10 Signs Your Spouse Might Be Cheating

adulteryCurrent infidelity statistics reveal that in over one-third of marriages, one or both partners admitted to an extramarital affair. This number might actually be low because affairs are under reported. Other research estimates indicate that nearly 60% of all individuals will engage in an affair at some point during the marriage.

As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I do a lot of affair recovery work. My clients have taught me that sometimes there are obvious signs that the faithful spouse misses and sometimes there are no signs at all, because (sadly) some folks are just that good at compartmentalizing. The signs below are not meant to represent an exhaustive list and if present, may not necessarily mean your spouse is cheating. Every relationship is unique and you will have to discover the truth for yourself in your own situation.

  1. Emotional Distance is a huge clue that something may be wrong in your relationship. It’s hard to be emotionally invested in two people at the same time so the guilty partner creates space. The emotional distance works to create a shield that protects them from discovery. If you notice conversations becoming more superficial and your spouse withdrawing more and even becoming secretive, it could be because he/she is growing closer to someone else.
  2. Critical Attitude over the things that never bothered your spouse before such as your weight, wardrobe choices, not having things in common, the way you clean the house or cook, your appearance or even your sexual preferences and zeal between the sheets. Being unfaithful creates a lot of tension and requires the guilty party to focus on the negative aspects in the marriage. In a way, having a critical attitude helps the guilty partner justify their decision to continue their extramarital liaison.
  3. Guilt drives behavior changes. Most people cannot handle the guilt of cheating, so they respond by either showering the unassuming spouse with gifts, attention and affection or they withdraw. They may avoid eye contact and communication efforts aimed at explaining their behavioral changes. The guilty mate may pick fights, especially when the faithful spouse does something nice because it creates mixed emotions and forces the cheater to think about their actions.
  4. Grooming improves during an affair. The cheating partner may suddenly pay closer attention to their looks, change fragrances or begin wearing a fragrance, purchase a gym membership, a new wardrobe or lose weight.
  5. Evasive or unreachable when he/she used to be accessible. Text messages are not given priority and phone calls are not answered or returned. “Client meetings,” “projects” and “business trips” increase with a hyper focus placed on work responsibilities while at home.
  6. Defensiveness is a form of self-preservation. It is a way to blame your partner and says, “It’s not my fault, it’s your fault.” Defensiveness when attempting to address suspicions or making an observation about recent behavioral changes can be an effort to hide an affair.
  7. Blaming the faithful spouse for all the marriage problems and only seeing the marital relationship in negative terms. Often the infidel will flip the script and begin keeping tabs on the faithful spouse or accuse them of being paranoid, delusional or insecure.
  8. Change in behaviors such as listening to new music, picking up a new hobby, an increase in privacy, shutting doors that used to be left open, becoming more confident or more flirtatious with other men or women. It takes money and passion to fuel an affair, so look for changes in spending, a desire to suddenly control the family finances and credit card statements, working longer hours and pulling away from church or extended family.
  9. Sexual intimacy fizzles out or abruptly stops. The guilty partner moves to the guest room or the couch for “better quality sleep” because “snoring” or “restlessness” is keeping them awake. Paradoxically, intercourse sizzles with requests to try new positions and techniques.
  10. A new “friend” enters the picture and more and more time is spent with them. Talking less about interactions with certain colleagues that used to be the topic of conversation can also warrant suspicion.

Six Reasons to See a Therapist

servicesEveryone experiences periods of stress, sadness and loss. Successfully navigating through those seasons in life is challenging enough, but what if you are not successful in working through negative or even positive life events? You might find the quality of your mental health compromised.

Psychotherapy can be a potent tool for resolving many of life’s problems, but you don’t have to see your therapist for every little problem life throws your way either. You don’t have to be “crazy” or on the verge of a nervous breakdown to go to therapy. So how do you know when it’s time to call a professional? How bad do things need to get before you seek help? When you’re dealing with debilitating depression or you get stuck in the grief cycle, the signs might be obvious, but at other times, it might not be so cut and dry so you shuffle through life until things become unbearable.

