Monogamy Answers

Will a serial cheater ever change and how to recover from that.

Hi! I'm so glad you reached out to Betterhelp to seek some guidance regarding these questions. It certainly sounds like you have been through a lot! I want to tell you that first no matter what you decide to do about your relationship, it’s very important to continue to work on your mental health as I am sure this has been very painful to go through. It is certainly a process, but you have taken a very important first step in navigating this transition by reaching out for help.   Give yourself “grace” during this time and throughout this process. I encourage you to look into these books to see which ones might aid you in this process until you can receive one-on-one therapeutic services. 1)     Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse- Jackson MacKenzie 2)     Holding On When You Want to Let Go: Clinging to Hope When Life Is Falling Apart- Sheila Walsh I also recommend this workbook which many of my clients have utilized and benefited from: Self-Love Workbook for Women: Release Self-Doubt, Build Self-Compassion, and Embrace Who You Are Paperback – Megan Logan MSW LCSW It’s important to know that healing is key to overcoming trauma and pain. I say “trauma” because cheating or  betrayal is a very traumatic thing to go through! Healing is different for everyone, but for any person, requires the intention to release past traumas and recover which can be done in conjunction with a therapist. This intention can be: Allowing you to focus on yourself. Negative thoughts and feelings can be overwhelming at times. But with healing, survivors can take their attention away from the negativity and focus on what their needs are. Allowing yourself to develop closer relationships with other people when you feel you’re ready!  It’s important to allow your friends and family to serve as your support system as you take part in the healing process. Sometimes it helps survivors relieve their pain by finding different avenues to cope, such as taking up a new hobby, returning to once-abandoned hobbies, getting out more, etc.  Embrace Positive Affirmations by refocusing the subconscious mind starts with “forcing” positivity. (The negativity — or the inner critic that can come from trauma— can stir self-sabotage and hold you back from embracing positive thing) Here are some positive affirmations that you can try: “I love myself.” “I am worthy.” “I am beautiful.”   Another piece of advice I have is setting those SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and anchored within a Time Frame. Pick some SMART goals that will get you up and moving! Whether it is going for a walk 1-2 times per week or drawing 1-2 times per week and then picking a new game to start. You can start by finding at least one form of exercise that you can easily get into that helps you release the grief, rage and hurt that can stem from the aftermath of betrayal and trauma. The best part is that while you’re exercising, you can listen to empowering music or positive affirmations or listen to an audio book. (Just remember: Exercise is supposed to be beneficial, not self-destructing). Here are some great exercises to get into: Kickboxing Yoga Dance cardio Running Walking Lastly remember that this is a temporary time in your life so again, to give yourself grace and remember that just because you are feeling stuck right now, that does not mean you will feel this way forever because this time in your life will does not equal forever. You took an important step in reaching out and asking for help and guidance! There is a lot of strength there so pull from that strength and investigate those suggestions I mentioned above 😊
(LCSW-S, TBRI, Practitioner)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How to deal with heartbreak?

Hi, I'm sorry you're dealing with this. That's a long time to be in a relationship, and then to feel betrayed by the person you cared so much about, that only makes it harder. I guess the first part of dealing with heartbreak is giving yourself permission to feel heartbroken. Like when someone passes away, there is grief. There are things that you miss, and it's OK to miss them. There are also stages of grief, like shock, denial, and anger (I'm guessing with her being unfaithful during the relationship anger is especially present), and you may go back and forth through the stages. It's not your job to just get over what happened, and it's not your job to act like you're OK. Holding in how you are feeling can keep you stuck. So here are some other suggestions: 1. Try to identify what feelings you are experiencing. Putting a label on them can make them more approachable and easier to cope with. I'd imagine you're experiencing a number of feelings at the same time, and noting what they are can be helpful. 2. Express yourself. It's hard when there's a breakup because often the person we expressed ourselves to the most was the person with whom we are no longer speaking. Reach out to support (even people who maybe you hadn't been as close with recently). If you don't have support, or even if you do, therapy can be a great opportunity to talk about how you are feeling and process the situation. Having an unbiased third party can be advantageous.  3. Take care of yourself. Now more than ever you'll want to make sure you are sticking to a healthy routine. Keep up with your hygiene and give yourself fun activities to look forward to. Try to be around people who make you feel good about yourself. Enjoy nature, eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, exercise (doing so can help release some stress and can also improve mood), watch media that is uplifting and that is not triggering, journal, read a good book, etc. 4. Have balance. You don't want to focus too much on the breakup (so you will want to stay busy), but you also don't want to pretend it didn't happen either.  5. Avoid substance abuse. Drinking or using drugs can make you end up feeling worse. Alcohol is depressant after all. 6. If spirituality is important in your life, look at how you can incorporate it into your routine even more right now--whether that's going to church, praying, etc. 7. Focus on what you like about yourself. Being cheated on can certainly affect one's self-esteem, so be mindful of your self-talk and replace negative self-talk. 8. Don't personalize. You didn't deserve to be cheated on, and what happened was probably much more to do with her than with you.  Again, I suggest participating in therapy, especially if you have limited support or if you feel that it's becoming really difficult to bounce back from this, or if you're noticing that your self-care is suffering. I would be happy to work with you--just let me know if I can help, and take care. Nick 
(MRC, LPCC-S, LICDC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How can I tell if my husband and I should continue our relationship?

I am sorry to hear how depressed and unsupported you are feeling since learning that your husband has been texting another woman. Intense and difficult feelings have a way of short-circuiting our ability to think clearly about our situation. I usually find that individuals who seek out counseling are struggling with three or four difficult feelings. Counseling can be a safe place to explore your difficult feelings and their multiple layers and meaning to you. Once you give yourself permission to fully feel what you are feeling you can then begin understanding yourself and eventually your partner in a deeper and hopefully more realistic way.  In the first stages of a romantic relationship, a marriage, the partners are attracted by each other’s strengths and similarities. By the time you have been with someone 4-5 years, you are beginning to "see" your partner more realistically and you are starting to notice and struggle with your differences. This is often a period of "disillusionment" for one or both partners in the relationship. It is a crisis point – meaning it represents both a danger and/or opportunity. This time is often very scary for marriage partners, and many partners perceive that the differences they are now noticing are a “sign” that they really are not “soul mates” and there is someone else outside the marriage who can better meet their needs. “Falling out of love” and questioning the relationship are common experiences during this stage of the marriage. If you choose to engage in a month's worth of counseling, you will have the opportunity to explore your feelings, this crisis in your marriage, and you will come away with more ideas of your options on how to resolve the current impasse with your husband. Counseling can be a place where you learn information about yourself, your husband and couple relationships in general. Through counseling sessions, you can discover and practice new mental health skills and new ways to approach your husband that respect you and your needs and your husband's as well. From there you will be in a much better position to decide important next steps without staying stuck, depressed, and powerless, "voiceless."   
(LCSW, CEAP)
Answered on 01/21/2022

