Category Archives: infidelity
Every couple argues, and every argument affects their intimacy as well as the emotional distance between them. Some disagreements leave only minimal or temporary scars that fade with time. The couple’s love continues to deepen, seemingly undamaged. Unfortunately, escalating or stinging arguments can leave deep and lasting fissures that damage relationships.
Many areas of conflict can determine the fate of a relationship, but the most crucial one is each partner’s underlying attitude is towards the other. Whether unconscious or intended, that core set of thoughts is often deeply embedded, pervasive, and negatively biased. As the argument heats up, one or both of the partners will fall back into this default position, dooming any hope of successful resolution.
Default positions are most likely to intensify in established relationships. The longer people have been together, the more they are likely to repeat established patterns. These ritualistic interactions usually emerge slowly in intimate relationship but can explode early on if any differences are pronounced and passionate. Because they are often intertwined with positive aspects, they can often stay invisible too long, causing much greater problems down the line. They are also deeply defended against rational inquiry, and can be notably resistant to change.
When these internal, fixed attitudes are not identified and corrected, the partners in an intimate relationship do not realize how much power they have to affect their disputes. They do know that most of their arguments leave them drowning in whirlpools of confusion, often not remembering what they were arguing about, or why their resolutions didn’t hold.
Negative default positions are often relationship destroyers. No matter how much a more typical relationship partner loves and values another, he or she will not be able to survive continuous onslaughts of negative default positions. It is the classic “I can’t win for losing” conundrum.
Anytime either partner comes from a core experience of a basic negative attitude towards the other, all disagreements will eventually be twisted into a one-sided criticism that defies reality. Those pre-determined expressions of invalidation will doom the targeted partner to a life of defending his or her basic worth. Unless martyrdom is the goal, that person will eventually leave the relationship.
If you can identify your own fixed, negative default positions, you can replace them with a far more successful set of skills that can turn frustrating, repetitive conflicts into positive resolutions. When you have mastered that new process, you can create a deeper intimacy through embracing each other’s differences and opening up to the possibilities of deeper intimacy.
Examples of Negative Default Positions
Wipe-outs are verbal invalidations that erase a partner’s estimated value in the moment. The partner using a wipe-out will use any interaction to exaggerate faults and minimize any positive contribution. Any attempts by the target of a wipe-out to rectify a misunderstanding, make-up for a mistake, or just to create a quality interaction, are met with challenges. These continuously criticized partners live in the tragedy gap of never feeling “good enough.”
Negative Default Position:
She’s such a loser. I wonder what excuse she’ll use this time.
She: “Hi honey. Dinner is going to be a little late. I got stuck in the market talking to our next door neighbor and lost track of time. How are you?”
He: “What do you mean, how am I? What’s that, your attempt to cover up breaking the deal again? I might as well never believe anything you tell me because you can’t keep your word. Why do I ever expect you’re going to do what you say?
She: “Hey, you’re being really mean. Let up. It’s no big deal, 15 minutes. Why are you so angry?”
He: “Don’t lay this on me just to get out of it. Just because it’s a small example doesn’t mean you get to minimize it. Don’t bother. I’m going out to get a hamburger.”
Some relationship partners are so concerned with being controlled that they won’t let their partners have the final say in anything. They will argue, invalidate, or dismiss any comment that might put them in the one-down position, even if their partners are correct. Their core feeling is that their partners will dominate them if they are not kept in their places. Because of their fear of being less-than, they don’t allow in any information that might change their minds.
Negative Default position:
He would run my whole life if I allow him to.
He: “I just saw Tim and Jean at the park and they want us to join them later for a BBQ? I told them we were free tonight. How about it, sweetheart? It’s a beautiful night and we haven’t been out all week. Might warm us up a little.”
She: “You always spring these things on me. I already have something I have to do tonight. Tell them thanks but maybe some other time.”
He: “You told me this morning that you were looking forward to the weekend because you didn’t have any obligations. You didn’t tell me you already had something you had to do.”
