This tells her that she is not alone and that the two of you are a team. Many women refuse sex because they do not feel supported in other aspects of life. This does not mean that you vacuum once and hop in the sack. This is a change in her perception of the relationship over time. Sometimes it takes a whole season before a group of players become a team.
Touch His Ego- In my experience working with couples who are recovering from affairs I found many men who go outside of their relationship for the same reason. It is usually not about their partner or even sex really. It is about the ego boost in being desired by someone else. Many men cheat because they find someone who respects them and esteems them. Do you esteem your husband? If not, the issues are deeper than can be addressed in this blog; but if so, tell him! This ego boost will do wonders for his sex drive and being available to you. Men who feel respected by their partners are more open to doing what it takes to keep the love of their life happy.
Touch His Playful Spirit- Being in love is supposed to be fun. A key indicator for the health of a relationship is how well the couple plays together. Can you truly enjoy one another's company? A friendly game of Monopoly or chess may remind you why you wanted to spend all of your time together in the first place. Playing basketball or going to an arcade may rekindle the enjoyment you found in the beginning of your relationship. Find time to be carefree and let him see the girl he married fell in love with is still in there somewhere.
Touch His Body- This post would not be complete without suggesting an actual, physical touch. Skin-to-skin contact does wonders for intimacy of all kinds. Non-sexual touch is beneficial for both partners as it is the link to the friendship in the relationship. If done right it will release the Oxytocin in the brain that is used for bonding. Knowing what kind of touch he likes is crucial. When was the last time you asked him?
Intimacy is about allowing being open to allowing another person to see the real you and feeling safe enough to trust them with who you really are. It takes many forms; physical, emotional, spiritual etc. Many times couples come to counseling because their relationship is starving for attention. These suggestions may not help all couples, but all relationships need attention. What you invest your time, energy, and resources in will thrive; what you neglect will perish. What are you investing in?
If you would like to learn more feel free to contact me at email@example.com
Most couples come to marriage/couple counseling stating that they have difficulty communicating. One spouse may say "my partner never listens to me". The other may say "you are always complaining". One may communicate too much, while the other, too little. It's frustrating and sometimes even depressing when you feel the person you want to connect with most is not listening. This challenge is not communication in a relationship as much as it is about understanding one another. Couples communicate anger and hostility very well. The challenge is openness and connection while needing to discuss difficult issues . Here are some proven ways to help the make conversations more productive; so that you can get back to the business of loving one another.
Timing- Many times partners run into problems when the attempt to have conversations at the wrong time. Fights erupt when heart-to-heart discussions are attempted when someone is tired, hungry, angry (hungry + angry = hangry), sad, or busy. If the topic is a serious one, wait until the other needs are met. Your chances are better for a positive outcome if you do.
Speak The Way They Hear- Many people are surprised to hear that women use about 25,000 words a day and men only about 10,000 (this is a generalization of course). Use this knowledge to your benefit. If you notice that your listener is zoning out when you talk, use a bullet point approach. If you realize your listener keeps asking questions, expand your point to include stories or metaphors.
Be A Model- This may be one of the hardest suggestions. If you really want your listener to hear you, you may want to be a great listener yourself. This would mean taking turns and trying to see the other person's point of view. This is called modeling; as you are showing your listener what you need. The challenge with this suggestion is that most people will only do this some of the time. If you can practice this skill and make it a part of all interactions it could make your partner more receptive to what you have to say.
Find A Positive- Go into the interaction with a positive thought that you would like to express to your partner. What can you appreciate about them? Sincerity is key because your partner will detect a phony statement a mile away. If you are genuine about having a positive attitude, it will show. If you are not, it will breed distrust in your relationship.
Stick To The Point- Bringing up delicate issues and/or asking for behavior change is delicate. The normal human response is for your partner to want to defend themselves. Expect that. They may bring up other issues in defense too. Acknowledge those issues immediately, then come back to the original point. Tackling one issue at a time is key in working through conflict in romantic relationships. Promise to revisit their issues later and keep your promise. Scheduling a time in the next 24 hours is a good idea. This will teach your spouse that you are willing to tackle difficult issues they will bring up in the future.
