New Season; New Way of Thinking | Part 1

New Season; New Way of Thinking | Part 1

We often hear about doing a detox in the springtime and flushing all the gunk out of our bodies. But do we do that with our minds? I think this desperately needs to become a practice, and there is no better time to start doing it. What do I mean by a detox of the mind? I mean taking the time to check in with our thoughts and how we feel about our life.

The truth is very few people seem to do this, and I think I know why…

Many of us are avoiding the realization that we are not actually all that happy or satisfied with where we are right now, where we stand physically, mentally, or emotionally. Maybe we’re unhappy because we have constant chatter in our heads, or because we dislike our jobs, our bodies, our living situations, our partners, our financial situation, or it could be something as simple as just being lonely.

How have you been feeling? Not sure? Try looking at your environment, because your outer world is a reflection of your inner world. How does your outer world look to you right now? Is it grey and mute, lacking color? Or is it cluttered and messy?

“You can choose the life you want!”

via @luellajonk

I am going to guess that many readers feel their life is either not good or mediocre. Granted, I might be biased because in my line of work, people are coming to me because they have problems, but my hunch is that the majority of the population feel one or two of those states most of the time. Pure joy and happiness pops in once and awhile on ‘a good day.’

Let’s just leave out the straight up bad for a minute and focus on the term mediocre.

Now, if you are not familiar with the definition of mediocre – brace yourself, here it is: Of average to below average quality

Ew!! That definition – awful, right?

Here are a few more definitions:

Common, ordinary, passable, run-of-the-mill, second-class

Second class? Honestly, who wants to be second-class in any area of their life? 

Here are some words RELATED to mediocre…

Acceptable, adequate, all-right, decent, satisfactory, tolerable…

Tolerable! Tolerable! OMG. Can you imagine friends and acquaintances gathering at your funeral and describing your life as such? 

My purpose in bringing this up to your forefront of thought is only because I want you to know you don’t need to settle for a mediocre life. 

You do not because you can choose it to be different. 

Let’s fast forward your life and try visualizing your funeral again. This time however your friends are describing your life as exceptional, exquisite, fabulous, matchless, outstanding, first-class…

Now we’re talking… right?

My purpose in writing this post and my service to all is to remind you that you can choose the life you want. Springtime is a time of rebirth, novelty, and a bursting of energy. Not only in nature, but in yourself. Allow yourself to look inward and feel it.

Do not get stuck in the feeling of lack. If you do this you are going to miss it. Miss what? The awareness that abundance (in love, money, and relationships) is available to you! Makes sense, right? Why would you look for something that doesn’t exist? You first need to know, understand, and dedicate yourself to this ‘knowing’ because if you don’t, you will miss out.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

Sometimes you can’t see what you are doing until another person brings attention towards it or you yourself become self-aware. And sometimes you need help with that – someone like Tinkerbell who can hold your hand and help you fly until you reach Never Neverland.

Living an incredibly joyful life is not only possible but is available for you right now. You just need to become aware of it.

You have way, way, way more potential than you are aware of, and I get excited just thinking of showing you that potential.

Transformation begins with awareness, and it ends with creating a new concept of yourself. This idea relates to your self-concept. If you are curious about your own self-concept I just need to remind you to look at the results around you; that defines your self-concept. It is your present results, your outer world.

If you have worked with me, you know I stress the importance of self-love and trusting yourself – your intuition and instinctual needs are real. And after working with so many clients I am convinced that guilt and shame are the most powerful forces that keep us from self-love, faith, and the trust that your desired life will happen. We need to let that guilt and shame go.

For the purposes of keeping this short, I will end here, but expect a continuation of these spring vibes next week. Meanwhile to recap how to step away from mediocre and into exceptional, I will leave you with these points.

You don’t know what you don’t know, so become aware of your greatness.

Slow down to speed up.

Love yourself more than any human, creature, or creation. 

Do the spring cleanup; declutter, detox, reorganize, and make space for easy access and flow.

Step forward into growth instead of backwards into safety. 

Part 2 will cover dreaming, imagination, and attention to thoughts. Doesn’t that sound more delicious than chocolate? I hope so, it should. 

Who a Woman Is and What She Wants

Who a Woman Is and What She Wants

I have had this energy about me for the last several days surrounding who women are meant to represent, what they thrive off of and what they need, want, and desire.

