I Feel Betrayed, Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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I Feel Betrayed, Should I Stay or

Should I Go?

By Joanna Alvord, LAMFT, MBA

I Feel Betrayed, Should I Stay or Should I Go?

By Joanna Alvord, LAMFT, MBA

“If you start to feel that you have given up too many parts of yourself to be with your partner, then one day you will end up looking for another person in order to reconnect with those lost parts.“ - Esther Perel

One of my favorite authors on infidelity and betrayal is the renowned sex and relationship therapist Esther Perel. Based on decades of her psychotherapy experience, she truly believes and is adamant that many marriages can recover from the blow of betrayal. That is great news! However, Esther also expresses concern over stigma the betrayed partner may face in our modern society, should they choose to stay with an unfaithful partner.

In her talks and books on infidelity, Perel deals with the unbearable pain of fractured relationships with intense honesty and compassion and offers her clients astute and direct perceptions. Although her frank methods can seem eccentric to some, if my marriage was in trouble, I’d want her help. 

What are the most common types of affairs? 

The reality is an “affair” no longer means only a sexual intimate extramarital relationship. Times have changed. We marry for different reasons nowadays. Divorce laws have changed in the last decades. Infidelity isn’t black and white any longer; it comes in all shades of gray today. One common theme is the secrecy. Some types of infidelity can be:

·        Physical/sexual affair; when one partner has sex outside of the relationship. Studies show men have a harder time forgiving a sexual affair than women do. At the same time, women may be more likely to forgive when emotions are not involved.

·        Virtual affair; when trust violation is committed through chats and sexts. This may include the viewing of pornography.

·        Emotional affair; when one partner becomes emotionally attached to someone else. Sex is not always part of the emotional affair.

·        Outside interest affair; when one neglects the relationship to pursue an outside interest to a point of near-obsession. That can include obsessive hobbies or addictions such as gambling.

Knowing what your spouse views as infidelity is key to maintaining your marital or commitment vows, so talk with your partner. Attending premarital or couples therapy can help in discussing views and expectations around monogamy to avoid future disagreements or hurt.

Perel observes, “Love is messy; infidelity more so. But it is also a window, like no other, into the crevices of the human heart.” So why part of you may be asking everyday: “Should I stay, or should I go?’, I would challenge you to look deeper.

Can a marriage heal after an affair?

While betrayal can bring unbearable pain, research shows it can be healed. As Perel emphasizes based on her experience, “an affair can even be the doorway to a new marriage—with the same personWith the right approach, couples can grow and learn from these tumultuous experiences, together or apart.”

I also resonate with Perel’s observations that “today, we turn to one person to provide what an entire village once did”. Just realizing how much hope and expectation we have put into our partner—where perhaps we should have been providing for ourselves—is key.

Also, let me note that affairs do have a lot to teach us about contemporary relationships; our wants, desires, entitlements, or even our dares. They offer a unique peek into our attitudes about relationships, lust, and commitment; unquestionably all viewed from our personal and cultural lens. What is acceptable to you is utterly unacceptable to another. What once was unacceptable to you, under today’s circumstances, can be accepted, or vice versa.

How can I decide if I should stay in the relationship?

Of course, there is always the next step to consider when facing issues of infidelity in your relationship. Do you stay with this person or not? In some cases, that question may be answered for you, with your partner leaving the relationship. Or, it may be you feeling that it is necessary for the relationship to end; perhaps your partner isn’t willing to end the extramarital affair or face their addiction. Another option is for you try to work with your partner in processing the experience, however painful, and perhaps find a way to stay together… in a new way.

Whatever you decide, make sure that you have considered the pros and cons of all options. This is where working with a therapist can be helpful. You shouldn’t have to go through this pain alone.

Infidelity of a spouse can be a traumatic experience for anyone to face. It can trigger emotions and safety concerns. However, it is something you can get through, provided are able to process it yourself, and you have the support during this difficult time.

