A Peaceful Life’s Blog

Cheating Discovered! Now, Can We Recover?

Learning that  a partner has been cheating is devastating. The security of your relationship is suddenly shattered. You can feel everything you relied on about your partner has profoundly become a thing of the past.

cheating recovery

If you’re the hurt partner you may feel overwhelmed, perhaps asking yourself:

–How did this happen? I thought we were fine. Or,

–Okay, maybe we were having some rough patches — less time for ourselves with busy careers and kids’ needs, less connection, but, still. . .

— And, often, the most challenging: Why??

For the partner who went outside the marriage or relationship, there is often both intense shame and a desire to move on as quickly as possible. No matter how hard you try, your partner’s extreme emotions do not subside.

In this post, I’m going to reassure you that couples can work to recover trust and close connection following the acknowledgment of cheating. I’ll also share with you how a proven, well-researched approach to healing has the potential to guide you back to a secure relationship.

First, Some Facts About Cheating

Research tells us that about 70 percent of couples choose to continue the relationship after cheating is discovered. While divorce is two times more likely following disclosure of infidelity, the research indicates the majority of couples want to work things out.

Unfortunately, cheating is not a rare occurrence. We know that 25 percent of men and 15 percent of women engage in affairs that involve intercourse. And, when emotional and other intimacies with an outside person occur, these numbers increase by 20 percent.

What Constitutes Cheating?

The ease of reaching out on the internet has brought up the need for many couples to more clearly define what is meant by “cheating.”

A partner may see texting with others or corresponding with someone outside the marriage or  relationship as “harmless,” particularly if there’s been no in-person contact. His or her partner or spouse may strongly feel otherwise.

The best definition we’ve found of cheating is: Cheating is whatever your partner feels is unacceptable.

When one partner puts time, effort and energy into contact with another person, the impact on the other partner or spouse can feel threatening to the relationship and hurtful — no matter what form the cheating took. The partner may feel he or she is not important enough or inadequate and that what started as casual contact could evolve into something even greater.

The Challenge of Healing After Cheating

When an affair is discovered, the emotions of the hurt partner are complex. He or she feels this intense pain because their partner felt a need to look elsewhere for connection and/or intimacy.

Compounding the pain are the deception and hiding of the outside relationship that occurred during the affair. The hurt partner can feel, “Not only did you cheat, you also lied repeatedly.” The hidden and deceptive nature of cheating can be as damaging to trust as the intimacy that took place.

The couple now is challenged to restore trust and confidence in the relationship, but amidst the initial shock and dismay after cheating is revealed.

Understanding the Emotional Roller Coaster of Cheating

Indeed, the emotional turbulence that typically follows discovery of cheating is, in itself, a tremendous challenge for the couple to navigate. The injured partner is flooded with anger and sadness, and the injuring partner feels any attempt to soothe or reassure is never sufficient.

And, here’s why emotions are so heightened: When you met and fell in love with each other, you formed an strong, compelling bond or attachment. You were powerfully drawn both physically and emotionally to your partner. You became the most important people on the planet to each other!

We know from years of research that humans are hard-wired to connect with a special someone. Our brains are — and this is verified by brain scans — highly activated when we are in the loving presence of our spouse or partner.

Chemical reactions heighten our attraction and connection to our partner. You can recall how much you were drawn to each other, and how being apart in those early days could be so difficult.

If you have children together, you are powerfully connected through those experiences as well.

Therefore, it is no wonder that the discovery of cheating causes so much emotional distress. Suddenly, there is anger. anxiety and emotional intensity on the part of the hurt partner. Couples are often surprised by the intensity of these feelings . . . and how long they can continue.

Surviving the Emotional Intensity

As part of successful healing, each partner learns to fully and constructively express their emotions.

For the injured partner, he or she is not only angry and hurt, there may be intense anxiety about whether the cheating is still occurring. Trust has been broken, and this partner struggles to contain his or her fears for the future of the marriage or relationship.

For the partner who went outside the relationship, the challenge is to not avoid listening to their partner’s concerns or to diminish the hurt their partner is feeling. The deeper emotions of the injuring partner can center around shame and guilt for harming the relationship and the hurt that has been inflicted.

Too, the offending partner doesn’t know what to say to ease their spouse’s pain. “I’ve apologized so many times, but my partner is still so angry.” “I don’t know what else to do.” “I don’t know how we can move forward when my partner’s emotions are so intense.”