Ironically, as I typed out the title of this random blog post I also google-searched ‘International Women’s Day 2022’ and found out it is tomorrow!! If that isn’t the universe speaking to me, I don’t know what is…

So one might think that being a therapist and being a woman I would know the answers to all of this, but I didn’t, until I really gave it some thought. Let’s just say ‘age and experience’ has provided me with some hard-acquired wisdom. And quite honestly, I feel that most of us women walk around this world not even knowing what our desires are.

We were raised to be proper, pretty, and prim but, most importantly, to be obedient. How often did we hear things like “good girls don’t do that “? We might be told things like ‘follow that gut instinct” and “nothing is more powerful than a woman’s intuition,” but these run counter to a deeper messaging that’s instilled almost from birth: that we should feel guilty about following our own wishes.

There is some truth in a woman’s intuition indeed. We have levels of emotion – a feelings side of us that is like no other. Our physiology compliments this by providing us with a monthly hormonal cycle that is delicate and plays a large role in providing us with the intuition and guidance within us. Although many women see this as a curse, it should be seen as our strength. If we only had more insight towards these hormonal changes cycling through our veins, I think we would be more forgiving towards ourselves. But, as with so many things about female anatomy, our hormonal cycles are woefully understudied.

A woman is powerful, intellectual, incredibly talented and insightful but also has a massive ability to feel and connect. We are feeling creatures and because of this, we often allow others’ words and behaviours to stop us from doing what our heart long for us to do. The emotive part of ourselves is often what stops us before we start. Over the generations, societal pressures played a strong role in the messaging that girls need only to play with dolls and not be confrontational, whilst hearing “boys will be boys”, and thus let them just be.

What we need instead is to honour our needs and not apologize for having these strong desires. We need to begin to listen to our thoughts and not displace them for ‘when we have the time’. We need to sit with the thoughts of not aligning our needs with what is in front of us – our reality. We need to change our reality to fit our desires – by….changing our thoughts we have about our needs. Define what your needs are and then start telling yourself these desires are available to me, but only if I truly believe they are…and YES they are!

“Define what your needs are and then start telling yourself these desires are available to me, but only if I truly believe they are…and YES they are!”

via @luellajonk

You take the thoughts about your desires and wants, and put emotion and feelings behind the thoughts (as if you are already there). In other words, feel as if your desires are already happening and stay with that energy – vibrate in that energy and pratice staying in that state – and your dreams will come true. Work with me – and you will see this for yourself.

I cannot end this post without telling men what women want out of a relationship. Even though I hear men tell me that women are complicated entities, we are no more complicated than they are. We are at the bare minimum in simplicity. We want true connection. We want you to listen to us from the depths of your intellect – not solve our problems for us (unless we ask you to). We want you to honour our feminine energy and step back when we are distracted and distant and move towards us when we feel strong and desirable. We want to know you have our backs no matter what. We want to know that you support all of our heartfelt desires and needs. We want you to applaud our achievements and give us a hug when we fail. We want you to take the time to understand us. We want you to ask us ‘what do you need from me today’? We don’t necessarily need the compliments and flowers, but we might? We need you to be a dedicated dad and we need you to love yourself and honour your own needs.

If any of this has resonated with you – work with me.

To end, I wanted to share a song with you that my 17 year old son shared with me. He asked me ‘ do you know this song mom?’ I answered ‘yes! An oldie but a goody!’ and was delighted to know that he actually listens to music such as this piece. I hope he is able to say these words to his partner someday – I know it will mean a lot to her, and to me as his mother.

Women – be kind to yourselves today and always. Give yourself the grace to take time for yourselves – journal, walk, meditate and breathe.

Facing That Inner Critic: It Is All About Stepping Out From Behind The Bushes

Facing That Inner Critic: It Is All About Stepping Out From Behind The Bushes

This post is a continuation of last week’s post on What Type of Self Critic Are You? Thus, it may be helpful for you to read that post first (however, not entirely necessary).

Let’s face it, we ALL HAVE FEARS about being judged by others. Even the most highly confident person’s energy will plummet when they read or hear a negative comment about themselves. It is not surprising therefore that public speaking is ranked as one of the most feared experiences. We all want to get to a place where our resilience and boundaries are strong when it comes to the negativity  and our low mood is brief. We should feel the hurt, but it should be acute, not chronic.