Advice on infidelity and dealing with the emotions

Dear Cutie malz,   Thank you for your message and allowing me to understand the situation between you and your husband, that your boundaries were violated.   Through your words I understand that in the past (maybe even in present) on one hand you care about others around you and you are constantly giving / helping, on the other hand through this process you might have been compromising or even sacrificing a lot on how you feel in order to keep this relationship going / please others. I can understand how tired you are with this pattern and how you would want things to change so that you can also feel more comfortable in your relationships.   Sometimes perhaps setting a healthy boundary would be helpful in managing your relationship with others in the terms that you feel comfortable, so that hopefully your relationships will continue in a way that is mutually comfortable. Otherwise, as your counselor I would support you to do what is best for yourself, even if that is walking away temporarily. This in itself, is also self-compassion.   In my coaching practice, many of the women and men I work with struggle with one common theme: setting healthy boundaries. I witness this challenge pop up in all relationships, whether it's with a family, business partner, a friend, or in a romantic relationship. We experience this uncomfortable pattern until we heal the root cause of the behavior.   In my experience, the root of all struggle is fear. Relationships become unhealthy when we act from a place of fear, rather than love. More often than not, we aren't even aware of the fears that have been driving our choices, blocking us from doing what's best for ourselves, and damaging our relationships. But learning to set healthy boundaries offers a perfect opportunity to strengthen our capacity to love ourselves and release the ego's fearful perceptions.   When you find yourself having difficulty saying "no" to others, doing things out of feelings of guilt or obligation, attempting to please others even at the expense of what's best for you, or not expressing your thoughts and feelings when someone upsets you, you are putting yourself last and putting others first-which doesn't serve any of the parties involved.   If we say "yes" to others asking of our time and energy and we've not filled ourselves up first, we are giving from a place of lack-which is a fear-based choice that sours the energy in a relationship and doesn't serve either party. It also breeds codependency, and prompts us to attract people and situations that drain us because we aren't honoring our own needs and boundaries.   Many times, this way of being can create anger or resentment in the person who is putting her or his own needs behind others'. This might manifest as complaining, feeling taken advantage of, or feeling powerless. These feelings are messages to us that we've chosen to perceive ourselves as the victim of a circumstance rather than stepping up and making choices for ourselves based on love.   The truth is, we're never a victim of our circumstances. We can choose how we would like to perceive something in any given situation-we can choose to perceive fear or we can choose love. And when we act from a place of love, rather than a place of fear, we experience a radical shift that transforms our struggles and breaks old patterns that are no longer serving us.   There are three main steps to changing the patterns that keep us in unhealthy relationships: Identifying our fears, choosing to adopt a loving perception of a situation, and taking action from a place of self-love.   Step 1: Identify Your Fears   Awareness is the first step to creating change. The moment we witness our ego's fearful perceptions and the stories it's been telling us, we can begin to shift them.   Common fears that show up in the context of boundaries include fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection, or fear of being alone or abandoned. Many times, we adopt these fears as children (or at other points in our lives), and then drag these past experiences into our present and maybe even project them onto the future. This can result in us feeling like we don't want to upset others or lose their approval or acceptance, and valuing that acceptance over our own needs. Another result of letting these fears run the show is that as a consequence we may have trouble accessing how we want to be feeling and what we want to be doing-which prevents us from standing in our power.   Step 2: Choose Love   After we've created awareness around our fears, it's important to recognize that from a spiritual perspective, the fear isn't "real"-it's something we've learned through social conditioning, and not something we're born with. Instead of believing in these fears, we can choose to put our faith in loving perceptions, release our fearful illusions, and begin to experience beautiful changes in our lives.   This is more than a one-time choice; rather, it's an ongoing, moment-to-moment practice that involves witnessing fearful perceptions as they arise and actively choosing loving perceptions instead. To view the world through a lens of love, I recommend that people begin each day with a powerful intention: "I choose to release my fear and see love instead". Repeat this intention whenever fearful thoughts arise throughout the day.   Step 3: Act   Every time we choose love over fear, we commit an act of self-love. It is only when we are secure in our own worth that we can give and receive from a place of abundance, thereby creating relationships that serve us.   Saying "no" or speaking our truth when someone upsets us might feel scary at first. But as we begin to act in spite of our fears, we come to understand that when we act from a place of love, everyone wins. Contrary to what we may believe, there is never a situation in which what's best for us is not best for all. When we face our fears and express our thoughts and feelings openly to the person who upsets us or pushes our boundaries, internal healing occurs. We learn that it is safe to speak our truth and that those who best serve us will listen with love. Best of all, when we show up for ourselves, we provide an opportunity for those around us to show up as well.   Of course, we cannot control how other people respond to our feelings or choices. How others react is their personal spiritual assignment and how we react is ours. As we release our attachment to others' opinions and practice acceptance around however they choose to respond, we free ourselves from the bondage of fear, knowing that we are self-approved.   When You Need to Walk Away   Sometimes, walking away from a job or relationship that's no longer serving us is the most loving choice we can make. If we choose to leave a person or situation, it's important to trust and know that the universe has our back. The work is to call on our inner guiding system-the loving voice within-and to hear an answer, trust it, and act on it. This internal GPS never leads us astray, no matter how surprising or scary the answer may seem.   Saying "No"-The Takeaway   The most valuable thing that happens when we show up for ourselves with love is that we gain a sense of empowerment and a higher level of self-worth. When we give ourselves the love and acceptance that we desire, we no longer have to look for it outside of ourselves, which gives us the freedom to be who we want to be. This will reflect back to us with beautiful relationships that nourish and support us. As we approach our relationships more consciously and release fearful patterns, we break the cycles of guilt and obligation and begin to create new relationships and experiences that reflect our internal space of self-love.   Please let me know if this is helpful, looking forward to hear your thoughts. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How to build trust in a relationship after cheated on

I am so sorry to hear that you are struggling with being cheated on and wanting to repair the relationship, which will mean both of you will need to want that. It will be important to recognize when your feelings have a purpose versus when they do not.  We of course want positive feelings in our lives, but sometimes negative feelings are there for a reason and we need to live out that purpose in order for it to get better.  If we do not live out the purpose of our feelings, it likely leads us to feel worse.  For example, something as simple as having anxiety about needing to get the chores done has the purpose of getting us motivated to get the chores done.  Therefore, if we do not live out that purpose and the chores remain undone, that can lead to more bad feelings, such as, “I am lazy” or “I am worthless.”  This is a simple example of how if we do not pay attention to our feelings and live out the purpose, they can become much, much worse.  So, I would encourage you to try and separate out the thoughts that have a purpose from the thoughts that do not have a purpose and are more intrusive.    For the ones that do have a purpose, it can be helpful to allow yourself to think through the anxious thoughts because anxiety has a nasty way of going to the worst possible scenario.  If you can wrap your head around that scenario, it can make it less scary.  For example, I had a client that was very anxious daily about being single for the rest of his life.  Thinking to that extreme is clearly anxiety and it just lingers there.  So, then he was able to think through that scenario and come up with a plan to make it less scary.  He then came up with that if he really is going to be single the rest of his life, which is highly unlikely, he is going to work towards being able to live close to the ocean since that is a dream of his.  Thinking about it now does not make him as scared because he recognizes he could be happy with that. So, try to think through specific things you are anxious about that have a purpose and make sure you have a specific plan on how to improve those things. For example, having a specific plan for how to address specific anxieties you have around confronting him versus being single.     Intrusive thoughts tend to not have a purpose and it can be really helpful to try and overpower those before they are accepted as truths.   We can have power over our thoughts and I want to help you not engage in these thoughts that make you so upset.  The easiest example of this that I can think of is if I went skydiving.  If I went skydiving I would have some obvious, rational, anxious thoughts.  If I really have a desire to skydive though I will need to not engage in those thoughts.  I might have thoughts such as, "My parachute could fail, I will hit the ground, I am going to pass out, etc."  However, since I really want to follow through with skydiving, I would want to stop those thoughts in their tracks with, "I know this is going to be really fun, they inspect the parachutes ahead of time, people hardly ever get hurt doing this, etc."  By focusing on those thoughts and not engaging in the others, I would be able to follow through with skydiving. Try to sort through any thoughts that get you down about yourself and that you can’t handle all of this and try to overpower those.  These types of thoughts are very common when dealing with this kind of betrayal in a relationship.               As you do those processes it can be helpful to validate yourself as someone of worth and that has been able to get through challenges in your past.  Something that could be helpful for you is what I like to call centering thoughts.  These are thoughts that are predetermined and unique to you for you to turn to in low moments.  They need to be powerful enough to bring you back to your center.  It is important that these thoughts are accessible for you to look at when you need to.  Some clients prefer to read and re-read them and some prefer to write and re-write them until they feel better.  I have clients that write these somewhere they will see daily such as their bathroom mirror or phone background, while others simply have them in their phone to pull out when they need to.  An example of a centering thought would be from a client I had that related to nautical themed things and her thought was, "I will not let this sink me."  Another example is from an Olympic skier that actually had difficulties with negative thinking getting in the way of her performance so she went to therapy.  She mentioned that she learned about centering thoughts to battle all of the people telling her she “should be” or “should do.”  To battle those thoughts, she uses the simple centering thought of, “I am.”  She can then remind herself that she is good enough, that she is confident, and that she does want to still compete, which really affirms her own feelings and not others.  Hopefully you can come up with something that helps validate your worth and abilities to move forward.       I hope that some of this is helpful and that you can apply it to your circumstances.  I hope that you can lean on some family and/or friends through this.  Doing so can help take weight off of your shoulders as well as hopefully get some valuable advice from them. Try to take the healing one day at a time and adding one positive thing back into your life each day. I wish you all the best and I hope that you are staying safe.  
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

What should I do?

