seattle counseling center

My Partner Cheated On Me - Should I Stay?

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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.

Introducing .... Kristin Williams!

Kristin Williams, MA, LMFTA

Kristin Williams, MA, LMFTA

We're pleased to introduce our newest therapist to the Seattle Counseling Center! Welcome, Kristin Williams, LMFTA!

Kristin specializes in couples and sex therapy, especially where they intersect. She's interested in helping couples learn how to improve their sexual relationships together, apart, and with all kinds of relationship formats. Kristin prides herself on being LGBTQ+, gender-affirming, and poly-friendly.

Kristin is a 2017 graduate of Pacific Lutheran University's Master's of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy. She comes to Seattle by way of Colorado, and enjoys exploring the Pacific Northwest with her long-term partner.

Kristin is accepting new clients and holds office hours on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Visit her online calendar to schedule an appointment!

When the Cause of a Sexless Relationship Is - Surprise! - the Man

The New York Times published a brillant essay from gynecologist Jen Gunter about sexless relationships and the implicit understanding that it's often the woman's fault. 

"Our society seems almost built on the erroneous idea that all men want sex all the timeso I imagine it would be hard for men to admit to a lower libido, even anonymously. I have lied about my weight on many forms. That doesn’t make me a broken person; it just proves that a cloak of invisibility doesn’t hide you from yourself. The most damaging lies are the ones we tell ourselves."

Relationship problems rarely get better on their own. Addressing sexual incompatibility in your relationship with a trusted therapist can be helpful in moving forward.

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."

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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. 

Self-Compassion

We can be really hard on ourselves.

"You could have done better."

"Why did you say that?"

"I should be able to do more?"

Often, we think (and hope) our criticisms are motivating. Instead, their destructive and painful. 

Self-compassion offers a kinder, gentler way to speak to ourselves. Check it out for yourself.

High Functioning Anxiety

Working Women and Self Doubt

"I just feel like I'm battling impostor syndrome all the time."

"This project is proving I can do this job, so any little mistake feels like I'm not capable."

"It's like I've had the wind knocked out of me."

All quotes from my female clients in the last week about work. The self-doubt and insecurity is stunting.

It's not a problem unique to women, but perhaps faced by women more often than men. Am I faking it? Do I really know what I'm doing? Am I not getting a promotion because I'm a woman? Will I get fired if I mess this up? Shouldn't I be more confident in myself?

It's easy to feel overwhelmed, inadequate, and insecure. Unchecked, these thoughts of inadequacy and insecurity turn into anxiety. Suddenly every task feels daunting, there's no way to get started, and the world feels heavy and scary.

Working with a trusted professional therapist can help remove these roadblocks, empowering you to move forward with confidence and ease.

 

What I'm Reading

Constructive Wallowing, by Tina Gilbertson
I'm not far into it yet, but Tina Gilbertson suggests wallowing, or allowing yourself to feel "negative" feelings, leads to a fuller life. Instead of pushing "negative" feelings aside, accepting and embracing difficult feelings gives you power and understanding over yourself.

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. 

Pokemon Go: Helping Players' Mental Health

It's only been out for days, but Pokemon Go is taking the world by storm. The app-based game combines the virtual world with the real world by tasking players to hunt Pokemon in the real world. 

Intended or not, players are getting out and about, what researchers have proven to be effective in treatment of depression

It's a great step in the gaming world, connecting the virtual and real worlds to encourage movement and socialization.

Exercise can help emotion regulation

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New research suggests that aerobic exercise can aid in emotion regulation.

Harvard University researchers measured the amount of change a moderate amount of exercise had on emotional responses to an upsetting film clip in study participants. They found that the clip produced a negative emotional response in all participants, but those who'd participated in exercise before watching it were able to recover more quickly than those who hadn't.

Additionally, participants who exercised reported feeling less sadness than those who hadn't.

Healthy living has always included recommendations for exercise, and this new research seems to suggest the benefits extend beyond physical well-being.

Wise Mind

Wise mind, a Dialectical Behavior Therapy concept, asks us to become aware of our different mind states. Finding your Wise Mind, that midpoint between acting emotionally and rationally, becomes a powerful tool for navigating difficult life situations.

Intrinsic Motivation, or how to get yourself to do something

Motivation can be tough to come by. 

Watching a movie sounds so much better than doing the dishes. Going for a bike ride is way more fun than doing the project you brought home from work. Grabbing a beer with friends sounds so much better than taking the dog for a walk.

So how can you get yourself to do the things you're supposed to?

There are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is when we're compelled to do something to avoid a punishment or earn a reward, like a child cleaning his room because he doesn't want to get grounded. Intrinsic motivation is doing something because it's personally rewarding, and it's the real key for finding and staying motivated.

So how do you tap into that intrinsic motivation? What's the secret to unlocking your potential?

It's simple, really. Focus on why you're doing things. Align them with your values (which may take a little more soul searching.) Pay attention to the moment. Keep your attention and awareness on the moment instead of allowing your mind to wander. And look for the enjoyable moments. Sure, doing the dishes may not be fun, but pay attention to how much better it feels to have a clean kitchen.

Quick Mindfulness

Mindfulness and meditation can feel like a commitment. We can often find excuses or reasons not to practice. Days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months, and months into years. Break the cycle.

Do one action mindfully.

Just one!

It could be something you do everyday, like brushing your teeth. Notice how the bristles feel against your teeth and gums. Notice the water, taste the toothpaste. Take a minute to be truly aware of the moment, without judgment.

Notice your train of thought. Bring it back to brushing. Feel the toothbrush in your hands, listen to the sounds it makes. 

Carve out the time. You can find it. 

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.