As a marriage counselor, I’ve worked with hundreds of couples. Each relationship is unique and yet I can describe four general patterns that are at the root of most infidelity.
POWER AND CONTROL: People compensate for under-developed emotional robustness by using defense mechanisms to achieve power and control over others. There are five major categories of being defensive or throwing tantrums with emotional victimhood:
1) The Fawning Caretaker,
2) The Whining Martyr,
3) The Pouting Runner,
4) The Revengeful Judge
5) The Raging Bully.
1) The Helper
2) The Visionary
3) The Peacemaker
4) The Exemplar
5) The Achiever.
Two manipulative styles based on fear and control which create behaviors that are either too self-centered or too driven to please:
1) The User/Taker vs
2) The Pleaser/Giver.
These Users and Pleasers play Dominator or Doormat in order to avoid living with emotional intelligence. They haven’t been taught how to handle and resolve hurts, guilt, grief, forgiveness and anger. They may have hardened the heart so that:
a.) sexual behavior is no longer connected with intimacy or
b.) the libido can be re-activated only after there is no risk of attack and the wounds in the heart are healed.
The Suit and The Artist: Jonathan was committed to providing for his wife and children. He was a bright executive and used to interacting with professionals at work in high-level problem solving. He valued intelligence, knowledge and solutions and he saw feelings as weak and useless. He was critical of Holly because she was too emotional for his taste and she seemed to be content to be a pleaser.
Holly was invested in the roles of wife and mother and didn’t engage in dialogue or conversations with him other than about parenting and running the household. Jonathan judged her as being less intelligent but a good mom. Holly was an artist and deeply sensitive. Her way of coping with Jonathan’s disrespect and criticism was to withhold her thoughts and avoid interacting with him verbally and sexually. She turned to her girlfriends for friendship and understanding.
Jonathan found himself stimulated by a social relationship with an outgoing and intelligent married woman. His fascination with her, despite his desire for fidelity to his wife, tipped his emotional affair into a sexual liaison.
To his surprise, when Holly found out, she cared; she was very articulate and passionate. She felt abandoned, violated and angry.
When they came for counseling, they weren’t sure if they wanted to be married. Our work revealed Holly’s intensity, intelligence and secret longing for emotional intimacy with Jonathan. She had been afraid of his rejection and hadn’t been open and honest with him.
As they worked with me in marriage counseling, they started their new openness and honesty in my office and they made some changes in their lives. Holly got a job in an advertising agency and felt more energized. She had more to share with her husband. Jonathan respected her actions and was willing to take Holly on dates and to engage in dialogue and conversation with her to see if they could find a peer friendship. As Holly opened up her thoughts and opinions, Jonathan opened his heart and soul.
They surprised me with the strength of their courage and empathy in the new emotional and intimate bond they built. For the first time, they became romantic best friends. And that, I believe, is an intimate relationship or a marriage.
WHEN SKILLS DON’T SOLVE THE CONFLICT: What helps us make progress when couples counseling isn’t enough? Many of my clients come to my private practice office when they are in conflict and want to find their way back to happiness, trust and intimacy. But, after I work with them on their problem-solving abilities, communication, gender difference empathy and many of the other relationship skills, I find something which won’t improve. When the fear, defensiveness, hurt and conflict continue, the problem is usually at a deeper level.
TIME FOR HEALING THERAPY: Most of us feel most comfortable and at peace at home and, if we have an intimate relationship, with our Beloved. And, that comfort can be the place where our wounds show. When we open our hearts, the emotional forms of love we carry are exposed. Our heart holds all of the feelings, the happy ones and the uncomfortable ones. I think of it as our heart’s door opening wide revealing, to our mate, the joys of loving and the agonies of our injuries. And, if we are devoted to staying in the intimate bond, our best friend/lover will experience our woundedness, too. Sometimes this is the natural way of finding arms that hold us while we grieve and heal. And, sometimes grieving can’t heal because it isn’t enough when the injury was so profoundly harmful that it is a trauma. In my opinion, only in this decade are we able to sincerely understand the distinction between a wound and a trauma. And, the means of healing from trauma are not commonly understood yet. It requires more than just talking.
