Crisis Management After An Affair

Crisis Management After An Affair

by Adam Maurer, LPC, LMFT

“Slow down. Breath. Beyoncé made it through an affair and so can you.” These are the words of comfort I offer folks who find my couch after a relationship betrayal. Being a relationship guru, I work with a number of folks trying to navigate the aftermath of an affair. There are racing thoughts and intense feelings that flood both the betrayed and the person who broke the relationship agreement. This is a time of crisis for many couples and without any guidance, folks tend to make a difficult situation even worse for themselves. If you are facing this issue or supporting someone who is, here are some basic tips for crisis management after an affair — and how to titrate the traumatic effects.

  1. Be Aware Of Communication About The Situation – Seeking comfort, clarity, or even a container for intense raw emotions; people sometimes overshare about their relationship crisis. A Facebook post from the injured party blasts the behavior and character of their partner. Calling up contact after contact on the phone and dumping the challenging mess in the lap of the person who happened to pick up the phone. Some folks feel so hurt that they even ask their children (who are minors) to be their emotional support. Though this might feel relieving in the moment, it can create a whole bunch of problems in the big picture. Imagine if, after the shock of the betrayal, you decide to stay together. Now you have to engage with every friend and family member you spoke with to try and shift their opinions about your partner (and continued relationship) so that time together is not awkward. Everyone’s at your house eating Christmas dinner while giving your partner the side eye because they all know what happened. Instead of telling everyone, consider who might be a great support. Think about who do you know that could empathize with you as well as your partner? Find someone mature enough to give you space to vent without judgment of either one of you. This could be a close friend, family member, or even a therapist. While some folks struggle with too much-unfiltered talk about the issue, others isolate and cut themselves off from supports altogether. Their fears, pain, shock, humiliation, all seem to conspire to silence their voice when they need help the most. Having no one to talk to about the affair leads to running thoughts and increased emotional intensity. This tension eventually surfaces in the relationship in any number of challenging ways, such as continued snooping of a partner’s connections to others: email, phone, social media, credit card statements, etc. When emotional intensity builds like this and comes out sideways the situation can easily get worse. Again, a connection to a wise listener will disrupt the ruins of isolation. Once the relationship betrayal has been brought to light, it is important for the person who has broken the trust, to be honest.  Now, this can be a difficult task. A hurt person might have a number of questions, and there might not be answers immediately ready during a discussion. At this point, trust is needing to be rebuilt so any lying, covering up, or agreeing only to appease an injured partner will only make the task of reestablishing trust more difficult. If you are worried that an answer might hurt your loved one, state that concern as opposed to covering up the truth. If you are unsure if you can honor a partner’s request 100% then state that concern. A betrayal hurts, and it will take the time to heal. There is no quick fix and being dishonest will not help the relationship in the bigger picture. Again, this can be very painful and a relationship counselor can help guide you all through this difficult landscape.
  2. Journal Journal Journal A betrayal is going to likely release a flood of challenging emotions and they will need someplace to be expressed, so get a journal and write.  Write without hesitation or editing, don’t worry about grammar or spelling. Just write without stopping for at least 10 minutes in the day so that those intense emotions have a place to go, later you can review your writings and uncover themes in your words. Not only will this help both parties process the situation so that they are better able to discuss it later, it will make it easier to continue with the everyday tasks of being a human. Allowing yourself a place and time to weep will make it less likely that you’ll find yourself unexpectedly sobbing in the grocery store.  Respect that both you and your partner need a space to process without judgment, so you will have to resist the urge to read your loved one’s unfiltered writings. Once things calm down, you can process together what you learned through journaling. If emotional intensity makes this too challenging a task, then utilize a therapist trained in relationship work to help you.
  3. Take Time For Self-Care – A betrayal in a relationship will take its toll on all involved so you have to take the time to replenish your resources. Workout, get a massage, meditate, whatever you have to do to get a break from the chaos and recharge. Self-care will allow you time to just be present in the moment and connect with yourself. The emotional intensity in a relationship after an affair can be exhausting. After a betrayal folks are usually pulled into the past, trying to create security by rehashing the events that unfolded; then suddenly they feel flung into the future with anxiety over the next steps and dread of possible losses. So, make sure to do something positive for yourself so you can continue to be your best self as you figure out how to move ahead in your relationship. An affair is a devastating event for most relationships and it can actually lead to a better partnership. Once people manage the hurt of an affair, they are often in a place to better communicate their needs in their relationship. This can lead to greater satisfaction with a partner. It is hard work, and it can be worth it. If you find yourself facing this challenge know that we are here for you. We can help you and your partner find a way to reconnect, recommit, and get more out of your relationship. You too can be like Beyoncé.

