Affairs may be experienced as traumatic, particularly for the hurt partner, trust becomes seriously damaged and both partners can feel a sense of hopelessness about the future of the relationship and the possibility of recovery. So, how can we begin to understand what an affair means, its impact, how each partner can cope following the discovery of an affair
and whether there is a possibility of healing and repairing the relationship? Here are a few points to consider:
- Affairs may take several forms, when most people think of affairs, they imagine the typical scenario where one partner cheats and has a sexual encounter or relationship with someone else, outside of the relationship. However, affairs may also be solely emotional (involving no sexual or physical contact but where there is a sense of romantic intimacy), or they might involve being on dating apps or talking to other people online. In whatever form, affairs represent a betrayal for many people and damage the secure base of a relationship.
- Depending on the type of affair, how long it has gone on for, what the relationship was like beforehand, the personal histories and previous experiences of each partner and whether either or both partners are willing to try and repair the relationship, the prognosis for recovery will differ.
- Initially, both partners need to decide whether to re-commit to each other and begin the work of healing and repair, or to end the relationship. If they decide to try and work on the relationship, there are several steps that must be taken if this task has a chance at success:
- The affair must end, trying to repair a relationship where there is an affair ongoing will only lead to further hurt and damage to the relationship;
- The partner who had the affair must offer the hurt partner an apology and the hurt partner needs to feel that this is genuine;
- The couple needs to begin to understand why the affair happened and its’ impact on the relationship and each individual;
- Trust needs to be gradually re-built and a new vision for the relationship may ultimately be created.
It is not easy for a couple to recover from an affair, but it is possible. It is recommended that couples seek out therapy in attempting to work through the process which can be painful, frustrating and very triggering for most people. A therapist can help support and guide you through this process and assist you to maintain a sense of hope and facilitate healing and the creation of a new relationship. Esther Perel, a couples’ therapist, writer and presenter says that when an affair occurs within a couple, that relationship is over, however, a new relationship may be re-built following an affair, with the same person.
After an affair, your relationship will not be the same, but that can be a good thing. Some people who do the “work” and recover from the affair say that their new relationship is even better, stronger and more connected than it was previously. The process of recovery requires a lot of patience, understanding and commitment. If, on the other hand you decide not to continue the relationship after an affair, working with a therapist can also help you to cope with, understand and heal from the experience.
Parental Overwhelm – 4 helpful ways to keep your head above water:
It’s book week on Monday, the forms for Nippers are due, you need a babysitter this Saturday night and your daughter has broken her glasses…again!! If you’re a parent, you’ll be familiar with the seemingly never ending list of “To do’s”, the constant checking of the calendar for what you need to do next and all the “stuff” that needs to get done for and around our kids.
Whether it’s making a costume for the school play, helping out with homework or a project, birthday parties, play dates, weekend sport and after school activities, not to mention all the washing, food preparation and general life organising that has to get done, just to keep up with everything. This can all be very overwhelming!
So, how can you cope with all of this? How can you keep your head above water and manage it all so that the stress and anxiety doesn’t rub off on your lovely offspring, or effect your relationship, work and general wellbeing? The following are 4 helpful ways to deal with parental overwhelm and hopefully make the job of parenting a little less stressful:
- Make time to attend to yourself
- Get organised
- Your relationship
- Doesn’t have to be perfect
- Make time to attend to yourself and your own needs. It’s like when, on an aeroplane, they say “secure your own oxygen mask before you secure your childs”. If you can’t breathe, you can’t possibly be any help to them. So, take the time to breathe and check in with yourself. What do you need to do so that you are better able to cope with all the tasks that have to get done? It might be that you need to get some regular exercise, which will help you to better manage the stress or anxiety you may be experiencing. You might need to go and have a massage to help ease some of the tension you’ve been holding in your body. Make time to re-connect with yourself as a person (whatever that means for you), not only as a parent, so that you can fill your “cup” which will then mean that you have enough reserves to attend to your children and their needs, wants and associated admin.
- Work on getting organised. Make lists, prioritise them, diarise everything so that you don’t forget about it. Create a family calendar that you can share with your partner or whoever might also care for your child. Remember to get organised in your own life as well. Set aside time to do your own personal admin and where possible, outsource, delegate and share the load with your partner or other significant person in your childs life. You don’t have to be Superwoman/man and do it all by yourself.
