She Asked for a Divorce

The following is an email discussion I had with a woman contemplating divorcing her husband.  At the time of our dialogue, she had just, in session, announced to her husband, directly, that she wanted to divorce.

This is a wonderful example of why it is difficult for women to ask for a divorce, “…it kills me to see the hurt in his eyes”.  Note her thoughts being “all over the place”.  Finally, look at my last response to her, specifically my challenge for her to take seriously her thought processes DESPITE what others would say.

 

Ed,

As you know I have gotten off my chest that I do indeed want a divorce.

Though last night when we got home Bill begged me not to be done to give him one last chance. Even after I have told him I don’t think there is anything he can do now to change my mind. He really is hurt by me wanting a divorce. I know that he has hurt me for so long but it kills me to see the hurt in his eyes. I am having so many emotions right now that I can’t hardly think straight. I find myself using work to get a break from my mind these days. I know the choice I have made is not an easy one, or maybe it should be easy if it is really meant to be that way. I am completely all over the place with my thoughts, but it’s really hard for me to have a clear thought process right now. Is that normal?

Along with all this he has asked me to take a trip with him this weekend.

Would that be leading him in the wrong direction by going on a trip with him?

Please help me try to understand all my thoughts.

Thanks

Becky

 

Becky,

Real quick….I’m in between people.

It is normal….jumping from topic to topic. This is traditionally the most stressful situation most humans face. So, if you are confused, have a hard time concentrating or go from one thought/feeling to the opposite thought/feeling….know that that is normal.

Good point….or good awareness….that you have hurt a lot at his hands during the marriage AND that it hurts you that you’re divorcing him is killing him. That does not mean you are crazy or mean, that means you are human and empathetic…..it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t divorce him however.

The invitation to the trip is I think a way of wooing you back to him.  Go at your risk. The same is true of having sex with him. The more you do, the more it will make divorcing difficult.  He is hurting and I am and I know you are sorry about that. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t divorce him.

Need to go.  If you have more questions, please email me.  These are good awareness’s on your part!

Edward

 

I do have one last question… Am I crazy for asking for a divorce? Bill claims this is me taking the easy way out….  I don’t see it that way due to the fact that we have been trying counseling sessions for at least two years and we are still needing to continue these sessions.  At what point is it OK to just say your opinion no longer matters.

He also is trying to bring our children into this by saying they are going to have an awful life if we separate, I feel very differently from that but he been there and I never have.

 

Becky,

Responding to your question, “Am I crazy for asking for a divorce?”…..

You must answer that for yourself. I say this for two reasons. First, I’ll give you my answer AFTER you give me your answer. Second, this is a more serious question than you think.  If you think you are crazy, then you are crazy…..regardless of what you do or say.  I have worked with people who believed they were, for example, the “black sheep” of their family. Everything they considered doing or thinking they looked at as if it were something a black sheep did or does AND they often only did things that were extreme or inappropriate or disruptive….the things that they thought only a black sheep would do. So, if you think you are crazy, you will probably not take this decision as seriously as you would if you thought you were of serious and stable temperament and if things turn out badly, you could say to yourself that you did such because you thought you were crazy and you consequently did crazy things.

So….are you crazy?

I will answer this question only after you tell me your answer to this question.

In regards to, “At what point is it OK to just say your opinion no longer matters?” I am assuming that what you are saying is “At what point is it ok to just say Bill’s opinion no longer matters?”  That is what seriously considering getting a divorce is all about…..deciding that the other persons opinion doesn’t matter and you want to live your life how you see fit.  YOU must decide that….WHEN his opinion doesn’t matter. You wouldn’t be considering divorce if you hadn’t already been thinking about IF his opinion matters or WHEN it doesn’t matter. Most decide it doesn’t matter when they see a history in the relationship that reflects going along with the other person’s opinion has lead repeatedly to bad consequences for the person consistently, that this pattern will continue in the future and that they know that that to do such in the future would be bad for them/the kids involved. You must also remember that, if you decide to divorce and he doesn’t want to divorce, he will not agree with your opinion and you will have to pursue this course of action AGAINST THE ADVICE of him. Most people, especially women, are not comfortable doing such. The more you are aware that you will have to do that as you pursue your divorce, the less this aspect will de-rail you.

