Intimacy Answers

How can I look at future relationships without letting trust issues cause a problem?

Dear Joann, First of all, I am deeply sorry to hear this news. This is devastating. What happened to the marriage? Did you two seek marital counseling? Did you two try to work it out? There are a lot of reasons why infidelity happens. When problems in the marriage is dealt with, in an appropriate manner, including infidelity, there are high chances for reconciliation, and therefore a deeper and long term trusting relationship.  The Gottman Institute, well known couples counseling team of psycho-education providers, highlights reasons infidelity happens: - Lack of affection - Loss of fondness for each other - Imbalance of give and take  - Breakdown of the communication as far as the emotional and relationship needs - Physical health issues such as chronic pain and disability - Mental health issues such as bipolar, major depression, and severe anxiety - Addiction to substances such as lethal chemicals and/ or impulsive behaviors such as sex or gambling  - Fear of intimacy or avoidance of conflict - Life changes such as transition to Parenthood or becoming Empty Nesters - Stressful period such as long distance relationships due to military deployments or long term work travels - Personal dissatisfaction and low self-esteem Finding out the facts, and connecting the dots, then ultimately coming to the conclusion, validated by the partner, of the deep unfathomable deception, can undeniably be hurtful for you. As you mentioned in your posted question, it could not have been easy for you, because you already had a history of infidelity, before having a family with your recent husband.  Your question is now how do you go on into finding a new partner after these events have transpired. First off, definitely take a pause in starting a new relationship for now. I highly recommend just taking a break and instead learn to date yourself for the time being. Focus on yourself first for now. Spend time healing yourself at this time. You cannot enter a new relationship or even give this recent one (your husband) a second chance, if you are still clearly very distraught about it.  Some proven helpful coping techniques for now: - Stay distracted - Pick a task to do that you never had the time before because you were always with that other person - Gather your thoughts and isolate the ones that have been centered on your relationship first, then redirect them to automatically focus on self-healing starting now ("I can't do this because my husband will say something." Turn this thought around to, "I CAN do this now because my husband can't say anything now!")  - Do something nice for yourself for a change - Take good care of yourself - Work for yourself (and your children) - Set goals towards happiness and kindness towards others - Journal, Paint, Draw, Read, Exercise!  - Surround yourself with positive and supportive people - Recognize you are vulnerable right now and ask for help. Realize that you need to take it one step at a time.  - Remember You Are Good Enough.  - Do what you can. Do not overdo it.  - Do spend quality time with the kids and make sure their needs are met including therapy for them as needed.  - Assure the kids that no matter what happens to mom and dad, they will always be loved first, and make it intentional that this will always be true. - Whenever you are ready, focus on forgiveness. This will be better with an individuals therapist.  - If you want to give your husband a second chance, I recommend a couples counselor.  Good luck! Wishing you the best on your self-healing journey. 🙏🏼 Very respectfully, Grace, LCPC, Maryland Therapist
Answered on 02/05/2023

Is it possible for a person to fall back in love and build desire back in a relationship?

Hi Issa,  Thank you for your question, and I hope that my answer can provide some further clarity for you. It is certainly possible to fall back in love and re-build desire in a relationship. It is a common experience for these feelings to wane in a relationship after a child comes on the scene, as the priorities of both partners change, the dynamics are shifted and there is simply less time/energy that can be devoted to each other when so much of that is devoted to your child. The key throughout all of this will be communication, with you and your partner checking in on each other's feelings and needs to ensure that you feel heard, understood and supported within your relationship.  In order to re-build these feelings, it takes time and work from both partners. It is first of all important to be able to recognize what sparked that initial love and desire when your relationship was first being built. What was it about him that you found attractive? What traits did he have that you fell for? Is there anything that he would do for you towards the beginning of the relationship that you do not feel is done now? In order to tap into those initial feelings of attraction that you had to one another, it may be a good idea to bring some of these elements back into your current-day relationship. Doing so may not be easy and it would require you both to prioritize the time that is needed to do so. However, working on these elements of the relationship may bring some of that initial 'spark' back.  Sometimes it may be as simple as taking the time to spend with one another, and check in with each other. As relationships go on, and particularly when children are in the picture, it can be tough to remember to prioritize your partner as there are so many other responsibilities to be juggling. Over 10 years, you and your partner have likely changed a lot, and it can be an exciting process to re-discover each other in the present day. Spending time discussing in and engaging in each other's hobbies and interests can be a great place to start with this, as spending time doing something fun with your partner can give you an insight into where they're currently at, and seeing them engage in something that they enjoy can be a reminder of those positive qualities that you fell in love with in the first place.  Though it sounds regimented, it can be of great benefit to schedule in time for intimacy. One night a week where you can engage in an intimate way with your partner can re-build the desire that you initially felt. This does not have to be on purely sexual terms, but through intimate activities such as massages and cuddling. Engaging in physical affection can allow the feelings of desire to develop naturally.  Spending time appreciating your partner and practicing gratitude can strengthen the bond between you both. How often do you take the time to appreciate your partner and their qualities? How often do you communicate these things to him, letting him know of your appreciation for him? And vice versa. Taking this time to think of each other positively and to communicate these feelings to one another can be a great reminder to you both of what you mean to each other. Hearing compliments and positive feedback from your partner can also give a big boost of confidence, which in itself can often be an attractive trait.  Discussing the past and forward-planning for the future could help you to maintain the relationship going forward. How do you think you got to the point that you are at now? Is there anything that you could do in the future to avoid getting back to this place? What signs should you look out for that you are not experiencing the love and desire that you once did? Having a clear-cut idea of where the relationship has been and where you both want the relationship to be going ensures that you are both working from the same page in the relationship, and aiming for the same goals.  I hope that some of these suggestions are helpful to you, and that they help you work towards re-building these feelings in your relationship. If you and your partner feel that you would benefit from doing so, seeking support from a relationship therapist can be of benefit. A therapist would be able to guide you through some of the strategies described above, as well as others. They would also be able to work through any issues or barriers in your relationship with you so that you and your partner can reach a place of increased happiness. 
Answered on 02/03/2023

How do i let love back into my life?

