Healing A Marriage When There Has Been Infidelity

6 10 2013

Healing A Marriage When There Has Been Infidelity

Healing a marriage when there has been infidelity takes teamwork. As a marriage therapist for the past thirty years, I’ve met with countless clients who thought that this would be the end of their marriage.

“Ben” and “Kathy” came in to see me after Kathy found out that Ben had been involved with another woman. It was even more difficult since Kathy knew the woman. She learned that they had been meeting when Kathy thought Ben was working. Through their willingness to fight for their marriage they were able to discover, despite this very low point, new possibilities and reason for hope. They were willing to deal with the damage of shattered trust. Then they entered into constructive remediation around issues that were not the cause of the infidelity, but that led to their marriage being vulnerable to the temptation of infidelity.

Both spouses must commit to getting the marriage back, or possibly getting to where it never was. This calls for courage. The infidelity may flag a boundary issue, difficulty with a new stage of family life (such as children or aging), or possibly indicate more chronic factors within the marriage or within one of the spouses. Marital infidelity is often both a problem as well as a symptom for whatever else may be missing or not working within the marriage. This makes it a difficult presenting problem since both need to be adequately addressed.

Many couples do work through this trauma and are able not only to reestablish their marriage as it once was, but bring it to a newer and healthier place. With sincere efforts from each partner, a commitment to look deeper into oneself and the relationship, plus the assistance of a trained professional, healing often is remarkable.

There are some infidelities, however, that are not of a sexual nature. While these may appear to be less severe than sexual infidelity, they can also cause harm to a marriage, especially if left unchecked.

For example, one partner may have a relationship that mimics an affair in that a third party or entity takes an inordinate amount of one’s time, energy and emotional investment to the detriment of the primary marital relationship. This “third party” may be the custom of sharing daily coffee, or a similar get-together, with a co-worker without the marriage partner’s knowledge.

Another “third party” can be seemingly innocent leisure pursuits or good works. There is a big difference between a hobby that allows a spouse to bring more to the marriage versus extracurricular activities that drain or pull the person away from the marriage. This can include such things as one’s golf game, over-involvement with the children, career, or a volunteer commitment in the civic, political, or church arena. Whenever one spouse is heavily engaged with some third party, then this third party can really be seen as a “mistress.”

Similarly, internet chatting can be either sexual or non-sexual and has the potential to be a dangerous form of unfaithfulness within the marriage. This particular problem can also become an addiction and needs to be addressed, often through the use of an intervention.

http://www.foryourmarriage.org/

 





The Selfish Spouse

27 09 2013

selfish spouse2

Extreme selfishness or “narcissism” has been described as one of the major enemies of married love and of love within the family. This description is psychologically correct because selfishness, while falsely appearing to have many benefits, actually turns the person in upon himself/herself, thereby interfering with healthy self-giving which is essence of marital love. Subsequently, this personality weakness creates significant pain and suffering in marriages and families. It is a major cause of marital anger, permissive parenting, addictive behaviors, infidelity, separation and divorce. Unless it is uncovered and addressed, selfishness will lead spouses to treat loved ones as objects and not as gifted persons. Studies show that selfish people are more likely to have romantic relationships that are short lived, are at greater risk of infidelity, lack consistent emotional warmth, exhibit game-playing and dishonesty and manifest overly controlling and violent behaviors. These behaviors in young adults are often fostered by highly permissive parents.

Charles, a 32-year-old married father of three children and a successful professional, manifested periodic explosive anger in his marital relationship particularly when his needs were not met immediately. Charles was overly demanding, insensitive, self-preoccupied and he had difficulty in giving himself to his wife, Kimberly. As the older of two children, he was always his mother’s favorite, and according to his wife, he had always been spoiled. In addition, Kimberly believed that her mother-in-law had never accepted her and she found her to be intrusive in the marriage.

In marital therapy it was pointed out to Charles that he manifested a number of narcissistic personality traits that predisposed him to excessive anger. He was highly resistant to therapy and attempted to blame all the marital problems on his wife. It was suggested to him that when he felt extremely angry he should try to act in a more mature and giving manner and to think about forgiving his wife.

Kimberly was an intelligent, giving wife and mother. She was highly committed to making her marriage work. She came to realize that her major emotional conflict was that of being an enabler to her husband�s narcissistic behavior and by doing that, she was damaging their marriage. She embarked on a course of healthy assertiveness with her husband. For a number of months the tensions intensified in their relationship to the point that Charles threatened to divorce her.

She viewed this threat as highly manipulative and challenged him to proceed. At the same time Kimberly tried to forgive Charles regularly for all the hurts of the past caused by his narcissistic behavior even before he made a commitment to try to change. She also tried to work at forgiving her mother-in-law in order to protect herself from the damaging effects of her own resentment toward her.

The possibility of divorce created enormous stress and anxiety for Charles and motivated him to work on his narcissistic anger. When angry, he began to employ forgiveness exercises. He came to understand that he had developed strong narcissistic tendencies because of his childhood and adolescent relationship with his mother. He worked at trying to forgive his mother for spoiling him and for depending too much upon him as a source of happiness in her life. He apologized to Kimberly and asked for her forgiveness and trust. Charles’ impulsive and explosive behavior diminished slowly through the use of past forgiveness exercises with his mother.

Unfortunately, many narcissistic spouses are reluctant to change and their marriages end. Some individuals would rather give up their spouse and children than give up their self-indulgent behaviors.
How selfishness harms marital/family love:
It can lead to
a. an inability to maintain a healthy loving relationship
1. strong feelings of loneliness and sadness in spouse and children
2. a poor marital friendship
3. failure to seek the happiness and good for one’s spouse
4. poor marital communication
5. a marked weakening in the ability to trust which is the foundation for loving
6. substance abuse or pornography
7. unhappiness at holidays, birthdays or special family events
8. an unwillingness to work on resolving marital difficulties
9. a lack of faith
10. unstable self-esteem
11. permissive parenting
12. lack of respect for one’s spouse
13. mistrust in the family members and leads to anxiety
14. weakness in self-giving to a spouse and children
15. regular overreactions in anger
16. resentment in regard to self-giving to a spouse and children
17. excessive love of self to the disdain of spouse and children
18. immature behaviors and weak leadership in the family
19. infidelity, separation and divorce
20. a materialist mentality
21. the contraceptive mentality

— Richard P. Fitzgibbons

 








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