Perel, E. (2018). The state of affairs. Rethinking infidelity. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, LLC.

 
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Joanna Alvord is a Marriage and Family Therapist at The EFT Clinic in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is currently accepting new clients. Email Joanna (joanna[@]theeftclinic.com) or call The EFT Clinic today to set an appointment.

How to Support Moms Pre, During, and Post Pregnancy

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How To Support Moms Pre, During, and Post Pregnancy

By Misty DeMann, MFTI

How to Support Moms Pre, During, and Post Pregnancy

By Misty DeMann, MFTI

Maternal Mental Health disorders, like perinatal (during pregnancy) and postpartum depression, anxiety, and psychosis are the number one most common complication of pregnancy and childbirth. During this time women are more likely to experience a mental illness than they are to develop gestational diabetes or preeclampsia. With mental illness being the most common complication for pregnant and postpartum women, you would think that doctor’s offices and hospitals would screen for Maternal Mental Health Disorders. Unfortunately, little is being done to assess for and treat these complications.

It is likely that someone close to you—perhaps even yourself—has experienced some sort of shift in mental health either pre, during, or post pregnancy. Whether it is the “Baby Blues”, postpartum depression, anxiety, psychosis, or another emotional disorder, there are things you can do to help a struggling mother in your life.

Consider the acronym SNOWBALL from the Utah Maternal Mental Health Collaborative (now PSI-Utah):

Sleep

Nutrition

Omega 3s

Walk

Baby Breaks

Adult Time

Liquids

Laughter

SLEEP: We all need sleep to be able to function physically, mentally, and emotionally. Offering to watch the baby during the day so that Mom can get a decent stretch of sleep can go a long way for her mental and physical health.

NUTRITION: Vitamins and supplements help ensure that Mom is getting all the nutrients she needs in her diet, especially if she is breastfeeding. Balanced and nutritious meals are another way to help Mom maintain her physical and mental health, but preparing meals require time and energy, something not always readily available for a new mother. Help a mom meal prep or bring her a nutritious meal to share with her family.

OMEGA3s: Encourage Mom to take a fish oil supplement which can prevent and treat anxiety and depression.

WALK: Take Mom for a walk or invite her to do something active. Exercise improves not only physical but mental and emotional health and gives new moms an opportunity to get out of the house.

BABY BREAKS: Offer to watch the baby, even if it’s for a short time. Doing this gives Mom a break and time to focus on herself and engage in some precious self-care.

ADULT TIME: Invite Mom do to something with you and other adults. We need social interaction, outside of children, to share how we feel and find connection. 

LIQUIDS: Remind Mom to drink and fill up her water for her. Dehydration can escalate symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

LAUGHTER: Send Mom a funny video, talk with her lightheartedly, and remind her to play. Laughter can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression (Utah Maternal Mental Health Collaborative, 2015).

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a Maternal Mental Health Disorder, reach out to a Mental Health Professional or Medical Doctor. If you or someone you care about is in crisis please consider calling these available resources:

UNI’s Crisis Line:  (801) 587-3000

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Postpartum Support International HelpLine: 1-800-944-4773 or Text Message: 503-894-9453

Utah Maternal Mental Health Collaborative (2015). Moms mental health matters. Retrieved from  https://www.psiutah.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/UMMHCWellnesstips.docx.pdf

 
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Misty DeMann is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern at The EFT Clinic and is now accepting new clients. Misty recently attended a training on Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders put on by Postpartum Support International-Utah. Email Misty (misty[@]theeftclinic.com) or call The EFT Clinic to schedule an appointment.