If you like this blog, check out some of my other writings on relationships, sex, and love. Also, feel free to contact us for a free consult.

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coping with divorce

Coping with Divorce

Last week I posted a quote of “You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” I can’t tell you how true that quote is for people going through a divorce and even a painful breakup. When people come in for a first counseling session, after listening to their story, one the first things I look for is identifying their support network. The hope is to make a person’s support network be like the legs of a chair… the more they have, the more steady they are even if one becomes wobbly or is removed. What I mean by support network is friends, family, faith (if that’s important to them), work support networks, exercise-oriented activities, animals, etc. Often, a counselor becomes a leg of that support network as well. All of these things are helpful in moving through difficult times.

For me, the experience of losing someone I loved was more than any pain I had dealt with up to that point. It was more than losing a part of myself — it was a complete annihilation of my old self. I struggled with a lot of sadness, sleepless nights, and the few nights I did dream; I had vivid emotional dreams of my ex. All of this was continual evidence of how my brain and I were struggling to make sense of what had happened. The sadness that surrounded me at the time felt too overwhelming to embrace fully — but when I did sit with it, it helped me to grow in ways I wouldn’t have previously imagined. As I allowed it to coat me, it helped it to release its grasp on me.

Much good came from that time of hardship — in time. It forced me to sit with my pain and look at my fears and pushed me to make daily plans on how to create little changes to overcome the bigger struggles. A few years ago I wrote a post on how divorce can turn you into Voldemort. It was a reminder for me of how difficult it can be to open yourself up following loss and the difficulty of sitting with pain and growing from it. That said, I learned a couple of things from the experience that I hope can help you on our journey in developing your emotional intelligence.

I have posted in the past about how difficult the process following divorce was for me and the temptation to avoid pain as well as some things that I found helpful in Buddhism. Today I am going to break it down again in an even more simple process:

  1. Give yourself space to be sad or mad – This may sound strange, but the worst thing you can do is try to suppress your sadness all the time. It’s tough because society will almost naturally encourage suppression because some people don’t know what to do with your sadness. As a result, it can be easy just to bury it and try and move on. My suggestion is to honor your grief and create some space for it to exist with you. If you don’t, it will ride shotgun with you daily. What does that look like? For me it meant when I had an emotion that came up, trying to give it space to flow through. This may mean stepping outside, going to your car, or to the bathroom, but give yourself that space. Sit with it. Understand it. Grow from it. Honoring what has passed helps to create fertile grounds for future relationships.As a guy, I found it hard to find direction with this as most books on divorce were written for women. I read a book called The Storms Can’t Hurt The Sky, and it made a lot of sense to me and helped me to work through painful emotions that surrounded my divorce.
  2. Make short term and long term goals – For me, my short term goals surrounded survival stuff: financial goals, taking care of myself, working out, journaling, therapy, awareness of weakness, etc. How did I implement these things? I put a post-it note on my closet door that showed me how much I needed to make each week and made a budget for myself. I journaled regularly and used the app Day One to stay on track with it. Journaling helped me to have snapshots of each day so that I could see progress, setbacks, and even some blind spots. Exercise helped me to stay in shape and fight some of the sadness that comes naturally with huge life events. I cut down my counseling work as I knew I had to take care of myself while going through all this. Meeting with a therapist helped me to pull all these pieces together and see what I was doing well as well as where I might need assistance. As for my long term goals, they were broader in focus, and that was helpful to me. I made a list of what I wanted to change: run on Town Lake, read more classic works, learn to cook better, grow my company, travel more, and date again. Looking back on those goals, I can honestly say they were helpful and healthy.
  3. Utilize your support network – As I mentioned earlier, it’s essential to evaluate and use your support system. Who has helped in struggles in your past? A friend, family, a running club, your faith, wine club, therapist — think through this and even if there aren’t as many as you might like, make it your intention to seek support. When you are fresh out of a breakup or divorce, some friends may stick to the sidelines until the smoke clears. You may have friends that come out of nowhere and are essential in the process of moving forward. It helps to let people know that you might need some assistance and see how they respond. Again, try to have as many legs on your chair as possible.
  4. Learn from your past relationship – Part of the reason I encourage people to proceed slowly after divorce or a breakup is so you have a chance to learn the lessons from your breakup. Relationships don’t have to leave you broken. There is a lot of data that shows when people don’t learn from their losses they will then be attracted to intimate relationships with what will turn out to have similar issues. So, give yourself that space to learn from your past relationship and see how you can grow and change not to repeat those same mistakes.
  5. Live in the now – I can’t tell you how many times I forgot this lesson as I would replay the past over and over in my head or freeze a bit with overwhelming when I thought about the future. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t have space to process what you are feeling; it is just important not to let yourself get caught in a vortex of regret. Give yourself space to try and just experience a moment. One trick can be getting a rubber band and putting it on your wrist and whenever you catch your mind drifting, snap yourself to try and get back in the moment. Wake up and focus yourself on the world around you as much as you can. How many times have you found that you arrive at work or home and you have no idea where that time went? Pay attention. Notice your senses — air on your skin, the sun on your face, etc. Smile at strangers. Stand up and move your body. Eat lunch in a different place than normal. Bring a portable chair and sit outside on breaks.
  6. Disrupt negative spirals – When you get in a nosedive of negative emotion and ruminating on bad things, pull yourself out of it. Negative thoughts can easily ride shotgun with us or become like our personal humidity. We have to acknowledge them and notice when they are unproductive. Make a circle and focus write in it the things you can do something about and put the things you can do nothing about on the outside of the loop. You can still care about this stuff that may fall outside of the loop without worrying about them. Give them their space, honor that space, but don’t let it always weigh on you.
  7. Keep a positive perspective even in tough times –  After my divorce, I will say that I watched Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and I Love You Man, more times than I can count. They helped me to laugh and be hopeful about the future. I encourage people to look for the opportunity in tough times like making new friends, growing from hardship, gaining more depth. I also think it helps to look back on tough times from a perspective a few years in the future and try to think of how we might want to grow and change or where an area of opportunity may be that we can’t currently see.
  8. Date when you are ready – There is no perfect timeline for when someone is ready to start dating again. As I said in previous posts, I chose to try dating a bit before I was ready, but it’s all part of the process. My suggestion would just be to check and make sure you aren’t trying desperately to fill a void. This comes up for a lot of people and if it is there, be aware of it, communicate it, and proceed slowly, so you don’t jump into a relationship with similar difficulties. Consider transitional relationships to date different types of people and figure out what you might want. People are often surprised to find out that over the years they have been in a relationship, their preferences may have changed. Remember that this doesn’t have to lead to a permanent relationship, can be a lot of fun, and you might discover a thing or two about yourself.

The final step is being able to let go a bit. To do this, we have to accept the situation, look at what we have learned, and look at what things you need to do to move on — actions you need to take for yourself. Men are often faced with many forms of loss in life. This can be a divorce, loss of a child, loss of a job. When guys go through a hard loss, and they will hold it and not talk through their feelings. Sometimes they will reserve those feelings for their partner – so if they lose that person – it’s that much greater of a loss. Women, by contrast, often have people that they share their emotional worlds with and this is a big part of what helps them cope. Guys way of coping often is to distract instead of cope. Very often I will hear the story of a man who went through a big loss and a friend may take them out and get them drunk or maybe go on a trip. These things aren’t bad, but it would help just to make room for more consistency and check on those going through loss. It helps to know that the recovery takes time and to be patient with it.

