Archive for the 'Infidelity' Category

Trust in relationships: New research reveals its unique importance

It may not be surprising to hear that trust is a key factor in successful partnerships. In fact, an entire branch of relationship psychology called “attachment theory” argues that trust is really the primary experience we seek in a relationship. A romantic relationship, like a mother-child relationship, is based on being able to place complete trust in another person. Trusting your spouse to follow through with their promises, to support you, to be faithful…on the whole, to not hurt or abandon you. We long for someone to trust. Continue reading ‘Trust in relationships: New research reveals its unique importance’

5 signs of emotional abuse

A tragically high number of people will suffer abuse at the hands of an intimate partner – conservative estimates claim that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. The real numbers are impossible to calculate since most instances of abuse are never reported.

Often education on abusive behavior focuses primarily on physical abuse. In fact, there are several different kinds of abuse that don’t leave physical scars, but are just as serious and dangerous as domestic violence. Often psychological and emotional abuse are the precursors to physical violence.

Familiarize yourself with these signs of emotional abuse so you can protect yourself and your loved ones. Continue reading ‘5 signs of emotional abuse’

The increasing danger of reconnecting with ex lovers online

Social media is wonderful for keeping in touch with friends and family. At the same time, there is one category of person that you should not be reconnecting with-ex flames. Facebook has made it incredibly easy to indulge in nostalgia and look up people from the past. The Australian magazine The Age recently delved into the near-epidemic of social media-inspired affairs with the article “First love, the second time around.”

Nostalgia drives social media searches

Most people do not reach out to past romantic partners consciously looking for an affair–yet this is what often happens. Old flames hold strong sway over our hearts, triggering powerful and deep-set emotions related to desire, regret and attachment. Relationships that occurred during teenage years seem to be especially powerful. Continue reading ‘The increasing danger of reconnecting with ex lovers online’

Is it OK to be married and flirting?

No matter how in love we are with our spouses, anyone who has been married or in a relationship knows that you don’t stop finding other people attractive. You may even have a crush or two over the years. But is it OK to be married and flirting?

If your spouse approaches you because he or she is upset that you have been flirting, it’s easy to become defensive. Flirting is innocent, you argue. We were only talking. It wasn’t going anywhere. I’m not seriously interested! Do you think I would cheat on you? How could you think that! This can easily turn into an argument.

But is flirting really so innocent?

Continue reading ‘Is it OK to be married and flirting?’

The question of non monogamy

For thousands of years marriage has implied monogamy. In fact, marriage developed because monogamy was crucial to confirm paternity and establish lineage rights. In all but a few polygamous or polyandrous societies, non monogamy is not tolerated and often punished harshly. But how does the idea of sexual faithfulness to one person play into modern and/or non-traditional and non-religious marriages?

Non monogamy is, by definition, not being romantically exclusive to one partner. It may also be referred to as an open relationship. Non monogamy includes all sorts of arrangements from allowing kissing, flirting or non-sexual dating, to one night stands, to full-blown outside relationships, to polyandry (a relationship between more than two partners). Non-monogamy groups claim their arrangement makes everyone happier, reflects more realistic expectations about marriage, and can prevent divorce. Pro-monogamy groups argue that relaxed standards of fidelity are exactly what are causing divorce and only lead to broken hearts. Both sides have statistics and studies to back their cases. Continue reading ‘The question of non monogamy’

Confessions of a jealous wife

Jessica and Adam have been married for five years and have no children. They love to go out to concerts, clubs and parties. Most of the time they go out together, but sometimes they have nights where they spend time apart. Jess is fine with that and doesn’t consider herself a jealous wife. Jess loves dressing up to go out to parties. She loves how confident she feels when she’s all done up, and how sexy her husband finds her. She also loves the admiring stares she gets from other men. She is naturally very outgoing and enjoys flirting. She’s never cheated on anyone, and loves Adam. At the same time, she likes to make him a little jealous. “It reminds him of how lucky he is to have me,” she thinks.