I believe that overt critics, a type of self-critic I described in my previous newsletter, easily sink into this hurt like quicksand. They fall hard and it typically lasts too long. They are in low energy for hours, days, and in the worst case, most of their lives. This low energy is all too familiar to them, and thus, it can feel comforting, or at least familiar, for them to be in this space. Overt critics are generally the ones who constantly ‘wait for the other shoe to drop’ in every situation …they are pessimistic and noticeably lack joy in their lives.

On the other hand, the covert critic is terrified of accepting any criticism into their psyche. They resist it the same way they would resist jumping into an ice bath, even within the dialogue with their selves. They can foresee the pain it would cause them and thus avoid it; yet, at the same time, they secretly know it would take away a lot of the noise that courses through their mind – the noise in their head that constantly screams at them ‘you must be perfect’. These people pride themselves on being tough, resilient to pain, optimistic, independent, strong, and forward thinkers. For more explanation of this type, again, please jump to last week’s post.

So how do self-critics of any type go to a place to where they can love themselves, become authentic and experience more joy in their lives? They do it by facing their fears. The more you step into fear and less away from it, you will love yourself and experience true joy.

I know, to read this seems incredibly ridiculous. Think of all those aspects of yourself that you are afraid other people might see. What would people say if you displayed your whole self: who you want to be, the things you want to do, the things you actually want to say? What would it feel like to have that whole self out in the open rather than hiding behind the bushes like you have done your entire lifetime.

Here’s a thought experiment: what if, after working at a job for 20 years, you realize that you want a different career and you were worried about how your spouse might react? ? But what if you didn’t care what your spouse said and INSTEAD followed what your heart told you to do?

I can think of many other examples of ways that people hide their true selves. What if you felt confusion surrounding your sexuality but were terrified to admit it? What if you purged some older friendships that you knew weren’t serving you any longer and instead sought out friendships that aligned to your authentic self? What if you started to dress in a way that was more to your liking, rather than to follow a certain trend or preference by a partner? What if you decided that a long-term intimate relationship wasn’t serving you anymore (and never did support your authentic self) and it was time to leave? What if you decided to travel to (or even live in) the place where you could be more of yourself?

“It is MORE than okay to want more out of life. Afterall, you only have one life to live.”

via @luellajonk

What if? What if? What if?

Do you see yourself daydreaming as you go to that imaginary place? What if I told you it doesn’t need to be imaginary and it can be your reality? Do I see a smile on your face? Yeah, me too.

This post may sound like it should be written as a script to the next Walt Disney animated film, but it doesn’t have to be. In a child’s mind this is all possible. A child is not guarded nor fearful unless fear was instilled into them. A child has no filter, only dreams. I am asking you to reflect on what your dream is, the one that it scares you to admit out loud, to do some deep reflection and dreaming and ask yourself: what do I really, really want? (Let the Spice Girls’ hit song be your own personal anthem). This doesn’t have to be a place of imagination.

As I’ve mentioned before, it all starts with slowing your thoughts, getting rid of the noise, and allowing yourself to do the deep reflection. You can do this through meditation, or with a therapist, a partner that listens and not judges, or just you and your journal. One would think it would be obvious as to what you want, but often it is not. Personally, I think that it is not so easy because we have been ingrained from childhood to ‘be satisfied’ with what you have.

From a young age we are taught ‘to be grateful for what you have’. Even I, as a therapist, proclaim this in my room. However, is this place of gratitude allowing you to be joyful MOST of the time? OR are you just placating to the situation you feel you have no choice but to be in – that you have settled with – that you are merely content with?

Maybe you want more than this – and if you do that is okay. It is MORE than okay to want more out of life. Afterall, you only have one life to live.

I want you to accept who you are, what you need, and then go after it. That might take you to a scary place, a place you want to resist entering – a place in which you have used distraction to avoid. Distraction normally comes with a lot of noise – noise in your head. Once you get rid of that noise you will realize much more easily what you really really want. I encourage you to sit in silence and let your mind wander to that place. Feel the feeling that comes with that place and let that energy remain with you throughout the day.