Dear Mur, Thank you for reaching out to the BetterHelp platform, you have come to the right place for the help you need.  I am hearing that you came out of a one and a half year relationship a year ago and have been single, you say you are scared of getting hurt again, so I understand that you were hurt in the relationship and it sounds like you have taken steps to heal yourself, so well done if you have already put some of the work in so far, it is not easy and it takes time to build that trust back into your life.  Healing is a continuing journey and often means we have to step out of our comfort zone to do this. At the moment I am hearing that this still doesn't feel safe to you and you are afraid of letting your guard down and getting close to someone else for the fear of this. I am curious to know if now you are challenging yourself your "comfort zone" is no longer "comfortable" to you? I wonder if you notice how you feel when you start to get close to someone, does this cause some kind of physical feeling for you? Or perhaps a panic response? Often when we have had a difficult experience, our bodies retain these feelings and do anything to avoid repeating it, this is the element which makes us feel unsafe and our subconscious puts the guard up to guard ourselves. Maybe this resonates with you, and it may be worth exploring that for yourself?  Try asking yourself what is going on for you and can you rationalize with this feeling?  Perhaps take baby steps with the relationship and apply your boundaries effectively to go at your own pace, boundaries can be a way to take things slowly and keep you feeling safe as you explore how you feel.  I wonder if you have felt you can confide in the person, and have been able to explain how you are feeling, if someone cares for you then hopefully they will help you work this out and go at a pace you both feel comfortable with, this may also help you build trust in the person and see if their intentions are genuine, which may give you more confidence to let your guard down slowly. I wonder if you have explored your attachment style? This can help to again see what you may need from a relationship and help explain what makes you feel safe and what doesn't, I have attached some information you may wish to look at which will give you some idea of how you attach in relationships and also how others may attach to you, which again may help you. Understanding these patterns of behavior may help you identify what is working for you and what is not, by confiding in the person, you may find that communication is key to working this out between you, the other person may also feel a little confused perhaps about how you are feeling about them too.  You say that you want to be close but feel afraid and become cold when someone gets too close.  It may be worth speaking to a therapist such as myself or one of my BetterHelp colleagues, who can help you explore your fears and worries around this, we form our attachments in childhood and you may find your worries may stem from there, you do not say much about what happened in your last relationship, but again talking about this if you chose to do so may help you work out what is causing this fear for you. I wonder if you feel you are sabotaging the relationship before it has begun, this is common when you have been hurt, I sense you do not want to avoid intimacy and having a partner, however, it just becomes too much and you feel the need to retreat back into your safe place? This can result in pushing others away and causing you to be isolated and feel alone, this continuing pattern can make you feel down and isolated, so you are right to question your feelings and emotions at this time.  Fear of this is also linked to the fear of showing your vulnerability, I am curious if this is how you feel, by letting down a guard you open yourself up to being vulnerable and perhaps being vulnerable is not a good feeling for you? Or maybe it takes you back to that time when you were hurt? So understandably this is something you will want to avoid. You can work through this in a safe space, where you can be yourself without judgement or someone pushing you into doing something you do not want, by connecting with a therapist like myself you can work together to explore how you can help yourself come back out of your shell and make meaningful positive connections with others who mean something to you. Therapy can help guide you through those baby steps and give you the confidence and clarity you need to get you to the other side and gradually address your fears.  This also may be making you feel negative about yourself and your self-worth, this is common in this situation, so working through this can help you feel better about yourself, give you self esteem, and confidence in your decisions.  You can do this, have faith in yourself and above all be kind and compassionate to yourself, you have been through a lot and deserve your own love of yourself.  Hope you can find the right support and confide in loved ones whilst speaking to an individual therapist or medical professional, this may just be the help you need to give you that step up into being your confident future self. Wishing you good luck with the future. Take care Julie Cameron
Answered on 02/01/2023

My husband likes me so much that he wants to do EVERYTHING with me. I feel smothered by his love.

Inadequacy It kind of stinks when what presents itself as a "good man" is also the same thing causing him to act like a toddler. An inadequate, grown man is a dangerous and often insidious beast. They tend to be both "good fathers/grandfathers" and will remind you of the time you spend with your ex for the purpose of guilting you into spending time with them. These types of men are seeking external validation for an internal void. He isn't "bad" in the sense of malicious, but he's inadequate, and it's manifesting in these behaviors that can drain you.  So, you can sometimes see why, when you are advancing yourself or have the obvious previous relationships how these could provoke within a man who is already struggling with themself. It's hard for men to address this because it's embarrassing and appears weak. Bluntly speaking, we would rather rely on bravado and overcompensation and the appearance of things are under control than we would address the deep inadequacy our mind keeps us from.  The mind says to the man, "she isn't spending time with you, but she can spend time here or there; she must not care about you as much as those other things." I know to us, outside of the man's head it seems illogical, but to them, it is reality. We can relate, however, because we also have messages inside our heads. We have a narrative that we, too, believe without question. Our mind tells us things based on experiences and what is perceived in the current environment, and we are left to deal with these things, depending on the same mind that told us they were there and now controlling how we perceive the narrative. But, it doesn't have to be this way.  Here's what you can do in your marriage to try and remove that third awkward person in the room, the wounded mind. You, your husband, and his wounded self, the self that was formed early in life inadequate and now overcompensated and throws temper tantrums, also the same self that overproduces in kindness at times when receiving praise for doing so, that self needs to be addressed for what it is. He will have to do this work, but you can help him by being kind and acknowledging things you notice in a specific way.  Reflective questions for the sake of genuine curiosity can be a great asset that transcends this wounded self. Ask things like, "It seems like when I am doing work, you get frustrated with me, can you tell me what you are experiencing when I am not giving you that time?" Or, "What do you think when I am reaching out to my exes?" Now, he might respond with something that doesn't sound desperate and will rely on something superficial. Still, the more you have talks about that third person in the room, the wounded and inadequate self that he relies on for his advice when struggling in life, the more it becomes apparent to him and you.  Call out that third person by having him ask that inadequate part these questions. You can also notice your own inadequate parts and start to ask reflective questions such as "how am I doing today?" or "why am I not giving him attention?" Or, "Do I have any part in what he is feeling?" It's not that we don't know how to do this, but it's that sometimes the answers we know are there are often too painful to acknowledge, or they don't sound very good.  This is a pretty complex thing, actually and something a good couple's counselor can help address by identifying and communicating about this underlying self both of you have. I recommend that you get accustomed to asking the difficult, reflective questions, not to challenge or call him out (that will wound the ego and will not result in good things), but to get to know him and get him to know him better. You and him relate a lot more than you think, on these matters alone, and once you are able to remove that third person as a barrier, things can get better than ever, closer, more connected, and he will grow from that healthy place as well. 
Answered on 02/01/2023

How do I stop myself from feeling extremely bad that I broke up with my fiancé of 4 years?