“We’re Stuck! Nothing Is Making this Better.”

It’s not unusual for the wound of infidelity to take over many aspects of the marriage. Small arguments become easily escalated because beneath daily interactions is a profound disconnection.

For example, one partner’s failure to remember to take out the trash is suddenly an expression of lack of caring for the hurt partner’s needs or of the disconnected status of the entire relationship.

A phone call or text that is not answered promptly now causes the hurt partner to become both angry and anxious.

At times, intimacy is often unwelcome by the hurt partner.

Often the couple is unable to reach resolution and healing because attempts to discuss the cheating often result in intense emotions by the hurt partner and avoidance by the partner who went outside the relationship. They are seeking to reconnect; however, they are both frustrated — and often feeling overwhelmed — because so little progress is taking place.

How Counseling Helps Couples Heal From Cheating

After so much expression of anger and pain at the discovery of cheating, the tendency for many couples can be to “let it go.” In other words, because couples feel so stuck, they may begin to avoid further attempts at discussion.

Unfortunately, the unresolved trauma to the emotional connection and trust is not healed. The injury to the security of the relationship is still likely to resurface.

In the words of Dr. Susan Johnson, the leading creator of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT), “The only way out of these attachment injuries is to confront them and heal them together.” EFT is one of the most-researched and  most-successful couples-therapy methods.

To heal the pain of an affair, the couple needs to go beyond forgiveness and re-establish the ability of the injured partner to trust again.

The “good news” is that a skilled therapist (trained in EFT or the other leading method, Gottman Method Couples Therapy) can gently guide you toward resolution. We have a proven road map to not only address the pain of cheating but also to strengthen your relationship.

These powerful, tested couples-therapy methods offer you not only the possibility of recovery, but also the potential for renewing your bond and to learn to maintain a closer, secure connection into the future.

Taking the First Step

As experienced couples therapists, we know how difficult it can be to come to counseling following disclosure of an affair.

The most common fear we hear is that the therapists will “take sides” with one of the partners. Fortunately, the care and thoroughness of the development of these two powerful couples-therapy approaches actually eliminates such a position for the counselor.

Rather, we help you understand the role of secure connection in your marriage or relationship. You’ll learn how to communicate differently — and much more effectively! — and how to more deeply and thoroughly tap into each other’s emotional needs. To learn more about Emotionally Focused Therapy and our approach, click here.

To help you with making your decision, we offer a free 30-minute consultation so you can meet your therapist, ask questions and learn about the counseling process. We want you to be as comfortable as possible as we begin this important journey together. Click here to sign up for a consultation or a session.

Other articles that may interest you:

Avoiding Relationship Conflict Isn’t As Safe As You Think

Loving An Addict


Avoiding Relationship Conflict Isn’t As Safe As You Think

Avoiding Relationship Conflict Isn’t As Safe As You Think

If you’re making efforts at avoiding relationship conflict, you certainly are among many couples who alsoavoiding relationship conflict refrain from making their needs known.

Often we’re afraid to speak up to our partner for any number of reasons, such as:

  • “It’s a small thing, and maybe it’ll get better on its own.”
  • “I’ve mentioned it before; I don’t want to be nagging.”
  • “If I bring up the issue, I’m so afraid it will spark an argument.”
  • “I really don’t want to bother my partner with my own needs.”

Yet, as you’ll learn here, avoiding relationship conflict has a serious downside. I’ll help you understand how speaking up actually improves closeness and emotional connection. And, I’ll give you some insight into why you may hold back and be reluctant to express yourself.

The Price of Avoiding Relationship Conflict

It’s impossible to not occasionally feel hurt or disappointed by our partner or spouse. He or she can forget something important to us or unintentionally hurt our feelings.

Here’s the dilemma, however: When we are upset, it actually takes a lot of energy to hold in our hurt feelings. We may ruminate, keeping the negative thoughts rolling around in our heads. We may — even worse — look for other faults or neglect on the part of our partner.

Slowly, we can be building the seeds of resentment — often feeling far worse and perhaps building up anger and disappointment as time goes on.