Most people don’t go to counseling until things get to the “unbearable” point, prolonging their misery and angst. The obvious truth here, however, is the sooner you seek help, the quicker you will be on the road to recovery and feeling better. In fact, it might actually make the problem worse by avoiding professional help so, before things get to the point of being unmanageable here are six reasons to seek counseling now.

  1. The problem is causing significant distress

Deeply intense emotions such as explosive anger, overwhelming sadness, fluctuating moods, complicated grief, or anxiety that impairs your ability to function may be signs that counseling is needed. If you are having thoughts of suicide, thoughts of harming someone else or if you are participating in self-injurious behaviors (i.e. cutting, burning or choking), seek help from a professional immediately. Disturbances in your normal sleep patterns such as sleeping too much, trouble falling or staying asleep, withdrawing from family and friends, and appetite changes, can also be telling signs that its time to talk with someone. Therapy can also help with strained relationships and marital conflict.

  1. You’re self-medicating in order to cope

It is easier to numb the pain by self-medicating than to deal with the issues that are causing the problems in the first place. However, not dealing effectively with your problems creates new ones and makes a bad situation worse. If you are self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, or food [to name a few] and you need one of these substances to get through the day in order to deal with life stressors, it is a sign that you are trying to numb feelings that need to be addressed in counseling.

  1. Something traumatic has happened

If you have a history of sexual trauma, emotional, physical or spiritual abuse, neglect or some other traumatic event that you have not fully dealt with, counseling could be a powerful tool in bringing necessary healing.

  1. You’re stuck in the grieving process

Not everyone who has experienced loss (even major loss) needs counseling, but if you find yourself stuck in the grieving process and you’re unable to move forward, you might find therapy helpful. Grief can get complicated and doesn’t always resolve on its own. Some people respond to grief by withdrawing from family, friends and activities while others over engage and throw themselves into relationship after relationship. Counseling can be effective in working through the grieving process and help you to unpack suppressed emotions.

  1. You no longer participate in activities or with friends

You avoid the things that used to bring enjoyment, including family and friends. Perhaps you feel you’ve lost direction or no longer find purpose or meaning in activities that you once could not live without. Many people pull back in seasons of painful emotions. This could be a sign that something isn’t right. Seeing a counselor might help bring clarity or assist you with a new start.

  1. There’s no medical cause for your physical symptoms

Mood disturbances can cause a host of bodily aches and pains such as recurrent headaches, neck and muscle pain, gastrointestinal problems, general fatigue, frequent colds and a diminished sex drive. If your doctor has been unable to find a cause for your physical symptoms, it might be time to call a counselor. It just makes sense that when we are emotionally sick, our bodies are negatively affected.

If you do decide to give counseling a try, it doesn’t mean you’ll be in therapy forever. Many people feel better after one session and a lot of problems can be resolved in under ten sessions. Talking about your thoughts and feelings with an empathic, supportive person can not only make you feel better, it can be life changing by bringing about the emotional healing you desperately need.

Therapy can provide you with the tools for transformation. You can learn new coping skills, improve relationships, and build the life you’ve always envisioned for yourself. What are you waiting for? Lets get started!

 

 

Five Ways to Increase Emotional Intimacy in Your Marriage

images-1What does it mean to be intimate with your mate? I’m not talking about the physical expression of your relationship; I’m talking about knowing one another on a profound emotional and spiritual level. You might have a decent marriage even if you don’t have much intimacy, but I have come to realize that we will never truly be fulfilled in life until we have depth in our closest relationships. Depth gives birth to purpose and meaning, security is fostered here and love is nourished.

I see three broad bands of people as it relates to intimacy:

  • Those who really do have intimacy and want more. Their marital relationship is rich with sharing and experiencing. There is an indescribable connection at this level. This isn’t something typically achieved in the first few years of marriage. Nope, these folks are veterans and need to be teaching the rest of us how they got to where they are. I’m not referencing an ooey gooey love here- this is a patient, kind and reverent devotion that is beyond the euphoric first stages of love.
  • Those who think they have intimacy, but don’t. Oh they pay lots of lip service to it, but what they really have is a shallow relationship at best. There is no depth or significant meaning in the marriage. They are roommates. They guard their feelings and finances and avoid sharing secrets and dreams. Priority is placed on relationships with children and friends over their spouse.
  • Those who don’t have intimacy and don’t want it because it requires being vulnerable and they don’t want any of that! Why? Because it’s uncomfortable and risky. Their chief thought about intimacy would sound something like this: “The last time I was vulnerable, I got hurt!” They are most concerned with protecting their own heart instead of guarding their partner’s.