First, I want to validate how hard it must have been to make the decision to end the relationship. Change is hard, even when we know in our hearts that it's time to move on. It can be easier to remain indecisive than it is to make a hard choice, and so, I hope you're giving yourself credit for making a difficult yet necessary choice. Give yourself grace and compassion and allow yourself to feel all the feelings that are emerging from this break up. Some days will feel easier than others. It is a literal grieving process, and you will be experiencing the 5 stages of grief throughout this break: anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance. You will go back and forth on each stage at different times. Make sure your support system is strong, and that it feels safe to express your feelings with them! Being in safe environments is a MUST right now. Most importantly, remind yourself why you chose to end the relationship in the first place. People can spend many years feeling stuck in relationships they're no longer growing in, and you had the bravery & courage to show up for yourself and say "this is it." I applaud you and admire you! And this is another important point: that part of you that ended the relationship is a part of you that is rooted in self love. It is the part of you that is recognizing that you deserve to feel better, to find relief, to feel fulfilled, and that this relationship just wasn't cutting it. It doesn't mean he's a "bad" person. It just means he wasn't meeting your needs, and it is OKAY and ACCEPTABLE for you to recognize that and make the choice to move forward. I am proud of you and hope you're taking time to love, love, love on yourself. Right now more than ever, you need all the pampering and the spoiling! Spa days, massages, you name it. You are worthy! I hope that you continue to realize how amazing you are, and how strong!  Olivia Lima, LMHC CCTP
Answered on 01/31/2023

Help me heal

You Are... If this were a therapy session, I would recommend we spend some time discovering what it is exactly you are experiencing when it comes to this man leaving. I know his leaving you is tragic, but what are you noticing about the situation that got your attention when he left? Do you feel inadequate, abandoned, and stupid for being played and committed? Do you have anything significant from childhood that is being triggered here? Let's take some time to get you to know you better because you are going to be your best advocate in all this. The reason therapy is a thing is because we think we know ourselves pretty well. In reality, we all have blind spots where many of our problems lie, that something like you are experiencing is triggered when it occurs. Your husband did not just leave, you wrote he left you for another woman. You say, "help." Going off of the reminder that you could have written a thousand different things about this situation, you wrote those things. Do you realize what this reveals about you, about how you view this situation and how you have a belief that there is some other way to do this or view this situation providing relief, hence the "help?" I know this seems like it's not what you came here for, but how you are viewing this situation and what is being triggered inside of you is really what we are dealing with, not just the husband leaving, but what it says about us, before, and now.  The "before" part is the part of us that is being triggered; that is the "blind" spot I refer to. You have beliefs and experiences that are in your brain that lies dormant, or at least we think they are dormant, until something significant happens, and then you notice something else about yourself. This is why reflective questions get you to know yourself better. Though I, as the therapist, may see things about you, or view your situation a certain way, none of that matters until you see it, and makes space for that in your life. As I asked before, are there any significant issues in childhood, inadequacies, or beliefs about yourself that are present here today in your husband leaving you....for another woman?  The brain works based on experience. Often the experiences we have are what tell us the world is a certain way, and we are a certain way, and experiences act as a frame of reference for future occurrences. For example, if in childhood I wasn't paid attention to, or my parents didn't allow me to fail because of their own anxieties, my brain makes sense of the world (harsh) and my ability to be in it (cannot be in it as I am). However, new beliefs can override the old ones if they are consistent enough. You can start to believe inadequacies about yourself from this recent marriage if you aren't aware they exist.  Your husband and you's relationship, what did you think about it? What did you notice going through the marriage about him or about yourself? Was this a surprise, or was there a part of you that knew parts of him that could not admit that this behavior fits? If you did not see anything about him, or your relationship, what did you miss, and what were you doing to miss it? These would be good questions to help identify where your head was in the moment, and where it is now, and identify thoughts you may not have said aloud before (hence, getting to know yourself, the blind spots).  So, we've identified beliefs about ourselves from childhood, or most recently, about the marriage and us in that marriage. We have talked about some reflective questions to focus on to help better understand us in that situation. Now, it is time for us to sit with all of this and accept the fact that it sucks and is painful.  Here's the deal with life, it's painful. The type of pain we will experience and why it gets our attention, not another kind of pain, is up to the formed beliefs and the subconscious way we hold it. You are in a state of pain, and that is OK, make space for this pain. One of the worst things people do to themselves is trying to fix or remedy everything they deem uncomfortable. It is not the pain that causes problems, but our belief that we should not feel this pain and that we need to fix it. You don't need to fix it, and you can (despite what your mind tells you) sit with this pain.  Your mind will tell you many things about what to do in the next couple of weeks or months. Your mind will judge you, make up stories, and flood you with inadequacies (possibly), your job is to notice them, make space for them, and remember that your mind does not control you, but it does exist. Your thoughts are not you, but they are there. You, a deeper you than the thoughts, get to choose what you do when the thoughts and pain come up. If you find value in learning and experience and know that someday this all has a purpose, then endure. Do not remedy your pain or try to avoid it; learn what it is like to sit in it. This will equate to a strength unlike you've had before.  You notice thoughts, distance yourself from them, experience the pain, and learn to sit with it, and you will become bulletproof in life. You will learn to experience life, while not letting it take away your experience. You will learn to go into situations your mind says you can't do or that you are scared of. You can imagine yourself standing firm while all the words, firey pain, and then remedy thoughts tell you, "you can't handle this." You won't have to respond to those thoughts; you notice them and continue to do what it is you care most about in this world.  Find that "why," and you can endure any 'how." What do you care most about? What is something you value in life? Go for it, live for that thing, and there you will find that experience, pain, or pleasure, will be your best teacher, and you can even find gratitude for it. 
Answered on 01/30/2023

Is it possible to move on from a break up and still remain friends with the ex?

You care about him, but he's taking advantage of you. Your care for him may have been due to him presenting well enough to care for, but deep down, he is being selfish in not letting you go. It's unfair that you feel such commitment to him and that he isn't allowing that love from you to be enough to either commit or let you go; it's cruel, in fact.  Imagine that I tell my job I will come in to work, but then don't show up and then show up the next day and work really hard when I need the money. Imagine that work would have to hold an entire spot for me even though I don't commit to them. That would devastate the business. Much worse is happening inside of you as you accept this behavior from him as acceptable in your life. This is what is happening. Is this how much you value yourself, to be treated as convenient? It's not some noble thing on his part; it is immature selfishness, and you need to respect yourself enough to not deal with it.  Unless (this part is important) you see characteristics inside of him that are worth investing in. If you see a young man, not yet mature, or a good, caring person for others, who thinks of others' needs before his own, and is confident (not cocky, that is ego), then that tells me he might be worth investing in. However, that I believe to be rare given he is willing to string you along, as you present.  What is worth investing in is the man who says, "I am not good for you; we are breaking up." A weak man can't do that. A weak man tries to hold on to you while still open to exploring other people. I fear that he fails at a new relationship and then comes back to you. I fear that he gets the attention of another girl and then strays and then comes back when she figures him out. That is the sign of a weak man; he goes wherever the wind blows him, he is unsteady in himself and needs external validation and reassurance of other women.  What you can do is attempt to see this situation for what it really is, a young boy not yet man enough to be with you. He isn't a BAD person or someone who is evil, but he is immature, thinking he can play a relationship like that and get away with it.  I don't know this man's history, but if he has a history of childhood inconsistencies or trauma with his primary caregivers, then he may be struggling with a deep sense of inadequacy or being a victim, which will result in sad stories for other people to receive the reward of validation. This would affirm what he cannot do for himself. He cannot support what he doesn't accept, which is all of him, the inadequate parts as well. If he cannot accept these parts, he will hurt you because he doesn't believe you will stay, and so he will push you away before he gets too hurt. He's keeping you at arm's distance now in fact.  Your job is to ask yourself what is good for you and what you are willing to put up with. If you are willing to put up with his behaviors, then commit to it. Commit to the feelings of being wronged or treated inappropriately. If you really commit, then all of these thoughts and feelings come along with the decision. Either commit to this chaos, to else you better remove the negative and troubling from your life the best you can; that starts with him. 
Answered on 01/28/2023

How do you rekindle your marriage after 9 years of marriage & kids?

