Find Your Way Back from Extra-Marital Affairs

Extra-marital affairs are one way people deal with discomfort. Turning to another person who sympathizes with you can be very comforting. And many people act on what feels good in the moment without thinking about the long term consequences of turning to another person.

Some people use an affair to end a marriage. While others decide to stay together and try to repair what’s been broken long before the affair started.

In an interview on The Bowen Center’s Family Matters, Douglas Murphy, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, talks about ways to prevent and mend infidelity, including the following:

1. Look for own warning signs (such as fantasizing about another person) that you are dealing with discomfort by turning outside your marriage

2. End the affair (not because your spouse told you too, but because this is the only way to address the problems it covers up)

3. Both people begin working on their part in the co-created emotional distance

An affair is a symptom, and it offers an opportunity for growth if you take it. But you have to get beyond the affair, the hurt, and the anger to improve how you relate and think about your spouse.

To hear the full 30-minute interview and learn how to find your way back after an extra-marital affair, watch this:

Will you take this opportunity to grow you emotional intimacy or grow more distant with your spouse?

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Subscribe to Family Matters on You Tube to hear more thoughtful interviews. The mission of the Bowen Center is “to assist families in solving major life problems through understanding and improving human relationships

Find Your Happiness Switch

Happiness in Rain

Do you feel like your happiness depends on others actions? Or you can’t be happy unless the situation changes.

We are all more dependent on our environment and relationships than we want to be. So how do we really choose happiness when we are surrounded by many reasons to be unhappy?

You find the power in your ability to choose how and what you think about. To find a way to not let irritation make you miserable. In doing so, you decide your happiness doesn’t have to be so dependent on changing others. When you find this ability inside yourself, it is empowering.

Find Your Happiness Switch

I know many of your are thinking that you can’t possibly just choose to be happy. You can – you just have to find your happiness switch.

Identify what makes you go negative. And what makes you see the positives too. Most importantly identify what helps you switch from blame to taking responsibility for your happiness.

We all have emotional and thinking parts of our brain. The emotional side is often louder than the thinking side. Your emotions show up first to the scene and try to direct you through their megaphone approach.

When you get your thinking brain to show up on the scene as well, you get to decide who you want to be in charge. This choice is not a debate where you try to persuade the emotions to quiet down. The power is in the choice to feel or act different even when your emotions are loud. The first time you flip your happiness switch you will know exactly what I am talking about.

The most common things we blame  our unhappiness on is a misbehaving child or an unloving spouse. In these situations, your emotions tell you that you can’t possibly be happy unless your child or spouse changes. But how powerful it is when you find the switch that tells you that you can be happy, even when your spouse isn’t being affectionate or your child isn’t being compliant.

Let Go of Need to Blame

If we are honest with ourselves, it is the blame that keeps us from feeling more happiness. We must be ready to let go of blame, and put our thoughts in charge of our emotions.

Another classic frustration example is choosing to be happy even if driving in traffic. I can focus on how much I have to do, and how much time I am wasting sitting in traffic. And I will get more and more tense and frustrated.

But when I realize I have a choice, I can find my switch. How do I, in that moment, not let the traffic dictate my happiness?

For me, it helps to focus on what I have instead of what I don’t have. So I begin to settle into listening to good music more than grumbling about the traffic. And before I know it, I am enjoying the extra time and arrive at my destination less tense.

5 Steps to Choosing Happiness

To find your happiness switch, follow these 5 steps to choose happiness too:

1. Recognize your miserable feelings. (The easiest step to do!)

2. Identify what you are feeling dependent on. (“I can’t feel happy unless…”)

3. Decide you want to be less dependent on environment/others to make you happy.

4. Find and focus on what makes you happy in that moment (instead of dwelling on what you can’t change).

5. Reap the benefits of flipping your happiness switch on.

One of the hardest times is when a person feels helpless to change. When you feel like your happiness is dependent on others, you will feel trapped and helpless. So how do you take your happiness back?

Others can stay the same if they want, but you are going to think differently. And focus on the power of what you choose to think about.

Please share your success and struggles with using your thoughts to boost your happiness. We can learn from each other.