She: “Just because I told you I didn’t have any obligations doesn’t mean I wanted you to find one for me.”
He: “But you told me that you like this couple and wished we could spend more time with them. I don’t understand.”
She: “Just don’t make plans for me without asking first, okay? I’m not some kind of plug-in partner whenever you want to do something.”
Unfortunately, there are intimate partners who are so afraid that their desires will be thwarted that they imagine the worst possible outcome and pre-defeat their needs. Any partner behavior that smacks of a potentially positive outcome will be met with a rapid invalidation. They would rather live an unfulfilled life than risk disappointment or disillusionment. They usually attract positive people who want to save them from their continuous expectations of doom. Those locked-in expectations of loss can defeat even the most ardent of rescuers.
Nothing ever works out for the better, so why even try?
She: “Hi, honey. I’ve got great news. I got the promotion and the raise. We can finally plan that great vacation we’ve always wanted.”
He: “Does that mean you’ll have to work longer hours. You’re never home as it is.”
She: “Well, probably for a while. But why are you focusing on that? This is the opportunity of my life to finally make it and you were all for it. What’s the problem?”
He: “I’m not trying to spoil your deal. I just know that things don’t come for free and we’ll have to make sacrifices. I don’t want to count on something without knowing what it’ll cost. And it always does, you have to admit. So we get to go on a great vacation. They’ll take it out on you some way, and we’ll be the losers.”
Successful Default Positions
It is not possible for couples to eliminate all default positions. Everyone needs a confident and secure platform to fall back on when they are in a conflict situation. If relationship partners understand each other’s core attitudes and evaluations, they know what to expect in a disagreement. Until those core evaluations are clearly seen and changed when necessary, the couple will drown in repeated disagreements and are doomed to repeat them.
For positive conflict resolution, both partners must be willing to re-evaluate their default positions on a regular basis. They must strike a balance between validating each other’s positions while being while simultaneously being realistic about their differences. When couples are willing to openly communicate their core default positions to one another, they can evaluate together whether they are relationship supportive or destructive.
If a couple understands the danger of extreme negative default positions, they can begin making them more realistic. They must also reevaluate what they truly feel inside as a disagreement begins. Negative extreme positions highly correlate with eye-rolling, extreme doubt, and words of invalidation or defense. They are impervious to new data. It is similar to a courtroom situation where the gavel has come down and no new discovery is allowed.
Successful default positions have several things in common:
They are objective
They are flexible
They search for old negative patterns that hurt the relationship
Both partners are eager to rid themselves of any locked-in prejudices that can keep them from learning more about each other. They are interested and intrigued by where their fixed biases were formed, and why they have continued to use them.
Examples of Successful Default Positions
Most partners get into trouble when they argue because each loses perspective and holds more tightly to their own reality. As the disagreement takes on energy and fear of loss, they are more likely to fall prey to an old pattern that erases any reality but their own.
Intimate partners, as they strive to be deeply heard and validated by the other, can feel the negative energy begin to destroy that possibility, and stop it before it takes hold.
Successful default position:
You are important to me. Your way of looking at any situation matters to me. I never want to win at your expense or erase what you are feeling and thinking. Our best solution to any argument is a new truth forged out of mutual respect for each of our positions.
He: “I just don’t like that restaurant. The food tastes old, the waiters are rude, and the prices are too high. Don’t ask me to go there again.”
She: “I think you’re being really rigid about this. We’ve had good times there before. You’ve even recommended it to our friends. Why should one bad night make you want to cross them off our list forever?”
He: (heating up) “You’re not listening to me. I had a lousy time tonight. Why can’t you just accept that I’m angry and stop trying to change my mind?”
She: (Realizing they are losing objectivity) “Hold on, sweetheart. I think we’re sliding. My default position in the past was to make everything nice and yours has been to not get ripped off. We need to listen to each other. The food was bad tonight and I shouldn’t be making excuses for it.”
He: (relaxing) “And I shouldn’t be so goddamn opinionated. I had a day filled with stupid, rude people and I’m way overreacting. Sorry, babe. Let’s call the manager and tell him how we felt about it. He’s a great guy.”