When people don’t want to be vulnerable they will do almost anything they can to clothe themselves with modern day fig leaves. They construct emotional walls, cross all sorts of boundaries, participate in affairs, self-medicate with all their vices and forms of escape- some socially acceptable and others…not so much. They bury their emotions and never speak of them again, but anger, grief and sadness always find a way out of our human made cellars.

People pull away in their closest relationships when it leaves them feeling weak, exposed, helpless, ashamed, naked, or afraid. It’s easier to hide behind the fig leaf than it is to reveal one’s inner most thoughts and feelings. In the end this form of self-reliance leaves us feeling more afraid, alone and desperate than if we had just removed the covering in the first place. Vulnerability is crucial, without it you will never experience genuine emotional and spiritual intimacy with anyone.

These five strategies will facilitate greater intimacy in your marriage:

  1. Want it- You have to have a desire for intimacy with your wife or husband. Wanting it is the starting point. If you don’t “want” intimacy with your mate, the other points will be meaningless to you.
  2. Create it– This means you create essential time for each other. Your spouse is a priority over hobbies and other people. Use non-sexual touch to convey your feelings. Reveal your emotional needs to each other; your partner can’t meet needs they are unaware of.
  3. Protect it– Creating an environment of safety will serve as a protective barrier. Use effective boundaries to guard against affairs. Be sure you cut apron strings with your parents; your marriage is not “family business.” Placing a priority on your marriage partner above the children actually makes the little ones feel more secure. Your children’s whole world is wrapped up in the security of your marriage- so guard it like a watchdog!
  4. Communicate it– Use assertive communication skills rather than raising your voice and using disparaging comments. Tell the truth, articulate your fears and dreams and refuse to keep secrets. Share your faith with your partner, make time to pray and worship together. Discuss the finances and major spending.
  5. Practice it– By confessing your faults to one another and inviting your spouse into your mess. Allow your husband/wife to see you cry and accept their comfort. Assume good will, you’re a team and there is no “I” in team! Don’t be afraid to ask your partner for help. Finally, remember this is a lifestyle not an event and practice makes better!

 

 

 

 

 

Five Ways to Reignite Romance in Your Marriage

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  • Feel more like roommates than lovers?
  • No longer connecting emotionally?
  • Attraction waning for each other?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions or if you just want to increase the passion in an otherwise good relationship, read on.

I get it…you work a stressful eight-hour shift, hustle out the door just to taxi the kids to their evening activities during rush hour traffic! You finally arrive home, but there’s more work waiting for you in the kitchen; after all, dinner’s not going to cook itself. Then there are the dirty dishes to contend with and perhaps even a load or two of laundry before you finally collapse into bed only to repeat the same madness the next day. Given the rat race, it’s no wonder couples fall into boring routines and drift apart emotionally and sexually. Not many people feel sexy when they’re operating from a sleep deficit. Bad as it sounds, when you’re exhausted, romance and sex just seem like more work.

The truth is, it’s common for busy couples who have been married a while to lose their passion. Early love is euphoric as the brain releases certain hormones that bind us to our lover. Dopamine, or the “pleasure chemical” gives us a natural high. It causes our heart to race and pupils to dilate. Oxytocin is released when we touch or have a sexual experience. These chemicals have a drug like influence on our brain, but like any drug, the effect does not last forever; the euphoria eventually fades. As the relationship makes new demands, our love must strengthen and mature or things grow stale signaling relationship danger.