If what I have written here doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, I would encourage you to listen to Episode #14 of my podcast. The woman I interviewed in this episode explains it all with more feeling than I can do in a written post. I love, love, love her energy and she is a true testament to what it takes to overcome the noise.

To accept yourself is how you move out of self-criticism, whether you are a covert or overt critic. When you are afraid of showing people who you are, you stay hiding behind bushes. Instead, be a kid. Jump out from behind the bushes and start playing and being your true authentic and flawed self. Not only will you experience the energy of a two-year old, but you will smile like one.

Need help getting to this place? Stick with me because I intend on creating programs specifically for women who are reaching middle age and realizing they want more. I will teach you how to get there.

What Type of Self-Critic Are You?

What Type of Self-Critic Are You?

As a therapist I see a lot of people who are self-critical. Throughout the years I’ve come to identify two types of self critics. There is no literature that I could find describing the two types, so I simply dubbed these types as overt self-critics and covert self-critics.

I will explain the two types and let me know whether these thought patterns seem familiar to you.

Overt Self-Critic: This is what I would describe as the more common form of self-criticism; the self-critic that tells themselves that they are a ‘bad ‘person because they inflicted hurt on another human being. No one enjoys inflicting pain on another person; as humans we are wired for love.

When this type of self-critic perceives that they’ve hurt someone else, they go into an anxious personal space where the only thing they can focus on is how the other person feels. If that other person said something disparaging about the self critic, the self-critic will feel that this statement is true. They do this quietly and possibly subconsciously, not even aware they are doing so at times. I would describe this person as having very low self-esteem and low self-worth. They spiral down. This person may or may not show it outwardly – for example, many of my clients may note a high heart rate (hovering close to 100 bpm) and I would never know it from just looking at their exterior. However, they tell me their anxiety is through the roof. They may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

Self-Critic Type 2: These are the self-critics we don’t talk about very much, but they are out there. These people are self-critical because of a belief they have about themselves based in past experiences or trauma. These past experiences could have occurred in childhood or even before birth (the science of epigenetics) or from an experience that took place a week ago. The experiences could be based largely on cultural and/or societal influences. Think about a Black or Indigenous person and how their experience of marginalization might have shaped their lives.

“Many Covert Self-Critics don’t even realize they lack joy in their life. And that, my friends, is a sad state of affairs.”

via @luellajonk

So how can you tell an Overt Self-Critic from Covert Self-Critic? And why does it even matter?

It matters because I feel there are many, many Covert Self-Critics who don’t even realize they lack joy in their life. And that, my friends, is a sad state of affairs.

For the Overt Self-Critic, the anxiety is much more overwhelming. Also, you can often see it in their behaviours daily. For example, this person has a lot of difficulty planning, and quite often they are a people pleaser; they fear what others might think of them and known as Obligers according to Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendency Quiz. They can also be quite critical of others. And since they are insecure, they may be defensive because of an inner fear they have of being seen as wrong. Again, they normally have low self-esteem and low confidence in a global sense.

In reference to the Covert Self-Critic, this person may come off as very confident. They have no problem disappointing someone because they know that their needs are important and more so, they understand that they are of no good to anyone unless they replenish their own bucket before ladling out to others. They take care of their needs and are not bogged down with others’ problems, because they know that in order for them to feel good, they need to keep their energy up. These folks can come out as Upholders on Gretchen Rubin’s Quiz. They tend to be optimistic individuals and crave peace and harmony. They are quick to decide and are often leaders or entrepreneurs. They are very disciplined, quite often to a fault. They do not know what self-care looks likes. If this type is a woman, they are too far on their masculine side.

There is a quiet part of this second type of self-critic that they don’t want anyone to know about, because they see it as a sign of weakness. It might only be 10-20% of their makeup, but when they are in that 20% space, they are ruthless and extremely self-critical. No one has necessarily told them that they failed or are failing in this area, but they are constantly judging themselves on it. They tend to be real thinkers and analyzers. They are often deeply intellectual, but again, to a fault. They don’t give themselves a chance to breathe or to be human sometimes. They find a lot of peace in routine and can be very militant in their behaviours. They take ‘good habit’ formation to its highest level.