How Your Attachment Style Influences Your Relationship

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How Your Attachment Style Influences Your Relationship

By Joanna Alvord, LAMFT, MBA

How Your Attachment Style Influences Your Relationship

By Joanna Alvord, LAMFT, MBA

“We're only as needy as our unmet needs.”- John Bowlby, Founder of Attachment Theory

At the core of attachment theory is the assumption that we all are wired for connection. This primal drive to connect is wired into every human being, shaped as a survival mechanism over millions of years of evolution. We connect to survive. Hence emotional isolation can register as a life or death situation in the most primitive and fastest-to-act part of our brain, the amygdala. Some call it primal panic.

Add the fact that the reason we may feel the alert—such as needines— is not just because our adult needs are not being met; it can also be the result of our childhood needs that were not met. These unmet needs can be associated with what happened many, many years ago, but the pain of not having them met has remained trapped in our body. And when triggered, the pain can come and surface in the present.

John Bowlby’s attachment theory emphasizes the importance of a secure mother-infant bond in development of a person’s well-being and later mental functioning. One of my favorite modern authors, who expanded on Bowlby’s attachment theory, is Stan Tatkin. As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Doctor of Psychology, and one of the world’s experts on attachment theory, he wrote several books, including “Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship”. In his work, Tatkin uses attachment terms such as anchors, islands and waves, rather than the more traditional attachment terms of secure, avoidant (or dismissive), anxious (or preoccupied), or the less prevalent anxious-avoidant (or disorganized).

Anchors, Waves and Islands

The interactions with our early caregivers shaped our autonomic nervous systems. Those interactions determined the way we as infants and children engaged with those around us, and the way we tend to engage with the world now; whether we need interaction, or we need space. As life goes on, our peers and partners eventually take over the role of our primary attachment figure. They become the source of safety and confidence, or they become the source of anxiety and mistrust.

Thus, those who are anchors experienced—or learned later in life about—secure attachments. They learned they could rely on others, that relationships are important, that their needs would be attended to, and in general that the world is a safe place. According to research (Tatkin, 2012), a bit more than 50 percent of people fall into this category. Unlike anchors, islands and waves were raised in an environment where relationship did not come first, and their needs were often not met by their primary caregivers. Therefore, to self-protect and to have their needs met, from a very young age they had to adapt themselves to their environments. 

Now, it’s not that islands and waves do not want relationships. We all do. Islands and waves will just struggle more with trust. Waves tend to believe they are going to be abandoned, that it’s inevitable, questioning if others will be there for them, and so they tend to be more dependent and often cling to others. They may sometimes even look for proof of an approaching abandonment, and this fear activates their attachment need for contact. They tend to seek reassurance about themselves and seek safety from others. On the other hand, islands believe that if they depend on another, their independence will be taken away, and they will feel trapped, or even in danger of being suffocated in a relationship. In order to avoid these emotions, islands tend to seek distance. The fear of engulfment is what causes them to deactivate their attachment need, therefore they diminish the need to connect with their significant other. This deactivation explains island’s distancing behavior.

What Can You Do?

Does your attachment style affect your dating life or your committed relationship? Does your attachment style affect how you communicate with your partner? Does knowing your attachment style, and that of your partner, make your relationship stronger? Yes, Yes and Yes. 

1.  So, get to know yourself! Take an adult attachment style questionnaire with your partner. Get to know how your partner functions and why they function that way. Tatkin often refers to “becoming an expert on each other”. 

2. Own your own tendencies in conflict and recognize your partner’s protective behaviors. While some attachment style combinations may be more challenging, the good news is research shows that attachment is fluid and can change during our life. We are hurt by people and we are healed by people. As paradoxical as it sounds, I truly believe the only way out of insecurity is through a mindful relationship. Knowing your own attachment style tendency and that of your partner makes the healing process easier. 

3. Ask your partner “Am I doing that thing again? Is that what causes you to feel …?” Building a healthy relationship requires frequent safe connections with your partner in order to regulate, so make room for safe connection in your life. 

4. Slow things down. Pay attention. Be mindful. Be present. 

5. Remember, the most primitive part of our brain, the amygdala, acts the fastest, and it may take a bit more time for the newer neocortex and reasoning to catch up so that we can act in a safer, more appropriate and more desirable way. 