Thank you for taking the time to post this question. Kids and years together can change the dynamic of a partnership so quickly! You refer to it like being co-workers with your partner and you are spot on! I remember joking with my partner that we had become administrative assistants for our infant when he was born. Thankfully, it is possible to break out of that role and back into the passion and intimacy that feels so lost.   When we get bogged down in the day-to-day minutia of our lives [jobs, finances, kids, food planning, etc.] it can be easy to lose touch with the person that you fell in love with and with yourself. Even though I am going to be directly answering your question regarding rekindling things with your partner, please parallel that with the idea that you need to also rekindle your connection with yourself. It is very common for parents to lose their individual sense of identity just as much as their sense of partnership when kids come into the picture. So, let’s get to it! There are some great clinicians out there [John Gottman and Esther Perel specifically] who have done a lot of amazing work on this issue. Esther Perel’s book Mating in Captivity is an exploration of just this topic- keeping the passion in a relationship alive despite all the domestic life things we have going on. She also has a few podcasts and a card game for couples you can purchase. John Gottman and the Gottman Institute have an app called “Card Decks” that can help to prompt discussion and play with your partner [And it’s FREE!]. All of these can be great resources for you! Here are some actionable items that can be a great starting point for rekindling.  _____________________________________________________________________________________ The 6 Second Kiss How many times a day do you and your partner transition between spaces or roles and give each other a peck on the cheek or lips in passing? Gottman suggests that one easy way to rekindle the intimate connection is through a six second kiss. Here’s what you do: Instead of just doing the peck on the lips and leave, both of you should be intentional about holding the kiss for at least six seconds. It will likely feel awkward at first and perhaps seem like the longest six seconds ever, but many couples report that by taking just this step they were able to start rebuilding their intimacy almost exponentially. Schedule Date Nights and Check-Ins When you are busy managing the schedule of a tiny dictator…ahem…child…it’s easy to lose sight of your own schedule. Suddenly those date nights are the first things to go because they don’t seem nearly as important as the twenty bajillion other things you have going on. Schedule a night a week, even if it’s just a few hours between your bed time and when the child goes to sleep, to have a date night with your partner. This may be a date night in your own house, but the goal is to be intentional about doing something that you both enjoy that brings you together. It may be playing video games together, taking a long shower together, sitting on the porch cuddling and talking. Whatever you do, the goal is to be consistent with your date nights but also to make sure that the focus is on your relationship, not on phones or anything else. Just each other. If you can save up for childcare, then you can plan outings. I have found that a lot of churches and local children’s programs have a parent’s night out program where they will take care of your children while you go do something for a few hours and the cost is quite inexpensive. It can also be helpful to have a weekly check-in for your relationship. The check-in and the date night can happen at the same time too. A check-in can be whatever you both agree it needs to be, but the basics would be that you check in to see how you feel you have done as a partnership this past week. Where were areas you guys did really well and where are some areas that might need some work? You can also review the schedule for the coming week to make sure that you guys are on the same page as to events and priorities. Permission to Escape This section really is about being intentional about allowing your partner to have their own time away from the family. One partner may find they feel more refreshed after a night away in a hotel for a night. The other partner might feel rejuvenated by a night out with their friends. Figure out what you both need and start scheduling those times. Also be prepared to do them ad hoc. You may need to ask for one or suggest that your partner take one. Whichever it is, the key is to communicate openly what your needs are so you can partner around how to get them met. I sincerely hope this was helpful. The big take-away here is to be intentional in your relationship vs. getting lost in the routines of the day.
Answered on 01/27/2023

Where do I start?

Hello, That's hard to be processing on your end when your dream is to be loved and having your own family and not seeing changes on your partner's end. I can help start to direct ideas to think about as you start therapy on the platform.  I might start out with the idea of: what makes you feel loved that you do for yourself in the marriage and is there anything that you feel would be an expression of love from your spouse? An example can be getting a core group of friends to do things with outside the marriage, I need a romantic date night once in a while and I'll reciprocate that as well, I need affirmation or touches daily from my spouse, etc. I understand you mentioned that it has been hard to communicate as well and usually I do recommend on creating a safe place to start talking about things in your relationship. If you're looking to connect more, one idea is to do a fondness and admiration exercise where you start to notice what your partner does that you cherish from them and say specifically how they showed that in that day. I would do it spontaneously throughout a week with words, love notes, etc. This can be something like I really enjoyed being playful last night on our walk when we talked about having a family together, etc. I will also say that it can be normal at times to feel scared if you felt you haven't been connecting with your spouse lately and those thoughts can pop in. I will often say that thoughts are just thoughts, they might not be true and facts can be different. I may recommend couples counseling for you two or individual therapy as a way to build up the courage to start discussing and noticing patterns in your relationships you're unhappy with and noticing often times it can be bettered and repaired to be even stronger. Most relationships will have ups and downs and learning to navigate when you feel disconnected is incredibly important.  I hope this gives you an idea, some validation and how to start navigating your question. Best Regards, Mitchell Daas, MA, LPCC
Answered on 01/27/2023

