When couples come to me for help I must take them through some very specific and enlightening stages. These stages are designed to make it easy for both people to see the reality of why they are in trouble and help them reinvest in their marriage so it’s a win-win for both people.
I start their process by engaging in some short-term marriage crisis management where I split their behaviours into two camps.
- The things they must stop doing because they are making the marriage worse.
- The things they must start doing that will be the first bricks in their foundation to support their ability to learn what they must do to get to the right decisions.
The fundamental challenge all couples have is rooted in some kind of trust challenge.
That could be affairs of course but trust in our partners’ ability to keep us safe have our backs, want the best for us, allow us to grow, be who we want to be and trust our partner to really hear us – these are a few typical examples of trust breaks.
So the first challenge is to understand the question “…WHY are we really in this position…” what has broken that trust?
At this point, couples are communicating to me their perceptual experiences and their thoughts on why the marriage has dissolved/not working.
I usually have two very different stories about the same relationship this is normal and I’m usually getting their analysis of the reasons the marriage broke down.
It’s rare people are really seeing what happened which is why they go round in circles. They do accurately share their pain and suffering but are not accurately connected to what’s really happening on both sides.
So the next step is to help them see the real reasons they are in trouble.
The biggest problem all couples face is they are going to be struggling with those very real feelings from the past that will have caused significant resentments that have stacked over time.
Resentments have the ability to significantly distort how someone will view their relationship as the delete all the good focus only on the bad.
Note: Stacked resentment can cause detachment (self-numbing) if left for too long so please don’t let a detached person stay detached for too long without getting help.
The problem is they are likely to be struggling with is this:-
Because they are not consciously connected to their real problem they can end up with a statement that can feel impossible to solve – such as “we are incompatible” or “he has no empathy” or “she will never change” or “I can’t see a future!”
Thoughts that suggest there is no hope can lead couples to dead ends so it’s important to give the couple the tools to see their problem in solvable terms.
When a man tells me he’s had a short-term affair and his wife has found out it’s not difficult to see that what he did was wrong and this is going to be their primary focus with me.
She is going to want to take the moral high ground and will want to explore every detail. This approach will make the relationship impossible to solve so they will need a fresh perspective/approach.
I wanted to know WHY the affair happened because all may not be as it seems…
… when you take a deeper look into their relationship and we find their sex life has actually been dead for 8 years then we can quickly see there is a bigger picture to this problem than just the affair.
When we dig even deeper we can find this lady had suffered as a child with her parents and in her marriage had started feeling similar feelings of isolation and pain with her husband. He wasn’t trying to hurt her but she couldn’t make him hear her. So she wasn’t going to risk the same pain so she began protecting herself same as she did as a child just after their first child was born.
For her, it became far safer to live as a MUM then live vulnerable as WIFE.
Her husband didn’t understand what she really needed and she assumed he would just know (BTW men don’t ever just know). So she started to move away from her bad feelings and engaged the same shutdown pattern she created as a child without knowing.
She wanted to avoid feeling alone, abandoned and unloved so without knowing she started to shift her energy away from him and towards their child. She took control of the relationship by detaching from him to protect herself.
Essentially being WIFE was an energy that was far too vulnerable and MUM was much safer. Who was going to argue with a new mum that obviously needed to consume all her energy into a newborn?
Unfortunately being a MUM was such a safe place for her to get love, she stayed there year after year and this became her new pattern.
She had no idea her husband didn’t understand what she needed or how to help her connect to the emotional security she really needed.
So she had moved to protect herself from him and stayed there for years. This meant love and attraction would have died for her.
This also meant he had no way in – that he could see.
I spent time with him to hear his perspective and I discovered, in fact, he loved her so much he was willing to give up his masculinity and who he was just to please her – he let her take charge.
All she could see as the years past was he was weak and so she became very negative and treating him like a child. Whilst complaining he was like a child.
The more she pushed him around, the more he let her because he just wanted her happy both totally unaware they were creating bigger problems that could end their marriage.
Eventually, he naturally ran out of energy he had become emotionally exhausted and one day out of the blue he became vulnerable to a colleague’s advances.
Like a bolt of lightning he reconnects to himself and felt like the man he always wanted to be again – it was like breathing clean oxygen for the first time. Everything felt brighter, he felt valued and alive and but this was later contrasted with guilt and self-hatred as being a man who has affairs wasn’t who he was.
What this couple quickly learnt is it’s not helpful to see the symptom and make that the only focus. He was wrong – but so was she.
She promised to love him and she didn’t, he promised to protect her, but the way he protected her made her the man in the relationship and she resented him for that.
They never knew the true cost of these behaviours!
This couple were never going to see what they were doing until it was too late and they both broke their marriage mainly due to their fears.
When both of them could see how they got to where they were, there was then a new foundation to rebuild the relationship. They were given the tools to deal with any problem, but this time minus fear and the outdated destructive patterns.
The mission was to help them become a team focused on their core strengths of having each other’s backs and helping them into a model where every action they took created a deeper attraction/connection.
He needed to feel like a man again and she needed to feel like a woman so they were given the tools to ignite husband and wife so they could be lovers again.
Their day-to-day communication, their conflict, their problem solving was all to be rooted in building a passionate attraction, through love and security.
Where they ended up was learning that true security in their marriage would never come from focusing on their fears or trying to avoid them.
They discovered their true security comes from being self-aware and massively valuable to each other by understanding what their partner really needs and helping them feel valued.
They learnt that true security comes from a place of love, passion fun and adventure whilst they both designed a compelling future together.
Couples that protect themselves from each other can never really connect to the love they really need and they risk losing everything.
From a foundation of security driven by love, the couple were now in the right place to grow and navigate their years together this time as a team.
So now they could see their marriage together but this time in solvable terms.