Examples of this second type of self-critic could be someone that struggles in interpersonal relationships. Maybe they view themselves as an inadequate mother because they saw their own mother struggle with self-doubt raising her own children. Or maybe they’re a very confident woman that has a terrible relationship with food, looking at each meal as getting a pass or fail score because to her food is is either good or bad, it is never just food that you need to eat because you are hungry. The woman in this second example may appear confident on the outside, and does not care what others think of her, but she is anxious as she prepares to eat or angry at herself later for not eating something she deems unhealthy.

So why am I bringing this to your attention? Because some of you out there are very aware of your anxiousness and the sense of constant self-scrutiny. Yet, there are also many others who don’t see themselves as unhappy, anxious, or stressed…yet if they did some deep reflection and slowed the thoughts, they might have a true realization of what it means to feel joy all – the – time. They have made ‘perfectionism’ so normalized, they are not even aware of it. They are not aware of the amount of adrenaline shooting through their bodies and ‘must not fail’ or ‘be weak’ or ‘do lesser than’ part of them that is on constant high alert because of constantly measuring themselves up to others.

How to get out of this need to succeed? How can we take that pressure off ourselves to always measure up to ________? The answer will be in next week’s post. But to give you a teaser, it is related to tapping into your physical energy. What makes you smile, dance, radiate, stand upright…

Till then, I would like you to gain more awareness of how you feel at any given moment, as you go about your day. Are you too much in your head? Are you catastrophizing something that no one else sees? Are you judging yourself as you engage in normal daily behavior? Or can you just exist and live gregariously? Can you be you and still feel joy?

How I Used Atomic Habits in My Own Life

How I Used Atomic Habits in My Own Life

Realizing that most of my clients have some habits that they are proud of and others that they hate, I became more and more curious over the years. Habit formation/change is a big deal and I was interested in learning about the research that’s been done on it. I sought out several books on the subject, and Atomic Habits by James Clear was the one that resonated most strongly with me.

James Clear provides some great guidelines on how to change our habits, both those we want to cultivate and those that aren’t serving us. I took his template of ‘How to Create a Good Habit’ and ‘How to Break a Bad Habit’ and went to work on two habits that I want to change for myself.

“Getting curious about our behaviours while being accepting of yourself is the key to healthy self-discovery.”

via @luellajonk

To create a good habit, Clear breaks it down into Four Separate Laws:

1. Make it Obvious

2. Make It Attractive

3. Make it Easy

4. Make it Satisfying

One habit that I wanted to create for myself was drinking a ‘greens drink/greens powder’ every day, which is something I took away from Episode #6 of my podcast I Think, I Can. On this episode I spoke to Liana Warner-Gray about foods that reduce anxiety, as well as having incredible health benefits, including cancer prevention. Super simple to add that to your life, so why not? Using the template provided, I went to work.

Make it obvious: I decided to drink the powder at lunch time, therefore I needed to place it in a spot that allows me to see it every day at lunch, otherwise I know I will forget it. I am usually starving at lunch so I often grab some almonds when I enter the kitchen (which may or may not be a bad habit ?? stay tuned…) before preparing my lunch. So right beside the almonds is where you will now find my greens powder.

Make it Attractive: The beautiful green colour makes me think of a lush forest and springtime, which is very attractive to me.

Make it Easy: Again, once reminded, it is easy.

Make it Satisfying: I don’t particularly love or hate the drink, but I guess I make it satisfying by visualizing how all the cells of my body are just singing out loud – Thank you! That is just what I needed!

Okay – that was pretty easy. Now, onn to the next task: How to Break a Bad Habit. Right away I know that this is not going to be as easy.

I had to really think about this a bit…because there are a few things related to my diet that I don’t think are particularly good but I might need to consult with my guest from Episode #11, Patrick Laine, an Optimization Mentor and Coach about that one. Instead, I chose a habit that I mentioned to you in a previous post that I don’t think is helpful to me – watching cooking videos.

I mean, I’ve admitted in a previous newsletter that I hate cooking, so what is the point of watching these videos? PLUS, what is even worse, is I do it in bed! On my laptop! Here I am, preaching all about sleep hygiene, telling my clients to NOT take electronics to bed, etc. etc. and now you just found out this therapist does it as well. This is so embarrassing. I am now walking the walk of shame, so please forgive me.

