Mike: Now, I’m going to back up for something that just occurred to me, when you were talking about the infidelity, having to go ahead and just own it. Just take ownership of their own failings.
But, at the same time it also sounds like what you’re working at is the partner also has to understand that they have work to do as well. they can’t just allow themselves to fall into, what I would think to be, the trap of just seeing themselves as a victim who has been totally done wrong and has no part to play in fixing it, it’s all got to be on the other party.
Karla: Correct. If they do that, it probably won’t heal.
Mike: So, really, this is not just somewhere its okay you accepted the blame, everything is fine.
Karla: No. there’s a lot of work that needs to be done and what’s interesting though is that one of the most difficult things for somebody who has been caught in an affair rather than having to disclose their affair because they chose to leave the relationship or they just finally all want it out in the open, is the spouse wants to know everything, where did you do, what did you do, did you sleep together, how many times, where, did you pay for hotels, who saw you together, you know, that type of thing.
And the infidel is freaking out, if I tell, if I tell, if I tell the person is going to leave me. But, one of the things that you have to do is that you have to reestablish trust by answering those questions and being honest.
So, whatever needs to come out, whatever the spouse needs to know, whatever the spouse is interested in knowing, even though it’s really scary to do it, you got to tell because at that moment when you’re going through this and telling the truth about the affair, you are actually beginning to build the first foundation of trust, rebuilding trust in your relationship.
Mike: Now, one of the things that I’m looking at here is the idea that perhaps some of these problems can be prevented and its sounds to me like you’re making a very strong case, and please correct me if I’m wrong here, you’re making a very strong case for pre-martial counseling rather than waiting until after the marriage is consummated and people have been together for a long time and waiting for problems to surface.
Is that something is a course that maybe more people should follow?
Karla: Well, pre-martial counseling has the advantage of identifying the differences between the two people that are most likely to cause problems in the marriage and when you can know that my spouse differs from me on this and I’m this and he’s that or I’m this and she’s that, one of the things that it does is if you really get it and you get a concept that my spouse is allowed to be different from me and I’m allowed to be different from them, sometimes it allows you to handle differences better.
It also gives a format on how the two personalities can deal with conflict and have open communication and so, it starts you with a good platform but just because you have pre-martial counseling does not mean you will never have an affair in your marriage because things can change, life can change, circumstances can change, and like I said, technically we are all at risk if allow ourselves to develop feelings towards somebody of the opposite sex that we are in a situation with and if we are not careful.
There are things we can do to prevent affairs and all of should be willing to do that. We shouldn’t travel on business with a person of the opposite sex, to try to alone. Definitely do not go to the motel room of a co-worker when you’re out of town.
Don’t stay in the bar and drink with them. Don’t drink when you’re at meals with a co-worker because alcohol kind of loosens your inhabitation.
You don’t share problems in your marriage with someone of the opposite sex that could be somebody you might be interested in.
Talk always about your children and your spouse. Talk positively with people except those who are you close confidants, maybe your siblings or your close guy friend or girl-friend that’s the same gender.
You don’t ever share your fantasies, emotions, and dreams with somebody of the opposite sex that you could be attracted to and then you have to pay strong attention to any of those warning signs that an emotional attachment is going on and proactively not response, as well as doing your part and keeping your marriage open, intimate, spend time with your spouse, continue to work on it and that’s the responsibility of both people.
Mike: One of things is I would think pre-martial counseling could help is to set reasonable expectations of what a relationship is like because I kind of chuckled to myself when you were talking about dealing with difficult relationships and I was thinking, in my experience that was almost a redundant term because a real relationship is not about candy, roses, happily ever after.
There are always problems in even the best relationships that I have ever seen.
It’s never easy and I think that sometimes a lot of people are really disappointed to find that it’s not always going to be just wonderful and music playing in the background and romantic evenings together that there are real problems to be faced and pre-martial counseling one of the ways to try and help people understand it’s not the end of the world if you have tough times or if your quarrel or you have bumps in the road in the relationship.
Karla: Yeah, I think you could set expectations and really, as far as this goes, maybe look at one the things pre-martial counseling does is that it looks at the marriages and the growing up environment of each of the two people and ask them what are your expectations for a spouse?
What do you think your wife or husband should do if they were to be the spouse you wanted them to be? What would they be doing?
And often times it’s what that persons parents did that serves as their ideal role of what a marriage should look like and, not surprisingly, they often differ.