Looking Deeper

We may work at avoiding relationship conflict for  a variety of reasons, some of which we may not be fully aware. For example:

  • If you grew up in a household with a lot of anger and arguments, you may be more cautious about approaching your partner and speaking up, fearing an argument could occur between you.
  • On the other hand, if important issues were never talked about in your family when you were growing up, you may lack a of model for addressing concerns.
  • Sometimes, our parents may not have been good at responding to our own needs or requests. We never felt heard or truly understood or our parents did not know how to connect with us. Speaking up to our partner now as an adult can feel downright foreign — and scary.

Couples Have Cycles of Dealing with Relationship Conflict

What we know from research about couples is that we unconsciously form ways of coping with problems with our partner. We call these “negative cycles.”  These cycles are challenging styles of communication that couples struggle to break. These cycles may be patterns of endless arguing and/or silence and avoidance. Issues never get resolved when couples land in these cycles.

These negative cycles, over time, create distance and disconnection, reduced emotional closeness and often lead to reduced physical closeness and intimacy.

The most common cycle is Pursue and Withdraw. One partner wants to talk, wants answers, and literally pursues their partner to get them to engage in the discussion (which may have by now evolved into an argument). The other partner, not knowing what to do with the partner’s pursuing and possibly angry approach, withdraws, goes silent, maybe leaves the room.

The withdrawal then causes the pursuing partner to become more angry  (and hurt that their partner won’t respond to them). Then, the withdrawing partner withdraws further. And the cycle continues until the couple tires or realizes they’re headed nowhere.

Other cycles include when both partners are so angry they are verbally challenging each other, sparking continued arguing and sometimes bringing up past issues that were never resolved.

The third type of cycle is when both partners withdraw and move away from the conversation.  But, the hurt feelings continue to erode connection.

No matter the type of negative cycles, issues are rarely fully resolved.

More Insight Is Helpful

So, now let’s look deeper beneath the negative cycles to one of the root causes of couples who struggle with avoiding relationship conflict.

Each person’s position in the negative cycle often reflects his or her attachment style. Attachment is how we relate to those closest to us, and  is typically formed as a child. However, attachment styles can change depending on significant life events.

A person with a secure attachment style feels safe in their primary relationship with their partner and generally feels capable of receiving and giving love and maintaining a close connection.

On the other hand, a person with an anxious attachment style may worry about the security of the relationship, can struggle with any signs of rejection and may need a great deal of reassurance that they matter to their partner.

The third style is avoidant. People with this attachment style can be uncomfortable being too close to others, may struggle to depend on and share emotions with the partner and can try to be self-reliant, denying his or her need for closeness.

And, we can have a mixed style, most often a combination of traits of the anxious and avoidant types.

In Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, you’ll learn how attachment styles can contribute to avoiding relationship conflict. The anxious person may likely pursue; the avoidant one may withdraw.

Tying the Pieces Together

So, now we’ve learned about the underlying forces that can contribute to a partner’s fear of speaking up about their needs.

It’s important, as well, to realize the hazards. When we don’t speak up to express to our partner our needs and wants and/or to let our partner know we’re feeling hurt, we jeopardize closeness, connection and trust.

I fully recognize that speaking up in our primary relationship is a far greater challenge for some people more than others.

However, the rewards are great when we do let our partner in to our inner thoughts and concerns. We gradually break down walls that may have grown between us, reach new depth of understanding and nurture and strengthen our loving bond with each other.

Here’s Help

You’ll find more in-depth information on the essentials of communicating with your partner in these two additional articles:

To learn more about reducing anger when working to resolve issues, click (here).

To learn about tips to getting your point across effectively with your partner, click (here).


Communication in Relationships: Learn to Be Deeply Understood

Communication in Relationships Can Be Challenging for Many Couples. 

communication in relationshipsProblems with communication in relationships can lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, arguments and, over time, a reduction in connection and closeness.

On the other hand, good (and even great) communication in relationships results in maintaining closeness and trust and being able to positively resolve different points of view on important issues.

So, you might be wondering: What makes the critical difference in healthy communication in relationships, particularly in yours? I’ll help you understand the elements of effective communication with your partner and how to help each other break through to a new level of understanding.

The Important Role of Feedback

Think of a time when you were encountering road repair, and there are signs posted to warn that there are no lane lines. You likely slowed down and became more conscious of keeping your car in line. It was harder, though, because those lane lines are really helpful.

Providing feedback to our partner is like those lines in the road. We can gently let our partner or spouse know when he or she is hurting our feelings or when we feel ignored or unimportant.