Hello there, Infedelity can be a gigantic strain on a relationship. It requires both people involved to work on it, and through it, together. I am wondering if you guys have ever tried talking about this and whether or not you have both agreed to move past it? I ask because that is one of the only reasons how I could understand where your partner is coming from when they say they have moved passed it and you should to. If there was an agreement to move past everything, then that makes sense. However, if that is not the case, that is a very dismissive statement. Just because they have move past everything does not mean you have.  When someone you love betrays your trust, it can feel like an insurmountable hurdle. How will you ever trust each other again? Will they cheat on me more than once? Are we going to get divorced? But can a relationship go back to normal after cheating? Because of the betrayal of trust, the relationship will never be as it was before the infidelity. However, there are steps couples can take to rebuild that trust, return to a normal dynamic, and end up with a stronger relationship than before. Of course, it's important to keep in mind that around 60-75 percent of relationships can be restored after an affair, provided the cheating partner is willing to cooperate. That won't be the case in every situation.   Is it possible to overcome infidelity in a marriage? Fortunately, surviving infidelity is completely possible for couples, but only if they're willing to put in the work. This means openly communicating, reconnecting on an emotional and physical level, and being truthful along the way. If one or both parties doesn't have the shared desire to fix the relationship, it's a big indicator that the relationship cannot be salvaged.  RELATED: How To Get Over The Being Cheated On In 5 Easy(ish) Steps Learning how to move on after an affair isn't easy, but with a little TLC, your relationship can survive. Here's how to turn your relationship around, rebuild trust, and get things back on track with your partner.   1. Practice gratitude. No matter what happened in your marriage, gratitude will set the groundwork for positive transformation. If you feel consumed by betrayal and despair, take a moment to focus on appreciation. Think about everything you appreciate about your mate. After a few minutes of refocusing in this way, notice what changes inside you. 2. Fully face your feelings. When you are hurt, you may tend to blame, run, fight, judge or explain. If the betrayed spouse can stop and fully feel the heartache tenderly, they will be surprised at what is possible. But when you face your feelings head-on, does infidelity pain ever go away? Again, you'd be surprised. When you step fully into the sensation in your heart, beyond thought and explanation, the feeling begins to shift and the pain will eventually fade.   Note: If you are suffering from a mental illness or severe emotional disturbance, use this practice only with the facilitation of a licensed therapist. 3. Clarify your purpose. When hurt, you may tend to think about the problem. Recycling the problem can escalate the pain. If you can focus on the solution you seek, you will naturally head toward answers. 4. Develop a deeper level of emotional intimacy. Infidelity is almost never about sex. Rather, it is about intimacy and unmet needs. To begin the process of getting over infidelity, you must learn how to become more emotionally intimate. This emotional intimacy comes from spending time together, communicating and sharing your lives together.   In other words, you must take a risk and be vulnerable. Give your partner a chance to draw close to you. 5. Do things together. Couples that spend time together and have shared interests recover from infidelity much more quickly and effectively. Discover or rediscover things that you can do together that you both enjoy. Keep in mind that not all hobbies or activities are expensive; there are plenty of things you can do together that do not cost money. 6. Form a vision of the past and the future. One of the ways that couples can move on after infidelity is to think back to when they first met or got married. How did you fall in love? Why did you get married? What did the relationship look like back then? Now, think about the future you wanted together — enjoying your golden years of retirement, traveling, playing with the grandchildren, enjoying family activities. What does that look like? Develop an image of these things and how nice it can be to share this with the person you love most — the person you married. 7. Normalize your feelings. You're mad at your partner, but you're also experiencing painful thoughts about yourself. You wonder who you are and what you meant to your partner, or if you did anything to cause this, possibly doubting your attractiveness or self-worth. Reading books or blogs on the subject might help you see what is normal in reaction to discovering betrayal. 8. Ask about the things you need to know. How long did this relationship last? Was it physical/sexual? What was the extent of the lies that were told in order to conceal it, and how much money was spent? Is there a risk of pregnancy? 9. Don't ask about the details you don't need to know. Betrayed partners may have the urge to push to learn the X-rated details of the sexual encounters or ask their partner to compare them to the person they had the affair with.   My advice is: don't! Keep the focus on your relationship, not the affair partner. 10. Postpone final decisions. It might take a long time to figure out what led to this crisis and where to go from here. Your first impulse is probably not the wisest. But how long does it take to get over infidelity? Unfortunately, it can take a long time to get over infidelity and won't happen overnight. Usually, it can take a minimum of two years to heal from this, maybe even more. So, try to postpone permanent decisions until you can think more clearly. 11. Ride the initial shockwave. For the healing process to start you first have to let yourself feel. The person who was cheated on needs to allow the initial wave of shock, pain, fear, and grief to build, and then break like a wave at the beach. Wait for this initial phase to pass before you attempt to figure out what to do in response to your new reality.   Impulsive angry actions are likely to make a bad situation worse. 12. Immunize yourselves against repeat behaviors. As a couple, use infidelity to immunize yourself against repeat episodes. Looking back at what happened, identify and write a list of each step down the path to its occurrence. Then, write out what each of you wishes you had done differently at each step, so you will stay safe in similar future circumstances. 13. Begin a new, better relationship. Take a relationship education course that starts by helping you identify the weak areas in your relationship and then strengthens them for future happiness together.   The stronger your skills for talking together about sensitive issues are, the less likely you will be to drift apart or to let anger rifts lead to resentment or fights. 14. Take turns listening, even when it hurts. Make appointments for each of you to just listen to the other. The speaker should speak briefly and let the listener paraphrase what he or she heard. Often, the listener will hear only part of what is said. Repeat what was missed, and check before going on to the next point. 15. Tell the truth as completely as you can. The unfaithful spouse can share the thoughts and feelings that led to the choices that were made. Doing this helps you both understand the underlying problems you face.   The injured spouse can also acknowledge his or her contribution to creating the circumstances that led to the infidelity. 16. Grieve together. Even if you choose to stay together, something has been irretrievably lost: your innocent belief that you would be true to each other and all that implied. Whatever you create from here will be different, hopefully, better, but definitely different. Grieving helps you give up your past dreams to make room for your future. 17. Recommit yourself to the relationship. Healing together is difficult if not impossible when one person has their foot out the door. If you want to stay together, act like you mean it. The betrayed partner is going to feel hurt, angry and emotional. The partner who strayed should allow this emotionality and validate it as being real by saying things like, "Of course you are feeling hurt, I messed up." The emotional fallout from infidelity can take years to heal. 18. Seek professional help. Look for a marriage and family therapist who specializes in infidelity. There is a reason why the infidelity happened. Both of you need help to understand the underlying unmet needs, and how to heal from the breach in the relationship. If you knew how to fix your problems, you would have already done it. Instead, allow marriage counseling to help you build a more mutually satisfying relationship. 19. Build trust. Healthy relationships are built on open communication and trust. Rebuilding trust is hard, but not impossible. You can do this by having your actions match up with your words. If you say, "I love you," back it up with loving actions. If you say, "I want our couple-ship to work," stop all contact with the affair partner and stick with it.   There is nothing worse for your partner than to find out you are not being honest. 20. Get out of denial. The person who committed infidelity has to openly admit their wrongdoings. They need to feel regret and remorse for their actions. Be truthful, honest, and willing to cooperate with everything your mate requests from you Including to stop the affair. Decide to fight for your family and be willing to do whatever is necessary to save your marriage. This is crucial in trying to rebuild the trust that has been so badly broken. 21. Seek help. Each partner must commit to individual and couples counseling. Look for a counselor who administers both practical and spiritual guidance. Without both aspects, it's impossible to heal and restore your marriage.     22. Start fresh. Pray together, forgive one another, and allow each other time to heal in your own individual time. Let go of old thoughts, behaviors, and anything that triggers a thirst for infidelity. Replace them with anything and anyone that encourages you to be committed, honorable and faithful in your marriage. Seek new relationships with those who have been married for a long period of time and can share what makes their marriage work successfully. Above all, cut off communication and contact with the third-party with whom there was an affair, including all social media, so no temptation is present. Cheating doesn't occur simply because that person no longer cares about you; in fact, the infidelity could be a result of a multitude of reasons. But yes, you can love somebody you cheated on. You just need to decide if they are worth forgiving.
(LPC, NCC, CEDS-S)
Answered on 01/21/2022

