Although tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, not everyone in a marriage will be celebrating. If you are in a marriage and have experienced infidelity or an affair, then you know how painful a close relationship can become. As the hurt spouse you have been robbed of trust, joy, self trust, your history as you’ve known it, a feeling of specialness, and most importantly, any secure sense of the future you had anticipated. Certainly, the romance and promise of Valentine’s Day has been shattered, at least for now.
If your spouse who has had an affair minimizes the circumstances and your response to it, trust that it is a function of their dread of consequences, / their entitlement, / their refusal to take responsibility for their behavior, and certainly their lack of empathy for the impact on you. Get support from a trusted friend, family member, group, and especially, a therapist. Whatever you do, DON’T buy into your spouse’s denial about the seriousness of the situation. Get help, and honor your experience of grief and betrayal as valid. Know that you or you and your spouse are probably ill equipped to go this alone!
Here are two terrific, must-read books I recommend to anyone who has or is currently going through this ordeal. One provides invaluable insights about the process, including the challenges and mandates for the “hurt spouse” as well as the “affair spouse.” The second book, about forgiveness, provides choices for how to move on, and vital repair tools for individuals and couples:
This past weekend it was a balmy 24 degrees for the high on most of Saturday and Sunday here in the Northeast. Many of you might grimace at this information, especially if you live in Maine or New Hampshire and routinely experience a six month winter. You’re even more likely to look at this photo of me on the Lincoln Woods trail, deep in the heart of the mountains, and think I’m crazy, right? What you may not realize is that, along with some good friends and my husband I was practicing the art of making peace with the cold, given the fact that we can’t change it and would certainly get very depressed hanging around inside all winter. (What you can’t see in this particular photo is the fact that all four of us had just driven two hours North to see the Ice Castles, basically, an ambitious bunch of ice towers near Loon Mountain – all freezing stuff)!
But, there’s method to the madness: Get out in nature after you’ve sufficiently bundled up, experience it’s beauty, yield to it, and you’ll be taking a natural anti-depressant! So, whatever feels most comfortable to you – downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, ice skating, or just plain trail walking with your dog, if you have one – any of these activities will help you not only get through the very long New England winter, but will give you exercise, social contact, a happy dog and communion with nature. All very good things….
Just when I thought all the years of therapy had finally done their magic, and that I’d be free at last, I discover that my fatigue, nail biting, cynicism, and catastrophic thoughts about the future aren’t related to my crazy family upbringing, but about NOW, 2016 with this psycho election! The fact that I’m glued to the TV set, watching the pundits fight about whose crimes are worse, who’s a wuss, who’s really a psychothopathic liar, who’s fingers should be on the nuclear codes, is not because I’m a glutton for punishment, but all manifestations of my new diagnosis: Election Stress Disorder! AND, to make matters worse, I am apparently in good company with half the planet!
As a psychotherapist always keyed into actionable, positive change attitudes and behaviors, this one really stumps me. How do we all feel more hopeful and impactful when every day new dirt gets dug up on our candidates of “choice,” with Russia and Wikileaks playing their hand in events as well? This is a paranoid’s wet dream! One candidate is clearly a Neanderthal, the other cast as a disingenuous double talker. And, speaking of double talk, no one ever answers a question directly anymore, but on both sides they all pivot constantly, meaning deflect, avoid, spin! I pity the poor journalists who have to listen to this day in and day out without losing their cool!
Maybe the only hope for all of us with ESD is to remember that nothing lasts forever, that most truths come out in the wash eventually, that Election Day is less than a month away, and that until then, we all can put our fingers on the “Off” button when we’ve had enough. (Now, gotta go watch the final debate….)
Many of us become our own worst enemies by putting ourselves down and focusing on our weaknesses or negative qualities. If you are prone to this, it’s important to know that a bit of self critical thinking can become motivation for positive change and growth, but when you go overboard with it, feeling worthless, incapable of effective action, etc., it prevents you from taking healthy risks because it robs you of confidence in your own capabilities. It raises anxiety and stress, and can lead to depression.
Most of us already know about the importance of learning to accept our mistakes as part of learning, and being kinder and softer to ourselves in general. We’ve also heard a lot about looking for solutions to problems instead of berating ourselves about them. But here is the ultimate nuclear weapon to blast away self criticism: The Howitzer Mantras.
Because self critical talking and behavior is driven by habit and reflex, its important to find words or phrases that are designed to hit the critic like a cannon blast. When you hear your internal critic saying nasty, derogatory things about yourself use a mantra that helps you feel angry and outraged, like “Screw you!,” “Stop this crap!” “Shut up!” “Get off my back!” Use the anger and indignation as a productive way to drown out the critic. Yell out loud if you can, but most importantly, mentally shout the mantras at the critic.
If using the mantras alone is insufficient, take a stronger measure by putting a rubber band around your wrist and snap it while subvocalizing your mantra. By doing this you’re emphasizing your stop commands and making thought interruption more likely. The sharp, stinging sensation breaks the chain of negative thoughts and acts as a punisher so that the critic is less likely to attack in the near future.
Try this method as a routine way to silence your damning critic and you’ll be amazed at the results!
I’m very excited to announce this upcoming BlogTalk Radio episode about Trauma Sensitive Yoga with Lisa Boldin, a graduate of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, and specialist practitioner in this unique form of Yoga.
In this episode we’ll discuss the unique advantages of Trauma Sensitive Yoga for anyone who is struggling with anxiety, emotional stress, or trauma related to experiences such as sexual assault, military combat, or domestic violence.
Call in toll-free at 877-497-9046 to share comments or ask questions about this Yoga. Or, listen live streaming (or later to the recording) at www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager where you will learn more about how and why this practice offers unique benefits for coping with PTSD. You won’t want to miss this show!