INEPT MEN: I think that romance is a skill. Tragically, I see some cultures, North America among them, lack male role models and mentors who show guys the ropes in the relationship arts of being a gentleman, a romantic, and a man who respects women and can court a lady. The female side to this deprivation of romance is just one feminine paradox. Once he has bonded with her as a best friend, he is ready to offer her a home and become her lover.
INEPT WOMEN: And, so sadly, often, a woman doesn’t or can’t develop her flirtatiousness because of certain cultural attitudes, harsh beliefs or hurtful experiences. She learns either to repress her sexiness or to risk being labeled ‘easy’ or worse.
A spouse often ‘strays’ because the woman has been disrespected by her man’s ignorance about how to treat a lady in public, at home and in their bedroom. Usually a woman’s libido naturally shuts down if she isn’t feeling bonded, safe, understood, cared for and validated.
JUST BUDDIES: Her husband may know what he wants but may not know how valuable it is to be a romantic and, therefore, doesn’t know how to tend to her femininity and her sexual response to create the bond between lovers. The wife may be disconnected from her body and her sexuality for various reasons such as childhood harm, low self-esteem, cultural judgements, etc. And they may still be more comfortable with their friends as individuals rather than focusing on developing a new lifestyle as a couple with mutual fun with other couples vs too much of him riding his motorcycle or her in her book club.
Courtney had given up hope that Chris would ever listen to her. He was an energetic attorney who thought he was being a generous husband when he built a lake house so she and the kids could come with him and his friends during fishing season. Until they were in my office and until his outrage at her affair was sobered by my insistence, he had not yet heard nor placed any meaningful value on her complaints.
Courtney wanted what most women need in their intimate relationship: time for affection, validation, personal attention and friendship. The trips to the lake house didn’t provide that, rather she was exhausted by packing up the SUV for their whole family, doing the increased work at the lake of additional family housekeeping and cooking during what was supposed to be vacation. But her gentle complaints fell on deaf ears.
One of the other dads in their country club had noticed that, like him, she was always alone with the kids at the tennis court. He was a professional man in the world of communication and arts. His attention and conversation made her feel like a great mom and, also, a smart and beautiful lady. She enjoyed the easy friendship which ended up turning into an emotional affair and then quiet romantic hours when her husband was working long days and was too busy to notice.
At last, when her husband, Chris, agreed to learn to spend time paying attention to her, to listen to her concerns, to talk with her, to touch her in the ways that made her feel loved rather than in trying to get what he wanted, it was easy for Courtney cut off the affair. She genuinely wanted her husband and was grateful that, at last, the man she really loved wanted all of her and wanted to learn to make her feel adored in her marriage. It took Chris months to get over his feelings of being betrayed even though he understood that his wife’s affair was due to his lack of romantic skills. Their marriage counseling was complete as they built a new intimate bond through friendship and romance.
INTIMACY LOST: Romance before its time gives only the illusion of intimacy. I believe that our generation has unintentionally skipped parts of the six natural steps of full psychological development. When we are unable to continue the family bond of learning and adventure through adolescence, our teens find bonds with each other and plunge into intimacy before they are prepared.
USE TECHNOLOGY ARTFULLY: Our parents and grandparents were not equipped to keep us on track to adulthood in the current environment. They couldn’t have been ready. One example: our great inventors and visionaries couldn’t foresee that a purely technical manual for our televisions, telephones, video games and computers couldn’t inform us of how to use our technology with wisdom and artfulness to maintain our children’s growth and a healthy family lifestyle.
Those of us who devote our professional lives to knowing people well are starting to have access to the research data which points out the value in choosing how to bring the media into our homes and hands for wholesomeness.
DATE NIGHT: For more help with knowledge, I recommend focusing on date night. And, go beyond the basic choices. Dinner out, movies and drinks will always be there. Consider the favorites either of you have or which the two of you share. Your dates don’t even have to be a night…just together. Searching online for date ideas could be a date in itself.
