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Tolerating the In-Laws during the Holidays

I recently wrote this article for We Want More, a website for couples issues and concerns.  As the holidays approach we all have more encounters with family, including in-laws.  The stereotype is that the holidays are a period of joy but for many of us it can be stressful, especially when it comes to managing the many familial relationships.  If this is your experience, this article may be helpful in making the holidays go just a little bit better this year! Enjoy! 

Are you Considering Having an Affair?

Everywhere I look the enticing affair is present. Be it in our television shows or the online dating sites that advertise the no strings attached affair. Recently I was on a website designed to help married individuals have affairs called Ashley Madison. The website’s motto is “Life is short, Have an affair.” This led me to contemplate, have we become a culture that inspires to have affairs? After all there are many immediate advantages to having affairs. In a culture that cultivates the easy fix wouldn’t infidelity be just that, a quick Band-Aid for the unsatisfying relationship. While there are many advantages aren’t there detrimental outcomes as well? Below I explore the advantages, disadvantages, and reasons for affairs.

Advantages of Affairs. There are many advantages of affairs in our culture. If there weren’t benefits 25% of the population wouldn’t be involved in them. I have listed some of the advantages below. You might find yourself yearning for items on the list. I want you to take note of the items on the list. I will provide approaches below to meet these needs.
-Excitement of doing the forbidden
-to engage in sexual fantasy and play
-to have more variety in sexual experiences
-increase in sexual and/or emotional intimacy
-to add spark to your life
-to feel attractive and desirable
-to experience a separate world from my children and spouse
-to feel young again
-wanting more than one sexual partner

Disadvantages of Affairs. While there are many advantages to affairs, people often forget about the consequences. Below are a few reasons infidelity may be detrimental to your life.

-lost of trust from spouse/partner
-friends and family may change view of you
-Increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases
-potential transmitting of sexually transmitted disease to unknowing spouse or partner
-loss of emotional and physical intimacy in the relationship
-increase in conflict in the relationship
-carrying a huge secret if your spouse doesn’t know
-juggling two partners and assuring that two people’s needs are met (if an ongoing affair)
-feeling of isolation, as our society often sides with the partner who was cheated on
-feelings of shame or guilt
-possible loss of full custody of children
-once the affair has happened it cannot be taken back (Your partner may not be able to forgive)

Reasons for Affairs. The advantages listed above highlight several reasons you may have an affair: sexual desire/needs being unmet, relational/emotional needs being unmet, wanting to leave an unhappy marriage/partnership, self-esteem, and compulsive sexual behaviors. As you can see from this list, two of the reasons are related to spouse or partner and three are related to individual concerns. There are alternative approaches to deal with these issues!
Sexual desire needs being unmet. Our society does not openly talk about sex. Because of this many partners are not getting their sexual desires met in their relationships. I tell my clients if you cannot talk about sex you should not be having it. When you are in a relationship a long time you have to work at making the sexual experience satisfying. What I suggest to you is to learn to speak to your partner about meeting your sexual needs before starting the sexual affair. A book I often suggest is Hot Monogamy by Dr. Patricia Love.

Note: Now I also want to keep in mind that you may not be monogamous. This type of relationship is most successful when there is open and constant communication from both partners regarding boundaries, expectations, and emotional experiences.

Relational/emotional needs being unmet. When partners are in relationships for a long period of time they often stop making connection in the relationship a priority. This is when I see the temptation for the emotional affair. Emotional affairs often start with a good friend or co-worker who seems to “just get it.” He or she really understands your experience unlike your spouse. What you begin to do is reach out for intimate connection with this friend instead of your partner. Have you attempted to connect with your spouse? Is it possible that he or she might be able to meet this need but you have forgotten how? What I suggest before you have this type of affair is to attempt to rekindle the connection with your partner. An exercise I give my clients is ten minutes of connection a day. This connection includes checking in without the TV, tablet, computer, or telephone. If you find this connection doesn’t improve emotional intimacy then perhaps it is time to end the relationship before you have the affair.

Unhappy marriage/partnership. Some of you are in unhappy marriages/partnerships and you know you want to leave. You are not sure how to end it so you are considering the affair. After all then your partner will end it right? I want to stop you here and remind you to look at the list of disadvantages that come with the affair. Though it may be hard to end a marriage or partnership, you and others in your life will have more respect for you if do it without the affair. Also, you will end the relationship without causing more pain for your partner.