Also, we can let them know when they are on target with us: It’s vital to also tell our partner when they are doing something that is important to us and meaningful. This is how good communication in relationships encourages our partner and lets them know their actions truly matter and make a difference.

The Important Bond with Our Partner

A main key to maintaining a healthy relationship is understanding the attachment we form with our partner. This “bond” is what draws us to him or her and is the root of our strong desire to stay close and connected, to feel important to our partner and to reach for our partner in times of both need and joy.

Children develop a powerful bond with their parents. Too, adults form a powerful bond when we fall in love. These attachments are hard-wired into humans; we will seek to be close to another from infancy until old age. And, as adults, we will value our partner’s attention and caring above all others.

Maintaining this bond can have challenges. When we’re upset with our partner, we may not be telling them in a productive way about what we need. We’re not giving them those “lines on the road” that help our partner know how to please us. Maybe we hope things will get better (but our partner doesn’t know we’re upset); then, when there’s no change, we may get angry and/or argue.

Disappointment Is, Actually, Inevitable in Our Relationships!

When we are close and relying on our partner for emotional connection, there will be times of misunderstanding. It’s part of being a couple. We’re two different human beings, with different backgrounds.

You can look at it this way: If you’re going to dance close with your partner, at times you might unintentionally step on their toes. Or our toes get stepped on as well.

Hurt feelings can result from our partner forgetting something important to us, not understanding our needs and not responding to us in the way we’d like, or not picking up on a cue that we need them.

So, it’s very important we learn to let our partner know how we feel and what we need.

Guidelines for Positive Communication in Relationships

Giving our partner feedback provides them with a deeper understanding — and with those essential relationship communication“lines in the road” to what is truly meaningful for us.

Helping our partner understand the impact of their actions provides those guidelines.

Positive feedback can include:

  • Expressing thanks and appreciation sincerely and often
  • Letting your partner know the true meaning of their action
  • Maybe adding the deeper “why”

You might say, “I felt so reassured and important to you when you decided against going out with your coworkers on Friday because you know I’ve been stressed lately.”

Or: “Thank you for remembering my mother’s birthday and for all the things you did to make it special for her. I really felt you understood how hard it is for us to celebrate since Dad passed away.”

Now, Expressing Hurt or Disappointment

I know this is much harder for most couples. We don’t want to hurt our partner’s feelings or, worse, create an argument.

Yet, giving our partner insight into what really matters to us is vital for healthy communication in relationships.

Therefore, letting our partner know that his or her actions bother us includes:

  • Setting aside time to talk when there are no distractions, and you are both willing (not tired, hungry, etc.)
  • Starting with the emotion you feel and avoiding beginning with “when you . . .” (This often puts our partner in a defensive mode) Thus, you might begin with, “I’m feeling sad because I wanted more of a surprise for our anniversary rather than our usual celebration. We’ve been so busy lately, I think I needed to feel special. And, perhaps, I should have let you know earlier. (More about this in my next article!)
  • Allow your partner to respond. What are their thoughts and feelings?
  • Make a request and include the meaning — and thank them for understanding. “Next time, I’ll try to let you know what I need. I’m so glad we could discuss this and that you understand me.”

Important! The Benefit of the Doubt

Sometimes, in the absence of information or if we’re feeling less connected with our partner, we may assume our partner has a negative intent. These “negative assumptions” can take over when our emotions are high. First, ask yourself what you might have done differently to connect or prevent a problem.

I believe couples rarely intend to be hurtful or neglectful to each other. Then, it’s critically important to examine whether we have created our own negative assumptions about our partner’s actions before seeking to understand what he or she was thinking.

When we approach our partner with a positive, curious mindset, we’re nurturing our connection — and we’re helping our partner understand us in a new way. We’re respecting our bond . . . and deepening our understanding and connection.

For more on communication in relationships:
How to Control Anger in Relationships

The G.I.V.E. Communication Guide


If you’d like to chat about what your options are for working with one of our skilled couples therapists here in Denver, visit our calendar to see who’s available for a chat or a complimentary consultation.


How to Control Anger in your Relationship

How to Control Anger: Yes, You Can Tame the Beast!

You’re not alone if you and/or your partner struggle with how to control anger in your marriage or relationship. Do any of the below sound familiar:?

— “One or both of us gets easily triggered when certain issues are brought up (such as his or her family, finances, challengeHow to Control Angers with the kids . . . even sex)”

— “The smallest things lately can lead to big arguments.”