So if you want “that lovin’ feeling” back, here are five ways to rekindle the fire:

  1. Create time for each other during the day: The average person spends 8-10 hours away from home daily depending on workday length and commute. Couples are left with four or five hours together at the end of the day and depending on your evening routine and exhaustion level, you may not spend any quality time with your mate. So one way to get the spark back is to create time for each other during the day. Commit to checking in by calling your other half to ask how they’re doing or send each other flirty text messages. The family has to eat and somebody has to prepare the meal, so why not join your spouse in the kitchen and work together? Take an evening stroll to discuss the days events, future plans or simply enjoy the night sky. Finally, before your head hits the pillow, spend ten minutes reading a couples devotion and pray together. God is for your marriage!
  1. Speak your partner’s love language: Gary Chapman author of The Five Love Languages, discovered five ways people use to communicate and understand emotional love: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. Take the assessment and discover your love language at 5lovelanguages.com. My primary love language is words of affirmation, so I really feel appreciated and loved when my husband gives me a card, love note, or pays me a sincere compliment. My husband feels loved when I hold his hand, hug him or sit close to him. The way my man speaks to me throughout the day has a lot to do with my response to his romantic gestures and the way I take time and care to address his need of physical touch communicates how “into him” I really am and that friends…can lead to fireworks!
  1. Physical affection: I’m not necessarily talking about sex here, rather I’m referring to holding hands, kissing, embracing one another, eye contact, tone of voice and just a general posture that conveys “You matter to me.” Gary Thomas (author of Sacred Marriage) recommends a daily 30 second kiss + 30 minute talk + 3 minute prayer to increase your emotional connection. I’ve noticed the more I stare into my husband’s eyes, speak to him sweetly and respectfully not only causes him to strive harder to meet my needs, but my love for him grows stronger as well. So if you’re thinking “You know, I’m just not feeling that way towards my spouse anymore,” express physical affection anyway. Feelings aren’t facts, do the actions and your feelings will follow.
  1. Increase your sexual intimacy: After couples have been married for a while the physical can become boring and lovemaking becomes a rote act or is relegated to the back burner altogether; this is very damaging to your marriage. So to keep things fresh and exciting, flirt with each other and let the tension build throughout the day or week. Be an expert in learning how to please your spouse. God created sex within the context of marriage, not only for pro-creation, but for your enjoyment- explore it together.
  1. Turn towards each other: After facing a few life challenges the marital bliss fades and couples have a tendency to turn away from each other, no longer supporting or meeting each other’s needs. The relationship then grows cold and lonely. But remember, you married your partner because you were unable to meet your own needs of companionship, emotional love and support. You are team- you are not enemies. Be intentional about turning toward each other for support. Learn to depend on each other (again). Enjoy frequent date nights, laugh together and reflect on why you fell in love in the first place. With time and intentionality, your love will mature, your relationship will strengthen and your spark will return!

Three Ways to Love Successfully

In honor of Valentines Day, a repost of a blog I wrote a couple of years ago. Enjoy and share; more coming soon. Crafting an article on getting the romance back in your marriage!

 

best-love-wallpaper-for-desktopSecular advice on love and success focuses on ways to maintain another person’s sexual interest or directives on getting your emotional needs met. In the end, this cheap brand of love is shallow and doesn’t lead to long term success. Genuine love is sacrificial and pure, it doesn’t demand its own way or take advantage of others. If you are interested in a love that endures all things, continue reading. I have identified three essential ways to love and be loved successfully:
1. Pursue love- How would you feel if you were deeply in love with someone who was investing more time and energy with their friends, career or hobby? Most likely you would feel insignificant and you certainly wouldn’t feel your love was reciprocated. We invest in the things that are important to us. People think nothing of investing in vehicles, real estate or the stock market, but they rarely apply that same logic to their relationships. Love is a verb. Couples must sacrificially work together to keep love safe, secure and alive. You cannot assume the passion you felt early in the relationship will remain if you invest little effort.

So just how do you pursue love? Put your partner’s needs ahead of your friends. If your other half is sick, cancel your golf game and play nurse instead. Enjoy each other’s company and pursue BFF status with your significant other. Regularly participate in activities you have in common. When eyes start wandering, people begin wondering what they’re missing; love has to be guarded with fierce devotion. Make your relationship an exclusive two-person arrangement. Continue dating after marriage, see a counselor before things go south and finally, never stop discovering new things about one another.