Need support to help me emotionally leave this situation

Hi Shaun! Welcome to the Better Help platform! Thank you so much for asking this great question on the topic about leaving your current situation. Based on what you wrote in your question, it sounds like you have been trying to break ties with your significant other and end your current relationship. How long have you been trying to leave this situation? It appears that you have already made the conscious decision to end your time together. Congratulations on making this important choice. What has this decision making process been like for you? What barriers do you foresee as holding you back from following through with your decision? Would you say that you are experiencing a sense of hesitation about leaving your significant other? It sounds like you are preparing to make a big change at this point. My hope is that I will be able to help you to navigate this experience and assist you in coming up with a plan to move forward with leaving this situation. First and foremost, I would like to commend you for your courage in seeking out guidance on how to navigate your current situation. It is very brave of you to reach out for support on this topic. Ending a relationship can cause significant distress for anybody. Making the decision to end things is a really good first step. I can see why ending this relationship would be a challenge for you as you had mentioned that you have a soul tie to your significant other and that you two talk together frequently. Therefore, it is vital to be kind to yourself and continue to understand your own feelings about the situation. In addition, it may be important for you to recognize your personal strengths as well as make note of your admirable qualities. Doing so can be a means to foster your self confidence, which in turn can aid you in implementing your plan of terminating the relationship. One of the most effective ways to boost self confidence is through therapeutic writing. Take some time to write about your plan of action. Explore your positive qualities through therapeutic journaling. The therapeutic writing process can be an incredibly powerful tool to begin discovering more about your self and can be a wonderful tool to better understand your strengths and skills. You can start this process by writing a pro's and con's list about your decision to end the relationship. For more information about the benefits of journaling, check out the free resources online from the International Association for Journal Writing. The website is: As a registered art therapist, I always recommend that individuals participate in art based interventions. The therapeutic art making process can be incredibly inspiring, healing and informative. It is true that painting, drawing, coloring, weaving and sculpting activities can build self confidence, strengthen self awareness and boost self esteem. There are countless options for art therapy interventions that you could put into practice if you are willing to do so. For more information about the therapeutic benefits of art therapy, check out the website for the American Art Therapy Association (AATA). The AATA website is: An example of an art therapy directive that you could try is to draw a time line of your current relationship. Choose a starting point, such as the time when you first met or your first date. Utilize arrows to signify the direction in which the relationship has been going. Mark down major milestones on your time line using shapes to reflect important moments. Apply a variety of colors to indicate how you were feeling at any given moment in time. This art based directive may help you to reflect on your relationship and determine how you want things to end. Once you have completed your timeline, take a moment to reflect on your relationship. Draw a picture of your feelings about ending the relationship. Utilize this image as a source of strength as you move forward with your plan to leave your current situation. Ultimately, it will be up to you to decide when the right time is to end the relationship and leave your current situation. You may need to break ties with this individual completely in order to be able to fully disengage the relationship. I know that you mentioned that the two of you talk every day so it may be challenging at first to cease that ongoing communication. You also noted that your significant other is not trying to move forward with the break up. It seems like you will have to put into practice assertive communication skills in order to successfully employ your plan of action. Despite the challenge you are facing, it is important that you have faith in yourself that you can do this! I want to thank you again, Shaun, for asking this invaluable question on the "Ask a Licensed Therapist" forum. Also, I would like to wish you all the best on your therapeutic journey on BetterHelp. I sincerely hope that my response has been helpful for you in some way. Take good care and have a great day!
Answered on 01/25/2023

What actions should I take? How do I go about fixing this? Should I leave?

Hi, I am so sorry to hear about your current situation with your boyfriend. It does become very difficult to survive in this type of an environment where your emotional needs are not being met. I know how challenging it can become to raise children while balancing work when you are emotionally not taken care of. I want you to start by shifting your perspective about yourself and your relationship. First, I want you to work on your own personal growth. This would include taking care of your physical health as well as your mental health. It is extremely important as if you are feeling good about yourself and your environment you will be able to look at the world from a different lens. Once you feel confident in your own skin then you can start working on your relationship as chances are when he sees a changed person he may become attracted to you again. if the relationship is meant to be and if he is the right person for you it will bring both of you closer and if he is not meant to be with you then this would be a point where it will get terminated. However, we are going to try to make the relationship work as you have children involved. I want you to do a swot analysis for him and your relationship where you would look at his strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. SWOT Analysis is a tool to help you analyze your relationship in depth and to think about the potential of the relationship. The goal of this exercise would be to increase your awareness of your partner and how it affects your relationship. Some other things to consider are his ability as a parent. The strengths and weaknesses are some parts that you may have control over relatively in your relationships. This will help you develop a plan in setting boundaries and future goals for your relationship. I hope this was helpful and I do encourage you to seek help from a mental health professional for your personal growth and for your relationship. Best, Dr. Saima 
Answered on 01/25/2023

How do you move past a breakup?

Erratic It's not you; it's her, mostly anyways. Together and breaking up, the extremes seem to depend on her moods. So, what do you do with that? How do you stay with someone who is like that? Do you think you could be with this person as long as you toe the line and keep her happy? No, that is not what someone who embraces an erratic and shifting mood wants; they want chaos and confusion and thrive on it. So, what you can do is to sit with the situation, knowing you can't fix it, or fix it here and either accept the life you would have with her erratic and emotional self or get out and look for something that you know has the ability to reciprocate the feelings and emotions back to you. This person doesn't seem capable of doing that; she seems to be consumed with herself.  The best part about what I said was that it puts the choice back into your possession. She does what she does for whatever reason. Your job is to know what is good for you so you can be good and helpful and good for others. If you must constantly be at the mercy of someone's shifting mood, there isn't much left for anyone else. Are you willing to give up your life and what you mean to others to be with her? The choice is yours despite what you might believe today. You aren't lost. I think you are questioning yourself. She is selfish and can't think of you in all this. If she could, she wouldn't be testing you like this. I believe that you aren't willing to accept the reality that you know what you know about her, and you are going against this knowledge, invalidating yourself, leading to this lost feeling. Lost might mean trying to deny yourself to try and accept an alternative narrative that isn't true.  Trust your gut on this. Trust that what you notice is legitimate and that you can validate and support yourself in this process. The pain here is when you deny yourself and your feelings in the process when you accept these behaviors of someone else, and it hurts you. It's like going to yourself and saying the worst things you would never say to anyone. You are denying yourself when you allow your boundaries to be crossed by her when she comes and goes as her emotions direct her. Knowing doesn't necessarily lead to change. Learning can help us make a change if we are willing to endure the pain. Pain is inevitable no matter what you choose in life. There is pain in staying in the same situation. There is pain with change. Pain has to be accepted. You can experience pain on the way to something valuable to you versus the pain of denying and hurting yourself. Live according to your highest value, and the pain to do it (such as setting boundaries or not letting this other person cause you harm because it's harmful to others) is worth it. The real question is, what matters to you and prevents you from living according to that direction? If a relationship isn't helping you grow but draining you, get out. Endure the pain of turning people down that prevents you from living your highest value. 
Answered on 01/21/2023

How to open up to dating again after you have been hurt by someone? Age old question, I know.