Adam is normally more reserved than Jess. Last night they went to a house party together and Adam ran into an old friend from high school, Shauna, who was back in town for the week. Jess had never heard Adam mention Shauna before–in fact, he never really talked about that time of his life. Adam introduced them and then spent the rest of the evening talking to Shauna. Jess hung out with some other people at the party, but couldn’t help watching Dave and Shauna the whole night. In the car on the way back home, Adam was in a great mood, but Jess kept quiet. Continue reading ‘Confessions of a jealous wife’

Facing jealousy in relationships: Part 2

Last week I used Dr. Hirsch’s favorite Eric Clapton line to start a post on dealing with jealousy in relationships: “Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself!” This post deals with jealousy that may be unfounded or projected.

Jealousy is a problem–unspoken jealousy eats away at the positivity and love in your marriage and can lead to resentment. Feelings of jealousy shouldn’t be ignored; instead, these feelings can be used as jumping-off points for fixing fault lines in your marriage before they turn into big rifts. Attempts to broach such a sensitive issues can easily to turn into fights. Accusations of infidelity and over-protectiveness can fly. With jealousy in relationships, especially, it’s easy to blame the other person. Yet, as Eric Clapton sang, part of the problem will lie inside yourself, in your reactions, presumptions and behaviors.

Last week I talked about how little gnawing feelings of jealousy can be a legitimate warning sign that your marriage is in jeopardy. Taking a cue from these feelings you can prevent an infidelity from taking place. At the same time, some feelings of jealousy in relationships come from our projection of our own guilt and desire onto our spouse’s behavior.

Case #2: Projection.

Susan and Kyle attend their high school reunion where Susan runs into an old boyfriend. She finds herself thinking about their teenage escapades and noticing how attractive he still is. Susan feels guilty and uncomfortable. Throughout the night she is on edge and jealous whenever her husband talks to other attractive women.

In this case, Susan’ jealousy toward her husband is likely unjustified. If logic doesn’t justify the intensity of the jealous feelings, it often turns out that the jealousy is actually a projection.

Projection means that you are seeing in your partner a set of feelings that in fact are going on in you.  Susan is projecting her guilty feelings of attraction to her old flame onto her husband. She assumes that he must be thinking similar things about attractive people he meets.

Deal with this type of jealousy in relationships by using the three steps outlined in my last post: prepare, talk, plan. In addition, you will need to be clear with your spouse about your own feelings that sparked the projection. This may be awkward, and at the same time, it will make your marriage stronger by clearing up doubts and reaffirming your trust in each other and in yourself. By asking how or what questions and by avoiding accusations, couples can clear up the problems and get back on track.


Should I get a divorce? 5 reasons to go and 5 reasons to stay.

Have you ever wondered, “Should I get a divorce?” Sometimes it’s hard to tell if your marriage problems spell doom for your union, or, if it is possible—and worth it—to salvage your marriage. Power of Two is founded on the principle that most divorces can be prevented by learning the skills for strong, healthy marriages. At the same time, some relationships have toxic and dangerous elements that make divorce the best option for everyone involved. These behaviors can be hard to face, and they should never be ignored.

The following are Dr. Heitler’s “Top Five reasons to Divorce”:

  1. Your spouse is controlling. He/she attempts to manipulate you and/or control your friends, activity, behavior or money by the use of threats, put-downs, criticism, excessive guilt or anger.
  2. Your spouse has cheated repeatedly. One infidelity does not necessarily spell doom—with lots of work, your marriage can recover and be stronger than ever. However, repeated affairs mean your spouse unlikely to change his ways no matter what.
  3. There are unaddressed addictions. You should consider leaving if your spouse has damaging problems with gambling, drugs, alcohol, or other behavior and refuses or continues to avoid getting treatment.
  4. There is an unaddressed mental disorder. Many couples live with mental disorders and have strong marriages. At the same time, if your spouse refuses to get treatment for a damaging or dangerous disorder, you should consider ending your marriage. It is the best for both of you.
  5. Your spouse is violent with you or others, or mistreats children. This is the most resounding “YES” to the question “Should I get a divorce?” Remove yourself and your children from this situation immediately and seek professional help.