2. Nurture love- Love is among the most basic of human needs; everyone wants to be loved by someone. The ability to express love is what makes us human and sets us apart from the animal kingdom, so before we go any further, let’s define love. Is it a feeling? Is it a decision? Is it more spiritual than emotional or more cognitive in nature? Love is too broad a term to adequately describe in the English language. Would you take a bullet for your car or die for your favorite jeans? Of course not! You probably would, however, give your life for your child or your soul mate! The Greek language provides four major words (and at least eight minor ones) for love:

1. Agape- the idea of a person giving all his or her love or favor to another. Often associated as the love God demonstrates towards us, it is a pure and whole love.
2. Phileo- emotional love, emphasizing affection or a fondness one person has for another.
3. Eros- refers to the passionate love between a husband and wife.
4. Stergo- refers to the love between parents and children.

When the passion fades, you will have to make a decision whether or not to keep on loving in spite of how you feel or you will never leave Phileo Land and experience the depth and richness of “eros” or better yet, the perfection of “agape.” Love is sacred and for it to grow, it must be nurtured. Love should not be repetitive, it should be creative, original and inspired.

3. Hold on to love- Our culture has sold us an unrealistic brand of love. We have been deceived into believing that love is simply physical, which makes you and I no better than Fido the family pet. Romance novels and the silver screen hold men and women to unbelievable standards that devalue love and set us up for failure. Beauty is fleeting, in time romance dwindles, the physical gets boring and eventually, without a strong commitment, we abandon ship and jump into the next hot relationship. Initially love begins as a feeling, but if you want love to last, you must make it a choice and hold on with all your might. Commitment is the most important ingredient to a long term successful relationship. Commitment means honoring the promise to love someone even when the “feeling” is lacking.

In reality, there is no fairy tale ending and there is nothing magical about “true love’s kiss.” Successful love is an unfailing love and in all its splendor, it is quite ordinary. Love that never fails is long-suffering, it is the first to forgive, always seeking to understand rather than seeking to be understood. It means loving a person when they are unlovely or unlovable and loving in spite of each other’s failures and short comings because people are imperfect. Enduring love understands that there are not those couples who have it together and those who do not. We are all broken, messed up and in need of redemption, grace, mercy and forgiveness. So, you want to be successful in love? Pursue it, nurture it and hold on to it with fierce devotion!

The Long Way Back to Me: Finding Normal

Prior to exploring trauma with a new cljozwlqkegtewqncmpsnk5rzwhl5t3lvsrfavzctrxxazlc0ipng0fa8aheic-e2st6d_kgs154ient, I assess their needs and ability to cope with traumatic symptoms. After ensuring stabilization and increasing coping strategies we are ready to begin the arduous journey of unpacking the damage from all the psychological and emotional wounding. For me, writing is a coping skill I use to deal with the traumatic symptoms of adultery. It is a way to make sense of nonsensical things. A way to re-write my life narrative, gain clarity and leave a legacy.

Not every marriage can be saved after an affair. Not every marriage should be saved. Mine was, but it’s been a long way back to me. Since my husband’s confession 16 months ago, I have laboriously toiled through the wreckage of my feelings in an attempt at finding normal (again). I have cycled through intense emotions that at times have been dark and frightening and on other occasions, completely out of character.

Affairs rip families apart; they are devastating to everyone involved. My initial emotions were shock and fear. Shocked that the one person who stood with me before God, family and friends and covenanted to forsake all others had rammed a dagger in my back. This affair partner (AP) actually thought she was taking my man. In my one communication with her I told her to leave my husband alone and she replied, “…It is not for you to say with whom I am in contact with at this time. This is out of line.” In an email exchange earlier that day she told my husband, “I have interviews in North Carolina in December.” Now she was plotting to move to my zip code! The fear that my husband might actually abandon our family for this desperate person enslaved me. I could not shake loose the shackles of anxiety.