Should you do therapy? If you find yourself resistant to the idea of counseling, then you might want to keep in mind that it doesn’t mean you have a problem or that you’re in crisis. Therapy can be a way to work toward a better life, with someone who has no agenda but YOU. If you would like to talk with a counselor about how they might help you and see if it might be a fit, let us know.

What ADHD Is Really Like And What To Do About It

What ADHD Is Really Like And What To Do About It

By William Schroeder, MA, LPC, NCC

I am a therapist in Austin and have ADHD, and I want to write about what this experience has been like for me to help others who are also on this journey. Let me first start with the frustrating aspects and then move to the positive. Today I am getting ready to fly to Florida for a trip to see my grandmother, and it brings back memories of my last trip there. The last trip where I left my luggage at the airport. You would think that when you fly into a town, you would go and grab your bags and head to your hotel room, right? When I opened the trunk of the rental car and pulled out my sister’s luggage, and that’s when I noticed mine was strangely absent. I looked at my sister who was warm in response and said, “Packed light, eh? Don’t worry about it. We can either run to the airport tomorrow or buy something at Target if you need it.” I felt my self-esteem dump from my chest to somewhere filled with stomach acid and shame. How could I have done this? I felt so frustrated with myself.

For years, events like this haunted me and felt like more evidence of why my brain was fundamentally broken. My first two years in college were filled with disaster scenarios like this. Frequently I had tests I was surprised about, papers that I was unaware of being due or scrambling to complete, and appointments that I missed or was late to. Friends would even ask, “Are you going to be here at noon my time or noon your time?” This always implied 30 minutes to an hour late. The whole notion of adult life seemed to be impossible as it was filled with so many balls you had to juggle, and I seemed to be struggling with basic juggling. For many years (K-12, much of my 20’s and early 30’s) I felt a sense of doom due to my ADHD. I had all of these wonderful ideas, but the process of making them come to reality seemed impossible. 9-5 office jobs felt enslaving and working for myself was challenging due to difficulty creating structure. Dating in my 20’s was exciting until I realized that when things got serious, they would likely pick up on my dread of the future.

So, how did I improve? It was a lot of small steps, and this fight did help things to change. What started to kick in was a bit of a self-esteem backup generator of sorts. In the example of what happened at the airport, I slowed down and went over the code to see where the bug was. I arrived at the airport in Florida. I was most concerned the carry-on that I had (it had my laptop and charger for my phone), meeting my sister since we were both flying in from separate locations, and getting the rental car. I went back to the airport in my mind and realized the waiting for my sister and her having a carryon had thrown me off. At the end of the day, it wasn’t a big deal. I went to Target about bought a new shirt (which was needed and helpful), and the hotel gave me toiletries. I also mapped in what I would do differently next time. I now create a Todoist trip checklist and have all of the previously mentioned items in it. Slowing down and troubleshooting is a big part of building better processes that make sense to the distractible brain (Smart But Scattered is a great resource for adults).

So, how have I dealt with this in my adult life? It is something that I constantly have to debug, and it’s an ongoing process of evaluating what works and what doesn’t. That said, I continue to grow from the struggle. The biggest piece of advice I can give to others is to try and be patient, do not let it destroy your self-esteem, and reach out to others for help if you need it. If you liked this post, check out some of our other posts on Communication Strategies in ADHD Relationships, Tips to Overcome Autism and ADHD, and How to Boost Self-Esteem in Kids or make an appointment with a counselor.

when parenting breaks you

When Parenting Breaks You

By: Loren Lomme, MA, LPC, RPT

For some parents it’s having multiple children and the stress of feeling constantly outnumbered, for some it’s having a child with a history of abuse or some other type of trauma, for some it’s having a child on the spectrum or who experiences other developmental difficulties, and for others it’s any of the million things that can push a parent past their emotional limits.  For me, it’s a STRONG-willed 5-year-old with a history of medical trauma that leaves us dealing with frequent emotional dysregulation issues and a hypersensitive stress response system….and this week, it broke me, again.