What do you do when you know your partner cheated on you, but they don’t know that you know.

Dear Esther,   Thank you for your message and allowing me to understand more on the dynamics between you and your partner, regarding his cheating behavior.   Through your words I understand that in the past (maybe even in present) on one hand you care about others around you and you are constantly giving / helping, on the other hand through this process you might have been compromising or even sacrificing a lot on how you feel in order to keep this relationship going / please others. I can understand how tired you are with this pattern and how you would want things to change so that you can also feel more comfortable in your relationships.   Sometimes perhaps setting a healthy boundary would be helpful in managing your relationship with others in the terms that you feel comfortable, so that hopefully your relationships will continue in a way that is mutually comfortable. Otherwise, as your counselor I would support you to do what is best for yourself, even if that is walking away temporarily. This in itself, is also self-compassion.   In my coaching practice, many of the women and men I work with struggle with one common theme: setting healthy boundaries. I witness this challenge pop up in all relationships, whether it's with a family, business partner, a friend, or in a romantic relationship. We experience this uncomfortable pattern until we heal the root cause of the behavior.   In my experience, the root of all struggle is fear. Relationships become unhealthy when we act from a place of fear, rather than love. More often than not, we aren't even aware of the fears that have been driving our choices, blocking us from doing what's best for ourselves, and damaging our relationships. But learning to set healthy boundaries offers a perfect opportunity to strengthen our capacity to love ourselves and release the ego's fearful perceptions.   When you find yourself having difficulty saying "no" to others, doing things out of feelings of guilt or obligation, attempting to please others even at the expense of what's best for you, or not expressing your thoughts and feelings when someone upsets you, you are putting yourself last and putting others first-which doesn't serve any of the parties involved.   If we say "yes" to others asking of our time and energy and we've not filled ourselves up first, we are giving from a place of lack-which is a fear-based choice that sours the energy in a relationship and doesn't serve either party. It also breeds codependency, and prompts us to attract people and situations that drain us because we aren't honoring our own needs and boundaries.   Many times, this way of being can create anger or resentment in the person who is putting her or his own needs behind others'. This might manifest as complaining, feeling taken advantage of, or feeling powerless. These feelings are messages to us that we've chosen to perceive ourselves as the victim of a circumstance rather than stepping up and making choices for ourselves based on love.   The truth is, we're never a victim of our circumstances. We can choose how we would like to perceive something in any given situation-we can choose to perceive fear or we can choose love. And when we act from a place of love, rather than a place of fear, we experience a radical shift that transforms our struggles and breaks old patterns that are no longer serving us.   There are three main steps to changing the patterns that keep us in unhealthy relationships: Identifying our fears, choosing to adopt a loving perception of a situation, and taking action from a place of self-love.   Step 1: Identify Your Fears   Awareness is the first step to creating change. The moment we witness our ego's fearful perceptions and the stories it's been telling us, we can begin to shift them.   Common fears that show up in the context of boundaries include fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection, or fear of being alone or abandoned. Many times, we adopt these fears as children (or at other points in our lives), and then drag these past experiences into our present and maybe even project them onto the future. This can result in us feeling like we don't want to upset others or lose their approval or acceptance, and valuing that acceptance over our own needs. Another result of letting these fears run the show is that as a consequence we may have trouble accessing how we want to be feeling and what we want to be doing-which prevents us from standing in our power.   Step 2: Choose Love   After we've created awareness around our fears, it's important to recognize that from a spiritual perspective, the fear isn't "real"-it's something we've learned through social conditioning, and not something we're born with. Instead of believing in these fears, we can choose to put our faith in loving perceptions, release our fearful illusions, and begin to experience beautiful changes in our lives.   This is more than a one-time choice; rather, it's an ongoing, moment-to-moment practice that involves witnessing fearful perceptions as they arise and actively choosing loving perceptions instead. To view the world through a lens of love, I recommend that people begin each day with a powerful intention: "I choose to release my fear and see love instead". Repeat this intention whenever fearful thoughts arise throughout the day.   Step 3: Act   Every time we choose love over fear, we commit an act of self-love. It is only when we are secure in our own worth that we can give and receive from a place of abundance, thereby creating relationships that serve us.   Saying "no" or speaking our truth when someone upsets us might feel scary at first. But as we begin to act in spite of our fears, we come to understand that when we act from a place of love, everyone wins. Contrary to what we may believe, there is never a situation in which what's best for us is not best for all. When we face our fears and express our thoughts and feelings openly to the person who upsets us or pushes our boundaries, internal healing occurs. We learn that it is safe to speak our truth and that those who best serve us will listen with love. Best of all, when we show up for ourselves, we provide an opportunity for those around us to show up as well.   Of course, we cannot control how other people respond to our feelings or choices. How others react is their personal spiritual assignment and how we react is ours. As we release our attachment to others' opinions and practice acceptance around however they choose to respond, we free ourselves from the bondage of fear, knowing that we are self-approved.   When You Need to Walk Away   Sometimes, walking away from a job or relationship that's no longer serving us is the most loving choice we can make. If we choose to leave a person or situation, it's important to trust and know that the universe has our back. The work is to call on our inner guiding system-the loving voice within-and to hear an answer, trust it, and act on it. This internal GPS never leads us astray, no matter how surprising or scary the answer may seem.   Saying "No"-The Takeaway   The most valuable thing that happens when we show up for ourselves with love is that we gain a sense of empowerment and a higher level of self-worth. When we give ourselves the love and acceptance that we desire, we no longer have to look for it outside of ourselves, which gives us the freedom to be who we want to be. This will reflect back to us with beautiful relationships that nourish and support us. As we approach our relationships more consciously and release fearful patterns, we break the cycles of guilt and obligation and begin to create new relationships and experiences that reflect our internal space of self-love.   Please let me know if this is helpful, looking forward to hear your thoughts. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How to control impulses of infidelity and discover if I have narcissistic traits.

Hello-    Thanks for reaching out today, I am happy to hear you are eager to hear more about narcissism, and to also learn more about how to change your behavior in the future. When someone cheats or strays from a relationship it can be done for their own emotional needs, to have a thrill or for attention. Not sure if any of these fit why you cheated. It can be very hard to identify the why. If this was the first time you cheated, you now have insight that you did something you no longer want to do, in order to continue on this path you will need to cut off contact with the person you cheated with, this will be important to reduce the chances of this happening again. People with narcissism often feel they don't have to follow rules or the rules don't apply to them and often aren't mindful of other peoples emotions and care about their own wellbeing over other peoples well being. That is a marker sometimes. In order to change one needs to make sure they admit they were wrong, this may include apologizing to the person you hurt for the offense. Since you continued your patterns and said you would change, it may show you aren't honest when you told them you would change. Do you want to really be with this partner if you keep cheating? You will need to deep dive to know if you really want to. If so, you need to stop, if you aren't sure how to stop you may need to enter counseling or a program to help people, if you feel its an addiction or for attention that should be a focus, if due to narcissism you will need to get counseling and diagnosis right away.  This will take time to relearn how to reduce impulsive behaviors or how to think more before brisk actions. Its can be helpful to journal your feelings/thoughts and to talk to those around you about what they are witnessing too. But therapy, self work and admitting you were wrong are all first steps in the process. 
(MS, NCC, LPC, CRC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

can not believe my husband at all How could I live with him?