When couples begin to differ, they often become rigid in their positions. As the argument heats up, that rigidity has to wipe out any other data in order to survive. What could have been an opening for seeing the world from more than one perspective quickly becomes a top-down need to win. As each partner stiffens, the other pushes back, mocks a giving-in, or disconnects. Both seem to fear that one opinion will stand at the expense of the other.
With the loss of flexibility, both partners are likely to forget that they can damage their intimacy if either of them is sacrificed. Childhood patterns of submission or rebellion increase, and maturity diminishes.
Successful default position:
I trust you. I know that you want me to feel heard and validated. Even if we are disagreeing in the moment, I know we will find a way to stay open to each other’s way of thinking. I need to stay flexible and not jump to conclusions because staying close is better.
She: “I am really upset about the way you treated my mom today. She didn’t do anything to hurt you and you were so rude. She left upset and now I’m going to have to fix it. I want you to call her and apologize. At least tell her you were just in a bad mood and didn’t mean it. And you need to do it tonight so I can get some sleep.”
He: (surprised and rebellious) “Your mom is the most overly sensitive person I’ve ever known. I didn’t do anything that bad. She loves being a martyr and sets me up. Why aren’t you calling her and telling her that she overreacted to me? Why is it always my fault? You cater to her.”
She: (getting angrier and more rigid) “There you go again, making it someone else’s problem. Why don’t you ever own up to your contribution when things go wrong? My mom tried to be nice even after you were so critical. I’m not backing down here. You were wrong and you need to admit it.”
He: (realizing that they were slipping into negative default positions) “This isn’t good. We’re both hardening and making the other person the bad guy. I know you want everyone to be okay and I love that about you. It’s just hard when you want me to be the fall guy and I know that your mom isn’t helping.”
She: (taking a breath and listening) “You’re right. I do always defend her and that ends up making the problem between us. It shouldn’t be that way. I guess I trust you to do the right thing more than I trust her and it’s hard for me to listen to her complain about you. That’s not fair to you. I need your help to figure out a better way to handle this.”
What Are Your Default Positions?
Here are some questions that will help you identify and change your automatic default positions if they are turning your conflicts into disconnects and destroying the love between you.
When you and your partner begin to argue, what emotions and thoughts are behind your words?
As a conflict between you heats up, what facial expressions would you see if you were to look into a mirror?
Once you are locked into an argument, what do you believe your partner is thinking about you?
When you are arguing with your partner, do you remind yourself of people from your past that modeled that behavior?
Which of your default positions bring you closer or turn you farther away from your partner?
Once you are backed into a corner, can you alter your position?
Have you practiced the same default position in other close relationships?
Does your default position in your relationship truly reflect the way you feel about your partner?
It is a very helpful starting point for positive change if you and your partner honestly answer these questions and then share your answers. Come out from behind any negative default positions. Encourage each other to integrate what you consistently feel inside with how you present yourself in a conflict interaction. That process may uncover deeper heartaches between you at first, but you will become closer over time. Ignoring them will cause much more damage in the long run. What you can see, you can change.
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How often do you read about what men really deal with emotionally and mentally after a divorce? I would dare say not often at all. We rarely hear about the not-so-obvious mistakes that many men — including myself — have made and are making right now. Here are the top three most common mistakes that men make after their marriages have ended:
#1 – Rush back to the altar too soon
Fortunately, I did not make this mistake; I do, however, know many men that have. Men are creatures of habit. If you are in the habit of having a woman cook, clean, or do any of a number of other tasks for you, then it is very difficult to break that pattern. It may sound old fashioned, but many men like having the “lady” around for these reasons, as well as for the company. Unfortunately, this enjoyment sometimes clouds their judgment. Many men are so desperate to have company after a divorce that they marry the first thing in a skirt. They never get to know who this person really is or whether or not they are truly compatible. Before saying “I do” for the second time, take time to become aware of who you really are and learn what matters most to you. When you rediscover yourself, you will be able to easily see if the new person in your life is compatible. I personally recommend that you take two years before even thinking about getting back into the dating scene. During the first year, evaluate what went wrong and start rebuilding your life. During the second year, take time to discover who you are without a wife. For example, go to self-improvement seminars, read self-help books and find a support group or coach. You may be surprised as to what you learn about yourself when you have no one but you to answer to. As Eckhart Tolle says, “Intimate relationships do not cause pain and unhappiness. They bring out the pain and unhappiness that is already in you.” This can, however, lead us to mistake #2.