— “My partner doesn’t seem to hear me, so anger is the only thing that gets his or her attention.”

— “When we argue, we often end up saying hurtful things to each other — and those mean statements linger and linger.”

— “We don’t like conflict, so we never resolve anything important. Then, it comes up later in anger.”

Emotions are part of being human and — of course — part of our relationship with our partner or spouse.

However, you can learn to tame the anger and turn feelings of hurt and disappointment into productive conversations that yield greater understanding of yourself and your partner.

In fact, you’ll learn that sharing our emotions with our partner is the best way to calm our heightened feelings and how to control anger. What’s complicated, though, is that our partner  actually can be the trigger for our anger and other strong emotions.

Understanding Emotions and How to Control Anger

There are two levels of emotions: secondary and primary. Understanding the difference is key to developing greater understanding of our partner’s needs — and to expressing our own requests in a healthy way.

Secondary emotions are ones we can see. These include anger, irritability, becoming quiet and avoiding, criticism, blaming and defensiveness. Secondary emotions show we’re upset, yes; but they don’t reveal the true cause.

The primary emotions are what push the secondary emotions that you see. The primary emotions are where the true meaning lies. The most common primary emotions in relationships are fear (of disconnection from your partner) and sadness and hurt.

Other primary emotions include: Hopelessness, feeling rejected, feeling not important or loveable, feeling inadequate to meet partner’s needs and feeling unwanted or unattractive.

All told, primary emotions are powerful. Yet — and here’s the tricky part — we ourselves are often are not aware of the primary emotions that are surfacing for us. Our partner can’t know either because all he or she sees are those secondary emotions.

Let’s See Anger in Action:

Drew is angry that Avery is repeatedly late and that he doesn’t call to tell her he’s behind schedule. When he arrives home, she lets him know how upset she is. Her voice is raised, and her facial expressions warn him that she’s furious.

The way out of this is, actually, both simple and difficult: Drew calms herself, and goes inward to try to understand why Avery’s lateness is so troublesome to her. She believes it’s because she gets afraid something has happened to him. Too, she feels maybe he doesn’t care about her or her feelings and is not respectful of her needs.

Avery feels bad, but he doesn’t know what to say. He felt he’d be even later — and Drew would be even angrier — if he took the time to stop and call her. In truth, Avery hates to disappoint Drew. He feels sad and anxious anytime he does.

Here’s the good news: Drew can let Avery know the real reason she’s upset. It’s about fear he’s been hurt and a fear she’s not important to him. Avery, in turn, can let Drew know that he feels both shame and guilt when he upsets her.

Tips for How to Control Anger

I’ll help you understand the basics of, first, how to calm yourself and, second, how to constructively discuss your feelings with your partner. I’m going to take you step-by-step through how Drew and Avery were able to get to the root of Drew’s anger.

To begin, one of the basic approaches of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, the most-effective approach to helping couples, is teaching couples to “slow down.”

When you’re upset, the emotions-control part of your brain is activated. Our responses to an anger trigger can be fast and furious with minimal forethought. But the escalated anger can cause our partner to shut down or become defensive and limit the potential to work through an issue.

You Can Learn to Slow This Angry Automatic Reaction

First, take a few moments to ask yourself some key questions:

  1. What was the “cue” or event that caused me to feel upset or angry?
  2. What deeper meaning did this cue have for me? (For example, “My partner doesn’t care about my needs.” “He or she is selfish.”  “I’m not important.”)
  3. What primary emotions lie beneath my anger? Sadness? Hurt? Fear?
  4. What do you need your partner to understand about your experience? 

Letting Your Partner Know Your True Feelings

This leads us to how you and your partner can learn how to control anger and have a very-different type of conversation. I advise couples to calm themselves first, avoid accusatory words or tone (such as “When you . . .”) and to remain curious and open about your partner’s feelings and his or her response to the issue you are raising.

After you’ve taken a few moments to understand how to control anger and answered the four questions above, you may be more calm. This way, your partner is less likely to become defensive as a response to your anger.

It may be helpful to take a few deep breaths, which tell your brain to become more relaxed. Also, try to let go of any negative assumptions you may have about how the conversation will go. Common assumptions could include, “We never get to the bottom of things” or “My partner never hears me.” You’re going to try a different approach this time.