His betrayal left no area of my life untouched. As I crossed the threshold from 2015 to 2016, I had but one goal: saving my marriage. We attended marriage therapy for months sifting through the affair details. We stabilized our relationship, repaired the breaches and increased our emotional intimacy. Yet there are still questions I will never have answers to, questions that haunt me to this day. As I stand on the precipice of 2017, my chief goal is to rediscover me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milestones

imagesI just passed a crucial milestone. A year ago on September 9th I discovered my husband was having an affair and planning to abandon our family. What a difference a year makes! This September 9th, we were in Asheville, NC with five of his closest high school buddies and their wives celebrating the occasion of turning a half-century-old (well, not the ladies- just the men). Over the past 12 months, we have worked diligently to restore our relationship. This has not been an easy journey for either of us, but it has been worthwhile. Although I am not in a place where I can say I am thankful the affair occurred, I can say that I am thankful for the wake up call the liaison gave us.

My heart was crucified. I lost my identity, my confidence. I lost me and for the exception of pastoring a small church and my job as a therapist, I withdrew from every event and organization I participated in and retreated inward. A strong extravert, I even stopped connecting with friends. After spending months in individual and couples therapy, I am feeling invigorated. I am slowly coming back- not to the person I was, rather I am transforming into a new self. God is remaking me and I am rediscovering my gifts and talents.

I have much to be excited about. I have a new grandson, a book in the works and very soon I will be redesigning my website and introducing the fascinating services I will be offering my clients. Stay tuned!

 

Six Things I’m Letting Go of Post Affair

Learning that I was betrayed by the very man who vowed to love, honor and cherish me until parted by death was devastating. It’s been seven months now since Discovery Day (A.K.A., D. Day); not one moment has passed that I have not been acutely aware of his decision to stray from our covenant. The knowledge of my husband’s infidelity is always with me, in every context of my life.

Two months ago while facilitating a group therapy session, one of my patients initiated a conversation about an affair her father had and BAM! I was catapulted back to D. Day. I couldn’t refocus after that and had to end group 15 minutes early. On another occasion, I purchased a plain white shirt (without trying it on), when I got home I noticed the “Made in Los Angeles” label and once again I was slapped by the hand of my reality…I am no longer the only woman my husband has been with since our wedding night.

Survivors of adultery say you are healed when you can recall the affair and it no longer causes deep emotional anguish. I wish I could say that I am at that point, but every remembrance of the affair still takes my breath away and threatens to sweep me off my feet. That being said, I am no longer a hostage to depression or a slave to fear. I am finally at a place in the recovery process where I am ready to unclench my fists and relinquish the toxic waste that has been weighing me down. After spending some time reflecting, I have identified six things I am letting go of post affair.

