Many couples that come in to see me for counseling are dealing with the devastating effects of an affair or infidelity. There is a process that usually happens as things unfold. For the sake of this article, I will assume that it is the male partner who has had the affair, although this certainly is not always the case. When couples come in they are still, often, in the discovery phase. She is continuing to learn about what he has done or at the least she worries and fears that there is more than what she knows. He seems contrite and sorry to a degree and willing to go to therapy. After talking, it usually seems that there is more to it that what has been discovered or disclosed. Sometimes for women, they are having a hard time dealing with the shock and betrayal. I notice at this time that they are also dealing with fear of losing him. For some women they seem as if they are mad, hurt and afraid. That fear keeps them from really sharing their feelings about what has happened. There can be desperation at this point too. Sometimes they try to win or keep their husband because they realize that he has gone out and has been with or still is with someone else. There is an element of competition, perhaps. This can be very difficult because to her, it seems as if she isn’t able to fully embrace and share her feelings because if she did, he would get upset and leave for good. Over time, he gradually, as my experience with couples has shown, opens up more and shares more details about what he has done or is doing. As the couple works through therapy, it becomes safer to talk about these emotions and she does. For male partner, this can be surprising, and he often states that ‘I thought we were doing fine, where did this come from?’. This is because she hasn’t felt safe enough with him to share it before, but after working through some of the issue they face, she has felt more secure and stable in the relationship – so she shares more of the hurt or betrayal that she is feeling because she isn’t afraid that it will end their relationship. It’s important to understand that this is a normal part of the process of healing. A good couple’s therapist will be able to help a couple navigate the different stages of healing after an affair.
I’m currently accepting new clients in my Orem Utah counseling center office. Call me at 801-215-9581
Written by Dr Triston Morgan, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
I use Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy in my practice. This is a technique most commonly associated, and developed by, Susan Johnson. One of the things I love most about this approach is that it is here-and-now focused. We deal with what is coming up in the moment. It is geared towards helping couples have successful, even though sometimes painful, experiences in therapy rather than simply teaching them a set of principles to try out at home. As a couple’s counselor, I work to develop couple’s ability to communicate on a deeper and genuine level. Some couples, for example, will say to me, “I’m mad that he keeps putting me off for work”. Using the EFT approach, I will help them recognize that there is more than just being mad at play in this situation. There is, perhaps, hurt or betrayal. Its difficult for couples to share the latter because of how vulnerable it makes them. In a situation where they are already being hurt, it’s difficult to open up and talk about the their emotions because they could be hurt even more. Rather, its seemingly easier, and with an illusion of protection, they will talk to their spouse through anger. Getting down to the hurt and what is really going on is crucial. Creating emotional safety in the relationship is important as it allows each partner to be vulnerable and exposed emotionally. It takes more than simple validation and reflecting. This is something a couple’s counselor can help you with.
Written by Triston Morgan PhD, LMFT
Couples Counselor in Orem, Utah
Pornography is often mistaken as a ‘sex addiction’. Some have said to me that, ‘If me and my wife just had sex more, pornography wouldn’t be an issue’. This is a myth and false. It has less to do with frequency of intercourse and more to do with the emotions behind so many things. Pornography temporarily numbs someone from feeling uncomfortable emotions. It keeps them from feeling what is really going on in their life. It helps them avoid. For example, feeling rejected, alone and unseen is uncomfortable. Most people don’t want to feel these types of emotion’s so they try to avoid them. They might recognize that those emotions are present, but their main goal then becomes to get rid of them without first picking them up and experiencing them. The only way to do this is to numb yourself. You can’t move something that you first don’t have. You have to pick up the emotion if you are going to do something with it. That act is counterintuitive and difficult. Pornography is one way that people avoid feeling what is right there in their lives. It numbs them from feeling rejected, alone or unseen. But those emotions don’t go away, however. They get buried and still influence us. Learning to feel uncomfortable emotions and increasing your emotional capacity is part of the solution to addiction to pornography. Simply stopping using pornography isn’t enough to maintain a healthier lifestyle. Moving pornography out of the way only serves as a move towards creating more space to feel your emotions and therefore increase your emotional capacity.
I believe there are three basic components that shape us as human beings: physical/biomechanical, biochemical, and emotional/mental/spiritual. In order for us to reach our potential, all three of these areas need to be in balance.
Here are a few small steps we can take in each area to help us reach a more balanced state, and produce big changes by the end of the year:
Since you spend your life in your physical body, keeping it healthy is a must! Exercise is important but finding the time and energy to go to the gym 3-5 times a week can be difficult. How about starting with…(read more) Continue reading “Small Steps, Big Change by Dr. Bob Lindberg” »
Struggling in your marriage? Not sure how to fix your communication problems? Tired of being stuck and not knowing how to get unstuck in your marriage? These are all common concerns for couples experiencing difficulties. There is help and a way to get unstuck! As a couples counselor in Utah County, over the years I have help couples find this success many times as they apply certain principles.
Marriage researcher, John Gottman, has found certain principles and developed a model of therapy to help couples find this happiness together. His work is based on researching hundreds of couples. Here are a few things he found that you can try with your spouse:
- ‘Enhancing your love maps’ – Love maps consist of how you understand each other and what you know about your relationship and your spouse. Knowing the intimate details of what your partner likes to do for fun to what stresses them out helps you have a stronger relationship.
- ‘Nurture your fondness and admiration’ – Creating fondness and admiration are crucial to having a long-lasting and satisfying relationship. One thing you are your spouse can do is participate in an activity called, “I appreciate”. This is where you list three or more positive characteristics your spouse has along with an example of each.
- ‘Turn toward each other instead of away’ – Whether this is literal or figurative, turning towards each other helps create an intimacy and healthy dependence on one another. Turning off the TV and listening to your spouse when they say they have had a hard day is a great example of turning toward each other. This might seem simple, but it goes a long way.
- ‘Let your partner influence you’ – Consider what your partner says and how they feel about things. Make decisions together as you discuss both of your points of view. These things will help you develop a strong relationship together.
- ‘Solve your solvable problems’ – Some problems can be solved and other constitute what Gottman would call ‘perpetual problems’. Work on the ones that you can do something about. The solvable problems have a feel to them that they are situational.
- ‘Overcome gridlock’ – What about the perpetual problems? They do seem unsolvable and for a reason! When dealing with these types of problems Gottman teaches that couples must move from gridlock to dialogue. If done right this can be done on your own with your spouse. Many couples find success with a marriage therapist to overcome these problems.
- ‘Creating shared meaning’ – There is so much more than the difficulty of marriage and life that you can share with your spouse. Enjoying life together, even in the smallest way, helps to create meaning that means something to both of you. Dream big and dream together!
This research can be found in John Gottman’s book, Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.
Happy marriages don’t happen on accident. It takes time and effort and can be done! In my Provo counseling center, I have found that couples who want to change and be happy can!