Five Steps to Anger-Free Communication

Here’s how you can apply what Drew did to let Avery know how she truly feels when he’s late. There are some basic steps.

  1. Begin with your primary emotions. “I’m feeling so anxious when I’m expecting you at a certain time. I get so afraid that something has happened. It feels almost paralyzing. I get stuck in a circle of worry.”
  2. Allow your partner to hear what you’re saying. If he or she has questions, be calm and open to learning their thoughts and concerns.
  3. Calmly let your partner know what you need. “I’m okay with your being a little later if you let me know. I’d really appreciate you calling me. This way, I won’t worry and be angry if you’re behind schedule.”
  4. Again, slow down so you can hear your partner’s thoughts by asking, “What do you think?”
  5. If you both have agreed on a solution, restate your agreement and future actions you’ll take. “Thank you for understanding me! I’m glad you’re Okay with calling if you’re running behind schedule.”

Giving yourself time to tune in to your own primary emotions helps you get to the real root of the issue. Together you can “make sense” of your anger,  learn how to control anger and have discussions that lead to greater understanding and to resolving important concerns.


Angry familyA Few Words About Anger Out of Control

When anger turns to violence in a relationship, there is great cause for concern. The couple needs a physically safe environment in order to be able to have meaningful conversations and resolve concerns.

Importantly, children are impacted emotionally by violence in the home.

If there is violence in the relationship, this issue needs to be addressed. If you feel unsafe at home, you can reach out to local resources, including domestic-violence shelters such as Safehouse Denver that can provide assistance in how to get the help that is needed.


If you and your partner want to learn how to control anger in your relationship, our couples counseling can help you identify what’s really going on under that anger and how to communicate it in a way that doesn’t cause fights or shut each other down.


Do Husbands Create Nagging Wives?

Do Husbands Create Nagging WivesNagging Wives. Do Husbands Create This? Sort Of…

I have news for you, and you might not like it. If you are a man who sees his wife nagging, criticizing, or not letting something go, then this post is for you.

Last week I wrote about women not being able to see their contribution to relationship issues. And this week, I’m focusing on the dudes, or anyone who feels like their partner doesn’t give them a break. There are different types of nagging, but I’m talking about anything that ends up possibly turning into a fight. Sometimes, fights look like both of you arguing with each other, and sometimes you feel more like you are not saying anything while she does all the talking/nagging/yelling. Then, there’s the mixture of the two.

Some men have a shut-sown mode that kicks into gear when they are managing conflict. You’ve probably heard of the fight-flight-freeze response to a threat, and this is no different. It’s called being flooded, and it happens when you are kind of numbing out when things get too intense. You might go blank, feel numb, confused, or just so damn angry that you don’t want to say anything because you worry that you’ll just make things worse. Inside, you’re just trying to ride this out and stay calm.

But, on the outside, you are like a stone wall. No interaction, no showing any feelings. You’re gone. This is called stonewalling. And it probably drives your wife nuts. She might accuse you of being a robot, not caring, etc. She’s likely to explode and/or totally shut down and give up.

This turns into a vicious cycle where you guys have a conflict, and pretty quickly you’re stonewalling and she’s nagging, and the more she nags, the more you stonewall. The more you stonewall, the harder she tries to get somewhere with you. It’s important to see nagging/demands/criticism and stonewalling as things that feed off of each other. It’s rare that one person is always the instigator. Rather, you both fall back on that tactic and it sets the snowball rolling downhill. Couples soon find themselves unable to talk about anything without ending up like this.

Even though there are reasons that you end up stonewalling, the consequence is that it teaches your partner that they have to try harder and harder to get you to show up in the relationship. They have to get louder, harsher, and more upset just to feel heard.

This probably really sucks for you. And it’s dangerous for the relationship – these patterns predict divorce.

Throw a Monkey Wrench Into This Vicious Cycle

If you see that your partner is just getting more and more angry no matter how hard you try to let it go, numb out, etc, then your partner is feeling like you don’t get it or don’t care.

I’m going to give you a two step tip for helping to smooth this out a little.

  1. To help the anger and nagging, you have to let her know that you do understand and care. Anger is the emotion that comes out when we feel like we have to fight to be understood. Try just saying that you get it, you get how she’s feeling. Notice how I’m not telling you to agree with your partner’s perspective. You are simply giving your partner a lifeline that there is someone home who cares about what’s going on, even if they are frustrated and have no idea what else to say.
  2. You have to help her understand that you are just overloaded and can’t talk right now. If you let her know what’s happening with you and that you aren’t just shutting down to punish, abandon, or anger her, then she’s more likely to hear you and back off. 

