relationship distress

My Partner Cheated On Me - Should I Stay?

couple-love-young-couple-romance-464517.jpeg

Affairs hurt. Betrayal is devastating. The pain sears from the moment you found out and over time, it might weaken, but it still lingers.

Should I stay with my partner?

Here is this person that I love, who hurt me very badly. They engaged in a sexual/emotional relationship with someone outside of our relationship.

I didn't sign up for this! 

Our culture reduces to absolutes - the perpetrator and victim, good person and bad person. And perhaps it's not that simple. "She has an affair and the man is saying, 'You cheated on me, you slut, you bitch.' I'm thinking, 'Mister, you may think you have the moral high ground because your partner breached the contract but the contract has been breached many times. If we just pretend that this betrayal tops all others ... I think we do a disservice to honesty and to the marriage," says renowned sex and relationship therapist Esther Perel. Working through the aftermath of an affair takes reflection and humility, but a divorce isn't always the superior choice. Often there are other considerations at stake, like children and other family members.

So what are you to do? If you decide to stay, you're put in a double bind - If I speak to others about what has happened they'll shame me for staying, so now I have to lie to protect him. Now I can't talk to anybody.

This is where therapy comes in. A therapist can help you sort through difficult emotions like resentment, hurt, distrust, and shame, leading to a stronger sense of self and relationship.

How to Sustain Desire in Long Term Relationships

"I find myself fantasizing about other people. Is something wrong with me?"

"I can't remember the last time we had sex."

"It just feels like a chore."

pexels-photo-172368.jpeg

We know you love your partner. You've been together for years. But something feels as if it's missing - there's a spark, an energy, a passion that's been gone for years now.

How do you maintain desire in long term relationships?

Pioneering sex therapist Esther Perel says that in her research, she finds two common themes. Couples find their partner most desirable when reuniting, when he/she is in his/her element, and when there's novelty

Reuniting with your partner means they've gone out and done something. For a while, I can anticipate what he or she is doing, where they are, and even long for their return. I missed you. 

Seeing our partner confident, self-assured, and in his or her passion where we find tremendous desire. My partner doesn't need me to do anything for him/her. Look at how confident she is on stage. Do you see all the people gravitating toward him?

And finally, bringing something new, original, or unexpected to the relationship brings us desire. I find my partner desirable when he surprises me. 

Dis-satisfactory sexual relationships happen and, while there's opportunity to implement these practices in your relationship, a trusted therapist can help guide the process. 

So, what is it you practice anyways?

This first in a multi-part series exploring the types of therapy I practice.

I've been a big believer in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) since studying it in graduate school. The simple premise behind CBT is that your thoughts influence your feelings, which influence your behavior. Understanding this pattern allow you to change it, right at the core.

Say you're in a meeting with your boss and she's not saying much. 'Is she annoyed with me?' you think. 'Maybe what I'm saying is totally off base.' These thoughts might make you anxious and start second guessing everything you're saying. These emotion-filled thoughts are called automatic thoughts, and they pop up based on beliefs about ourselves and the way the world works. Instead of automatically thinking your boss was annoyed, wondering if your boss was tired or preoccupied may change how you behave.

Automatic thoughts rely on perceptions about yourself and others called core beliefs. Core beliefs are developed from childhood experiences, cultural influences, your environment and more. Common core beliefs often follow themes of abandonment, un-lovability, defectiveness, helplessness, and entitlement.   

I have to be in control to be ok.

I'm unsuccessful.

If I don't succeed, I am worthless.

It's not ok to ask for help.

I'm stupid.

I'm bound to be rejected.

Challenging these automatic thoughts is the key to accessing and changing these core beliefs. Asking yourself questions like "Am I jumping to conclusions?" or "Am I condemning myself as a total person based on a single event?" or "Am I using all-or-nothing thinking?" can help challenge these thoughts. 

Noticing these automatic thoughts and changing them to a more realistic view can relieve distress. Changing the thought pattern from 'My boss is thinks I've done a terrible job; I'm worthless' to 'She's had a busy day and isn't saying much; Can I ask for feedback?' will change your behavior.

CBT is effective in treating:

  • alcohol use and abuse
  • substance abuse
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • chronic pain
  • chronic fatigue
  • eating problems
  • health problems
  • relationship problems
  • sleep problems

It's a short-term, problem-focused therapy that aims to systematically change the way you think about yourself and the world. 

Emotional Flooding ... and how to stop

The dog won't stop barking, the kids won't listen to anything you say, you're tripping over shoes strewn over the house. Before you know it, you're furious - an uncontrollable rage that's pulsing through your whole body. You're ready to blow. 

It's flooding. You're so consumed by your emotions you're drowning in them. It's the opposite of numb. You can't NOT feel what you're feeling to the infinite degree and you don't know how not too. You've lost the ability to use your higher thinking and you're acting on impulse. 

Yelling at the kids to listen to you.

Hitting the dog in a desperate attempt to get him quiet.

Throwing shoes across the room.

Suddenly you've turned into this monster, doing the very things you thought you'd never do. How can you stop yourself before it gets too far?

1. Recognize the physical signs of flooding. Is your heart starting to beat faster? Are you clenching your fists or jaw? Take a quick body scan to see where you're holding your tension and try to release it.

2. Take a minute to focus on your thought stream. Are you taking these actions as personal attacks against you? Are you jumping to conclusions? Are you turning toward blame? In what ways can you change your thinking pattern?

3. Take a break. Take a few deep breaths and watch your belly rise and fall. Close your eyes if it feels right. 

Using these calming strategies, engage your higher thinking to productively problem solve. 

Relationship Activity Questionnaire

When relationships are in crisis, we often forget how or why attraction started in the first place. Use this worksheet to learn more about your partner, turning the focus temporarily away from problems.

Binge-watching tied to depression, loneliness

The fourth season of House of Cards just hit Netflix yesterday and the people in my life have already asked if I've had a chance to watch it yet. 

With instant streaming and Netflix releasing seasons at once, binge-watching, watching multiple episodes of television at a time, has become a pretty standard part of the American lifestyle.

A recent study from the University of Texas at Austin found the lonelier and depressed you are, the more likely you are to binge-watch television.

"Physical fatigue and problems such as obesity and other health problems are related to binge-watching and they are a cause for concern. When binge-watching becomes rampant, viewers may start to neglect their work and their relationships with others. Even though people know they should not, they have difficulty resisting the desire to watch episodes continuously," said the researchers.