So many couples look for the "right" way to think and act to ensure the health of their relationship. Some may read the most popular relationship enhancing, self-help books. Others watch successful couples to (hopefully) unlock the answers to making a marriage work. We look for the answers outside of ourselves, believing that we do not have all we need to make a relationship work. The truth is: the answer has been hiding inside the two of you all along.
A relationship that works is a place where both people can be their true selves and be accepted by one another for their uniqueness. This does not mean the relationship is a fairy tale all of the time. It simply means at the end of the day both partners know that they want to be together and that there is nothing they cannot work through; as long as they do it together.
Partners Complement, Not Complete or Compete
In a successful relationship the partners are great complements to one another. One may bring fun spontaneity while the other brings structure and security. One partner may spend more while the other saves. The key is that each partner loves and respects the differences in the other. They have come to terms with the differences and understand the need for the complement to balance the life they share. A relationship that will withstand decades of challenges is one that has two complete people. The challenge is to be complete in the relationship and still understand that you need to depend on one another. Some couples struggle with competition, putting themselves above their partner because of one trait or another. Again, respect for your partner's differences will bring you together while putting your character traits above your partner's will slowly pull the two of you apart.
Finding Your Voice
"If we learn to fight fair we would be happy". This is not entirely true. Yes, it is important to speak in a way that you can be most effective, but your message is still important. So many couples come to counseling because one partner has lost their voice. They struggle to say what they need or want. If you do not say what you need how can you expect the other person to know? Successful couples realize that neither of the two are mind-readers. Your wishes, needs, and boundaries need to be vocalized. Speak up!
A real, intimate, mature relationship is one in which two very different people can love and respect one another. We all come from different experiences that make us all unique. Couples sometimes struggle to remember that the characteristics and behaviors that irritate you now are the same ones that attracted you in the first place. Trying to change your partner or change yourself into someone else not will not save your relationship. Love is flexible. Bend, stretch, and create the love you want without bending yourself all out of shape.
An affair does not automatically mean that a marriage or relationship is over. Many times people who love their spouses find themselves in situations they never thought they would be in. A friendly co-worker, a Facebook friend, an ex-lover, or a complete stranger can be the temptation that threatens to destroy your marriage. Many partners who have cheated are in disbelief that THIS is the person they have become. Many love their spouses and cannot figure out why they found themselves going outside of their relationship to have their needs met. Considering these points will assist in your attempts to repair your marriage after your affair.
Face Your Grief, Shame, and Hurt
If you are interested in repairing your marriage after your affair you are probably very familiar with the guilt and shame of your decisions. Some unfaithful spouses fight back in defensiveness and blame when faced with the hurt the affair has caused. Some have been drowning in the pain of their actions and were secretly hoping the affair be revealed so that they can be released from the pain. Very few people will support an unfaithful spouse when an affair is revealed because the actions are difficult to accept. You never thought you would be "that person". You didn't notice the subtle changes in you that made you turn to someone outside of your marriage. Now you want to turn back to your hurting spouse. Acting defensively or blaming your spouse is almost as damaging as the affair itself. Resist the temptation to point the finger at your spouse. Owning up to your actions is a great first step to the healing that needs to occur in your marriage.
Affairs are kept alive in secrets. Revealing all of the secrets of how you deceived your partner is difficult and necessary if you want to rebuild trust. Saving your marriage may mean you will have to tell your spouse about the other bank accounts, how you covered your expenditures, where you were in the night(s) in question, etc. This requires complete transparency in a way that may make you uncomfortable. Know that every secret you tell (particularly if you volunteer it) will be a brick in rebuilding your spouse's trust and faith in you. The rewards may not be immediately apparent but they will have lasting effects. The betrayed partners is dealing with a host of emotions that may look like anger at first, but know this is part of the process in healing your marriage. If you need to better understand what you spouse is going through click here: http://www.reconnectingcolumbus.com/deidres-blog/my-partner-cheatedwhy-cant-i-get-past-it
Find Your "Why"
At this point you have at least considered why you cheated. Your spouse was either emotionally or sexually distant. You didn't feel loved or appreciated in your marriage. You needed to feel alive and find joy in life again. Spouses cheat for many reasons, but not all spouses cheat when they feel this way. When you have decided you want to repair your marriage, blame will destroy those hopes. Yes, it is important that your "why" for cheating is discussed. This discussion must take place when both of you have worked through the pain, resentment, disconnect, and shock of the affair. When first attempting to save your marriage, make mental note of your "why" or discuss it with a trusted friend. Discussing it with your spouse to early could end your marriage. First the two of you must work through the initial shock, disappointment, rage, and hurt. Once a safe space is created in your marriage, healing will come from a "why" conversation.
Build A New Marriage
Your marriage as you knew it is dead. The walls of trust and commitment that have held up your marriage have been destroyed. Both of you are attempting to pick up the pieces of your relationship. Honestly, putting your marriage back together is not an option. You have to build a new one. Building a new marriage means starting over with prior experience. It is making your marriage priority over other things in life. It is learning new ways to be honest, open, and transparent in ways you never were before. This is a time where you are shown your hurt partner's vulnerability and must respond with your own. If you want your marriage to work, you must lay out all of your cards.
"How do I know you will not do this again?" This is a normal question from a hurt spouse who is wanting to trust again but does not know how. This question is a good sign that you are working toward reconciliation. No one can (truthfully) promise they will never cross a boundary that could be considered as cheating. Being honest, volunteering information before being asked, revealing all of the deceit, and conveying your commitment to the marriage will help to provide your hurt partner with the answers they need to this question.
