There are few betrayals in life that can change our entire reality as much as infidelity can. Whether you have been the offending partner or on the receiving end, each side has a very unique set of challenges when going into a recovery process. We use the word “recovery” very intentionally as it indicates that we are trying to reconnect with the parts of ourselves that we have lost, either before the infidelity or perhaps long before. That is to say, that infidelity and all that led up to it do not happen in a bubble or independent of the rest of life. These issues are also complicated by our individual bio/psycho/social histories as we all bring our unique set of tendencies, beliefs and ways of being into our relationships.
Generally, recovery in infidelity can begin to take place as the follow questions are answered:
Do I believe that my partner truly understands why they did what they did?
Does my partner genuinely understand how this betrayal has affected me?
Does my partner have a plan to ensure that this never happens again and do I believe it?
In therapy these questions are often the road map to recovery and reconnection. Like any map though, it is to be expected that on the way to these answers we will make visits to other destinations and questions along the way.
Recovery is a very delicate process for each side. The betrayed partner may feel in shock and suddenly unsure of their surroundings and how they fit into their own lives now. They may feel shame, humiliation, vigilance, anxiety, self blame, anger, unwanted repetitive thoughts, sadness, grief and oftentimes numbness. Likewise the betrayed partner may experience feelings of extreme guilt and shame, remorse, regret, a loss of sense of self, embarrassment, desperation and fear. These lists of symptoms and reactions certainly is not an exhaustive one.
Whether you are the person who has been betrayed or you are the one who has done the betraying, believe that there is a road to recovery because there most certainly is. If you are interested in 1-1 help to get through this turbulent time, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Ryan to discuss how you might be able to repair or save your relationship.
Have you been told or suspect you have been abusive?
In relationships where domestic violence and abuse occurs, instead of both partners being equal in the relationship, the balance of power is uneven.
While abuse is uniquely different from relationship to relationship there are very evident and predictable patterns. An abuser may use all of some of the following methods as abuse progresses.
Emotional, Verbal or Psychological Abuse: name-calling, put-downs, humiliation, jealousy, mind games, making the victim feel crazy, making the victim feel bad about her/himself, making the victim feel as though they are to blame, and comments such as “No one will ever love you as much as I do,” “No one will ever believe you,” and “You’re so stupid, fat,” etc.
Financial Abuse: the perpetrator uses money as a way to control their partner or to keep the victim from leaving, such as not letting them work, taking their paycheck, forcing them to take high rate installment loans for bad credit, giving them an “allowance” (or not allowing them to control their own income), counting their receipts, not allowing them to establish their own credit and withholding financial information from them, among others.
Spiritual or Cultural Abuse: denying the victim the right to practice their religion or to pursue religious, spiritual or cultural activities, belittling the victim’s religious beliefs, or stating that certain forms of abuse are justified as a cultural tradition or as acts supported by religious beliefs.
Sexual Abuse: any unwanted touching or kissing, forcing or demanding sex, forcing unprotected sex, coercion and manipulation of sex (“if you don’t have sex with me, I will….”).
Physical Abuse: shoving, hitting, kicking, slapping, punching, pinching, grabbing, hair pulling, biting, strangling, or intimidating the victim with threats of physical abuse (such as throwing objects, or punching walls).
Often, an abusive partner will begin by using emotional or psychological abuse (such as name-calling or putting the victim down), and then escalate to other forms of abuse, such as physical violence. Typically, the violence starts off more subtle and then grows in frequency and severity.
The cycle of abuse involves three phases, including:
Tension-Building Phase: this phase is characterized by the victim sensing tension and fearing an outburst. During this stage, the victim tries to calm the abuser down and may “walk on eggshells” to avoid any major violent confrontations.
Violent Episode: this phase is characterized by outbursts of violent, abusive incidents by the perpetrator. During this stage, the abuser attempts to dominate his/her partner with the use of violence. This phase may include physical or other types of abuse.
Reconciliation: this phase is characterized by the abusive partner showing affection or offering an apology, with the appearance of an “end” to the violence. During this stage, the perpetrator shows overwhelming feelings of remorse and sadness. Some abusers walk away from the situation, while others shower their victims with love and affection.
However, the violence does not end here. The cycle then repeats, over and over.
When abuse does happen you may reflect to notice how you responded to your partner after the episode has ended. Some common examples are:
“It wasn’t me, it was the alcohol/drugs”, etc.
“You made me do it”, “You know how to push my buttons” or “You know how to get me going”
“I didn’t mean it”
“I just lost control”
“I won’t do it again”
Can you stop this behavior?
Yes, of course. Abuse is often a learned behavior and/or an extraordinarily maladaptive and harmful way for the abusers to get their needs met.
The good news is, because domestic violence is a learned behavior, it can also be “un-learned”. With appropriate healing of their past wounds/hurt/pain, accountability measures and self awareness tools, abusive partners can go on to have healthy, respectful relationships if they accept responsibility for their actions, identify and challenge the belief systems which contributed to their unhealthy behaviors and learn healthy, non-violent ways to interact with their partners.
Because a perpetrator’s abusive behavior has often been learned over a period of many years, it can take a significant amount of time to change.
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