6.  Andbe patient with yourself! This work can be demanding.

We all long for intimacy, we all long for connection. We may express this longing differently, but that longing is there even if we learned this need can be dangerous and may hurt. Understanding adult love tells us what matters and when it matters. These insights offer us a compass in the reshaping of the interactions between partners. Unlearning patterns that are heavily ingrained will take effort and time. But it is all doable, and these new neural connections are developing as you are reading this. 

Tatkin, S. (2012). Wired for love: How understanding your partner's brain can help you defuse conflicts and spark intimacy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

 
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Joanna Alvord is a Marriage and Family Therapist at The EFT Clinic in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is currently accepting new clients. Email Joanna (joanna[@]theeftclinic.com) or call The EFT Clinic today to set an appointment.

Vulnerability Pays Big Dividends

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Vulnerability Pays Big Dividends



By Ed Peterson, LCSW, MBA

Vulnerability Pays Big Dividends

By Ed Peterson, LCSW, MBA

In her book Hold Me Tight, Dr. Sue Johnson brilliantly sums up what happens when couples get stuck in negative and reactive cycles: “In insecure relationships, we disguise our vulnerabilities so our partner never really sees us.” Dr. Johnson goes on to talk about the healing power of love and emotional responsiveness in a love relationship: “Love has an immense ability to help heal the devastating wounds that life sometimes deals us. Love also enhances our sense of connection to the larger world. Loving responsiveness is the foundation of a truly compassionate, civilized society.”  

The father of Attachment Theory, British Psychiatrist John Bowlby, summed up what Attachment Theory teaches us about the key relationships in our lives: “The propensity to make strong emotional bonds to particular individuals is a basic component of human nature.“ Bowlby also wrote on how relationships with key “others” are vitally important in the growth and health of all individuals.

Given this information, here are some conclusions about vulnerability:

Attachment Theory teaches us that key relationships (in childhood with an adult care-giver and in adult romantic partners) play a huge part in the human development of a safe haven and the strong ability to be in the world and take risks; the risks are tolerable because the person knows that their partner has their back emotionally and will be there when they reach out in need.

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), developed by Dr. Sue Johnson, is a highly effective couples therapy modality that focuses on helping clients learn to communicate the softer primary emotions (think vulnerability, or the need for acceptance) that always lie underneath the more surface emotions (think anger, contempt, and defensiveness) that put us in a negative cycle of hurt and disconnection.

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) brilliantly supports couples to share their vulnerabilities, which leads to the creation of an emotional “safe haven” and a strong bond that can stand firm in the face of life’s many difficult emotional challenges.

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Ed Peterson LCSW, MBA is an EFT certified therapist at The EFT Clinic in Salt Lake City, Utah. He specializes in individual, family and couple’s counseling. Would you like to meet with Ed? Send him an email to discuss scheduling: peterson.ed.lcsw[@]gmail.com

The Realities and Big Lies of Male Body Image

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Hair, Height, and Everything in Between:

The Realities and Big Lies of Male Body Image

By: Adam Nisenson, AMFT, CSAT-C

Hair, Height, and Everything in Between: The Realities and Big Lies of Male Body Image

By: Adam Nisenson, AMFT, CSAT-C

To lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in one’s self. –Simone de Beauvoir

Becoming Ken is just as impossible a feat as becoming Barbie.

It’s no longer a secret that a woman’s relationship with her body will often be tumultuous throughout her life. The issues of body image and physical perception are being shown the cold, harsh light of day in today’s changing social climate, often for the first time, in a very real way. But while more people than ever before are aware of women and their ongoing fight with self-image, it’s not just the girls who are struggling. Of the estimated thirty million Americans living with an eating disorder, roughly a third are men, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. And correlating the ‘ideal body’ with one that looks somehow different from their own is something that’s happening at a frighteningly young age—in as early as six to eight-year-old boys, according to a heartbreaking report by Common Sense Media. So how does The Big Lie feed into this male body image crisis? And more importantly, how do we move away from trends that lead to depictions that end up endangering men and boys both physically and psychologically?