According to Clear, the Four Laws of Breaking a Habit are:

1. Making it Invisible

2. Make it Unattractive

3. Make it Difficult

4. Make it Unsatisfying

If you’re having trouble determining how to decide whether a particular habit is working for you or not, here is a question Clear suggested to use: “Does this behavior help me become the type of person I wish to be? Does this habit cast a vote for or against my desired identity?” Ouch… Doesn’t that just make you lower your head somewhat? That question hit me hard. So I did my best to apply his template to my cooking video situation.

Make it unsatisfying: Well, that seems pretty natural. When I end up shutting the light off at night, I do feel unsatisfied. I am disappointed in myself because I likely stayed up at least 30 minutes longer than I would have wanted to and obtained absolutely nothing out of it. I am not engaging in the activities of ’30 min supper ideas’ or ‘meal prepping made simple’ – so it was a waste of my time.

Making it Invisible: Okay – that seems easy. I don’t bring my laptop up to my bedroom OR I do not allow any video to play on my laptop. In other words, shut off my WIFI so I read only. I chose READ ONLY and test if I can maintain this and not be tempted to turn on the WIFI.

Make it unattractive: Hmm, the only idea that comes to my mind is identifying myself as someone that mindlessly ‘scrolls’ or ‘wastes their time on social media’ even though watching a cooking video could be arguably different. The only way it would be different is if I was in fact a cook OR loved cooking. Neither one of those statements is true. So, it is truly an act of aimlessly zoning out. I don’t like identifying myself like that, so it is unattractive to me.

Make it difficult: This seems similar to Law #1, make it invisible. However, I think leaving my laptop in my office and out of my bedroom would make it extremely difficult because once my body hits those sheets, I ain’t getting out.

One week later, my results:

Habit Formation: drink a green’s drink every day. It is a win for the greens drink!! Make it obvious works well for me. I think it was highly attractive for me because I used visualization as well, seeing all those phytonutrients and vitamins being sucked up by my cells worked for me. It may not work for everyone, but it worked for me. The greens drink is also time saving and perhaps cost saving. How many of us throw green produce away because of not meal prepping well (yup, that’s me).

Habit Ending – Not the best. I am still unravelling this a bit, to be honest. I sort of stacked ending a bad habit with the idea of forming a new good habit (reading a book). So I went to Chapters and bought a book that I thought I would really like. It turned out I didn’t. I have another one on order that I will try, and that way I can see if it is just the book or maybe I am not a reader? That is something I need to figure out and speak on a bit more on another post.

After trying the reading a couple of days and seeing it wasn’t satisfying for me, I opened up the laptop. For the next several nights I tried only reading. When I say reading – I don’t mean reading a book. I am usually learning (by reading blog posts, articles, etc.) on topics I am interested in (pertaining to health and happiness). However, in reality, most websites have videos attached to them. So, before I know it – I am watching a video on the topic. I guess that is not bad…or is it? This is what I mean about my need to unravel it more. After all, one could argue ‘how is this any different from watching TV?’. It doesn’t matter whether I am watching a YouTube interview or the Nature of Things on TV, I am watching a screen and it is screen time.

I am not going to get too deep into this – but I think it is the fact that the ‘identification of being someone that watches a screen at night prior to bed’ is not distasteful enough for me. Which is sort of concerning. Or is it?

As I said, I don’t want to go down a rabbit hole because this post is already long enough… but it is making me think…and that, my friends, is a good thing. Getting curious about our behaviours while being accepting of yourself is the key to healthy self-discovery.

Maybe finding the right book is the answer for me. Maybe I am not a reader when it comes to books. Maybe I take information in better by listening to books (lectures, webinars, and yes, Youtube videos). At this moment, reading or watching /listening to topics on my laptop in my bed is NOT unsatisfying or unattractive enough to break the habit. I did stop watching cooking videos however, so perhaps it was a win.

How to Repair After an Affair

How to Repair After an Affair

Hopefully none of you will need to use this information, but for those couples who do, please keep reading.

As a Gottman Level 3 trained therapist, I know a lot about what makes marriages work and what does not. I understand how couples distance themselves and how they are able to come together again. I know who, in my therapy room, are the masters of healthy relationships and who are the disasters. For a nice introduction into Gottman method of couple therapy, please have a listen to Episode #8 of my podcast I Think, I Can.