The good news is the most common reasons for divorce these days are not the ones above—and this means they are fixable!

“Should I get a divorce?…“ Consider couples counseling over divorce if the following sounds like you:

  1. We just don’t communicate very well and can’t seem to resolve our conflicts. Communication and conflict resolution difficulties are the most common complaints of divorcing couples.  Luckily, they are also simplest to change. You can learn the skills to handle these problems at any time and they will help you in all areas of life, from your spouse to in-laws to the office.
  2. I just don’t love him anymore. Love is a cornerstone of marriage and feeling “out of love” can be frustrating and confusing. At the same time, the quality of love is constantly changing; sometimes hot and passionate, other times a cool, subtle bond. Do you really not love each other at all? Passion, intimacy and positivity can be revived!
  3. Because it’ll be better for the kids. It’s true that having fighting parents is hard on kids. At the same time, so is divorce. Also, if you keep fighting while you’re divorced, it’s still bad. The solution? Learn to stop the fighting. Marriage education can help you replace your arguments with positive dialogue and win-win problem solving!
  4. He/she’s just not the same person I married. We all change and grow as we go through life together.  What’s important is knowing how to support each other on our personal journeys. Counseling can teach couples how to turn differences into powerful tools instead of a source of marriage problems.
  5. I don’t trust him/her anymore. He lied and made a stupid deal, she gambled or cheated… Sometimes people do make mistakes.  At the same time, most mistakes are repairable. Get the skills to analyze your errors and prevent future repeats. Sometimes the sourer the lemon, the sweeter the lemonade.

In the old days, and in many places still, divorce is a difficult, lengthy process that is highly stigmatized. This has the potential to trap spouses, especially women, into dangerous and unhappy marriages that fall into the category of good reasons to divorce, listed above. So, in many ways, it’s a good thing that we can quickly leave marriages we are uncomfortable in.

At the same time, this gives us the responsibility to think about our choices very carefully. And I don’t mean to imply that anyone takes divorce lightly! It’s just that marriage isn’t easy, and divorce is not necessarily the answer to your marriage problems. Consider this: If you don’t learn the skills for a healthy relationship now, you are likely to find yourself in the same situation with simply a different person in the future.

If you feel your marriage getting rocky, don’t hesitate to talk to a therapist or try a program like Power of Two. Problems are solved most easily when they’re caught early. And it certainly never hurts!


From an interview with Dr. Heitler, 10/11

TV giving bad advice on how to deal with infidelity

The LA Times released an article yesterday on the prevalence of adultery in primetime television. As the author points out, adultery has been the subject of plot drama since the Bible—it’s nothing new. At the same time, storylines involving cheating are popping up all over TV dramas at a much higher incidence than any point in the past.

Julie Albright, a sociologist at USC, attributes the trend to increasing cynicism about marriage. Marriage has never been less popular. In 1960, 72% of U.S. adults were married. Now that number is 51%. “People believe marriages don’t work anyway,” Albright says, “so seeing affairs on TV kind of serves as a model for how things can and will go bad.”

 The prevalence of adultery on TV doesn’t actually reflect reality. Although it’s hard to measure infidelity, some studies suggest that 20% of married people will stray at some point in their marriage. Right now it seems that 100% of current TV drama couples have cheating in them. It appears that, once again, TV exaggerates truth for entertainment value.

So what’s wrong with some imaginary drama on TV if, as I said before, it’s been a theme of storytelling since the Bible? After all, these show certainly aren’t promoting infidelity as something good. The cheating causes real problems for the characters, and how to deal with infidelity and make amends drives the drama of the shows. In fact, viewers and producers have expressed concern when cheaters don’t get their comeuppance. Cheating is definitely still bad.