Dear Emily, First let me say I'm sorry this it happening to you.  It seems like this came up recently and what you thought was a good and decent relationship is now a 'lie'.  In fact, I'm thinking that you are asking yourself, "Is everything about our relationship a lie?  How did we get here?"   This must be confusing and disheartening.   I have one question to start with, primarily does your husband know that you know?  If not, I think that you will need to approach him. So that is the first part:  how do I let him know.  Here is what I would suggest:  I would state that if he doesn' t know, ask him for a conversation away from the children, a more public venue like a park or outdoor place is better.  I would start with telling him that you are worried that your relationshhip "won't make it".   When he asks why, tell him what you found.  I would go into the full extent of what you know. My guess is that he will likely deny it at first.  You will show him evidence and he will be quite.  The will then discuss how there is not real an issue, that you are 'make too big a deal' out of this. He is just needing some 'extra attention' that you cannot provide.   This event, however he sees is, is a VERY big deal to you.  Stay with that.  It is appears to me as a therapist that you feel betrayed.  I think you also have to let him know that you are thinking of how your relationship can be continued, if at all, and that you have some things to thin about and decsiions to make.  In this way, you can live with him 'temporarily' until you decide what to do.  This will give you an element of control and put the ball in his court as what to do next to solve the problem.   If you can, move into another room so you both are not sleeping in the same room.  This separation will give you space to think and cope with all of your varied emotions.  I hope to be able to work with you Emily.  If not, good luck.   It is a hard road that you have started on, but a rewarding one I assure you.   
(LCSW, LCAC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

I think my wife is cheating

That is a tough one, and it is so much more complicated than the question of whether or not your spouse is cheating.  I can't really give you much of a specific answer for your situation, but we could talk about what you are noticing in your relationship that causes you to suspect that she may be cheating, and what that means for you.  If you found out that she is cheating, would you want to work through that with her, or would that mean that you want to leave the relationship?  It is a personal choice, and for some couples, an affair can be the sign that they have things to work on in their relationship and they are able to build a stronger foundation and healthier relationship than ever before, but it does take hard work.  Do you feel that you still love each other?  Has there ever been trust in your relationship?  And did that trust go both ways?  One of the hardest things about recovering from an affair, whether or not you stay together, is learning how to trust again. How is your communication?  Do you both understand each others' emotional needs, social needs, as well as other basic needs?  Are both of you able to get your needs met within your relationship and have the freedom to persue your own interests?  Are both of you comfortable with expressing your needs and making requests appropriately? John Gottman has identified six "precursers to infidelity," which you can read about here: https://drrobertnavarra.com/dr-john-gottmans-research-provides-key-insights-in-understanding-trust-and-in-recognizing-the-signs-behaviors-and-attitudes-that-indicate-a-path-toward-betrayal/ According to Gottman, healthy relationships are built on a core of trust and commitment.  When trust and commitment are missing or damaged, that is where relationship problems develop.  Some of the ways that these can errode are: 1. Ignoring a partner's needs, emotions, or attempts to connect with you. 2. Increased arguing.  I expect for there to be some arguing in a healthy relationship, but if it turns hurtful and issues are not able to be resolved, then it becomes a warning sign. 3. Unresolved issues piling up. 4. When negative sentiments start to override everything. 5. The Four Horsement : Criticism, Devensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling. 6. This is the big one for starting affairs: negative comparisons.  If one or both of you are constantly comparing your partner to someone else and finding that they come up short. An affair is not necessarily the end of a relationship, although sometimes ending the relationship is the best thing.  And an affair is not something that just happens.  It is a symptom of larger problems.  Sometimes it is the symptom that can be the catalyst for change and healing and growth and making things better.  
(MS, CMHC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

Help me

Greetings Nana! I would like to start off by saying I am deeply sorry for what you are currently experiencing. There seems to be a great deal of transition and life changes for you right now and being a single mom having to deal with all of this must be particularly challenging.   I wish we were able to have interactive communication as I would like to more about how long you and your husband were together, what led to the divorce and what secrets was he keeping to fully be able to provide a more informed response.   Based on this limited bit of information, I would suggest that you ask him to share with you why he decided now to end the marriage and how long has he been wanting to do so. The next thing I would ask is what were his needs and wants he felt were not met. As you are receiving his feedback, be mindful not to take the blame for his actions and behaviors but to only consider what you feel you your part might be.   Next, I would be prepared and cope ahead in the event he wants to dissolve the marriage for good and does leave. You want to prepare yourself for the unexpected and look at if you have enough money to support you and your son, you want to make sure you have everything you need to be as independent as possible, so you are not completely blindsided.   I am not sure how old your son is but if he is underage, you will want to make sure any adult conversations remain between the adults and should your husband decide to leave that you have an age appropriate discussion with your son without the adult details but you can say, “ Mommy and daddy will no longer be living together but we both love you, adult problems are the reason and none of this is your fault”. Hopefully, your husband will remain in your son’s life and not abandon him.   Ask yourself, if you feel like he is getting ready to leave what are the facts that support this belief. Approaching this head-on would be ideal and you can always ask him directly if he is planning to leave you and your child. Also, the girl from the internet, what is the full nature of their communication and how did you find out about her? If you happened to come across this material by accident, the best thing to do would be to ask him to be as upfront with you as possible as you deserve transparency. Lastly, I would be very mindful that he may not ever tell you what you want to hear and that the life you once knew may very well be changing. I do wish you all the best and know that this is painful and confusing right now but over time, problems could be protecting and redirecting you towards greater things.
(B.S., M.S., &, PsyD., Graduand, LMHC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How do I know if I can trust my partner again?

Firstly, I want to say I'm sorry that you experienced that infidelity and that it has been impacting you so much. I want to let you know that it wasn't your fault and that  it can be hard to learn to trust again after such a violation. Trust after infidelity is difficult if both parties are not clear on what they need to move forward, whether that be in the relationship or not. It seems from your concerns that you are not completely comfortable with your partner remaining friends with the person they cheated with and you voiced that to them, but they remain friends with them. Did they share why? Also, I am curious to know why you dont feel it's your place to make him choose, it seems like he made the choice to cheat with this person, right? I think its fair to set boundaries with your partner as to what you feel is acceptable, and to have a conversation about that with your partner. It doesn't seem like making him choose between you and the friend, its more about making your relationship the priority, especially after such an impactful event Iike cheating.  You wrote that you have seen his growth and dedication to the relationship, which is great, however it appears that  you continue to feel  conflicted in regards to setting boundaries. How has it been for you remaining in this relationship and not being able to fully trust your partner? You mentioned it has be causing you a lot of anxiety, which is very common after expericing cheating. how has that even impacting you outside of the relationship? It may be helpful for you to think about what you want in terms of the relationship, if you dont feel you can trust your partner, can you continue feeling this way in the relationship? I hope my feedback has been helpful to you as you navigate a difficult time Remeber, you dont have to go through this difficult time alone and suppport is very useful and helpful right now. I appreciate you reaching out for help. 
Answered on 01/21/2022

What do I do

I have read and reread your question and it presents many things for discussion.  I am finding it difficult to know where to effectively start.  As I see it, the two of you have met and had commitment discussions and discussions about caring for each other and also about needing space and time so that you agreed to "step back" at least once.  I am not seeing something here that indicates there was a long term relationship other than the 11 months.  The first thing I wonder is what it is that you see in this person that attracts you to them.  I am not saying that you aren't attracted to them and that is a start of something but have you learned more attracts you than what you saw at first sight?  Humans need the attraction factor just as all species on earth need the attraction factor just to be interested enough to know we want to know more about a person.  This is where the real relationship discernment and then building starts.  I see that at least one of you is apparently in the military which can make it difficult to have sufficient time to form an opinion concerning what fully attracts you to the other person.   At this point I think this has been so on and off again over the past five years that it may be hard to know what each of you hold as valuable in life and perhaps that is the place to start at this time.  Pretend as though you just met and the past is the past.  What do you value generally in life?  What does the other person you write about value generally in life?  What values do you share between you?  I would spend some time reflecting on this and taking notes about this.  I would then reflect on what you don't share as values and think whether or not these values are deal breakers if absent or you can accommodate and adjust to them from your point of view.  If, in your mind they are still important to your life then see if you can sit down with them and have a conversation about where things are for you as a potential couple.  At least then you will know whether to work on the relationship or grieve its lost.  It can be terrible being in limbo.
(Psy.D., LISW-CP/S, CACII)
Answered on 01/21/2022

Should I date him?