Thank you for submitting your question. And I am sorry that you are encountering this struggle in your life right now. It is entirely normal and perfectly human to feel these feelings. It is normal to want to avoid heartbreak. It is common to nearly everyone to fear and want to avoid loss, rejections, abandonment, and the devastation that can come when our hopes are dashed following the ending of a relationship which once seemed so promising. Each time we encounter the ending of a relationship it truly can feel like a piece of us is chipped away and there remains a permanent crack. The endings hurt and we don’t want to keep doing something which might lead to more hurt. It seems logical. Honestly, a breakup is a real stressor. It will impact you emotionally, mentally, and physically. It can bring grief. It can bring actual physical pain. Your brain and body will feel it – and will need time to adjust. You mention it’s been six months. Healing isn’t on a timeline. If you are not ready to try again yet, that’s okay. A lifetime is a long time, so six months is really just a short blip. If it is too soon for you then it’s too soon. Some people need longer breaks. Be patient and compassionate towards yourself. Don’t rush your healing. Here is the good news worth focusing on and reminding yourself of: You have experienced loss, and you are still here. You have survived. You have endured. And you have learned a lot through it all – valuable lessons that will guide and benefit you moving forward. It’s only natural that, following a hurtful situation, we want to do everything we can to avoid it happening again. It is a natural instinct of self-preservation. But you cannot allow that instinct to keep you stuck in place and keep you from living life to the absolute fullest. Your alternative, what seems sensible in this moment, is to avoid any relationship ever again. In some part of your brain it makes sense. You will avoid the potential pain should that relationship fail. But are you really avoiding pain? As humans, we crave and thrive on connection and intimacy. You could certainly choose to live in isolation - but it seems you would be doing so not because it’s the choice you’re happily making for yourself, rather it’s a choice based in fear. It seems you would just be picking a different pain. You might be missing the pain of a potential breakup. Yet, you’re missing the opportunity for connection and love. The self-preservation becomes an obstacle, a barrier – a new sort of prison you’ve built for and around yourself. Is that going to be the path towards happiness? Avoiding life because of fear does not free you from pain. Living in fear is itself pain. Consider this: a full life is one which comes with many different experiences. Some are pleasant. Some are unpleasant. Things aren’t always going to go your way. That’s okay. That is called being a human. One thing you can do is reflect on these relationships and see what lessons you might take away from them. What traits or characteristics did those people possess? Do you want more or less of those things? Perhaps in reflection your preferences will change. You might find you want to prioritize things in a different way. Maybe you contributed to the breakup in some way through your thoughts or behaviors – and you can learn something from that. Maybe you ignored a red flag or settled for something you shouldn’t have. Even if you had no role at all, you still get to do one important thing – you can choose to move on. All of the past encounters can actually help you be more successful in future. You have all these experiences to learn from. Let them help you guide you. The pain of a breakup is real. And every person no matter how rich or beautiful or intelligent goes through it at some point in their life. But think about the future. Focus on the positive possibilities. How wonderful might it be when you find the right relationship? It’s possible you will value that love even more after knowing the alternative. And it’s possible you have become more expert at what doesn’t work in relationship – so you’ll avoid repeating all that. Focus on what could be instead of what happened in the past. You cannot ever change what is already done. But the future? That’s wide open and it’s full of possibility and potential. Turn your eyes towards that. When you’re ready to. Taking a risk for love can certainly feel scary. But living a life wherein you’ve shut yourself off from love isn’t necessarily such a happy alternative. Keep taking care of yourself. It sounds like it is a good time to work on your own personal growth and development. And up your self-care efforts. It might also help to work with a therapist to process the grief and fears you are experiencing. A therapist, too, can help you begin to move forward and plan out how to work towards a successful future relationship.
Answered on 01/20/2023

How to transition to a securely attached person?

Who You Are. Your attachment style does not define you, but it could help you understand the difficulties in forming a relationship. Your attachment style isn't a diagnosis either, and it isn't treatable alone, but the totality of this early formation of beliefs can be understood and managed. What is treatable is what you notice in your day-to-day life is affected by what you've identified. Had you not taken that quiz, what would you have noticed about yourself? What did getting a definition do for you? Did you feel validated that you found a reason for failed relationships or feeling the way you do? What exactly did the quiz, and this idea do for you that you now feel more empowered to work on, and what exactly would your life look like with this newly identified problem being solved? Being fearfully avoidant might mean you don't get into a relationship, or if you do, stay to yourself, and hold something back. You've been taught that this world, your partner, and your friends even will hurt you. You avoid because there was a belief formed very early in life 1-2 years old, where your parents didn't give you what you needed, and thus you lack a sense of security, so now you are fearfully avoidant, not just in relationships, but in life I would assume. This lack of assurance goes far beyond relationships and can be seen in everything from the clothes we wear to the trips we take, to the jobs we choose. Everything about us can be in service to a belief about ourselves and the world around us.  What to do with it all? Well, now you have something to tell you why you act the way you do, a failed connection in early childhood, and now you can make all the connections with what you found out about yourself, looking back on your interactions. Now what? Now is the hard part because it is painful. Now you have to leave these fabricated comfort zones to do the thing your mind would rather not do, form relationships despite this internal warning sign going off.  This work is incredibly difficult because it acknowledges the vulnerable childhood self and tries to form new beliefs even though the old ones are stagnant and there, constantly telling us what to do or think. Our core beliefs, our subconscious connection with others, and a general sense of safety have never been developed, and now we think with work, we can create that. Not likely. What happens instead is that you will internalize a less-than state of mind in continuing to fail at being better. Instead of trying to be better by ridding ourselves of a part of ourselves, accept this part of you exists. Learn more about that part rather than deny, judge, or try to alter it. We don't rid ourselves of that part; instead, we accept (which isn't agreement but acknowledge) our way of thinking and learn to live with that part of ourselves. To not accept a part of ourselves, in any fashion, is not accepting ourselves wholly. When we fail to accept or give voice to any part of ourselves that we try to get rid of, we waste our lives and reinforce inadequacy because we fail to give credit to ourselves. If you only accept the good parts of yourself, then you are condemning yourself.  Accept your thoughts as your thoughts, and try not to judge or alter them. Just learn to sit in your feelings and thoughts to improve your tolerance better and grow relationships that you would otherwise avoid. Get comfortable being uncomfortable and notice thoughts, allowing them to pass. Thoughts and feelings always pass; let them. You don't have to remedy or respond to all of them. This will help you the most. It's not about what you think but about noticing how you think. How you think is tied to your avoidant attachment. Anything that promotes fear probably gets your attention well enough for you to react to it. Instead, sit with the thoughts, and emotions, and bypass the reaction to try to fix it. Do what you find valuable and learn to cope with the thoughts that try to keep you stagnant along the way. 
Answered on 01/17/2023

How can I lessen my anxious attachment to a partner?

Hello, First, I appreciate you sharing what's going on and I can provide some guidance around this. I'll list a few different ideas on how to approach your casual relationship with him here. I might start out with acknowledging that the relationship has changed and it's normal to feel anxious about the unknown when you both initially decided on being casual together and noticing now you have stronger feelings for him. I think this is very important and overlooked. Often times we will act on anxiety and avoid how we feel, talking about things, etc. I might suggest asking yourself what feels effective around this? An example might be... I'm at a place where I want to problem solve my anxiety and ask if he'd like to have a relationship with me, etc.? I'm giving a hypothetical on this.  I can understand why you might not want to rock the boat either if you're enjoying your time with him and are fearful that it might end what feels pretty good right now.  Another piece that is more on a micro level is to notice when feeling anxious you may check things more often, which can increase your anxiety drastically. An example might be texting and checking your phone over and over and hoping for a response. I can understand how it can be validating and reassuring to hear from him and understand it can be painful when you don't get the response in the time frame you're looking for. often times, I will try to urge surf or notice my checking behavior and try to block it essentially (not look at my phone and instead notice the intensity or sensation of wanting to look at my phone for his text or snap, etc. My last idea to help you process this further is I'll often ask myself this question... Is keeping the peace now going to keep me miserable going forward? This is for you to recognize and decide when you're not okay any longer as a casual relationship. All these things may help alleviate your anxiety around the relationship and likely lead to you being more relaxed around him and silly. I hope this all helps and I understand this isn't a solve all. I wish you the best, Mitchell Daas, MA, LPCC
Answered on 01/15/2023

How do I know if I miss being with him or miss just having someone there?