Discussions (and even conflict) are not bad in a relationship. Those who have successful marriages view conflict as a way to find deeper meaning and connect with one another. No couple does this perfectly, but small improvements over time can lead to big changes. Hey, look on the bright side, maybe a conflict every once in a while could motivate you to find great ways to make up.
If you would like support for your relationship please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Let's be honest, maintaining a relationship's fire over the years is difficult. The same dinner and a movie date night ritual becomes stale and uninviting. Here are some ideas to shake things up a bit. Here's to putting the spark back into date night. (I am not in any way affiliated with any places listed here and assume no liability for your safety while indulging in these activities.) Happy dating!
Ride the Cbus- Columbus has a smaller COTA bus that runs every 15 minutes (or so) in the Downtown/Short North area. It has stops located near many of the places mentioned in this blog and best of all it's FREE. Ride all day if you would like discovering new things to see and do in or near Downtown. While riding hop off and enjoy one (or several) of the many things to do downtown.
Attend a High School Sporting Event- Why not cheer on your old Alma Mater or pick a new one? Bonus points for going out on a chilly night and cuddling up next to each other on the bleachers. If you are both the competitive type, perhaps picking opposing teams would start some friendly competition.
Food Truck Court- This is a great way to grab lunch and not have to agree on where to eat. Sometimes we spend more time trying to figure out where we should eat than actually enjoying a meal together. This is a great solution. From now until October 27th from 11am- 2pm you can pick from a rotating smorgasbord of food trucks at the Columbus Commons. While you are there you can enjoy the NEOs Electric Playground or play of chess on the giant chessboard. Like the Columbus Commons? They also have many other free activities:
"Porch" Swinging- The Scioto Mile (not to far from the fountains) has porch swings that over look the river and sit facing COSI. Grab your sweetie and enjoy the air day or night.
Biking...through Easton- Did you know Easton has bicycles for free? They offer bicycles (and other fun modes of transportation). Of course you can rent bicycles from many locations around the downtown area as well but a cost involved for those rentals.
Food Tasting- One of the favorite places to sample different foods is at your local Whole Foods Market. You can request free samples any day, but Saturday afternoons they have tasting events where the tasty morsels are just there for the taking. They also have a wine and food tasting on Friday evening for $5 each.
Scioto Audubon- The old impound lot has been transformed to a beautiful park in the middle of the city. Play sand volleyball, rock climb, or race through the obstacle course. Not feeling so adventurous, no worries, the park also offers bird watching, trails, and a tower. You could climb a few stories and have a beautiful 360 degrees view including the downtown skyline.
Tandem Reading- The Columbus Metropolitan Libraries have been getting a facelift. The Main Library is all new and opened a few weeks ago. The space is open and airy, it offers a coffee shop and many places to lounge. This is perfect for a couple of introverts.
Fun Festivals- Fall is a great time to walk hand-in-hand through a festival. Central Ohio has many to offer for many cultures and tastes. Although this is not an exhaustive list, it will get you started.
Explore a Little City in the Big City- Take the time to enjoy the smaller communities Columbus has to offer. Grandview is a personal favorite, as well as German Village, OSU Campus, and Bexley.
Break a Sweat- Are you and your love looking for some friendly competition? Try Lazer Tag, Paintball, or bouncing around on trampolines at SkyZone. This is not just child's play. The exercise will aid in releasing Endorphins. Endorphins will then stimulate the whole body....get my drift.
Groupons and Living Social- Have you considered all of the hidden local gems in these discount sites? Many restaurants and activities are available for deep discounts in the local area. Superchef's is a favorite, just make sure you bring an empty tummy because their portions are HUGE! The site offers all things fun and entertaining while not breaking the bank.
Hocking Hills- Hiking in Hocking Hills is a must if you are a couple that enjoys nature. The landscape is beautiful and very romantic. If you want to splurge you can usually find a great last minute deal for a romantic cabin with its own hot tub.
The idea is to find a way to make a positive memory with date night. This is a time for you and your partner to put down all of the other roles we have (parents, employees, community member) and enjoy the life you are building together. Regular date nights can invigorate a relationship and strengthen the connection between the two of you.
What are some of your favorite date night ideas? I may just add your idea to a future blog post or to a page I am working on for the website..
Disclosure:I am not in any way affiliated with any places listed here and assume no liability for your safety while indulging in these activities.