Boys, Men, and Their Bodies

There was a time when all body image, eating disorder, disordered eating, and addictive food behaviors were strictly filed under the women’s problems header. Give ‘er a vibrator, boys, she’s obviously hysterical—nothing more to be done here. Thankfully, the nuances that surround these issues have since become much more widely studied and understood—along with the fact that half of the overweight adult population and at least a million Americans suffering from an eating disorder today are in fact men. And a deeper look at the issue uncovers a startling reality: male eating and body dysmorphia disorders often go undiagnosed, untreated, and misunderstood.

Intrinsic in the outdated school of thought that cultivated The Big Lie is the idea that displaying feelings or showing emotions is a sign of weakness. Unfortunately for boys brought up to believe in this version of “manliness,” being taught to suppress any signs of sentiment doesn’t make the growing pains of life any easier.  Bullying, low self-esteem, abuse, depression, adolescence, and all the other hallmarks of disordered eating that appear in women will also make themselves known in men, but it can often be much more difficult for boys to deal with these issues openly, even among friends. This can lead to less teen boys and adult men seeking treatment for their body issues and eating disorders.

Historically, men also haven’t been held to the same unrealistic standards as women to be thin or out of proportion in the name of beauty. (Consider Adam West and his Dadbod version of Batman). But times have changed—in a big way.

Hashtag Fitness and the Superhero Effect: Unrealistic Expectations

From Hugh Jackman and Dwayne Johnson to anyone gracing a superhero costume, it’s hard not to notice a striking trend of the silver screen these days: the leading men are getting ripped. Women have long-since been exposed to ridiculous standards of beauty in Hollywood, but in recent years, a huge emphasis has been placed on the ever-present need for chiseled abs and bulging biceps on our headlining gentlemen.

And it’s not just the big screen. Turn on your computer, flip on your television, or peruse social media for more time than it takes to do a box jump and you’re bound to come across at least a half dozen people giving you their #gymmotivation for the day—replete with rippling bicep mirror selfies, ads for weight loss supplements and a guaranteed way to get you shredded in 90 days. While living a healthy, balanced lifestyle is something everyone should strive for, the fact is that most of these bulging, massive, 0% fat bodies are realistically something only attainable for a small percentage of the male population.

But that doesn’t change the message being bombarded to men—and boys—via pop culture and The Big Lie: You need big, strong muscles and washboard abs to be brave, dependable, and worthy. You must look a certain way to be a real man.

And it’s more than just the shape of their bodies. Hollywood, the media, pop culture—they repeatedly tell men they need to be lean, strong muscular. They tell men they need hair and a beard (but it must be the right kind of beard!) and offer consolation on height perception, how to fix complexion issues, sexual performance… the list goes on and on.

Keeping it Real

There has been a push in recent years for more acceptance in media, with retailers like Target and Aerie moving towards inclusiveness within their print and online advertisements. Their most recent billboards, posters, and flyers have featured female models of more varying sizes and heights, and with more normal features (yes, even stretch marks and breasts of two different sizes) left in. It’s time for this conversation to cross over—for our boys to realize that they, too, come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and flavors: and that that’s ok.

Keeping the lines of communication open, keeping an eye out for signs of depression or disordered eating behavior in your children or your friends, and pointing out unrealistic body expectations when they are being shoved in our faces with an extra helping of creatine is the first step in having that conversation.  

 
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Adam Nisenson is a therapist at The EFT Clinic in Salt Lake City, Utah where he specializes in men’s issues and sex addiction. He is certified co-leader in the ManKind Project and is also the Executive Director of the Jung Society of Utah.