Hi Saph, You are having natural feeling in the longing that comes from missing your boyfriend; these feelings can range from minor feelings of sadness to downright agony depending on the relationship and the amount of time you've been apart. Naturally, missing your boyfriend is a totally normal reaction to being separated from them. Whether you've gone a few days or a few weeks without seeing him; worrying after someone who isn't physically with you really sucks. Your heart will ache for him no matter how good or how bad the relationship is, and then your head will get involved in the situation also.  Your brain will cause major waves of emotions that are difficult to see with our own eyes, but neurobiology tells us that many chemical reactions will occur in your brain.  All people are motivated by our brain processes, and many times we have no idea that these processes are occurring on a conscious level, but that doesn't mean that the feelings arising from these chemical reactions don't affect us in very real ways. The brain activity is very similar to that of a person who is drinking alcohol or who has stopped drinking alcohol.  Again, we need to rely upon the fact many neurobiology tells us that many chemical reactions will occur in your brain.  Please go easy on yourself during this time of breakup.  Your brain is working full throttle, and you need to wait a while for your brain to get back to normal. Once you've fallen for someone, your body naturally speeds up its processing of these feel-good neurotransmitters, which creates a chemical intensity that is often described as "love." It's not long before our bodies become addicted to the euphoric feelings of love triggered by our partners.  It is fine to have these feelings of euphoric love.  You want that feeling of euphoric love again, but you are questioning if you can have that with another person.  Yes, there is no scientific evidence that only one person is the person that can cause these feelings of euphoric love in you.  Many different people can cause these feelings of euphoric love in you.  Luckily, there are also ways to combat the feelings of sadness caused by missing someone.  Becoming creative is the best way to get over the feelings of sadness.  When we are being creative, our brains release dopamine, which is a natural anti-depressant. Even though, you might not feel like doing much of anything when you're feeling down, distracting your mind is a key part of overcoming the blues.  Writing, cooking, drawing, photography, art, music, cake decorating, or coloring are some ways that you can divert your attention from not having your boyfriend around you.  Although staying busy and creative can definitely help your brain curb feelings of withdrawal and heartache, it's totally fine if you're still feeling a bit sad.  It's totally normal to miss your partner, but it's nice to know that there's a scientific reason behind why it feels so icky. Try to remember you're not alone; most people on planet earth have had a relationship end at one point in their lives or another.  This current distance between you and your parents might be the spark that you need to have a stronger relationship.  If it is a weak relationship, you are probably better off with it ending right now.  You are under no obligation to continue suffering just to prove that it is a bad relationship.  You did not mention what you boyfriend did to cause the situation, but you might want to consider forgiveness.  Scientists who study forgiveness have long agreed that it is one of the most important contributors to a healthy relationship. Studies have shown that couples who practice forgiveness are more likely to enjoy longer, more satisfying romantic relationships. Research has even found that people who practice unconditional forgiveness are more likely to enjoy longer lives. Forgiveness is such a key component to a healthy relationship, because, let’s face it, people are not perfect. No matter how close to complete a soulmate we find, every individual is incredibly different from the next. Couples who form a “fantasy bond” in an effort to merge identities, fall completely into sync and function as one are forgetting this basic reality. They’re also setting themselves up for great disappointment. It’s important to accept that we all have separate minds and points of view. Each and every one of us is hurt, defended, flawed and inevitably going to make mistakes. Having this perspective doesn’t mean we should sit back and withstand being mistreated.  However, if we want to enjoy a lasting relationship with someone we value and choose to spend our lives with, we may want to grow our ability to forgive. I don’t know if what your boyfriend did deserves forgiveness, but please realize that forgiveness is more about you than about him.  You will want to forgive so that your anger towards him does not become a resentment.  Anger is poisonous, but resentments are deadly.  When you don’t forgive a person, you will fail to enjoy the present.  Failing to enjoy the present is the greatest thing that you can have, and you might be giving it away for free.  Lack of forgiveness can easily lead to depression and anxiety.  Depression and anxiety can easily lead to many more problems in your life including a lot of physical problems.  Without forgiveness, you will find that you lack meaning and purpose in your life.  Having a meaning and purpose in life can help in many different parts of your life.  If you don’t forgive one person, you will slowly find that you will be losing connectedness with others.  Our common connection with others is one of the strongest forces in the universe, and I would hate to see that you are not trying to utilize it to your advantage.  Forgiveness is not forgetting, and you can easily forgive your boyfriend, but that does not mean that you still want anything to do with him.  Paul Teska, LPC + LCDC
Answered on 12/27/2022

How do I acclimate to feeling invisible in my communities?

Acclimate? We start to accept the narrative of the way the environment treats us. There is something here you have begun to believe about yourself from this current environment. You notice that your identity is wrapped up in one thing, and if that one thing is too rigid, you will struggle with the expectations of success in your identity. What else are you besides what you mentioned in this question? What do you value, and what do your decisions serve about you? Hopefully, you identify more about yourself than just the titles.  There is much to talk about here in therapy to understand your identity better, why it means so much to you, and what holds you back. However, address what to do with these feelings and how to deal with not being seen by your community. You determined in your query that the best way to manage your feelings of hurt or rejection is to acclimate, or just lay down, in your life. You don't need to agree to not being seen; you need to start to notice what you believe should happen in relationships.  According to your question, you mention your belief that things should be a different way. What way is that? What would life look like if you woke up tomorrow and your problem today was solved? Would you have friends that embraced you as you are? Would you be accepted, or better, feel accepted? Is it as deep as accepting yourself? You have to identify what change would look like in your life. Not the difference you would make but the ideal results of your changes.  I have to check on the "artistic" life and what it tells you about yourself. Again with the harsh self-narrative and how you have adapted to this lifestyle, is it a culture that embraces differences? You have to work on separating from the narrative your environment told you about yourself, leading you to the conclusion in this question. You believe that your life should be different and what is critical is that you notice your belief that interferes with where you are at in life.  "Invisible" in the communities you have invested in has to be painful. Rather than trying to remove the pain, it's okay to embrace it. It is painful to realize you are being rejected by a family of sorts, a community, that you have chosen to be in, but now they don't accept you. Do not accept their lack of acceptance of you as acceptable; why your community doesn't is their shortcoming and demonstrates the judgemental ways of said community.  Lastly, if you engage in therapy, it would be best to focus talks on what you notice from your environment and how that affects your view of yourself. If you constantly look down on yourself or feel like an outsider, which is not a good feeling, especially in later years, it is good to say it out loud. As a suggestion, is there another way to approach this or another group to be around? It would benefit you to get to know yourself better and be supportive of yourself and what you notice to be good for you. If there is guilt and resentment, mitigating these emotions is critical to prevent being bitter.  What is good for you? What stops you from fulfilling that for yourself in your life?
Answered on 12/27/2022