  1. Unforgiveness– I am choosing forgiveness because unforgiveness is too heavy a burden to bear. Forgiving the affair partner (hereinafter referred to as AP) with her smug attitude and blatant disregard for my marriage has been nearly impossible until this moment in my journey. My closest friends have nudged and pushed me towards forgiving AP since D. Day, often quoting Scripture and reminding me “You don’t have to feel forgiveness to offer it,” or “You have to forgive her, Jesus forgave you.” I already know that. I’ve preached the sermon and taught the concept in therapy sessions. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I’ve done some HARD things in my life! Yet, I am making the difficult choice to radically accept what I cannot change and no longer hold this egregious action against her. So, H.F.R. I forgive you completely and hold no offense against you. Go in peace and be blessed. May you find a man who loves you and treats you as a pearl of great value.
  1. Images– I read an email exchange between my husband and AP on November 2, 2015 after a hunch that something still wasn’t quiet right. I discovered that they were still in contact some seven weeks after the affair supposedly ended. The abominable images those emails conjured in my head have been hard to erase. The images are triggers and they come to me at the MOST inconvenient times. They are not emotionally healthy for me and they get in the way of being present with the man I love. When the intrusive images make their presence known, I intentionally block them and think of something more positive.
  1. Despair– One of the reasons betrayal hurts so much is because it is a weapon found only in the hands of someone you love. Your enemy has no such tool, for only a friend can betray. Betrayal is mutiny. It’s a violation of a trust, an inside job.
    After my love betrayed me, I fell into despair. Questioning who I was and if I wanted to live. I was humiliated and embarrassed. My soul was crushed. Today, I choose peace. I cannot change or undo what happened. It has to be enough that the man I love regrets the affair and wishes every single day that he could go back in time and make a different decision.
  1. Demonizing the affair partner– It has been easier to forgive my husband and demonize AP instead. The brutal truth is, they were both to blame and I should not be demonizing AP. I recognize today that she was also hurt. What sane woman chooses lies and secrets to further her relationship? What sane woman would settle for crumbs in a relationship or choose not to be her man’s priority? This was a lonely woman who got caught up in the rapture of euphoria because she underestimated her value and worth.
  1. Ruminating on the affair– My beloved and I have been together for 20 years; we have rich history together. I am learning to focus on the future and all the exciting things that are coming our way. My oldest son and his wife are expecting their first child (my first grandbaby), my oldest daughter is getting married in 2017 and my beloved and I are planning an anniversary get away and vow renewal. Instead of ruminating on the affair, I am focusing on redemption.
  1. Interrogating my husband– Our time in counseling helped to flesh out the affair narrative. I am aware of the causes of the infidelity and we have repaired the breaches. For months I interrogated my husband. Demanded information and details and asked the same questions repeatedly. Mainly because he lied so many times, I felt I couldn’t trust the truth even when it was obvious. But this was not forgiveness- it was me pursing vengeance and reliving the trauma. I no longer interrogate my husband; I have given him grace and turned the page. Together, we are writing a new chapter!

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part XII: Why?

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Why did he cheat on me? That’s the million-dollar question for any betrayed spouse. Unfortunately, the unfaithful partner may not have keen insight into the “why,” at least not initially. After we embarked on the journey of counseling, my man began the excruciating work of self-reflection and only then was he able to get to the underlying reasons for the choices that drove his behaviors

I think it’s crucial to know and understand what motivates infidelity for three reasons: (1) it can prevent future affairs, (2) increases marital intimacy, and (3) facilitates relationship recovery. Affairs are the result of woundedness and character deficits (lack of honor, integrity and honesty) in the person committing the act. These need to be addressed to heal properly as a couple, especially if your goal is to be stronger post-affair than pre-affair.

There were three people in my marriage for 16 weeks. Even after the affair partner exited, infidelity remained in the relationship, looming heavily in the room as if it were a person. Ever present, infidelity was sucking the joy of life from me. The only way to kick this nightmare from my life was to make sense of my husband’s betrayal and the only way I could do that was to understand “why?” Why did he do it? Was I not good enough, pretty enough or thin enough? He ALWAYS assured me I was beautiful, sexy and desirable to him. But affairs are not about looks or even sex. In my husband’s words, this affair was about filling a void that I had left. She paid him the attention he was lacking at home.

Men and women cheat for different reasons based on which of their perceived needs are not being met in the primary relationship. I am not going to get into all of those differences; I am going to keep things in the context of my own experience with adultery. I will begin by examining the differences between presenting and root problems. In the next article (Surface & Root) I will discuss the reasons why my husband said he cheated. Finally, I will discuss the root problems he uncovered that ultimately drove his decision to be unfaithful.

In nearly all of my cases, I have noticed a common trend: the presenting issue (reason why someone came to counseling) is never the actual problem. I see problems in two broad categories: surface and root. In the context of adultery, it looks something like this:

  • Surface– This is what motivated the couple to come to therapy. The reasons given might include: affair, deception, primary relationship troubles, disconnect in the marriage, poor communication, fell out of love, apathy, sexual dysfunction, emotional abandonment, incompatible, etc. Some of these issues may run deep, but they are not the root problem. They do need addressing and based on the counselor’s therapeutic framework used, these issues will typically receive the greatest amount of attention.
  • Root– Root problems drive surface problems. Examples of root problems include: family of origin issues (e.g. cleaving to parents/siblings instead of spouse), sexual trauma, trauma from childhood (such as abuse) or past relationship issues (such as betrayal) unresolved anger or bitterness, insecurities, narcissism, etc. Resolving these problems requires deep introspection and getting under the covers of what is driving your behaviors. It takes a brave soul to venture into these dark corners of your heart. An experienced licensed and trained therapist will help you successfully navigate the journey.