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Subscribe via Email, and you will receive my “Journal for Self-Discovery: 15 Questions to Increase Emotional Intimacy.” Learn how to take your happiness back without distancing emotionally.

Photo Credit: “Happiness” by Ira Gelb

The Opportunity in Falling Out of Love

couple-love-meadow

“Love is born in a glance, and matures in a smile.” ~ Brazilian proverb

Most people enjoy being in love, because falling in love is  a euphoric ride. You are exhilarated when you fall for someone and the feeling is returned. And you can’t stop thinking of them, wanting to spend every moment together, as if you can’t get enough.

We hope this feeling will never end, and when it starts to dissipate we worry. Life is not like the fairy tales, movies, nor romance novels. Love has seasons that change as the relationship, life, and family changes. But just because love between two people changes, it doesn’t mean it’s gone.

Relationships are always evolving. While change is hard, it doesn’t have to mean something is wrong. Join me in exploring how love and marriages evolve and how we can think about the new seasons with more smiles.

Identify Your Season of Love

Helen Fisher, anthropologist and author of Why We Love, shares her thoughts on how love changes so that our species can survive. With a team of scientists, Fisher scans the brains of people who have recently fallen in love. Through her research, she discovers that certain areas of the brain light up when we are falling in love.

Fisher concludes that all animals and humans feel romantic love in the reward center of their brains. In other words, love is much more complex than having a positive feeling, it is a “fundamental mating drive.”

Through her work, she identifies three interlocking drives that primitively speaking help keep families alive. Fisher explains that “drives” evolved to motivate us to reach different goals:

  1. Lust: “to seek an array of sexual partners”
  2. Romantic Passion: “to choose one partner to dote upon”
  3. Attachment: “to remain emotionally engaged with him or her long enough to rear a child together”

Fisher goes on to explore whether or not these drives (or seasons) can occur at the same time. Do you identify with one or more of the above relationship goals?

Twenty years ago on spring break, I was interested in talking to many young men. But by the end of the trip, I had picked one young man that I hoped to spend more time getting to know. We stayed in this romantic love season until some time after our wedding.

Love Changes and Relationship Patterns Emerge

You gradually start to see your spouse as they are. While you were once blinded by passion and able to overlook their faults, you are now living with their strengths and weaknesses every day.

And predictable patterns of interaction emerge when tension and conflict rise. Depending on how you think about the differences, you may start feeling less attracted and more distant. Since the “romantic love hormones can only last 12-24 months” into a new relationship, how do you deal with these relationship patterns, negativity, and worry?

“We’ve become addicted to the hormone rush fueled by the media hype and don’t know what to do when it’s over, except to find someone new.” ~ Susana, Hubpages.com

As you pick a mate to spend the rest of your life with, the hormones that once attracted you are starting to slow down. So it’s not physiologically possible to stay on the high of falling in love. But many people are distraught that the romantic feelings have gone.

Emotional Distance or Intimacy Evolves

While you can’t return to the original feeling state, you can work on how you think and interact with your spouse. Many people become so negative about their partner and their relationship, that they want to leave the relationship “seeking happiness.” But others want to find out how to be less negative and develop a new level of openness with their mate. Love’s changing season becomes an opportunity to grow your friendship and intimacy by growing yourself.

Instead of trying to get your spouse to meet your needs better, it is seeing them as separate from you emotionally that makes it easier to get close to them. If you are always thinking that they don’t care for you or want something from you, then you will keep your distance.

Everyone feels distant sometimes. When you can focus less on blaming your partner and more on identifying when you feel distant, you can begin to reclaim your happiness. When you become less defined by what your partner does or doesn’t do, you are free to be yourself. Your partner is also free to be him or herself. It is through this “growing up” stage of marriage that emotional intimacy is found, as it’s easier to get close to each other again.

Which opportunity will you take: Is marriage’s changing seasons an opportunity for growth and intimacy? Or is it an opportunity to leave the marriage?

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Subscribe via Email, and you will receive my “Journal for Self-Discovery: 15 Questions to Increase Emotional Intimacy.” Learn how to take your happiness back without distancing emotionally.

Photo Credit: “In Love” by Hartwig HKD