Dear Ataraxia,   Thank you for your message and sharing with me the problems you're experiencing in your relationship, resulting in not being able to trust.   Trust is a word we hear a lot. Recently I heard a story on the radio about investment fraud In which one of the victims of the fraud said, "I'll never trust anyone again." A strong statement about trust and one worth exploring.   Through your words I understand that in the past (maybe even in present) on one hand you care about others around you and you are constantly giving / helping, on the other hand through this process you might have been compromising or even sacrificing a lot on how you feel in order to keep this relationship going / please others. I can understand how tired you are with this pattern and how you would want things to change so that you can also feel more comfortable in your relationships.   Sometimes perhaps setting a healthy boundary would be helpful in managing your relationship with others in the terms that you feel comfortable, so that hopefully your relationships will continue in a way that is mutually comfortable. Otherwise, as your counselor I would support you to do what is best for yourself, even if that is walking away temporarily. This in itself, is also self-compassion.   What is trust anyway? The definitions of trust indicate that trust in another person imposes upon him a duty of care that asks him to be someone we can rely upon to do what we have asked of him. It seems straightforward to understand when we read it, but what happens when we examine the way trust works? Trust requires a relationship between two people, and all relationships are complex.   As we experience relationships, we come to realize that in a relationship, two people never fully know one another or can expect that the other person will do exactly what we want to have done. This is particularly true if we ourselves are not certain what we want and need or how to ask for it.   Where do we learn to know what to expect of our relationships? To know how to relate to another person we start with knowing the only person we can really know, ourselves. If we want to trust someone else, we begin with first learning who we are, what we want and what we know about ourselves as we grow and change. We explore our strengths, boundaries and limitations. Knowing who we are and what we are capable of, we learn how to trust ourselves.   This is not as easy as it looks.   In the context of our every day activities and familiar circumstances, we may assume we have done this and already know ourselves. We may apply labels to ourselves and say we are “fierce” or “shy” or “lazy”, but labels do not invite knowing. They make categories. Do we actually know ourselves? Unfortunately not much may challenge our assumptions about ourselves until a major shift in our lives comes along. Then in the face of a significant change we may understand we have not looked as closely as we might.   If the change is physical, we may begin to look deeply at our physical patterns of expression for the first time. We may have been unconscious of the ways in which our movement patterns, strengths and weaknesses are unique. Now we ask: How do I get things done? What are my strengths and limitations? How do my strengths work with my unique movement patterns? How will I negotiate around my limitations?   If we don't know what to expect of ourselves, it can be very hard to trust the people helping us. After a sudden change in our physical abilities, we may feel deeply invaded. We all have boundaries - places where we feel vulnerable and want to keep ourselves separate from someone else. Where are our boundaries, and how do we protect ourselves if we cannot walk away? This is vital to discover at a time when we may need assistance in ways we have never needed it before and would prefer not to admit this need.   If we have a financial problem we may look at the decisions that led to the problem and judge ourselves harshly for making a mistake - not remembering that hindsight is 20/20. We may not realize that there were things we assumed and didn’t challenge or examine or learn that we had better learn now. Being critical of ourselves, we may be reluctant to look at our actions clearly and learn from them.   Building trust in ourselves requires us first to look closely at ourselves, being honest about what we discover. Then we must practice compassion for and acceptance of the person we are discovering ourselves to be. Being willing to know is not the same as harshly judging. Harsh judgments close us off to ourselves. Compassion, forgiveness and acceptance open us up and allow us to learn.   If we know and accept our limitations without fighting that knowledge, we can learn to communicate what we know and don't know about what we can and cannot do. We come to understand that everybody has limitations. We see that we and our relationships are always transforming - never remaining static – giving us endless opportunities to keep on learning.   Building a relationship with another person is done a step at a time as we explore the ways we can interact and care for one another. When we know ourselves, we do not expect that simply because someone is an expert, she knows what is best for us. She will know many things we do not know and will have much to teach us, but she doesn’t know us. We are the only ones who can have that specialized knowledge. In a relationship, each person can regularly communicate what he knows to the other and both can learn where to trust the other. Perhaps that also goes with building relationship with ourselves and our inner being?   Meanwhile I think it's important to continue examine our thoughts, perhaps we are trapped by a few blindspots / bias that hinder us from trusting?    Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How do I deal with infidelity in a relationship?