#2 – Become the town playboy now that you are single
I must admit that I had a bit of “playboyitis” after my divorce. It felt good to come and go as I pleased, but it gets old pretty fast. I had been out of the dating world for seven years. What was amazing to me was that a lot of the same games that people were playing when I was in college and high school were still being played by people in their 30’s! I was blown away. When I was doing research for my divorce recovery book, I discovered that the herpes virus is most common among persons that are divorced, separated or widowed. What I realized was that people still had extremely casual feelings about sex. In addition to the dangers of sex, there was also the risk of unplanned pregnancies. I know of divorced men that had children with women they didn’t love simply because they used sex as a band-aid to medicate their pain or loneliness. Think about what this may mean for that child. A good question to ask your self is, “Who do I have a chance to become now that I am single again?” Please let it be more than the town playboy. Find one woman that you can settle down with, but please don’t make mistake #3!
#3 – Introduce your children to the new woman in your life way too soon.
I am definitely guilty of this one. I wanted the feeling of my family unit back so badly that I took my kids through a lot of unnecessary heartache. Men, you have to remember that your children have gone through a lot emotionally with the tearing apart of their family. The last thing they need is to see dad with a new woman so soon after the divorce. Children love their parents, and deep down they desire to have them back together. Give them time to adjust before bringing someone new into their lives. If the woman you are dating is really the one for you, then she will understand your decision not to rush into meeting your children. If she does not understand, then you may need to reevaluate your relationship. Does she want what is best for everyone involved? Do what is best for your children.
I hope that these three mistakes have made you stop and think. The key is to remember that you control your actions and decisions. Take this time for self evaluation in order to make the best decisions for you and your children. The last thing you want to do is be the victim of any of these three mistakes!
For continued support for men after divorce, go to www.SingleAgain-ForMen.com.
Carlos Phillips, founder of Healed Without Scars Ministries and Joanie Winberg, founder of the National Association of Divorce for Women and Children have joined forces to support men during and after divorce.
Wondering how cheating could affect your divorce case? Here’s what you need to know, from Katherine Eisold Miller, a collaborative lawyer and family mediator. Have questions? Ask in the comments.
Marriages can end when one member of the couple discovers that the other has had an adulterous relationship. How important is the impact of the extra-marital relationship on the divorce itself? Legally, the answer varies from state to state. In some states, there is very little impact at all while, in others, it can have a substantial influence on the outcome.
Historically, there was a much higher correspondence between adultery and divorce then there is today. Adultery by a woman was often viewed more seriously and punished more harshly than if committed by a man. This remains the case in some countries today, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, where an adulterous wife could face a violent death. In the United States, adultery remains a crime in some states but is rarely prosecuted.
These days, adultery rarely has much of an impact on the distribution of assets — except in cases where one spouse has used marital assets to support the extra-marital relationship. For example, if a husband borrows against a marital asset in order to support his mistress, that fact would likely be taken into account in distributing the assets of the marriage.
Adultery is also unlikely to affect a custody determination so long as the wayward spouse has not carried on the relationship in front of the children or exposed them to inappropriate people or situations during the course of the affair.
In some states where fault is still a factor in divorce proceedings (even where no-fault divorce exists, in some states there is still fault-based divorce that — when proven — can impact support or property division) an adulterous relationship can seriously reduce (or even eliminate) the obligation of one spouse to pay alimony to the unfaithful spouse regardless of need. In addition, alimony already in place is often terminated when a spouse or ex-spouse lives with another person.