My friend, Wynne, said it beautifully when she wrote this:
TRAUMA RE-ENACTMENT: “When trauma occurs, the traumatized person sometimes seems frozen in time. Others, not having experienced their difficulty, can not understand why this person cannot “get over it.” When in relationship with such a person, it is helpful to remember that the scale and intensity of a person’s behavior is in direct correlation to their unresolved feelings and/or the fear, conscious or otherwise, they have that the traumatizing event is ongoing, or may yet reoccur.
“When we feel safe, we can connect without trauma re-enactment. In such instances, what occurred in the past is able to remain in the past. However, if there is no acknowledgment of the trauma (from oneself or from others) nor remedy perceived and embodied by the traumatized person, they will likely continue to subconsciously recreate the traumatizing event in hopes of -this time- being protected from it.
“One of our challenges as human beings is to realize that we have ALL endured some degree of trauma and the connection we crave is the safety we wish had been afforded us at that time. Meditation, Prayer and Mindfulness, allow us to be the safe place, the thoughtful responder, the loving protector, for another traumatized human, and for our own selves, today and every day.
HEALING TRAUMA: Helping people heal the results of a traumatic experience is not just talk. We have been studying and creating new methods for trauma survivors. Many of those methods are so new that most people haven’t encountered them. My first recommendation, which is available for use at home, is guided imagery audio tracks from the best source: Health Journeys. Belleruth Naparstek is one of my heroes. Her visualizations have been carefully written and recorded for countless problems…even Post Traumatic Stress.
I’m always looking for more methods. If you know about something great, please let me and my readers know.
When the trauma is healed, there may be no remaining conflicts in your relationship. The two of you are free to create a happy life together again.
And then all that has divided us will merge
And then compassion will come to a world that is harsh and unkind
And then both women and men will be gentle
And then both women and men will be strong
And then no person will be subject to another’s will
And then all will be rich and free and varied
And then the greed of some will give way to the needs of many
And then all will share equally in the Earth’s abundance
And then all will care for the sick and the weak and the old
And then all will nourish the young
And then all will cherish life’s creatures
And then all will live in harmony with each other and the Earth
And then everywhere will be called Eden once again
In sincerity I share these sentiments from Judy Chicago in honor of her profound contribution to goodness and in honor of International Women’s Day.
I created this presentation on Family Relationships in response to a special request I received via email. I’ll share it anonymously here because I was so honored by the interest in my work:
Dear Ms. Carlile
I am a Family Counseling, MA student and have seen almost all of your videos on YouTube.
I have a seminar about “The Protocol for the Relationship of Partners with Their Family of Origin.”
I am from Iran, the most prejudiced country of all times.
What I am asking for is a lecture by you (to record a video like the one you have on Youtube) on the topic of relationship protocols with the family of origin, so that I can use it as a reference for my seminar. I have asked you for help since you have quite an all-inclusive knowledge and experience on the topic of marriage and its dynamics.
Thank you for the time you have spent watching my videos. I am interested in creating a video for your topic. Can you give me more details about it, please?
Dear Ms. Heather Carlile
Thank you so much for replying to the mail. I have a presentation for this semester about “Family of Origin Issues,” issues regarding both partners’ background and the influence it puts on their life. … I had references, but having seen your vids and the dexterity and fluency you practice during your lectures, and that is for sure the same with your therapy and dealing with couples issues too, it came to my mind to ask for a similar therapeutic protocol to be presented in the class and this way they meet their goal through a practical and applicable source of knowledge.
I wonder if I have explained what I meant clearly, please let me know.
Faithfully yours and many many thanks in advance for your help.
I am honored to help. And, now, I share the information with those of you who visit my website or my You Tube Channel. You can go to my web page for access to the supporting documents at this address:
I hope this is useful. If you have any comments or questions, I am, as always interested in hearing from you.