After infidelity, there is a certain protocol a couple needs to follow when attempting to repair the relationship. And I advise not to try to do it alone. Repair after infidelity is a tricky, circuitous path to navigate, one best done under the guidance of a trained therapist. For anyone who has gone through such a deep betrayal as infidelity, they know what I am talking about. It is not something to be taken lightly. It is a gut wrenching, mind-blowing type of hurt that is difficult to describe. It goes into the depth of your soul. How do I know this? Because I have seen it on my clients’ faces, even long after the betrayal has occurred.

And then when you turn towards your partner and ask them how they could do something like this, the classic answer is “I don’t know”.

“Infidelity is a symptom of a relationship that required daily tending, much like a garden would, yet was ignored.. When too many weeds take over, the garden cannot thrive.”

via @luellajonk

Hmmm – that doesn’t fly over well, now does it?

If I see that the betrayer authentically does not know, then we need to do more individual work. I have that person come in alone and provide them with a questionnaire which helps them to find that answer. During the couples’ session however, I might also ask the betrayer “Now ask your partner what it feels like to hear you say, ‘I don’t know’.” If the betrayer remains emotionless, as a therapist I know we have a problem.

There are three phases of re-establishing the relationship after infidelity.

  • Attunement
  • Atonement
  • Attachment

During the first phase, atonement, any questions the betrayed needs to ask the betrayer is done in the safety of the therapy room. I may encourage the betrayed to write down a list of questions prior to coming in as sometimes these thoughts race around in one’s head all day – but under the pressure of a couples’ session, they can get lost. The purpose of this session is so that ‘no stone gets unturned’ so to speak. The betrayed should have every single question answered. After all, they deserve answers. The truth needs to come out. If it doesn’t, the relationship will never be repaired. The goal is to re-establish trust; without trust, no relationship will stand. Trust and commitment are the two supporting walls in any sound relationship house.

The attunement phase is when we go into the health of the relationship prior to the betrayal. How did the couple communicate? Was there communication at all? However, there are strong rules that I insist on with this discussion. There is no blame, attack, or criticism. In other words – this is my chance to see what the couple’s communication style is – and from there I teach them what communication should look like. I teach them that the four horsemen of the apocalypse (what John Gottman dubbed as the four communication breakdown behaviours he saw in his research with couples) are Criticism, Contempt, Stonewalling, and Defensiveness, and they are NOT allowed in my room. If I see these behaviours, I have no problem abruptly interrupting the discussion. I point it out in the moment so that they become better at noticing it themselves. Attunement is a place for couples to process their feelings. To feel the hurt of the other and to communicate their pain to their partner. The whole process is to bring each other closer, to help them understand each other’s own subjective reality. There are usually many betrayals that have happened in the couples’ history together and we may need to go back to these times and process the feelings that perhaps never got processed.

Attachment is the place where all couples want to get to. It is a place of peace, safety, and contentment, a place of serenity and calm. Trust is solidified during this phase. It is also a time where we establish very clear boundaries going forward. In this phase, we create a plan going forward so you feel safe in continuing this relationship, much in the same way I help couples draw up a parenting or separation agreement when I act as a relationship coach. I encourage the partners to use verbiage such as “I feel ______when you do _____, and this is what I need (from you)”.

 

No one wants to find themselves or expects to ever be betrayed. Sexual or emotional betrayal can be catastrophic in a relationship, and frankly can end the relationship quite abruptly. There are some individuals that have very firm boundaries that are tied in with moral values. However, the decision to end the relationship is rarely that simple. Each couple I deal with have very different personal histories. Factors that I feel most predict whether a relationship will last through the betrayal or not would be length of time together as a couple, whether there are children, whether trust has been breached prior to this incident, and cultural background.

Personally, as a therapist, it is very difficult for me to see the hurt on an individual’s face who has experienced betrayal in their relationships. I think the most difficult part of this is that it changes the individual (betrayed) on a very personal level. Someone who was once very trusting of their partner, is no longer someone who trusts. Regaining trust in a relationship can be a massive undertaking for any person. It is hard work and it takes time. However, I have a massive respect for couples that make it through this and come out stronger because of it, which is quite often the case. Infidelity is a symptom of a relationship that required daily tending, much like a garden would, yet was ignored.. When too many weeds take over, the garden cannot thrive.

To read more about betrayals, check out my blog series, 10 ways a partner can betray you, (2021).