If the straying spouse happens to pick up a sexually transmitted disease, and later infects his or her spouse with that illness, that can give rise to a personal injury action between spouses called an interspousal tort.
Far and away the biggest, most likely and most problematic influence adultery will have on a divorce is in the negotiation of settlement. Statistically, divorce cases are overwhelmingly likely to settle — over 90 percent or more in most jurisdictions. A cheating spouse often feels guilty or sheepish in the aftermath of discovery or confession and the cuckolded spouse typically feels angry and retributive. The emotional stance of each party coming into the negotiation can drastically affect the terms of the settlement.
When making important decisions about your finances, your children and your lifestyle it is important to be in as calm a state of mind as possible. People who make the best choices in their divorce negotiations are able to separate their actions from their reactions — in other words, they are able to think about what is best for themselves and their families separately from the emotions they feel about the adultery. Choosing divorce lawyers and other professionals who can work together to support a family through all aspects of this painful situation is probably the best way to get through it successfully. More information about how this can work is available at CollaborativePractice.com and WestchesterFamilyLaw.com.
By Kristen Mark
“The story of sex in committed modern couples often tells of a dwindling desire and includes a long list of sexual alibis, which claim to explain the inescapable death of eros.”
It is this idea, that sexual desire dwindles when in a committed relationship, that Perel successfully tackles in her book. Popular perception suggests that committed relationships mark the end of sex. Yet research shows that when asked, many people indicate sexual desire as a key feature ofromantic love.
The work of myself and others in the field suggests to me that sexual desire ebbs and flows throughout life and relationships.
Research by Murray and Milhausen (2012) recently tackled the length of relationship and desire connection, and found that length of relationship (in couples who were together for an average of 2 years) impacted sexual desire for women, but not men.
In research by Klusmann (2002), men’s sexual desire tended to remain high while women’s sexual desire is found to decrease as early as one year into the relationship.
In research I’ve conducted, I found that length of relationship (in couples who were together for an average of 4 years) didn’t impact sexual desire for women or men, and women and men were equally likely to be the member of the couple with lower sexual desire relative to their partner. And in interviews with women in a relationship for a minimum of 5 years, myself and colleagues have found that there are a number of factors that impact the ebb and flow of sexual desire.
Perhaps another reason the idea exists around sexual desire diminishing with length of relationship is the strong sexual desire in passionate love that is replaced by increased intimacy in companionate love (said to occur around two and a half years).
All of this also makes me wonder, is it the relationship length that is decreasing the desire? Or simply the other milestones (kids, moving in,career moves) that happen to correspond to relationship length? And how do we keep the desire in our relationships over the long haul?
Bringing it back to Mating in Captivity, where open and loving relationships are accompanied with dull sex lives, when we love someone, we feel responsible and secure. Responsibility and security clash with desire. So as the length of our relationship increases, we become closer to the individual, we have a greater sense of security, and we lose that animalistic sense of “throw down” that was such a large part of early sexual scripts in the relationship. As Perel puts it, “fire needs air, and many couples don’t leave enough air.”
Creating that space, or “air”, is perhaps one of the things that can be done in relationships when the desire is at a low ebb. But also just realizing that the ebbs of desire will be accompanied by upward flows is one way to ensure expectations for sex don’t get in the way of pleasure from sex, especially in the context of long-term relationships.
By Linda C. Senn
When it becomes clear that your marriage is over, and no amount of pretense or counseling can fix what is broken, you’ll need to line up an attorney to represent you in the divorce process. At this extremely vulnerable time, you’ll be placing your life and your future in your attorney’s hands, and you’ll add one more worry to your ample list of stresses — the high cost of divorce!
Attorneys usually charge an hourly rate calculated in 15-minute increments — even if the service takes only a minute or two of his time. That “quick little call” you make to your lawyer could cost you from $50 up. If you succumb to the temptation to call every day, your monthly charge just for phone calls can run well over $1,000. If the process drags on for a year, you’ll pay $12,000 and up just for those brief daily calls!