You aren’t saying it sarcastically, and  you might not even use those words. The main thing is that you are trying to break up the cycle by letting your partner know that you get that they are upset, but that you are too overloaded to respond. This itself is validating, and it communicates that you care. Because believe it or not, if your partner is convinced that you are shutting down on purpose, she will see that you are really going the distance by trying to help her understand what’s happening for you. And throwing the small bone of telling her that you understand that she’s really upset will at least make her feel like you see her and her feelings. You may not have a solution for them. You may not understand everything that’s behind them. But you see them and you care. This goes a million miles toward softening the nagging.

Partners who get what they need don’t persist and nag. If you are having a hard time with this and feeling like nothing that you do is enough to meet those needs, it would be a great idea to have a consultation with one of our experienced Denver Couples Therapists to discuss what we could do to help you both feel saner and more effective in your relationship.

Relationship Problems and Women: Can You See Your Part?

balancing relationship problemsWhat Makes it Hard for Women to See Their Part in Relationship Problems?

When you feel like you do everything for everyone and get no consideration in return, it’s hard to have sympathy for your spouse’s complaints about relationship problems. Maybe you can’t see anything but how you are being taken for granted. When you are struggling for years in not being heard, or having your emotional needs met, it makes you deaf to the needs of your spouse. Relationship problems seem like they happen despite all of your efforts.

If you are miserable, it hardens you. If you are trying to get through to your spouse to do more, care more, listen more, the anger can put you into a position of doing a lot of yelling, criticizing, and nagging. You feel justified. You’re angry and exasperated, and that’s what happens when you aren’t getting a response from your partner. This can happen to either a man or a woman experiencing relationship problems, but women are often the ones who are more emotionally dissatisfied  in a relationship. Add in the feeling that you are doing more than your fair share, and you have an understandable recipe for resentment and blame:

“So what if he’s hurting, I’ve been hurting for a long time.”

“Maybe if he hurts now, he’ll understand how I feel.”

“If he really cared, he’d do more and he wouldn’t turn me into this nagging, yelling monster.”

But, there’s a price to this.

If you are in so much pain that you can’t see your contribution to your relationship problems, you’ll both be very stuck. I see a lot of women who bring their husbands or partners to therapy hoping that it will make them change. Do more to help. Be more respectful. Listen and care.

Women have a lot on their plates, and maybe you do too. They are often responsible for the lion share of what goes on in a household or family. Career (or not), children, housework, shopping, it all adds up. Factor in your partner’s need for physical intimacy and you may just feel like you are going to scream.

Burnout has a price: When it comes to solving relationship problems, there can be so much anger that you can’t feel empathy for your partner. You can’t take your share of the responsibility for the state of the relationship. 

This leaves you feeling alone and taken advantage of in the relationship.  If your partner didn’t care, why would you try very hard to meet their needs?  This makes for a vicious cycle that blinds you to your own contributions to these relationship problems.

I would never pin all of the blame for unhappiness on one partner in non-abusive relationships. What I’m suggesting is that if you think that all of the problems in your relationship are your partner’s fault, there’s more to the story. You may feel like this partly because of being overloaded and burned out.  Understanding this, catch yourself when you are feeling like the victim. Notice what your mind is telling you about the story here. Even if you aren’t sure of a way out of the patterns you have created together, remember that you have created them together. This can go a long way toward paving a path for you to get your needs met.

It’s tempting to think that if your partner would “just stop being an emotional cripple” that your life would suddenly improve, but believe me, it’s not that simple. Recognizing that things like burnout or overwork can make you less friendly toward your partner’s needs or complaints is a good first step toward avoiding the pitfall of being unable to take any ownership of what’s going on in your relationship.

If your mind is saying, “It’s because I’m burned out that this makes me so mad that my partner can’t clearly see what’s going on with me,” then couples therapy can really help with this. We specialize in helping you get through to each other in new ways that are totally different from what you are used to.

Next, I’ll be writing a post on why some men can’t see their contribution to the problems in their relationship, so stay tuned! In the meantime, let’s meet for a free consultation with one of our excellent Denver couples therapists.