Sunday, September 21, 2008

Magical Thinking During a Marital Crisis: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee


Remember "Step on a crack and break your mother's back."? This childhood game represented the magical thinking of a child. A child exaggerates their impact on the world, in this case his or her mother's health.

During a marital crisis, you can also be susceptible to magical thinking. In this case, the magical thinking is driven by a desperate desire to end the pain of the crisis in your relationship. You say if I do ______ , then I will restore my relationship with my spouse. Examples are:


  • If I am unconditionally loving, he will draw close to me once again.

  • If she sees what it is like to have to pay her own way, then she will end this separation.

  • If I take every opportunity to show my love, then he will know that nobody will love him the way that I love him.

  • If she realizes that I will fight her for custody of the children, then she will end her affair once and for all.

If your partner is ambivalent about his or her commitment to the marriage, it is highly unlikely that any effort on your part will end the ambivalence. Threats can actually create more motivation to survive apart from you. Efforts to show love without expecting to receive love in return can diminish you in your partner's eyes. You appear to be throwing yourself at your partner without regard to your self-worth.


Ann Landers, the popular advice columnist used the expression, "Wake up and smell the coffee." to suggest that the reader needed to come to grips with the reality of the situation. Magical thinking results from your struggle to accept how serious the crisis in your relationship is.


Be gentle with yourself, but accept that there is no easy, quick solution to a marriage crisis. Understand that the crisis is not an emergency and that time is necessary to encourage good decision making. Give yourself the gift of time so that you can more completely absorb the reality of the distance between you and your partner.


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Friday, September 12, 2008

Why Men Cheat - Oprah Show


The Oprah Show featured an author discussing his findings on why men cheat. The most important finding is that men typically choose to cheat for emotional rather than sexual needs. They don't seek out a hot, younger woman, but rather "fall into" an emotional affair that becomes sexual.

The affair begins by meeting the man's need for admiration, someone who looks up to him and shows interest. They interviewed several men who had cheated and each admitted that the affair was not something they did out of strength but out of weakness. They felt that their relationship with their wife was not meeting their emotional needs.

From my experience, their weakness is passivity. If you have emotional needs that are unmet in the marriage, then you ought to be able to address this with your wife in a very forceful manner. She has to be aware of her husband's emotional needs in order to address the ways she is falling short. If the husband does confront the wife, it is important for her to focus on defending the relationship instead of defending herself.

It is OK to fall short in meeting your partner's needs, but it is not OK to not care if you fall short. Defending yourself communicates a lack of caring about your partner. The husband must be mature enough to know that he will not always get his needs met. Realistically, women have more things pulling on them for attention than ever before, so the husband must know that his wife does care but give her "permission" to fall short (just as he will fall short in meeting her needs).

The man who chooses to have an overlapping relationship will have his needs met at a terribly high price. He will place himself in a position to make a decision about his marriage and his lover simultaneously. This places him in a position to make emotional decisions that are often regretted.

Men must be strong enough to maintain a commitment to the marriage. Commitment does not mean that you remain married, but that you continue to confront the shortcomings of the marriage until you determine that the relationship cannot be satisfying. Failing to confront the shortcomings of the relationship through an overlapping relationship leads to emotional decision making and pain for many who are affected by your decisions.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Minimizing the Effects of Shock During a Marital Crisis


Learning that your marriage could end is overwhelming. When your body is seriously injured , it can go into shock in order to preserve your vital organs. Psychological shock serves a similar purpose. Your ability to process information becomes muted. You feel as though you are on automatic pilot; it is a struggle to do the basic tasks of life.

Psychological shock helps you to absorb reality slowly. Information seeps into your awareness instead of flooding you with more information than you can handle.

The following guidelines are to help you understand your response:


  • Understand that your reaction is normal and not a sign of emotional disturbance.

  • Avoid trying to make any important decisions while you are in this state.

  • Reduce stimulation by "quieting" your environment. For instance, you may temporarily need time away from parenting responsiblities.

  • Seek social support from family and friends. Do not seek this support from your partner.

  • Focus on basic self-care activities like sleep, eating well, and simple activities. Reduce your expectations of yourself!

  • Avoid telling yourself that your are depressed or suffering from a mental disturbance.

  • Reassure yourself that your reaction is normal and you will recover your normal mood.

  • Remind yourself that a marriage crisis is not an emergency. Let your partner know that you are not ready to make any important decisions at this time.

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