Infidelity is more common than most people realize. In fact, it is estimated that 50% of men and women today will have an extramarital affair during their marriage.
Forms of Infidelity
Infidelity takes many forms. Some people have sequential affairs--a series of one-night stands or short affairs. In this day of on-line life, affairs can happen via email, texts, and social media sites. When such behavior continues for several years and finally is discovered, it is difficult to heal the years of deceit but it can be done. Sometimes affairs last longer and become more serious. These affairs may be quite romantic and sexual. Sometimes they grow into more serious relationships and may last for years.
Why Affairs Happen
Infidelity happens for many reasons. Here are a few of the common explanations:
1. An affair may be a response to a crisis such as the death of someone important, moving to a new city, a job change, or some other kind of life transition.
2. Sometimes people become bored with their partners and seek sexual or emotional excitement with someone new. The new person seems to supply the excitement that has been missing.
3. Stressful times in the family life cycle lead some to seek escape in an affair. This includes things like taking care of aging parents, raising teenagers, and becoming new parents.
4. People sometimes look for outside relationships because their expectations of marriage have not been satisfied.
5. Some people seek outside relationships when their partners are emotionally unavailable because of illness.
6. Other people begin affairs because they seek more affection than their partner can provide.
7. Other people seek professional or social advancement.
There are also many social reasons why affairs happen: factors that exist in our society that lead many of us to expect a fantasy version of marriage that could never really exist. When marriage doesn’t live up to this expectation, some of us keep looking for it outside of marriage.
Signs of Infidelity
According to National Institute of Health, Major Depressive Disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults. This is about 7% of the population age 18 or older. When you add in Dysthymic Disorder or Persistent Depressive Disorder, chronic low grade depression that does not quite fit the bill for major depression, the percentage of sufferers goes up to almost 9%. My guess is that there are many people limping around with chronic low grade depression who don't really even know they are suffering. So maybe the percentage is even a bit higher? I do not know. But it is alarming to me that almost 10% of the United States is struggling with a very painful set of symptoms we call depression. The NIH notes the signs and symptoms as follows:
These symptoms are nothing to take lightly. They can be debilitating and even cause disability. It is not completely clear what causes depression, but it appears when looking at brain scans of a depressed person that they look different from a non-depressed person's. As with many things in life, depression is probably initiated by a combination of interacting factors and systems including genes, biology, environment (stress and trauma), and psychology (inner thoughts and views of self, perception and sense of purpose and meaning). Many illnesses, including thyroid disorders, cause depressive symptoms.
Until recently, nobody really considered the impact our relationships have on our mood and maybe even our brains. This is changing. Researchers such as Jim Coan, Ph.D., Sue Johnson, Ed.D, Wayne Denton, M.D., and others are all looking into this. It appears that relationships and attachments can greatly affect our moods and life, and improving them may help decrease depression. It is exciting to me to know that we have one more option (traditional options are medication and/or individual counseling) to offer people as part of the basic treatment plan for those suffering from depression: family, couple, or relationship counseling.
For more information check out this great article by Russell Collins: Are Relationships the New Prozac?
Good relationships and social support are nature's antidepressants. Who knew? Deep down inside, I think we all did . . . and do.
I think most couples can relate to this humorous video. It reminded me not only of the importance of empathy but of the importance of embracing and accepting personal and gender differences. And hey, maybe it sometimes really is about the nail. Enjoy!
© Jaime Nisenbaum, Ph.D. Posted with permission from the author.
There is a growing body of research showing how the process of socialization of boys in our society leads to severe relational deficits later in life. One place where this lack of relational skills shows up very prominently is in intimate relationships and marriages. In my professional life as a clinical psychologist, as well as in my personal life as a husband and a father, I notice how the internalized messages about what it is to be a man in our society gets in the way of men becoming more empathic, caring, loving, and engaged in family life with our wives and children. The same body of research that has identified these issues is also helping men and their families understand and eventually change these deep-seated patterns.
Research shows that, at birth, baby boys are more emotionally expressive than baby girls but by the age of 4 years old the effects of the socialization of boys in curbing that emotional expression are already clearly visible. At that early age, research shows that boys have already received conscious and unconscious messages from parents, teachers, peers and the culture at large that being in touch with vulnerable emotions such as sadness, fear, and healthy needs for closeness and affection are not acceptable for boys. By second grade, many teachers say that they can no longer “read” the facial expression in boys who have been “trained” to hide their emotions.
