Much like coins have two sides, there are also two sides to many marital issues. Yesterday I addressed the topic of anger and its impact on relationships.
The other side of that coin is when your spouse shuts down or withdraws. Withdrawing from your relationship may have good intentions, yet its impact and message is anything but good.
Withdrawing or shutting down sends the message of “I reject you”. When marriages are healthy, they can handle periodic rejections. When your marriage is in crisis or dealing with an affair, this kind of rejection is disastrous.
With the hurt of affairs, each of you are more sensitive to rejection. Your feelings are raw, so rejection hurts more than intended. The hurt is even more intense when either of you have experience childhood abuse.
In such cases, the rejection triggers many early life hurts in addition to the hurt of the affair. Your shutting down or refusing to talk is making the situation worse than it needs to be.
When one of you shuts down, it leaves the other holding all the pain. If you’ve read my stuff for a while, you may recall mention of the pain see-saw, which withdraw contributes to.
On the inside you may think that shutting down or not talking is keeping a lid on the hurt. The reality is that your shutting down is increasing the tension and creating more hurt.
For a while in my life, I played football on organized teams. The kind of football with helmets, pads, 12 men and lots of physical contact. As part of that time in my life, I endured my share of injuries.
One injury that stands out was getting the air knocked out of me. The first time it happens to you is frightening. The sensation of being unable to get your breath or speak sticks with you.
I was fortunate that that was the worst that happened to me. I still cringe when I think of the time Mark Woods got his bell rung. That to me was worse than getting the air knocked out of me.
These days, there are educational programs helping recognize the signs of trauma when they happen
Later, I viewed incidents like my injury as common and a routine risk that goes with contact sports. The first time it happened scared me. Sensations of panic and helplessness engulfed me.
Fortunately, my coach was an experienced hand at this kind of thing. He knew what to do and in a moment, I was breathing again. Although the episode only lasted a few seconds by the clock, for me, it was a time-stopping event where I was face to face with panic.
I also learned that when others asked, it was okay saying “I just had the breath knocked out of me” rather than saying “I thought I was gonna die!”
On a recent visit to my brother in Tennessee, I noticed that the word “Welcome” on his welcome mat was almost worn off. I joked with him about ‘having his welcome’ worn out due to overuse.
The worn out welcome mat gave us something to talk about, yet for some couples, is a source of hurt and contention. Not feeling welcome or wanted is a major issue in many marriages.
A comment left by a reader reminded me of a topic related to affairs needing attention. In his comment he said, ” Things have been strained in the bedroom due to her frequent angry outbursts, and I try to keep my distance when she is angry, which is pretty much all the time, so it’s difficult for me to initiate any intimacy. She is showing no regard for my feelings, or emotions, has shouted me down and interrupted me when I try to make a point.”
When anger erupts, it changes your relationship. When it’s you getting angry, your actions will have secondary effects.
The anger may get your spouse’s attention, and give you some feeling of power, yet in large doses, is shutting down communication. Getting your point across is one thing, using so much anger that it contributes to your spouse shutting down or withdrawing is another.
When your spouse shuts down of withdraws in reaction to your anger, it’s a sign of using too much. Using too much anger has consequences.
Have you ever noticed the plethora of ads promoting 'easy marriage?' When I come across them, I wonder "What planet are they from?'
On seeing ads proclaiming "Love demands nothing: No sacrifice needed", I cringe. Making soft, easy choices like that is what led to an affair in the first place.
Perhaps there are marriages where no sacrifice is needed. I haven't found any yet that are healthy. You can tell the difference between couples who make sacrificial giving and those who give the bare minimum to their marriage.
The difference is astounding.
I make sacrifices in my marriage on a regular basis. The thing is, I don't mind making them. In most cases, I consider them investments in my relationships.
Over time you can reach the point where you enjoy making sacrifices in your marriage. You put aside selfish and insensitive behaviors, along with selfish expectations in the name of love.
Saying "Love demands nothing" is a half-truth. Love has manners and doesn't demand much, yet it requires a great deal. The use of the word 'demand nothing' makes it sound like 'easy marriage'.
Immature love is demands things in a selfish way. It wants attention, it wants gratification and it doesn't want to share.
The focus of selfish love is all on "I, me, mine". Mature love is less demanding, yet it still requires a great deal.
On one of the blog posts, a reader left the question “You say there is a cure for this but is there a cure for a broken heart?” This is a very profound and timely question.
In terms of curing a broken heart, there are several things for you to consider. If your idea of ‘heart’ consists of the center of your feelings and a broken heart consists of hurt feelings, then over time, the feelings will change.
There were feelings. Those feelings were real.
Although they were real, when you stop nurturing them, they begin fading.
When you view a ‘broken heart’ as an expression for broken relationship bonds and soul fragments, it’s a while different matter. With the many bonds formed in swinging, the risk for the pain of broken bonds and soul fragments is HIGH.
I like the term soul fragment since it captures the idea of how part of you is lost and you have parts of other people within you. It’s as if you lost a little more of you with each ‘swap’ or ‘affair’, until there’s not much of you left.
No matter what you call sleeping around, you left part of yourself behind and you have part of your lover with you from now on. The soul fragments are the intangible parts left behind.
On seeing a recent story on how a third of Americans view financial infidelity worse than sexual infidelity, it concerned me. The news will fill financial planners with joy, yet it bothers me.