1. The Invisible Ways We Lose Our Romance and How to Get it Back
2. Arousing the Romantic Bond – Novelty
3. Chemistry – Arousal is More than Sex
4. Sexual Intimacy in a Marriage – The Universal Panacea.
Reading even a couple of chapters of a book or studying a few websites on relationships, watching a couple of videos on You Tube can make a startling difference in the quality of your friendship, your intimacy (sexual, mental and emotional), your home life and your parenting. Dozens of sources have good information on gender difference, communication, love languages, sex, family traditions and personality styles. If you haven’t found my You Tube channel, you can go to: youtube.com/heathercarlile. I created 33 different subjects to help people with their intimate relationships and their home life.
But, my opinion is that seeing a marriage or relationship counselor is a fast-forward. When I can work privately with a couple, I can determine which elements of relationship abilities I need to teach first and can help to make a difference in a couple of weeks. It saddens me when people feel a need to look for love away from the one closest to them and don’t make an effort to look for solutions with experts before they harm their current bond.
The Strong Leader and The Spunky Lady: Ron and Kathy called me from Wisconsin. They had been married for 27 years; they were resentful and angry at each other and had no sex life. Ron had begun to get his needs for a romantic best friend through an emotional affair with an intelligent and extroverted woman at his workplace. He was rationalizing that elements of the personality quiz typically used on-the-job which he and Kathy had taken showed that Kathy was so opposite to him that she couldn’t love or understand him anymore.
The truth was, they’d been growing apart for years and lost their sexual intimacy but, for logical reasons. Kathy was very angry that Ron dominated her and their children and disrespected her because she was more introverted and less active than he was. I agreed to counsel them; so they drove to Texas for a Marriage Intensive with me.
I learned their history and scheduled prep interviews via 5 hours of phone sessions. When they arrived in Dallas four couples counseling, we worked for 12 hours in my office. Kathy and Ron got to the place where they were smiling and holding hands. One thing they learned was that their differences actually complemented each other–beautifully–provided they knew enough about treating each other with respect and handling their differences with kindness and good humor. Their differences were largely in their personalities revealed by their Enneagrams, their need for company vs solitude, their differing emotional needs as a man and a woman, and their gender differences in terms of getting their love needs satisfied.
Their last nights in Dallas while working with me were a lot more fun than they’d had in a decade. They wished they’d taken action sooner and asked if they could come back next year. I said, “I’m not going anywhere.”
For more help with knowledge, I recommend John Gray’s classic: Men Are from Mars, Women are from Venus!
And, my series of teaching videos on You Tube:
1. Love Needs Female vs Male http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UHHzpqWAyU
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.
For more details on Emotional Intimacy, you can watch my You Tube Video: youtube.com/heathercarlile
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.
Last week was the two-year anniversary of putting my 60-plus videos on my You Tube Channel.
Jack and I agreed that we wanted to see what would happen without publicizing them. Today, there have been 36,750 views and I have 401 subscribers.
When I can save a relationship, like I did yesterday in a three-hour intensive at my private practice office, I wish I could help dozens of couples like those two dear people who love each other under all of the anger, hurts and conflicts.
So, when my husband, Jack, offered to help me broadcast online, it was an opportunity to do more than just my couples counseling or marriage counseling sessions. Now, like this morning, I sometimes receive a sincere and detailed email reaching out for my help.
So, with this husband’s permission, I share his hope that I can offer more…that I can help him resolve his internal struggles and heal his hurts. He knows it stands in the way of rebuilding his bond with his wife.
Here’s what he wrote:
Hello I’m fairly new to your YouTube page but was intrigued after listening to your trust building video.
I have been married going on seven years and there has been infidelity in the marriage on my wife’s part. She just came clean to me this winter that she was unfaithful three times since our marriage.
I have been devastated and we are attempting to work on our marriage and currently involved in marriage counseling. She is putting forth a strong effort to regain my trust but it is hard for me to accept her gestures simply because of the infidelity. It is hard primarily because I was thinking we were just having simple problems, but yet, they where really serious problems from intimacy,communication, and arguments.
The marriage counseling is truly helping but I feel I need more criteria and exercises to help get rid of the anger and hurt from these events. I lash out at times to only see that I am pushing her away more and more.
We have two young children and we both want to give them a happy home with both parents. I’m just coming to you for more criteria or worksheets I can do in my own time to help me progress better on my part.
I thought I might add that we have an age difference that may play a part in these problems of the past.
She is totally apologetic and doing things in a reasonable manner but it seems that my hurt and anger gets in the way at times when we talk. There are many triggers that remind me of the infidelity. Please help.
