It is a given that resolution of an affair involves forgiveness. However, in my work, I have often noticed the following. The persons who had the affair often want forgiveness sooner than the wronged partners are ready to provide it. Sometimes this can create anger and/or frustration on the part of the persons who have had the affair because they may be feeling punished, wonder if the hurt is every going to resolved, and so forth. The latter are normal and natural feelings, but the reluctance to forgive on the part of wronged partner is also normal and natural.
The latter dynamic can create problems that exacerbate the healing process because there can be anger or a sense or impatience with the wronged partner who has not forgiven. Here is the paradox; it is incumbent on the persons who had the affairs to forgive themselves in the absence of their partner’s forgiveness in order to allow their partners to work through their feelings of hurt, anger, and betrayal that is a necessary step prior to being able to forgive.
Part of the paradox also is that the wronged partners may continue to question the trustworthiness of their partners who engaged in the illicit affair, display anger toward them, and even question the long-term viability of the relationship. The latter behaviors make it difficult for the perpetrators to forgive themselves, but they must accept the wronged partners’ responses as a consequence of the affair and accept responsibility. To do so is a concrete sign to the wronged partners of commitment, love, and respect. These are the elements that can lead to a successful resolution of an affair. It ain’t easy, and it’s often messy!
What you can expect from me is validate the feelings of both partners and to “normalize” each partner’s experience. You can also expect me help the two of make sense of the affair and to determine what is necessary to do in order to ensure that such transgressions will not happen in the future. In addition, I will help you as a couple integrate this new experience into your “couples” consciousness in a way that will help the two of you move on. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I will model compassion for two people who both going through intense pain and trying to make very hard life decisions.
One of the points I make in my introductory materials is that "I talk with you and not at you." One of the manifestations of talking with you is to share with you what I see going on in your relationship. The latter may involve identifying repetitive patterns, talking about indicators of how your rearing or other relational experiences may have a negative impact on the current relationship, noticing recurrent themes that run through the discussions between you and your partner that detract from the quality of your emotional intimacy, and other important features of your relationship.
However, the goal of the current blog is not to share with you what I think are important elements in your relationship. My purpose in this piece to let you know one of the ways in which I develop a collaborative relationship with you is that I come into the therapeutic relationship from a position of "not knowing."
The above bit of jargon means that I will notice things about you as an individual or about you as a couple if we are engaged in couples therapy. I will then construct a therapeutically meaningful summary about what I observe, but these observations are frequently accompanied by the phrase, "Does that make sense?"
The latter statement is not a reflection of my doubts regarding your ability to understand but an inquiry regarding whether my observations have been accurate. Coming from a position of "not knowing" means I respect your perceptions of how you see yourself and/or your relationship and acknowledge that I may or may not have focused in on what seems important to you. Moreover, I am asking for validation of the conclusions and/or interpretations of what I have presented to you.
All of the above stated, I do believe that a strength that I have as a therapist is the ability to take what I learn from our interactions and give you feedback that is meaningful and helpful. However, as suggested above, it has to be accepted by you as being valid or all the insights I have to offer will not help you to resolve your concerns. Just as importantly, if I impose my views on you, you will not feel safe, and no change can happen if you do not feel as if you’re in a "safe space for growth." If you do feel safe then what have seen, whether it is accurate or not, can be the beginning of a dialogue between us. Such conversations can be a model for interchanges that you may have with your significant other or with those people who are important to you in your life.
As I said in my first blog entry, this ongoing project would be an effort to share insights and to let each of you know how I think and work. I just finished watching "A Field of Dreams," a film I had not seen for many years.
I was struck by the intensity of feeling portrayed in the film as the characters followed dreams and voices fueled only by faith and hope. In the end, their efforts were rewarded by experiences they could not have anticipated.
However, this blog is not so much about the film but to share with you my reactions to it. For those of you who do not know, “A Field of Dreams” centers around baseball and the associations people in film had with it. I also grew up with baseball as a backdrop and felt the emotions welling up inside me as I saw the story unfold and followed the insights that emerged for the characters. In many ways, watching the film and allowing myself to become involved in my emotional reactions to it is a metaphor for how I work as a therapist and what I believe about therapy.
As I sit with you and develop a relationship, I listen intently to your life story and to learn about what is important to you and to experience the feelings that the story generates. In so doing, I gain an intimate understanding of your concerns and am better able to assist you. I also share my self-awareness with you to let you know that I am in tune with you.
In the introduction to this piece, I shared with you how powerful my memories associated with baseball are. I reiterate this because people often ask me, "Why is it so important to deal with the past?" The answer is that the past can be a key ingredient in the work, because, like me, many folks have strong associations with things that have happened to them as they develop. Moreover, sometimes, they may even be unaware of the strength of past experiences on current behavior.
What I do in my work is to pay attention to both the present and past and help you to weave together an intricate tapestry whose function is to help you make sense of what is currently going on in your life. The past can also be a key to understanding your behavior patterns that are ineffective. In such a case, our work is to help you "unlearn" patterns from the past and replace them with ways of being that are appropriate for your life and relationships of today.
However, as suggested throughout this brief piece, positive change may begin with addressing your feelings that may be a product of past experiences and gaining insights that will help you move beyond what has come before. My role is this process is to join with you and share with you what I learn as we spend time together. This is what I believe, and this is how I work.
The process of therapy is an odd enterprise in that two strangers come together, and you are to share intimate information with me with little mutual sharing going on. I am always aware of this imbalance in the relationship, but this odd dynamic is what makes therapy work. More specifically, by the conversations being focused on you, you do not have to take care of me; it is my job to take care of you.
Therapy is also a business in that you pay a fee for my services. The money that you provide guarantees my time. With my time comes my long years of experience, my willingness to engage with you at a deep emotional level, my unconditional respect, and my readiness to engage with you in a common effort to resolve your issues.
I share these thoughts with you as an introduction to my blog. I am admittedly ignorant of such social media, but I chose to incorporate this work in my web site in an effort to make myself known to you in terms of how I view the world, elements of my sense of humor (which is an integral part of my personality and my work), and sometimes a discussion/reflection of important issues regarding emotional concerns, relationship difficulties, and other elements of emotional health.
What I will discuss in my blog will usually come from my observations of the world, cartoons that catch my eye, and important words of wisdom provided by various people. I also encourage you, as readers and potential clients, to pose topics as well. I do caution you that I will not give advice because each of you are unique and, unlike other therapists who are willing to give canned answers, I believe that each of you deserve responses that come from knowing you intimately.
All of the above said, I hope that you find the blog informative, sometimes entertaining, and at times meaningful. Enjoy.
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