My problem is that by portraying cheating so commonplace in every marriage, our entertainment is establishing the idea that infidelity, while bad, is an expected element of a marriage. And affair is simply what happens in marriage. That is a terrible attitude to have and it reinforces negative stereotypes about marriage that can have real negative effects on peoples’ lives. Especially once they realize that how to deal with infidelity in the real world doesn’t tie up so nicely as a soap opera plotline.

Along this line, The Parents Television Council released a report stating marriage is “regularly mocked and denigrated” on television. It seems that “sex with anyone, up to and including a dead person or a farm animal, is more exciting than sex with your spouse.” I think they have a point. It is unfortunate when TV, as a whole, completely disregards marriage as anything but a state of suffering and boredom that is destined to fail.

Let’s show them they’re WRONG! Be positive about marriage. Count your joys and blessings. Don’t accept that your marriage will fail, even when things are rough. Marriage ain’t easy, and there’s plenty of help out there for you, whether it’s marriage help books or online marriage counseling. You CAN do it!

Forgiving infidelity and moving on—for your health

Dr. Martin Luther King advised us to “never succumb to the temptation of bitterness,” and boy, was he right. Forgiving infidelity and other wrongs is one of the hardest things to do, and at the same time, it may just help you live longer. A new book, “Embitterment: Societal, psychological, and clinical perspectives,” reviews years of research on bitterness that shows not only is it unproductive from a social, emotional and spiritual perspective, but takes a devastating toll on our physical health.

Today’s CNN article opens with the story of a young college student who was tormented because of his race. The stress and bitterness he held towards the injustice eventually led to sleeping problems and panic attacks. Finally, he landed in the hospital and was found to have a dangerous condition of thickened heart muscles—one of the leading causes of heart-related sudden death in people under 30. It wasn’t until this young man was able to move on and release his bitterness that he recovered physically.

How can a mental state have so much impact on our bodies?

When we feel negatively towards another person, our brains trigger the release of stress hormones. This is a very effective mechanism for dealing with real danger situations. It prepares our bodies to attack, defend or flee from a potential threat. However, when these hormones flood the body for a long period of time, the stress begins to do some real damage. Heightened blood pressure endangers the heart, and chemicals such as C-reactive protein further weaken the heart and other body systems. Irritability, sleeping problems, anxiety and depression also often occur.

The journey of marriage is wonderful and opens the doors to some of life’s greatest joys. At the same time, bitterness is one of the biggest marriage problems couples have. Unspoken tensions, jealousies, pet peeves, family drama… all of us experience some kind of event in our relationship that could spark bitterness. Suspected or acknowledged cheating often puts the greatest strain on a marriage. So how do we move beyond bitterness and get to forgiving infidelity?

1. Grieve
Give yourself the time to grieve your loss. An infidelity is a huge blow to the foundations of your reality, and it is painful. Acknowledge that you feel this pain, that you are hurt, and that things are going to be difficult. Recognizing your feelings helps to soften them eventually and will get you ready for forgiving infidelity.

2. Seek solidarity
Read the news, talk to a friend, or find a support group. Realize that many people are going through what you are right now, and many experience worse. This in no way delegitimizes the pain you are feeling—it should give you a sense of strength and perspective to your emotions.

3. Talk it out
It is essential to talk to the person that hurt you if you are going down the path of forgiving infidelity. Communicate with your spouse openly and honestly about how you feel. At the same time, try to understand the other person’s underlying concerns and mental state. This isn’t an excuse—it is an explanation. Understanding will help you to reach a calm common ground.

4. Think of your health
Keep this article in mind. Realize how much damage you are doing to your body and mind by not forgiving infidelity. You have a right to your feelings…you also have the right to have a long, healthy, happy life regardless of other’s unjust activities. After all, “living well is the best revenge,” (George Herbert).

I also suggest calming activities such as yoga, meditation, prayer, or other mindful activity. These can reverse the effects of stress.

How about it? Do you find bitterness (and it’s ugly siblings, Regret and Envy) dominating your life? How do you deal with it? Share your tips and stories about forgiving infidelity and more!