- Make your relationship a priority. If you have a partner, make sure you make time for the two of you as a couple. People can quite easily fall into being “co-parents” and end up feeling like “flat mates” who just work together to manage all the child related work that needs to be done. So, make sure you have a regular “date night”, however often you can manage it, but ideally weekly or fortnightly, where the two of you can get together and remember who you are as a couple. Even if you don’t go out because babysitting is scarce, do something special at home, where you can re-connect and switch off from the daily pressures that can sometimes get in the way of spending quality time together. Think of it as an investment into your relationship, with the bonus of knowing that if you are happy as a couple, your kids will benefit too.
- Finally, give up the idea that you have to do everything or need to do it perfectly. It is so common for people to put unrealistically high standards onto themselves and sometimes onto their children too. This is not helpful and only adds to the sense of overwhelm you can feel when you are a parent. So, if you have to buy, or throw together a simple costume rather than painstakingly making an amazing creation by hand, thats okay!! If you need to order pizza or make eggs because you’ve had a crazily busy day and can’t fathom cooking a perfectly nutritious, delicious dinner, that’s okay too! Your kids will thank you for that as well.
If you have trouble with doing any of the above because you have a tendency not to look after your own needs and seem to always put others first, or can’t seem to let go of putting those very high expectations onto yourself, it may be that there are schemas and modes that are getting in the way of being able to do this (for more information on this talk to your therapist at the Good Mood Clinic). This is where therapy can be very useful, by helping to address the barriers to putting some of these coping practices into place.
What does “good communication” in couples look like?
Top 5 tips:
When couples come to therapy, one of the most commonly expressed hopes is that they want to improve their communication.
This can mean a few things, for instance, some people will try and communicate with each other but just end up fighting, other people don’t fight at all, but are distant and avoid communicating because they are trying to avoid potential conflict.
Still others, will try and express their needs, views and feelings, but do not feel that their partner has really heard them or responded in a way they would’ve hoped for.
So, how can we communicate with our partners and not experience these negative, upsetting and potentially damaging interactions in our relationships?
How can we strive for good communication?
The ideas that follow come from the work of Dr John Gottman, who has done extensive research into couples and what makes them “succeed”, or otherwise
(see www.gottman.com and his concept of “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”).
Begin Gently – Gottman’s research has indicated that the first three minutes of a conversation can predict (with 96% accuracy), how it ends. If you start in a harsh way, by being critical or using a harsh tone, then your conversation will likely not end well. So, start gently and approach your partner with kindness and caring.
Reframe a criticism you might have into a complaint – If you have an issue you’d like to address with your partner, instead of attacking them as a person, talk about the issue, how it has impacted on you and try not to blame your partner.
Listen – if your partner voices some of their own concerns, do your best to listen and resist the urge to plan your counter attack. If you give into this urge, you won’t really hear them and then communication stalls. If your partner voices a complaint, try to be open. Take a deep breath to calm yourself and instead of becoming immediately defensive, try and take some responsibility for (at least part of) the issue, hear them out and respond with love and generosity of spirit.
Be kind – sometimes when conversations turn into conflicts, emotions can run high, people feel wounded and react by going on the attack. They might call each other names, become mocking or
sarcastic and even get quite nasty. This is NOT doing your relationship any good. So if you feel like the situation is escalating, take some deep breaths, remember that you have a choice in how you respond and choose to foster your connection, not damage it. Describe your feelings and refrain from describing your partner’s negative attributes. If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed and losing control, let your partner know that you need a break so that you can calm down and that you will come back and finish the conversation when you are in a better frame of mind (use that time to calm yourself).
Repair – if things do get out of control and you or your partner have become critical, defensive or nasty, attempt to repair, by saying something like “I’m sorry, that came out wrong, can we start again?”, or you could try to repair by physically reaching out to your partner for a hug. It is important to know what works for your partner here, for some, words might be best and hugs might not be the best option, so talk to each other about this, because just as important as making a repair attempt, is that the other person receives it. This can open the way for connection, understanding and good communication.
Some problems in a relationship may never be resolved and will play out over and over in your relationship like a loop. This is where your or your partners schemas may be involved and could be getting triggered. Over time these patterns of interaction can become like vicious cycles and lead to hurt and distance in your relationship. More on this and how our schemas might play into our couple relationships in my next post…
GradDipPsych, M.RehabCnslg, M.Couple & Family Therapy
To make an appointment to speak with Leona, call us now – 0427 088 176