Most of my blogs are topic specific and focused on some bit of parenting advice and research. Today, however, it’s just about relating….Relating to each others’ experiences of parenting, how hard it can be, and how life as a parent might not be so tumultuous if there were a handbook that we could refer to when things go off the rails. So here’s what happened.

Our whole last week was off the rails. Reports from school were rough. Getting ready in the mornings was like navigating a minefield of emotions, and brushing my son’s teeth was a tearful battle that took a minimum of 10 minutes every day. Getting his shoes on ended in frustration and tears for him as well because his shoes have to be at a certain “tightness threshold” for him to feel comfortable enough to walk in them.  One night was pretty much an hours-long jumbled mess of tantrums about things like dropping an M&M and dessert being ruined (even though an entire bag of M&M’s was nearby and available to replace the dropped one), not being able to immediately master drawing a freehand star, having to get his hands wet to wash them before dinner, my husband or I getting too close to my son or making eye contact with him when trying to comfort him during aforementioned events, and so on and so on. The crazy train in our house last week also arrived at the head banging station, which is sometimes my son’s preferred method of coping with anger and frustration, despite the pain and possible damage he causes himself. And as a grand finale, that same night ended with my 5-year-old choosing to put himself to bed alone and requesting that we NEVER check on him again because he doesn’t love us…..which 30 minutes later was followed by buckets of tears and self-loathing because he felt bad for being “rude.” He needed to be consoled, but that in itself was an almost insurmountable task. It took at least 30 minutes, still didn’t end well, and it was late by the end. Really. Late.….again.  Can anyone relate?

Days, nights, and weeks like the one I just described are often accompanied by a feeling of being broken, of never being a good enough parent and sometimes thoughts of not having what it takes to help my little guy through the emotional hurricanes that hit him out of nowhere. This is a vulnerable story to share because being a parent can sometimes leave you feeling like you’re on an island, which is weird and confusing because logically you know that there are a billion other parents out there. I reconsidered this blog about a million times, but if I didn’t write it, I may as well pack my bags and stay on my island. I have heard from so many other parents about the feelings of being broken, of being not enough, of feeling lost, and just plain not knowing what to do next. That’s why I had to write this, because being on an island, you often forget that others can relate and you lose sight of your tribe. You also forget that “this too shall pass.” Storms don’t last forever, and the sunshine ALWAYS returns.

And it did. Two nights later, as we were reading books on the couch before bed, my son said, “Mommy let’s snuggle. I love you so, so much.” His sweet little body wiggled up next to mine, he looked deep into my eyes, and our connection was back on track. Just like that, the storm was over, and we were back in sync. As hard as it is for me to weather the storms, I know that it’s as hard for him. And I know that my job as a parent is to stick with him, even when we’re in the trenches. At least we’re there together, and I would never trade that for anything.

Parenting is full of ups and downs. Every day is different, and every child is different. The rewards and good times are plentiful, but so are the struggles. I’ve found that a focus on being mindful and staying in the moment is a parenting magic wand. It makes the difficulties manageable, helps everyone stay a little more grounded, and keeps the positives within reach. To my fellow parents, use your village. If you don’t have one, build one, you’ll be glad you did. Maintain perspective, and have a mantra. A bad day is only a bad day, and it will pass. Know that you are what your child needs, and there isn’t always an answer or a right thing to do. Kids often just need to know that you can weather the storms with them, and “fixing it” is often not our job nor what they need. And finally, ask for help. No one is perfect, and no single person can manage everything. When you model self-care and reaching out, you are teaching your child valuable life skills, and you are refueling your tank so that you can continue to be your best. Parenting isn’t easy, and unfortunately, there’s no if/then playbook for every situation, but there is research, and there are child development and parenting experts who can help guide you through the tough times. For extra parenting support, you can reach out to our counselors at Just Mind. We have parenting experts on board who are happy to help!

“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.” – L.R. Knost

If you liked this post by Loren, you might also like “Parents who Parent Differently“, “Why We Should Play With Our Kids,” or “How to Respond to an Emotional Meltdown with Kids.” If you would like to inquire about counseling, you can either contact us or take a look at our therapists.