Dear Jay,   Thank you for your message and allowing me to understand more on perhaps how our boundaries have been violated by others through their infidelity.   Through your words I understand that in the past (maybe even in present) on one hand you care about others around you and you are constantly giving / helping, on the other hand through this process you might have been compromising or even sacrificing a lot on how you feel in order to keep this relationship going / please others. I can understand how tired you are with this pattern and how you would want things to change so that you can also feel more comfortable in your relationships.   Sometimes perhaps setting a healthy boundary would be helpful in managing your relationship with others in the terms that you feel comfortable, so that hopefully your relationships will continue in a way that is mutually comfortable. Otherwise, as your counselor I would support you to do what is best for yourself, even if that is walking away temporarily. This in itself, is also self-compassion.   In my coaching practice, many of the women and men I work with struggle with one common theme: setting healthy boundaries. I witness this challenge pop up in all relationships, whether it's with a family, business partner, a friend, or in a romantic relationship. We experience this uncomfortable pattern until we heal the root cause of the behavior.   In my experience, the root of all struggle is fear. Relationships become unhealthy when we act from a place of fear, rather than love. More often than not, we aren't even aware of the fears that have been driving our choices, blocking us from doing what's best for ourselves, and damaging our relationships. But learning to set healthy boundaries offers a perfect opportunity to strengthen our capacity to love ourselves and release the ego's fearful perceptions.   When you find yourself having difficulty saying "no" to others, doing things out of feelings of guilt or obligation, attempting to please others even at the expense of what's best for you, or not expressing your thoughts and feelings when someone upsets you, you are putting yourself last and putting others first-which doesn't serve any of the parties involved.   If we say "yes" to others asking of our time and energy and we've not filled ourselves up first, we are giving from a place of lack-which is a fear-based choice that sours the energy in a relationship and doesn't serve either party. It also breeds codependency, and prompts us to attract people and situations that drain us because we aren't honoring our own needs and boundaries.   Many times, this way of being can create anger or resentment in the person who is putting her or his own needs behind others'. This might manifest as complaining, feeling taken advantage of, or feeling powerless. These feelings are messages to us that we've chosen to perceive ourselves as the victim of a circumstance rather than stepping up and making choices for ourselves based on love.   The truth is, we're never a victim of our circumstances. We can choose how we would like to perceive something in any given situation-we can choose to perceive fear or we can choose love. And when we act from a place of love, rather than a place of fear, we experience a radical shift that transforms our struggles and breaks old patterns that are no longer serving us.   There are three main steps to changing the patterns that keep us in unhealthy relationships: Identifying our fears, choosing to adopt a loving perception of a situation, and taking action from a place of self-love.   Step 1: Identify Your Fears   Awareness is the first step to creating change. The moment we witness our ego's fearful perceptions and the stories it's been telling us, we can begin to shift them.   Common fears that show up in the context of boundaries include fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection, or fear of being alone or abandoned. Many times, we adopt these fears as children (or at other points in our lives), and then drag these past experiences into our present and maybe even project them onto the future. This can result in us feeling like we don't want to upset others or lose their approval or acceptance, and valuing that acceptance over our own needs. Another result of letting these fears run the show is that as a consequence we may have trouble accessing how we want to be feeling and what we want to be doing-which prevents us from standing in our power.   Step 2: Choose Love   After we've created awareness around our fears, it's important to recognize that from a spiritual perspective, the fear isn't "real"-it's something we've learned through social conditioning, and not something we're born with. Instead of believing in these fears, we can choose to put our faith in loving perceptions, release our fearful illusions, and begin to experience beautiful changes in our lives.   This is more than a one-time choice; rather, it's an ongoing, moment-to-moment practice that involves witnessing fearful perceptions as they arise and actively choosing loving perceptions instead. To view the world through a lens of love, I recommend that people begin each day with a powerful intention: "I choose to release my fear and see love instead". Repeat this intention whenever fearful thoughts arise throughout the day.   Step 3: Act   Every time we choose love over fear, we commit an act of self-love. It is only when we are secure in our own worth that we can give and receive from a place of abundance, thereby creating relationships that serve us.   Saying "no" or speaking our truth when someone upsets us might feel scary at first. But as we begin to act in spite of our fears, we come to understand that when we act from a place of love, everyone wins. Contrary to what we may believe, there is never a situation in which what's best for us is not best for all. When we face our fears and express our thoughts and feelings openly to the person who upsets us or pushes our boundaries, internal healing occurs. We learn that it is safe to speak our truth and that those who best serve us will listen with love. Best of all, when we show up for ourselves, we provide an opportunity for those around us to show up as well.   Of course, we cannot control how other people respond to our feelings or choices. How others react is their personal spiritual assignment and how we react is ours. As we release our attachment to others' opinions and practice acceptance around however they choose to respond, we free ourselves from the bondage of fear, knowing that we are self-approved.   When You Need to Walk Away   Sometimes, walking away from a job or relationship that's no longer serving us is the most loving choice we can make. If we choose to leave a person or situation, it's important to trust and know that the universe has our back. The work is to call on our inner guiding system-the loving voice within-and to hear an answer, trust it, and act on it. This internal GPS never leads us astray, no matter how surprising or scary the answer may seem.   Saying "No"-The Takeaway   The most valuable thing that happens when we show up for ourselves with love is that we gain a sense of empowerment and a higher level of self-worth. When we give ourselves the love and acceptance that we desire, we no longer have to look for it outside of ourselves, which gives us the freedom to be who we want to be. This will reflect back to us with beautiful relationships that nourish and support us. As we approach our relationships more consciously and release fearful patterns, we break the cycles of guilt and obligation and begin to create new relationships and experiences that reflect our internal space of self-love.   Please let me know if this is helpful, looking forward to hear your thoughts. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

is it possible to forgive someone for cheating?

Hello Madelyn,   thank you for taking the time to ask this question first off I wanna say that I'm sorry this is happening to you it is very difficult when you find out someone you love has been cheating on you whether that be when they're sober or drunk doesn't matter.   First off the answer to your question can you forgive someone who is cheated on you the answer is yes?  However, even if you forgive them you may have a hard time forgetting or wanting to know the details of everything.  If you choose to forgive or let go of that then you need to truly let go of it if it was something that was a mistake happened then you need to let that go if you were going to choose to forgive, what I find couples do or the one that's been cheated on, for example, will try and focus on the details of the cheating what where when and how it happened and may have a hard time letting that go.  My encouragement is to not perseverate on the intimate details of the cheating because you may never know exactly what happened or how it happened or get a complete truth.   what can really help start the letting go process for you is to sit down and write out a letter to your boyfriend you're not gonna give this to him but what you're going to do is write a letter out and explain in the letter how his behavior and actions have affected you you're going to also explain your boundaries to him and you're going to explain the hope or hope that you might have for the future as to how things are going to go.   remember also that the trust has to be built back by him this means that he's going to have to be the one that establishes trust again with you he doesn't have to do anything out of the ordinary or anything that's invasive but he needs to show up when he says he's going to show up he needs to be available when he says he's going to be available and basically do what he says he's gonna say that's how the trust on his part is rebuilt.   I hope this helps give you some perspective and I hope that you do sit down and write out that letter to him and do the exercise to try to let go of some of the stuff I know it can be shocking initially when you first find out my hope is this so that you can begin to let the pain go this doesn't mean that just because you forgive you're never going to forget but again building trust has to be on his end.   kind regards,   Mike Arieta, MSW, LICSW, LCSW, PACC.  
(MSW, LICSW)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How to end my marriage

Dear 876,   Thank you for your message and allowing me to understand more on the dynamics of your marriage, that you would like to end this relationship.   Sometimes perhaps setting a healthy boundary would be helpful in managing your relationship with others in the terms that you feel comfortable, so that hopefully your relationships will continue in a way that is mutually comfortable. Otherwise, as your counselor I would support you to do what is best for yourself, even if that is walking away temporarily. This in itself, is also self-compassion.   In my coaching practice, many of the women and men I work with struggle with one common theme: setting healthy boundaries. I witness this challenge pop up in all relationships, whether it's with a family, business partner, a friend, or in a romantic relationship. We experience this uncomfortable pattern until we heal the root cause of the behavior.   In my experience, the root of all struggle is fear. Relationships become unhealthy when we act from a place of fear, rather than love. More often than not, we aren't even aware of the fears that have been driving our choices, blocking us from doing what's best for ourselves, and damaging our relationships. But learning to set healthy boundaries offers a perfect opportunity to strengthen our capacity to love ourselves and release the ego's fearful perceptions.   When you find yourself having difficulty saying "no" to others, doing things out of feelings of guilt or obligation, attempting to please others even at the expense of what's best for you, or not expressing your thoughts and feelings when someone upsets you, you are putting yourself last and putting others first-which doesn't serve any of the parties involved.   If we say "yes" to others asking of our time and energy and we've not filled ourselves up first, we are giving from a place of lack-which is a fear-based choice that sours the energy in a relationship and doesn't serve either party. It also breeds codependency, and prompts us to attract people and situations that drain us because we aren't honoring our own needs and boundaries.   Many times, this way of being can create anger or resentment in the person who is putting her or his own needs behind others'. This might manifest as complaining, feeling taken advantage of, or feeling powerless. These feelings are messages to us that we've chosen to perceive ourselves as the victim of a circumstance rather than stepping up and making choices for ourselves based on love.   The truth is, we're never a victim of our circumstances. We can choose how we would like to perceive something in any given situation-we can choose to perceive fear or we can choose love. And when we act from a place of love, rather than a place of fear, we experience a radical shift that transforms our struggles and breaks old patterns that are no longer serving us.   There are three main steps to changing the patterns that keep us in unhealthy relationships: Identifying our fears, choosing to adopt a loving perception of a situation, and taking action from a place of self-love.   Step 1: Identify Your Fears   Awareness is the first step to creating change. The moment we witness our ego's fearful perceptions and the stories it's been telling us, we can begin to shift them.   Common fears that show up in the context of boundaries include fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection, or fear of being alone or abandoned. Many times, we adopt these fears as children (or at other points in our lives), and then drag these past experiences into our present and maybe even project them onto the future. This can result in us feeling like we don't want to upset others or lose their approval or acceptance, and valuing that acceptance over our own needs. Another result of letting these fears run the show is that as a consequence we may have trouble accessing how we want to be feeling and what we want to be doing-which prevents us from standing in our power.   Step 2: Choose Love   After we've created awareness around our fears, it's important to recognize that from a spiritual perspective, the fear isn't "real"-it's something we've learned through social conditioning, and not something we're born with. Instead of believing in these fears, we can choose to put our faith in loving perceptions, release our fearful illusions, and begin to experience beautiful changes in our lives.   This is more than a one-time choice; rather, it's an ongoing, moment-to-moment practice that involves witnessing fearful perceptions as they arise and actively choosing loving perceptions instead. To view the world through a lens of love, I recommend that people begin each day with a powerful intention: "I choose to release my fear and see love instead". Repeat this intention whenever fearful thoughts arise throughout the day.   Step 3: Act   Every time we choose love over fear, we commit an act of self-love. It is only when we are secure in our own worth that we can give and receive from a place of abundance, thereby creating relationships that serve us.   Saying "no" or speaking our truth when someone upsets us might feel scary at first. But as we begin to act in spite of our fears, we come to understand that when we act from a place of love, everyone wins. Contrary to what we may believe, there is never a situation in which what's best for us is not best for all. When we face our fears and express our thoughts and feelings openly to the person who upsets us or pushes our boundaries, internal healing occurs. We learn that it is safe to speak our truth and that those who best serve us will listen with love. Best of all, when we show up for ourselves, we provide an opportunity for those around us to show up as well.   Of course, we cannot control how other people respond to our feelings or choices. How others react is their personal spiritual assignment and how we react is ours. As we release our attachment to others' opinions and practice acceptance around however they choose to respond, we free ourselves from the bondage of fear, knowing that we are self-approved.   When You Need to Walk Away   Sometimes, walking away from a job or relationship that's no longer serving us is the most loving choice we can make. If we choose to leave a person or situation, it's important to trust and know that the universe has our back. The work is to call on our inner guiding system-the loving voice within-and to hear an answer, trust it, and act on it. This internal GPS never leads us astray, no matter how surprising or scary the answer may seem.   Saying "No"-The Takeaway   The most valuable thing that happens when we show up for ourselves with love is that we gain a sense of empowerment and a higher level of self-worth. When we give ourselves the love and acceptance that we desire, we no longer have to look for it outside of ourselves, which gives us the freedom to be who we want to be. This will reflect back to us with beautiful relationships that nourish and support us. As we approach our relationships more consciously and release fearful patterns, we break the cycles of guilt and obligation and begin to create new relationships and experiences that reflect our internal space of self-love.   Please let me know if this is helpful, looking forward to hear your thoughts. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How to handle a husband who is jealous and doesn’t fight fair in an argument?