How to deal with being in love with your best friend's girlfriend

Love can be very tricky and hard to hide. One of the great yet challenging things is being honest with yourself, which you have already done by acknowledging being in love with your best friend's girlfriend and acknowledging the feelings connected to this reality, which is the first step. You have identified that this is someone who you can never be with and it sounds like you have come to terms with that.  You also mentioned "Being with her would mean choosing between her and my friend" and this may come with the assumption that the feeling is mutual, which could be true or false. Identifying the pros and cons of saying something is important as it seems you value this friendship and this could cost you losing both friends. Although you all have perhaps built a strong connection with each other and are possibly around one another often, the second step is to set healthy boundaries for yourself by exploring ways that you can minimize hurtful interactions. For example being intentional about not being alone with this friend, not spending too much time with them, or asking questions related to their feelings about you. This is not easy to do at all, however, in trying to work through these feelings sometimes limiting interactions with that person is necessary. It sounds like friendship, comfort, and connectedness are important to you as it relates to romantic interests with others. Another step can be taking some time to think about what you love about that person so that you can be intentional about future romantic connections with others that will be meaningful to you based on what you like. You mentioned feeling shameful and guilty and the reality is we cannot always help who we are attracted to or fall in love with. Be sure to practice giving yourself grace knowing that you are human. Moving forward with this situation will take some time and could even be a grieving process. Giving yourself that time and seeking professional support can also help you talk through it. Coping with situations as such will look different for everyone. 
Answered on 12/21/2022

How do i move forward? Do i cut off contact?

Trust and Intimacy Ending things is possible, but it won't fix what you have going on. Your hurt from eight years ago seems to have manifested into policing both of them. In short, you will burn yourself out or already have. For eight years, you have been living this life this way while missing out on what you need. Growth comes from coping with life stressors and learning who you are in the process. You, though, are distracted by how to keep those two apart.  My question for you is, what are you doing for yourself? If you hold these relationships together, are they even good for you? What do you need in all of this? Again, you can cut all ties, but you are still left with you who is hurt and have dealt with self-sacrifice for the last eight years. The real question is, not do you cut ties, but what will you do for yourself instead?  Never "don't do" something. When we say, "I am not going to," that is a negative and leaves a gap that needs to be filled. With your partner and your friend, if you eliminate one, then what are you going to fill that time with? Your partner, of course, they say cut ties, they cheated with your friend, and they want to forget about all that. However, there are consequences to our choices, and your partner's is that they have to face the reality of what they've done. They hurt you, and now both of their behaviors continue to hurt you.  Please do not think about what to do with them but think about what matters to you and then make decisions according to what matters. Why does it matter if they are apart and you work to keep them apart if they want to be together? If these two would hook up on their own, then neither of them is a friend to you. People who overlook the feelings of others in their life are so selfish, it is hard to realize that other people have feelings, they hurt, and we played a part in that. Selfish people cannot sit with the reality of their choices and continue to put caring people like you in charge of making things better for them. Your partner wants you to cut ties? Well, that is your decision to make, make the best one for yourself.  Can we move on from people who hurt us? Yes, but you need to not focus on what they bring or don't bring to your life and instead focus on what you need more of in life. Working, school, taking care of children (if any), working out, reading more, and eating less are significant areas of life people work on when they want to make themselves feel better. Like a diet people don't keep, you ghost your friend because deep down you know they aren't good for you and so you don't show up.  Ask yourself "why" five times when you do something to discover what matters to you. You try to keep the two apart, why, so they don't hurt you, why does that matter, you don't like hurt, why, you think that hurt is a bad emotion, why....and so on. The objective of this exercise is not to focus on the surface layer but to get to the more meaningful (and valued) areas of life to start to love ourselves. 
Answered on 12/21/2022

Do narcissists ever get better in relationship, or does the relationship continue to spiral downward?

Narcissism is a Personality  If this man is a narcissist, he has been his entire life. I do not think this is the primary purpose of your question, but I believe it is necessary not to allow his behaviors to be chalked up to a mental health disorder. Narcissism occurs in childhood from an environment where someone's sense of attachment or belief in oneself and the world around them is a sure way and then builds up behaviors to live in that world of detachment, and winner takes all. A narcissist is actually a fragile human who overly relies on the ego to participate in life. This ego only cares about itself, and its betterment. The rule goes, the weaker or more scared the child, the stronger and bolder the ego has to defend it. Your husband would have had these traits your entire marriage; thus, I question any authentic happiness as defined by being together in emotionally intimate ways.  Adultery would fall in line with a weak man. A weak man requires validation and fears missing out, fears being overlooked, and is absolutely devastated if rejected. Adultery is a way for the ego to feel powerful and worthwhile. The ego says to take and accumulate, and then you will be somebody. If he is a narcissist, your husband's adultery is a symptom of his inability to sit in the stability of a committed relationship. As a child acts out and seeks to devise more from an unstable environment, so did he.  You may not be able to reconcile mostly because he would have to take responsibility for his actions and admit to being weaker than he realized. A narcissist won't do that. A few things will destroy a marriage almost guaranteed, and one of these things is a lack of accountability. We require a partner who will carry his part of the responsibility because it validates what we see in them. Without validation through your husband's accountability, you will form resentment. Resentment and contempt are cancer to any marriage. If your husband messed up, confessed his sins, and gave insight into the nature of the wrongs he did, you may feel a different way about going forward. However, you know him and know that he will do it again once this pain passes and given another chance.  Why? Why, against all logic, would someone hurt someone and destroy a good thing? Because they are not driven by a rational mind but by the appearance of something they have never actually had, a genuine relationship. The ego says, "this next one will be better." This next thing will solve it. The ego has to do something; it cannot just sit and tolerate the pain of not having what it is entitled to. As I said, the symptoms of NPD are that of a wounded child who has learned enough to overcompensate as an adult. This person lacks empathy because the situation is all about him. His cheating was probably twisted to how he was wronged somehow or the victim of some circumstance. Do not fall for that sort of speech if it is occurring. It is the ego self-preserving, and sometimes people have to go through rejection to realize they cannot get away with these behaviors and that they are not the person to be overlooked and assumed to be weakminded. 
Answered on 12/17/2022