 

 

 

 

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part X: Grief StagesFinal_Screen_shot_2011-10-26_at_11.28.49_PM

The Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle focuses on five key stages: shock, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. For each stage, I will provide a summary and describe my own reality and time frame for moving through the grief cycle post affair.

  1. Shock/Denial– In this phase the activating event is ignited. The brain processes daily life in narrative form, but a traumatic event is not processed in the same way. The body goes into protection mode; one of the first responses to trauma is shock. It is common to deny what has taken place and you might even find that you avoid the subject altogether. You could experience fear and or elation. In my situation the shock began as a tingling numbness that eventually penetrated my whole body. For three weeks I walked around dazed and confused. When engaged by other people in conversation I experienced cognitive delays in information processing. I told myself the affair was a lie, that my husband just made it up to make me jealous. When reality set it, fear seized my heart. How will I afford to live if he leaves me? Will I have to move? Will the kids have to change schools? Will I lose the support of his family and our friends? It took about four weeks for my appetite and sleep to stabilize.
  1. Anger– Frustration, irritation and anxiety dominate the emotions in this phase. You might be tempted to skip over this aspect of grieving, if you do you might find it returns to bite you in the rear. Anger is a natural human response to loss; it is not a sin, how it is expressed can be (Ephesians 4:26). The chief responsibility here is to resolve indignation. Anger is a secondary emotion; it is the result of some other potent primary emotion. To demonstrate this point, I use the following formula in counseling to assist clients in identifying and discussing their true feelings: fear + hurt + frustration = anger. When I examined what I was truly feeling, it was fear and hurt. I was afraid I would wind up with an STD. Even worse, I was terrified the affair partner would end up pregnant. I only stayed in this phase for two weeks and had two meltdowns. I was committed to forgiving my husband and making my home in one of the more positive phases…like acceptance. When I felt consumed by my wrath, I’d call a friend and vent or write another article (on adultery) for this series; it was quiet effective!
  1. Bargaining– You will recognize this phase by comments that begin with “if only.” “If only I recognized the signs earlier,” “If only I had done this or that differently, the affair would not have happened.” You might find yourself hyper focused on what you could have done differently to prevent the betrayal. The good that came to me from this stage is that it forced me to examine my own actions and admit to the harm I caused the relationship. The problem I encountered was remaining in the past trying to negotiate my way out of the pain instead of staying in the present. I really didn’t stay in this phase more than a few days. I moved out of this town fast!
  1. Depression– Every human gets depressed at some point in life and it’s common during this stage to feel overwhelmed and helpless. I hit my lowest point two weeks after the confession. My love was in Kentucky on a two-day business trip and I was home holding down the fort, paying bills and chauffeuring the kids to basketball practice and sleep overs. On a gray drizzly Friday afternoon, I pulled into the garage, shut the door behind me and sat in the car while the ignition continued to purr. For just a few seconds I wondered what it would be like to inhale the noxious exhaust fumes and allow myself to slip away. No more suffering or humiliation, simply peace with my Father in heaven. A dose of reality slapped me in the face when I realized that my 17-year-old daughter would discover my body, so I quickly turned off the motor and exited the vehicle. It took about six weeks to work through this phase; it was agonizing. My emotions fluctuated wildly. One minute I hated my husband and the next I couldn’t live without him. In the end, I made the decision to forgive him and forced my feelings to follow suit.
  1. Acceptance In the final phase, you are exploring new options and you have a plan in place for moving on. You’re pervasive mentality might be “It is what it is, I can’t change it.” This phase was the most difficult and took the longest to work through, about six months. Here I struggled to find new meaning, I began reaching out to others and shared my story. These articles are the fruit of my new meaning. As a professionally trained speaker I am seeking ways to share my story so I can assist other couples. As a licensed therapist, I am creating a marriage boot camp for struggling couples that I will launch by late 2016 or early 2017.