Here are ten simple steps for saving big bucks over the course of separation and divorce; some of the tips are general and can be applied to other legal situations as well.
Saving money on legal fees starts before you have your first attorney interview. Round up all the personal referrals you can from friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors who were happy with their own divorce lawyers. Ask if the client’s calls were returned in a timely manner, or if sustained nagging was required to get a call-back. The bill should run far less for a focused, efficient attorney than it would for a disorganized one. Did that attorney stall or delay the process? Did she favor lengthy debates between opposing attorneys? Was her billing accurate, detailed, and free from “fluff?” These factors can have a major effect on the final cost.
During your initial telephone interview with the attorney, ask what he charges and how it’s calculated. Is it a flat hourly fee charged in 15-minute increments, or is it figured by some other method? Ask if he requires an initial retainer, and if so, how much for your situation. Complex divorces often call for a more substantial amount. Tell him that you want to keep the costs to a reasonable minimum and ask if he’ll help you to do so.
Don’t discuss the weather, the baseball playoffs, or your mother’s petunias: chit chat is expensive. Even though she’s holding your future in her hands, and there’s a natural inclination to talk to your attorney as a friend, socializing can become expensive. Allow a brief time to reconnect either in person or over the phone, then get on with business. By the same token, if you have a gabby attorney, learn how to gently but firmly bring her back to the business at hand.
Although you may find a genuinely sympathetic attorney, don’t use him as a counselor. Go to a licensed therapist. An experienced mental health professional will be more effective, will cost less per hour, and will help you deal with the emotional peaks and pits that continually throw you off balance. In addition to that, you’ll have developed a relationship with a therapist who can guide you through the rocky recovery period after the divorce is granted.
Don’t ask for special paperwork. Whenever possible, run your own copies, take notes when you talk to your attorney on the phone (so you don’t have to call him later to double-check on the conversation), and look up any phone numbers and addresses he may need in working up your case.
Don’t complain about your soon-to-be-ex unless it directly applies to the current procedure. This is so very tempting during divorce (and subsequent custody and/or maintenance hearings)! You feel compelled to point out how moronic and venal your soon-to-be-ex is, and by implication, how much better a human being you are. Resist the urge. It’s both pointless and expensive.
If you invite your attorney to lunch (or vice-versa), find out first if it will be “on the clock.” There may be times when a luncheon meeting is most convenient for both of you — just be sure you know the ground rules going in. If you’ll be discussing business, have a pen and paper with you so the lunchtime information doesn’t disappear with the last cup of coffee. Be especially vigilant about idle chatter if you’re paying attorney’s fees for the privilege.
Ask for specific ways you can save on lawyer hours, such as doing your own research, filling out forms, or mailing notices. You just might be able to shave a few hundred dollars off the final tab by doing some of the routine clerical work yourself. In a long, drawn-out divorce, ask the lawyer periodically if there are any other aspects you can take care of yourself to save money.
Consider hiring a skilled mediator to help you and your spouse arrive at mutually agreeable solutions to your financial and custody disagreements. Mediators are specifically trained to help you resolve your problems together, and the cost will probably be less that you’d pay for the opposing attorneys to argue with each other. (You’ll still need to retain your own lawyer to check any agreement before you sign it, however.) Mediators also allow you to employ cooperation and compromise in arriving at a settlement agreement, which leaves far less emotional scarring than the adversarial attorney-to-attorney method.
Do your own Discovery. Discovery is basically pretrial disclosure of pertinent facts and documents, including financial figures, by one or both parties in a divorce or other legal process. It can involve a fair amount of sleuthing time, so you’ll be money ahead if you ferret out the hard-to-find information (like hidden assets), rather than relying on your attorney to do it all.
One last word about maintaining control of your legal expenses: request itemized monthly bills from your attorney. Knowing just how your legal dollars are being spent can be the most effective aid in helping you keep them to a reasonable minimum!
Linda C. Senn is author of Your Pocket Divorce Guide and co-author with Mary Stuart, M.A. of The Divorce Recovery Journal.