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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: 2018

Friday, May 25, 2018

Affair? (Self Worth, Desire, Feelings).

"Responsibility is Freedom"  Esther Perel 

"Behind every criticism is a wish"  John Gottman

Thinking of having an affair? Having one?  Had one?  Have a partner who had one? Lots of folks come in to my office to talk about it.  Sometimes with their partner, sometimes without.  So many questions come up.

Some folks have tried working on things and some have not.  Some feel guilty; some feel justified; some feel elated from a new experience; or utterly destroyed.  Some feel scared; some ashamed,  some confused, some self-righteous, and some, all of the above and more.  Including all kinds of enraged, sad, frightened, frustrated and trapped, justified and happy. Depending on which partner you are... the one who has gone out, or the one who has not, and depending on what you believe, need and feel, both about yourself, marriage, life and love.

So many reasons why people have affairs.  So many pieces of the puzzle. So much struggle to have or create a partnership which  meets our needs for love, desire, good sex, intimacy, support and connection.  For good feelings in life.  So many things to consider.

Its hard sometimes to pull it all apart.  And perhaps, the first step, even harder, is to want to.  To believe somehow, somewhere, that being in a discussion with yourself, with a therapist, that having some conversations about what you need, fear and desire, what you feel and what the different parts of yourself are trying to accomplish as they vie for your attention, is worth the trouble.  Its not always easy to discuss what you are doing, and feeling and how to navigate it all.

Lots of folks worry about the kids.  They wonder how it will affect them.  What if this, what if that...  How is it that our own needs as adults compete with the needs of our children?  And maybe moreover, how is it that our own needs to be good parents, to look ourselves in the eye as parents, compete with our needs for an emotionally, sexually, intimately satisfying partnership?

What do we do with our moral compass, our values, our desires and our very real frustrations and emotional pain?

When do we operate on values, not just feelings?  And what are those values anyway?  Who decides?  Are we better off not really being awake to any of it?  And slipping into it?  And then dealing with whatever comes up?  For us?  For our families?  What do we do when we really believe we cannot tolerate things as they are, and we see no way out, no way to get relief, to manage, to live in the world, in our own lives and our own skin?

And  since our desires and how we work with them are woven into our self worth, and our choices  shape us, what do we do with all this?

Is it better to just operate on rote and let whatever happens happen? Or could we be open to having a new experience with ourselves?  To suspend the blame, the judgments, the fear, and be more conscious?  Can we want to help ourselves to take a closer, more curious look? And if we do, will be have a new experience with those around us?  A better one?  A better life?

It seems to me, to be very much possible.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Marital Matrix - Four Truths and a Lie

I just wanted to share a few observations about marriage that I've come to believe.  There is so much information about how to make marriage work these days, so many ideas, therapies, predictions, so much advice.  It's hard to know how to sort it all.  And most of its pretty good, actually.  Tons of books, blogs, vlogs, podcasts... sometimes we just need to keep listening and reading and unpacking and trying to find our truth.  But from where I sit, having been working with couples for over 20 years, I offer you four truths and a lie.  (A bit oversimplified, but relevant nonetheless):

Truth One:    Too much entitlement felt by either spouse can take down a marriage
Truth Two:    Too little self esteem  in either spouse can take down a marriage
Truth Three:  Difficult in-laws can take down a marriage
Truth Four :   Too little or unsatisfying sex can take down a marriage
One Lie:         Its not worth trying to fix it

Abuse aside (and I am not defining it here), it is worth it.  When we thrive as individuals, the marriage does better.  When the marriage thrives, the individuals do better.  Yes, its painful.  Yes, there are lots of feelings, and undercurrents and thoughts and perspectives and beliefs and perceptions and things to sort through.  Sometimes, we'd rather be right than married.  Sometimes we'd rather suffer silently.  Sometimes we just want the other person to suffer, or to understand or change. 

Sometimes we'd rather believe that nothing is going to help.  Sometimes we have an overblown or underblown sense of how things should be, whose fault it is, what our capacity (or our spouse's) for change is, and whether we really need or want help.  Sometimes, we proceed in ways that we ourselves don't even realize.  And maybe we don't care.  Sometimes we are too angry to really listen, or to try or see if maybe we could have an entirely different experience.  Sometimes we are afraid to rock the boat, even if the boat is adrift.

In my office, sometimes I help people separate and resettle well.  Sometimes I help them stay married and make things better.  Sometimes I help them figure out which one of the above they really want to do and why.  And sometimes we just talk through the pain of it all until the next right thing becomes clear and  we know what to do and how to feel better.