When boys begin to shut off those vulnerable emotions in order to fit into the “code of masculinity” -- being tough, competitive, aggressive, and avoiding anything that is labeled “girly” or feminine -- they start a relentless process of cutting off and disconnecting from these essential parts of themselves. By the time men get married, they have been through many years of practice in severing their connection from these vulnerable and vital parts of themselves.
The negative consequences of that process on men’s mental health are devastating and range from chronic anger, anxiety, substance abuse, and violence towards themselves and others to apathy and depression. Man men also suffer from an apparent “lack of empathy” that trouble many marriages and relationships that come to my office for help. I usually explain to the men and the women in my practice that given what men are required to do to be “men,” how could it be otherwise? Empathy requires that we have access to our feelings so that we can resonate with the feelings of others. If men are taught to cut off from certain feelings, how can we expect them to be able to resonate with the feelings of others? While this explanation is no excuse for any kind of abuse, it gives a starting place for men to start re-thinking whether they want or not to continue to live up to the mandates of the “code of masculinity.”
Unless men resolve to address their internal state of disconnection, they will repeat in their relationship with others what they learn to do with themselves: to dismiss, ignore, and avoid the “troubling” vulnerable feelings and live their lives as divided and un-integrated selves.
The “code of masculinity” is maintained by both the men and women in our culture and both men and women suffer from this state of affairs. But I believe that it is incumbent on men to realize what they have been “programmed” to do and finally decide to do something about it for their own sake, and for the sake of their relationships.
About the author:
Jaime Nisenbaum, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and professor who specializes in men's issues. He has a practice in Berkeley and San Rafael, CA. For more information about him, visit his web site. www.jaimenisenbaum.com
In every interaction we have with our partner there is the opportunity to heal. I guess that is truly what love is, a dynamic powerful healing agent. We, especially partners, are deeply connected and attached to each other. Science tells us that the way we communicate can impact each other's brains, for good or for ill. I guess we can build each other up or tear one another down. I image just like me, you too desire to do good. In this video, we get some tools for creating and maintaining love and secure attachment.
The 4 Mantras:
1. Darling, I am here for you.
2. Darling, I know you are there.
3. Darling, I know you suffer and that is why I am here for you.
4. Darling, I suffer. I do my best to practice. Please help.
Listen to this great video for a deeper understanding and advice on how to love.
Yahoo posted a nice summary of the research on relationship enhancers: The 10 Ways to Improve your Relationship.
1. Solidify your friendship.
2. Appreciate each other.
3. Concentrate on the present to ensure a future.
4. Don't Distort.
5. Share power.
6. Find common goals.
7. Understand anger.
8. Break negative cycles.
9. Focus on what's fixable.
10. Accept the unsolvable.
As the title of this suggests, most of this is based on John Gottman's research. Any of his books on relationships will give you detailed information on how keep on enhancing your relationship. It is good stuff. Common sense but important to be reminded of as we live our lives in this very busy complicated world. We need our partners now more than ever. But for various reasons, creating and maintaining a safe and secure attachment can get blocked. Use these principles to open up the flow between you and your lover.
Depression is a serious problem affecting many people. Having a supportive and loving spouse, in my opinion can help in recovery. I want to say I think depression is complex and probably caused by many factors. Relationship quality perhaps being one possible factor affecting the sufferer. NPR notes some research around this. Something to reflect upon.
Keeping the love alive over time. Ester has some interesting things to say about this. Happiness, security and and sexual spark in a long term relationship are something we can actually attain.
"I feel so special when you take time from your busy day to message me a sweet little note, then I know I am on your mind. I feel so safe when you hold me in your arms and tell me you love me and I am your world, I know you will protect me until the end of time. I feel so blessed to have you in my life, being loved by you makes my world a more beautiful place."~Karen Kostyla
Stuff in the News You May Find Interesting Relating to Mental Health, Family, and Relationships from our FB page . . .
NPR report on new Mental Health Diagnostic Bible.
Those with alcohol dependence may be more sensitive.
Long Term Relationships.
Mindfulness and cancer recovery.
Early Relationships key to happiness in life.
Since April I have been doing a small class for therapists once a month introducing them to Emotionally Focused Therapy or EFT. I do not really consider myself a teacher but felt I wanted to be a part of spreading the good news about EFT. I love EFT and helping couples come together using it. I see couples go from distress and disconnection to peace and connection with each other. It is a joy to see this healing take place and I really wanted to show other therapists how to do this. It has been fun teaching others this therapy. So, what exactly is Emotionally Focused Therapy?
Evelyn Schmechtig Cochran