If I am reading your information correctly this is his second marriage and his first wife cheated on him which may be the basis of his insecurities.  He does not fight fairly.  I would like to know the nature of his unfair fighting just to have an idea of what we are dealing with.  Are you seeking some counseling for yourself or for the two of you as a couple?  I would recommend that we have some sessions prior to including him in marital counseling and that you be well versed in assertive communications and assertive responses as they are methods which help people to meet their own needs while also meeting the needs of the person that they are conversing with.  Assertive counseling uses fair fighting rules to resolve conflict and I would want us to engage in discussing those rules at length so that  you are not only familiar with them but also able to use them in sessions and independently without a moment of hesitation because you have incorporated tham as your own rules.  Therefore, our initial learning and incorporating measures will involve assertive communication and responses and fair fighting rules.  You will learn to make them second nature in your conversations not only with him but with any person you meet along your path.  You will use them so readily that you can role model them to your husband.  Role modeling and practice are important to both of you incorporating them as your own.  Another important endeavor is to learn how to set boundaries.  In order to set boundaries well, you both need to discern what your values are and I would want to guide your both through discovering what your values are in various areas of life.   This is a subject best managed prior to setting boundaries and is a prerequisite to setting healthy boundaries with everyone in your life.  The next step, having discerned your values, is to read one of the various Cloud and Townsend books on boundaries and using the workbook on boundaries to further embed those skills into your daily routine.   
(Psy.D., LISW-CP/S, CACII)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How do I heal from an unresolved situation?

Hi Jo, Thank you for your question. I can tell that you've really been through the wringer with this person and are feeling conflicted about the right way to move forward. You've made the decision to have your ex come visit you next week- and that will be an opportunity for an open and honest discussion about where you go from here. You say that you feel powerless in this situation, but you're not- you have the ability and the right to advocate for yourself and your needs. If this is a person that you want to be in a relationship with again, then this should be a person that you can be open with and make demands of.  The big question that hangs over any reconciliation is "why didn't it work the first time?" If you want to avoid the problems that led to the dissolution in the first place, you and your ex need to have an honest and transparent conversation about what went wrong and how you've each grown in ways that will address those issues in the present. Communication is key to any healthy relationship and mismatches in communication are a common reason that couples find themselves ending things. Before you can really move forward into a new relationship, you have to be able to tackle the difficult conversations in a healthy way. This being the first of many difficult conversations you will inevitably have. Each of you needs to take accountability for your part of what happened the first time around and how you've treated each other since.  The sexual relationship that he has pursued with this other individual does not necessarily qualify as infidelity since the two of you had not resumed a monogamous commitment to each other. However, his resistance to hearing you out about how his actions are impacting you needs to be addressed before you can confidently move forward. You have the right to express your feelings, and as of now, he has the right to continue making the choices he's been making. In doing so, though, he is showing you his priorities. Think about how you would heal from this. Deep down, will you be able to trust this person to care for your needs?  If you believe, or have honest discussions when you are together and know that you can navigate this reconciliation using healthy communication strategies- then you need to think about your personal motivations for wanting to pursue this. There are times when we want to get back together with an ex because it's comfortable because we miss having someone in that role- though not necessarily that particular person. What is special about this person that is missing from your life now? If you have trouble answering that question- that might be part of your answer. This might be a good time to enlist outside input- whether from your existing support network or a mental health professional. Perspective is crucial. If you've realized that you're missing having someone rather than missing THIS someone then spend some time investing in yourself. It's okay to want a partner. It's also okay to enjoy being single. There is no "right" way to be in the world. Regardless of your relationship status make sure that the life you build for yourself is one that you are proud of inviting someone else into. And if you decide to give this relationship another go- don't neglect the things that have given you joy as a whole, independent person. Relationships flourish when you each have your own lives and you work together to align them in a healthy way. No matter what you decide, make sure that you are caring for yourself and setting yourself up for success.  Good luck!
Answered on 01/21/2022

How do I trust someone again after being hurt over and over again ?

I hear you, and I am sorry that trust is something you have been dealing with for a while in your relationship. First, I would like to address that trust is a fundamental aspect of human experiences. Trust is not a black or white concept; it is a spectrum. Certain life events can influence an individual's capacity for trust. Before I mention the specific story you reported, I would also like to state that trust might be a sign of childhood experiences or past betrayals or disappointments. Since you both had an experience of cheating, each of you might be more vulnerable to trust each other back. This is very normal. However, this needs to be discussed with both of you. There are many reasons that your husband still communicates with the person. Also, there are many reasons that you decided to stop cheating on him and stay in this relationship. However, It appears that there is a boundary issue here. Both of you have a right to discuss either you want to be monogamous in this relationship or not. Both of you have a right to have a different opinion about it. However, both of you have to be comfortable with each other's decisions or opinions. Communication is the key here. To answer your question and to prioritize what needs to be discussed first, I believe that you both need to set boundaries and express what you believe at this moment about each other's behavior. You both might have various thoughts and feelings about each other's behavior. That needs to be explored. You have every right to let him know that you are putting more effort into making this relationship work if this is what you believe. It is also essential to learn what he thinks and where he is standing in this relationship. I believe couple's therapy definitely will be helpful to address what is crucial right now for both of you. In the session, hopefully, you both will feel safe enough to express your thoughts. There are more to explore, but I think this statement is a brief answer to your question. How does it sound? 
(MA, LCPC)
Answered on 01/21/2022