Financial infidelity is concerning and needs attention. What bothered me was that for such a large percent of the population, their pocket books are more important than their spouse’s fidelity.
When money matters more than fidelity, it speaks loudly about priorities. I’m not sure if it means that fidelity can be bought, yet that thought crossed my mind as well.
When ‘the prostitution mindset’ where money is more important than fidelity predominates, there are sure to be problems.
As with any survey, you can’t apply the findings to the population at large. Although reporters want to make global judgments from such surveys, the reality is the findings are only about the group in question.
If there are many people valuing money more than fidelity, it’s no surprise that adultery is running rampant in some areas. It tells me that there are some areas where relationship priorities are messed up.
Another possible explanation is that a third of the respondents don’t know how to love. Perhaps they’re some of those believing “If you throw enough money at a problem, it fixes it.”
While reviewing these findings a quote by a one-time client comes to mind. She had strained relations with her father. Eventually she confronted him “Dad, I need you to open your heart to me more than your wallet.”
In a recent breakfast conversation, while on a business trip, the subject of swingers came up. This isn’t surprising since people ask what I do and on telling them, the conversation changes.
What made this conversation different was that the subject of the “High Tech” swingers in California came up. The conversation included Andrew, who attended some of the “High Tech” swinger events.
He viewed the ‘High Tech swingers’ as an event overflowing with ‘positive’ vibes and energy. The event included pre-measured doses of MDMA (ecstasy) and mind-altering drugs as part of the events leading up to the swinging.
In the name of fostering creativity, the drugs enhanced the ‘positive vibes’ and sexual performance of the participants.
Although my initial reaction was surprise. After some thinking about it, many affairs begin under the guise of being a ‘positive experience’.
The high-tech swingers viewed themselves as smart enough to bypass the consequences of affairs. They view themselves as more clever about consequences than ‘weaker’ people have when sleeping around. By tinkering with their brain and chemical make-up, they short-circuit the natural systems inside you.
In an effort to keep the participants from natural consequences, drinks containing other chemicals balancing out the side effects from the mind-altering drugs were made available. This way they have ‘sex without consequences’, or so they think.
If there's a day for positive vibes, its Valentine's Day. If no one has wished you a happy Valentine's Day, I hope you and your spouse have a good one.
There is something powerfully healing in your marriage relationship. There's a power there that changes you.
The problem is that when you start monkeying with it, that same healing power transforms into a destructive force.
Affairs turn the powerful forces binding the two of you into a destructive force. An act designed for enhancing your relationship becomes just the opposite with an affair.
The bonding starts feeling like chains. Attraction turns into repulsion.
Those powerful forces change their impact when engaged in outside of their healing context.
Think about the many symptoms that come about when this happens. The elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, slowed digestion and depressed mood remind you that something's not right.They signal you that something needs attention.
The person who should bring the most healing in your life is now the one that irritates you the most.
The good news is that your marriage has strength in it that can being healing to those areas impacted by the destructive force. Your marriage doesn't have to be a nightmare for each of you.
How you and your spouse react to the affair and deal with it makes a huge impact on its effects and how long they last. The wounds can be healed.
Valentine's Day is almost here. Every year, on that day, the spotlight of attention is put on relationships.
It's a good idea to given encouragement to your relationships. A few loving and encouraging words go a long way. Valentine's Day gives you an opportunity for expressing encouragement and love.
With relationships being in the spotlight, I find myself facing a challenging question. That question is 'Are relationships easy or hard?'
One affair 'expert' claims "Love is natural. It just is. No need to 'work at it'". I contrast this with a letter received from a reader who said regarding their relationship "We are working harder than before."
So, is a loving relationship something that 'just is' or do you have to work at it?
I believe relationships requires work. Loving others, including your spouse when they are at their most unlovable moments requires effort.
I'll grant you that I don't mind the effort, and don't consider it a struggle, yet that doesn't mean my love "just is".
Relationships require honesty. Reaching that honesty requires creating an atmosphere of safety along with being vulnerable and taking risks. There are times I wrestle with identifying what I feel and finding ways of expressing it.
There are times when the selfish side of me resists sharing and making time for others. In my mind, true love always requires sacrificial giving at some level. With persons I love, I don't mind making such sacrifices.
Whenever I come across research findings backing up my findings regarding affairs, it brightens my day. The behavioral scientist in me comes out and celebrates.
At such times I feel like jumping around my home shouting “I knew it! I knew it! I knew it!” Although I wanted to say “I told you so!” this time, I restrained myself and curtailed my enthusiasm.
It’s ‘real science’ when one set of findings are replicated by other researchers in totally different locations have the same findings. This is such a contrast with what is often passed off as science in the news these days.
Given that affairs and marriage relationships are often such touchy topics, coming across some solid research is always encouraging.
A group of researchers led by Dana Weiser at Texas Tech found that there is a family pattern when it comes to affairs. her research involved 1,254 participants, which is a nice sample size.
Although family therapists and clinicians have long known such connections exists, seeing them validated is encouraging.
The next question asked by Dr. Weiser is “why does this association between parental infidelity and one’s own infidelity exist?” I agree that Dr. Weiser’s question is a great one for consideration.
Dr. Weiser stated “My work suggest that socialization is at least one partial explanation. More work needs to be done to assess biological, psychological, and contextual factors to explain this association.”