Self-esteem. Nothing makes you feel better than a lover telling you that you are beautiful. The only thing is that before he or she came along you didn’t feel so great about yourself. Though an affair is a great boost for the ego, the boost won’t last. If you are not confident in yourself the affair cannot create it. You are responsible for loving yourself; no one else can give it to you. The danger with this type of infidelity is that we believe that our affair partner created it. In time, the confidence will fade and you will be again a victim of low self-esteem. If you fall into this category only you can increase your self-esteem and even with the affair this issue will be there, as well as a broken family.

Compulsive sexual behavior. This type of infidelity often results in multiple affairs, as you cannot control your “need” for sexual intimacy. If you are experiencing this type of affair you might need outside assistance to stop. You often feel out of control, shameful, unworthy, and miserable. Sexuality has become a way to reduce anxiety, stress, past experiences, or even a bad day. The sexually acting out never satisfies the “need” and can become worse as you move forward. Often you will need to create a healthy sexuality and other coping strategies to manage life stresses.

Are you still considering having affair? My purpose in writing this article was not to convince you not to have an affair. It is instead to make you aware of the potential damages an affair can cause. You get to choose what path you would like to take in your life moving forward. When affairs come into my office it is more difficult to move forward in the areas of the relationship that need repairs. As only two of the five reasons were related to an actual relationship it might be individual self-growth or movement that is needed to move forward. If you are having difficulty doing this on your own I would highly recommend a couple’s therapist that comfortable in discussing sexual concerns.

Do You Have a Case of the Societal Shoulds?.

Do You Have a Case of the Societal Shoulds?

Do you find yourself doing things in your life because you should? When in High School did you question whether you wanted to go to college but did because you SHOULD? Did you find yourself in an uncertain relationship but got married because you SHOULD at your age? Were you uncertain about having children but did because this is what you SHOULD be doing?

There has been an interesting phenomenon in my office lately and I am calling it THE SOCIETAL SHOULDS. So what entails these societal shoulds you ask? It is the messages we receive from society TELLING us what we SHOULD do to have a life of happiness. If you follow THIS path you should be happy. Many people who follow this path are questioning why they feel stuck, unfulfilled, and dissatisfied in life. I know because many of YOU are in my office. Yet each of you cannot understand WHY when you did what you SHOULD have done to find happiness. Yet for you fulfillment still feels out of reach. So what does this phenomenon look like?

I have a created a list below that represent examples of the societal shoulds:

-You must go to college after graduating high school.
-You should be in a monogamous relationship that leads to marriage.
-You should want to have children and if you don’t there is something “wrong”.
-Being single means you are not fully fulfilled.
-If you don’t buy a house you are wasting your money.
-You should stay married for the kids.
-You should want to be a stay at home mom and if choose to work you are “selfish”.
-If you are a man you should always be in the mood for sexual intimacy.
-Stability is more important than spontaneity.
-Your family/children should come first before your romantic partner.
-If you are over 35 and want to have a child you are “too old”.

This is a list of just a few of these messages. I am guessing as you read this list you can fill in our own “I should”.

Do you find yourself following the societal shoulds? Have you found yourself unfilled? I am here to challenge these societal beliefs because it “shouldn’t” mean that these messages are the ultimate path to happiness. Now don’t get me wrong, for some people it might be what leads to happiness, but there is not a one path for all. If you have an initiative feeling that one of these “shoulds” does not fit your path you should trust it; as your initiation is a guide that something is not right for you. To find your own unique path in life can be challenging and difficult as others in your life will perpetuate the societal shoulds. Only YOU can know your right path.

I myself have been caught up in these “societal shoulds”. I am currently in my mid 30’s unmarried and without children. I have heard many times throughout my life what “I should” being doing from society. I might get married and I might have children. But I will do it on my own timeline in a way that will create a satisfying and meaningful life for ME. I want YOU to find your own path so that YOU may have the same!

Types of Behaviors that will make Conflict Worse..

I wrote this article for the website Decoding Him and thought that it might be useful for my readers.  We often do behaviors that we are unaware of that can make conflict worse.  In this article I give a few examples of behaviors many of use do that escalate a conflict.  I hope my readers enjoy!


How to Avoid the Same Conflict.

I am sharing an article that I wrote for the Relationship Advice Cafe.  Do you find yourself having the same conflict over and over again with your partner?  You may find the article below helpful on how to stop the cycle.  I hope my readers enjoy!

The link is below:

Am I to Blame for my Partner’s Affair.

Here is an article I wrote about your potential partner’s affair and your responsiblity.  I thought that it might be very helpful for my readers.  I hope that you all enjoy the article.