Infidelity is a complex human experience and recovery cannot be contained in a blog post. Many couples assume their marriage is over or are too scared to ask for help because the shame of staying together is too great. Recovery feels impossible when each day seems to present more worry, hurt, and anger. The truth is with focused, committed, feverent perseverance a marriage can recover from infidelity. The irony is that many couples find the affair was a symptom in an already dying marriage and recovering from the affair is the catalyst to creating the marriage they have always dreamed of. Realizing that your marriage is worth the work is the first step to saving it.
If your marriage needs support please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Couples fight. Some couples seem to have mastered the art of fighting. You may be surprised that couples fight in session. They say terrible things to and about one another. They say almost anything to get a reaction from the other. Webster defines "communication" as "the imparting or exchanging of information or news". Most couples do a great job of imparting contempt or venomous insults at one another.
Partners are taught tools like:
1. Use "I" statements
2. Convey your point non-verbally as well
3. Use simple concise language
4. Use repetition
5. Avoid blame
Great tools right? Not really. With distressed couples this may turn into something like this:
Her: I feel that you are an idiot. I should file for a divorce because I am married to an idiot (enter eye roll)
Him: I am an idiot. I married you (pointing).
Effective relationship counseling realizes giving tools partners can use to destroy one another is not an option. A better option is allowing the partners to experience one another differently. If partners can get to the heart of the why they are fighting, the fight changes drastically. Fights become rituals of connection, one way to promote healing, a way to work through issues, and a catalyst for great adventures in making up. There is a music to the dance of the conflict cycle; teaching the rules for communication are NOT the melody that reconnects people.
Recently, my husband and I decided we would visit a new park in the area. We looked at the map and in my wisdom I suggested the trail that followed the river. I thought it would be scenic and romantic among the tranquility of the water. What I failed to realize was the trail was a "REI" trail. In all of our idealistic planning we didn't even notice the sign that clearly warned us that this was not a normal trail. Had we been paying attention we may have noticed the sign with the hikers and boots on a steep incline. We may have also noticed the abundance of mud squishing under our mesh sneakers. Nope! We were looking for romance and adventure, but aren't we all?
The beginning of the trail was deceptively serene, just like I imagined. We remarked on the beauty of the foliage around us. We enjoyed the fragrant blooms of the late spring flowers and felt the warmth of the sun on our faces. Ahhhhh, bliss!
Then the terrain became more difficult. The well paved road before us became a small, very narrow, grass-lined path. Hills became steeper, the ground muddier, and the trees more dense. Crap! What have I gotten us into THIS TIME??!! This got me thinking about relationships. We start with a rosy idea of what our future together looks like, then when it gets difficult, many of us what to turn back. In line with his normal calm, cool, demeanor, my loving husband remained silent. He just kept walking. We could have turned back but that is not really our style. We meet challenges head on, sometimes despite conventional wisdom. We ended up walking single-file the rest of the 2.5 miles in mostly silence. I periodically checked in with my husband because I wanted to share this experience with him. Yes, we were concerned about our physical safety, but neither of us were concerned about the safety of our connection. We chose to walk single file for physical safety, knowing our relationship was safe..
We made it out fine; muddy, tired, hungry...but just fine.. The experience reminded me of how many couples respond in times of stress. This is the time when I find out who they really are as a couple. In many couples one partner can forge ahead, sometimes with reckless abandon, knowing their partner is there to "catch" them if they get into trouble. These couples know they have a secure homebase. This leaves them free to explore the world and follow their dreams.
Some partners are so fearful in the relationship they are are paralyzed by the fear. This prevents them from letting go of the other's hand, fearing their partner will abandon them as soon as they turn their back. This partner lives in terror and needs constant reassurance that their partner is invested in the relationship. This wears on the other partner over time. The other partner becomes disinterested in the constant reassurance and may withdraw; physically, emotionally, or both. In the example of our walk in the woods one partner or both is clenching the hand of their beloved. The hand holding seems like a kind, innocent gesture. At closer look we realize that that clench is fear gripping them and not allowing them to enjoy and learn from the experience as an individual. This clench puts both partners at risk. If one goes down it is likely the other is not far behind. It also shows us that neither partner can safely lead and expect the other to follow.
In other couples one (or both) partners find the need for reassurance but find they allow their pride to prevent them from needing or expecting it. They do not forge ahead in the safety of knowing their partner is a safe, yet comforting distance behind. They tell themselves "I'm on my own" and continue on without their beloved. These partners seem cold and emotionless, but that is far from the truth. They have internalized the thought that they cannot count on anyone for support. They push their partner away when they so desperately want their love to find them behind their huge walls of protection.
Couples ask the question "will you be there when I need you?"
The first couple will answer with a resounding "YES"! Even when the answer is "no" the general assumption is that their love will be there if it is possible in any way.
The second couple answers with a firm "no". This may be in spite of what is true in their relationship.
The third couple may answer yes or no, and resolve to the idea "but I don't need them anyway".
Couples who come to counseling may not know that they are the second or third couple. They usually have a firm understanding they are not the first couple, although they want to be. Relationship counseling is not always about preventing break-up. As a relationship counselor I am simply a tour guide on this trail, helping couples navigate the terrain a little better.