Anyone who has experienced a cheating partner knows that this is one of life’s most painful experiences. Feelings of betrayal, hurt and mistrust can last a long time. But for those couples who use the affair to look at their relationship, the pain can, believe it or not, diminish greatly. It is replaced by a greater feeling of connection, often deeper than before the affair. The road is not easy, but for many, it is well worth it.
Curiously, one of the commonest causes of chronic marital dissatisfaction is the spouses’ tendency to be over-cautious with their partner. They have fights or disagreements, but don’t go far enough. So the patterns that can make a marriage feel dead stay stuck. Here’s a way to change that.
It’s part of the human condition that we may be unhappy, unfulfilled, or overly stressed without even realizing it. That kind of unconscious distress can spill over to the marriage. Without realizing it, we may look to a relationship to fix what’s wrong with our life. That’s a recipe for disaster. Here’s the case of a couple where the wife was so unhappy she had begun contemplating divorce. Then she made an unexpected discovery.
Over the years, I’ve seen many couples whose presenting complaint revolves around sex. Usually it’s because the sex is too infrequent, too lackluster, or at the male parter has some kind of sexual dysfunction. (I’ve only seen one case where the complaint was too much sex!) As usual, unless there’s a biological problem, the sexual relationship is embedded in the larger emotional/psychological dance of the couple. Learning about this dance, and how to do some new steps, can change everything.
Tensions in marriage are normal, and unavoidable. They’re part of the price of intimacy. Problems only occur when these underlying tensions are ongoing, and not acknowledged. They are semi-buried. Children are geniuses at feeling these latent tensions; they often help magnify what hasn’t been addressed. In fact, in their own way, they may be trying to help.
Therapist Avi Klein wrote about the shame many men feel about their emotions, particularly feelings that expose a sense of vulnerability. We see men like that often in therapy with couples. Here’s a case of how one man allowed himself to be un-masked, and how it transformed the couple’s relationship.
Most people believe that they can’t change their partner. “My husband is the way he is,” or “My wife is that way with everyone.” They imagine their partner to be a fixed entity. They see themselves as primarily responding TO their partner, a one-way street filled with frustration. People fail to understand the most fundamental Law of Intimate Relationship Physics: Each partner changes and helps to create the other. The only question is how.
The ability and willingness to trust in one’s parter seems to be a precondition for a healthy and stable connection. But lack of trust can be made of many things. You often have to look beneath the surface to uncover what’s behind this potentially corrosive force. It often began before the couple even met.
An X-ray, or CAT scan, is designed to show what’s invisible to the naked eye. An X-Ray of a couple, in the therapeutic setting, exposes the anatomy of the couple, revealing what’s beneath the surface in the relationship. Sometimes the patient doesn’t like the results.
While it’s always tricky to try to understand how someone becomes an alcoholic, stories from patients “in recovery” reveal some patterns. In this post, we get a glimpse into a couple’s therapy, where we learn what “pre-alcoholism” looks like. It can tell us a lot about some of the ingredients that go into making an alcoholic.