My first goal is to help understand the cause of infidelity. My assumption is that the injury wasn’t consciously delivered. Most people aren’t trying to be mean nor trying to deliver harm by betraying their spouse. Seldom do people consciously decide to have an affair, to cheat or sleep around on their spouse or mate. When we can determine a cause that is unintentional, it isn’t such a personal violation.
IT’S USUALLY 50/50: The root cause of an affair is usually a reflection of something missing in the relationship or marriage. And, as most of us in my profession say, a marriage is fifty-fifty. In the case of this husband, he has given me a couple of logical clues:
1. ADOLESCENT INCOMPETENCIES: They got together when they were young adolescents (18 and 22) and have been trying to create a good family when they aren’t even yet adults. The First Adulthood begins between 28 and 30 years old. Those years between 13 and 28 are supposed to be lived for the development of IDENTITY…NOT for INTIMACY. These two were children.
2. HOW CAN ADOLESCENTS SUCCEED AT PARENTING WHEN THEY DON’T YET HAVE IDENTITY? Two children were born to two adolescents. It’s an all-too-familiar tragedy. When we haven’t grown up and try to live like a grownup, we can’t succeed…it’s impossible to know what your brain hasn’t yet developed.
3. ADOLESCENCE IS FOR EXPLORATION: Research now has the ability to closely scan how an adolescent brain develops. (Just check out the works of one of my heroes, Dr. Arlene Montgomery.) We know which skills and abilities develop in the brain and during which years of life. Just because we get out of high school doesn’t mean that we can know ourselves fully nor think with the dimensions of, among other things, the Executive Function. As teens, we are naturally driven to learn, adventure, experience. We want to try everything and explore ourselves and the world. And of course, sex is one of those fascinating worlds of finding self and finding connection. It isn’t intimacy, it’s curiosity.
Here is my first example:
NEEDINESS: Adolescents, in the throes of Puppy Love, enjoy only the illusion of intimacy. These types are looking for relief. They dated and married too young in their adolescence and, so, experience their unfulfilled teenage longing for fun and adventure. They are usually insensitive to their spouse’s or partner’s own plight or they have become a ‘love addict’ and haven’t been able to be emotionally individuated nor intimate. They are looking for the fun of a lost adolescence and, using the typical 14-year-old self-stimulation, they get by with “sex/drugs/rock n’ roll/virtual reality.” They have affairs to run away from responsibility too burdensome for their age and to get some relief from a job, a spouse and parenthood by seeking immature novelty and arousal.
Teenagers who fail to develop thinking skills through stunted growth lack perspective. Immature people will cheat even if they have empathy about the hurt they inflict. Planning for the future with decision-making ability, standards, beliefs and/or problem-solving knowledge come with developing identity in adolescence.
MATURITY OBVIATES BETRAYAL: The empowerment of self-mastery connects us with a sense of purpose. We are able to make choices for reaching goals and aren’t sidetracked by emotional neediness or committing to a marriage before we have the confidence of identity and the internal and external resources to offer a new spouse. This kind of maturity and relationship choice obviates betraying a beloved.
The Young Head-of-Household and The Young Hard-working Wife: Jason and Caitlin came to see me in agony. They had been through enough adversity for any couple in their 40s. But these two had started dating in high school, got married at 20 and now were still in their 20s and had three children. They did it all without help from their families because nobody supported their relationship so young. But they did it together and behaved like adults the whole time through jobs, college, parenting and running a household. They were tired in every way and they weren’t even thirty. They had never taken a vacation and worked most weekends. Caitlin had been seduced into a brief fling years before which they handled. But, now, Jason would go to a bar on his way home from work and would stay out all night sometimes. Although he tried to cover it up, Caitlin found out about the affair. She felt betrayed and violated. Jason honestly loved her and felt deeply ashamed but couldn’t stop his impulses to get away from her, their home and their children. After working with me and understanding the losses they had incurred by skipping adolescence, they began to appreciate how hard it had been on both of them and, most of all, on their marriage. They started balancing their lifestyle by planning time for fun together and for time off so Jason didn’t need to look for illicit pleasures. Their deep romantic friendship returned and grew as they forgave each other and themselves, re-established commitment, trust and open communication.
I recently encountered them after some years. They are fun-loving, energetic and bonded and they have happy and thriving children.