If you are marrying somebody whose dad was the head of the household and the mom went along with everything and she didn’t say anything and she was very quiet and then you as a women grew up maybe in a household where your mom was working full time, she was the CEO and your mom and dad had a partnership where they discussed everything and maybe your mom ran even more than your dad does, maybe she was even stronger than him.
I guarantee you that couple is headed for some type of conflict and explosion when their expectations about the marital relationship are going to collide.
Mike: So, I guess the idea is to go into a relationship and try to have some idea of certain boundaries and expectations rather than trying to make it up as you go along, which I guess is pretty common and works quite often.
I’m not saying it can’t work but the idea that you have some of these issues confronted and perhaps, if not dealt with, at least addressed before a marriage can make a difference.
Karla: And then the other one is an agreement that you make. There are a lot of people who fail and never go to counseling. A lot of men don’t want to go to counseling. They don’t want to talk about their problems.
They consider it a weakness. They are embarrassed. they feel like they don’t need anybody’s help but one thing if you marry somebody where both of you will say look when we get to a mutual place, or one of feels that the marriage isn’t working, things aren’t right and we hit a road block and we can’t get through it, can we make it an agreement that either one of us can ask to go to a counselor and the other person will go.
That is a really healthy powerful agreement at the beginning of the relationship because what it means is when you do hit that road block, you can go in and you can get some help and sometimes it means it’s a short term type of help. It doesn’t mean you’re going to there for a year.
But, it would definitely be a really healthy thing. Most people don’t have that type of agreement ahead of time but I think it’s a really good one to have.
Mike: I think people might have a mistaken impression about counseling because I think too many people might wait until a relationship is in serious trouble and its make or break.
We either get help and try to get this thing back on track or we are definitely headed for divorce. Is it better to say okay let’s not wait until we get to the brink here?
Karla: Yeah. Well, when I say road block, I don’t mean we are ready to split up and tomorrow is the day we file for divorce. I mean, over a particular issue that we can’t resolve.
And that is kind of early because it’s not something where it’s just gone on years and years without being resolved. What’s interesting about counseling with affairs, what will happen quite often, is that the spouse will demand that the infidel go to counseling and they will often go and they will agree to go and yet, in their minds, they are leaving their relationship but what they are going to do is they are going to say I even tried counseling and it didn’t work and now I’m leaving.
So, often times, the counselor will have you look at the difference between having somebody there who truly wants to end the relationship and wants the marriage to heal verses somebody who there, not really participating, just so they can put in their time and say look I even tried counseling for this bad marriage it just doesn’t work.
It’s quite interesting because there are some different characteristics that a spouse will have if they are truly willing to end an affair.
They will have a change in attitude towards the spouse. There will be a turn toward the spouse, the marriage that is different from you experienced during the affair.
There will be a deep concern about how much the spouse has been hurt by the affair. They will want to know how I have hurt you. They will be saddened.
They will mourn on how they have hurt you. They will take the responsibility without being defensive about having caused the spouse so much pain, a willingness to disclose the whole truth about the affair. No more lies.
They will also be willing to do whatever it takes to regain that person trust, whether it’s quit the job, move, never see that person again, change their cell phone, and give you all the passwords to their computer sites.
You can read their emails. You can check their phone, whatever it is that you need, call them night or day. They will say no problem, you can do that.
And that is in sharp trust to when the affair was going on because during the affair, they would hide their emails. They would hide their phones.
They would have a separate email address they set up. They lied.
They were evasive, they wouldn’t tell you things.
They will break off the relationship even though they may go through some grief over losing that person that they have become emotionally attached to and that really freaks out the spouse, when they say oh my gosh this person is crying because they let go of the lover of the partner.
And yet, if the affair is truly over and the person was really in a very intense emotional affair, they should go through some grief because grief is healthy when you end something.
If they don’t go through the grief and don’t experience the emotions of letting of this person they have become attached to that is they haven’t end it. The emotions are still there.
So, those are the things that accounts that counselors will see in somebody you should really see in somebody, if they are very serious about ending their affair.
The opposite you see is when somebody comes in there and they are uh-huh, yeah, okay, and they don’t give answer. They aren’t telling the truth, they are still evasive.
They are focused on the spouse’s problems. They are stuck on the negative of the relationship. You can see they are building a case for how bad the marriage is and how come it won’t work.
About the author
Karla Downing is an author, speaker and licensed marriage and family therapist who offers biblical and practical advice for relationship issues.
She has published three books and numerous articles. Her website is www.ChangeMyRelationship.com.
Use this link to sign up for her free relationship e-newsletter with relationship tips and truths and get your free 15-Day Relationship Challenge at http://www.changemyrelationship.com/free15daydevotional.html.
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