Please email me again if you have further questions.

Edward

 

A Therapist’s Guide to Living with a Narcissist – Chapter 6

Another session….and a few more “identifiers” of the narcissistic personality, an in-depth look at sex and a few suggestions to practice.

Bob referred to speaking to his “best friend” on the phone recently.  Sally began thinking about this, Bob’s best friend and his friends in general. On one of their first dates, Sally accompanied Bob to his best friend’s wedding, as a guest….not a groomsman, usher; just as a guest. Later, Sally noticed Bob spends little, if any time, with his friends. If they go out with friends, it is usually Sally’s. If they socialize with people who know Bob, it is his work associates.  He has never introduced them in person to Sally. It is Bob’s use of his “best” friend that is of interest to me here.  His reference to this best friend makes him look important. In reality, he looks like he has no friends. This is common with the narcissist.

On another occasion, Sally and Bob were out to dinner and Bob was ordering in a heavy British accent.  Bob lived in South Africa for a few years as a child as a function of his father’s work and while there, obviously, Bob was exposed to British accents. On this particular occasion, it occurred to Sally that sometimes his accent is thick, on other occasions, with no accent at all. In fact, Sally further concluded he tends to speak with an accent only when they are out, in public, when around others. Again, this is not an indication of a narcissist but it is easy to see the “notice me” aspect of this tendency and in this personality.

Later in the session, Sally commented, “I didn’t push it because I didn’t want to argue about it.” I pointed this out to her and inquired about how she comments on Bob’s behavior; is she accusatory or relatively neutral in her questions or comments? The narcissistic personality is easily defensive if they feel they are being questioned or threatened. I encouraged her to ask her question or make her comment as simply or non-provocatively as possible and then if he gets defensive, try not to respond to his accusations and remain focused on your point.

Sex….a sensitive topic in most relationships. Sally shared they have sex rarely; only 4-5 times in the last year. Initially, they had sex frequently but after a brief break-up, despite his stated interest in it, he rarely initiates. She has brought up the topic many times; these conversations typically ending in tears and anger. She feels defeated and depressed as a result of how infrequently they have sex.  She assumes she is the problem (In her prior relationship, they too rarely had sex.). She says she will suggest the possibility and he agrees but then later doesn’t follow-through.  She is able to go without sex but prefers not.  She’d like to have a child and given her age, she hears the “clock ticking”. She is afraid she’ll be “too old” for a relationship/to have a child if she waits much longer and if she breaks up with Bob, she will just have to start over again, finding and then building the relationship to the point of having a child.

A couple things for her to consider:

Her assuming the problem to her is a mistake. She, in fact, may be part the problem but she is a long way from having ALL information to make such a conclusion (Ideally, they would both be in therapy or at least discussing their sex life openly before a conclusion would be made.).

How she brings up the topic for discussion is critical.  As we know, narcissists are VERY concerned about their appearance and consequently, quickly defensive. Further, one’s sexual functioning is VERY personal. Most people often feel very vulnerable talking about, much less being sexual, so Sally talking about their sex life with Bob is very tricky.  The topic MUST be brought up gently and as non-emotionally as possible. Further, how Sally reacts to his comments is critical also. If he gets defensive (which he probably will get) and she reacts or if she reacts defensively with accusations from her, the discussion could go south easily.

SHE will need to bring up the topic (as opposed to waiting for him to bring it up).  If he is narcissistic and if what she has said about their past conversations about sex is true he would feel far too vulnerable and consequently be far too defensive to bring the topic up for discussion. She will have to start the conversation. Further, I’d suggest she preface her comments when beginning the conversation. For example, “I know in the past when we have discussed sex, it has lead to arguments. I don’t want to argue with you again but I want to talk about our sex life. Can we agree to not argue and yet discuss what is going on between us?” Another example, “Honey, I want to talk about our sex life but I don’t want to argue.  I promise you I will listen to what you have to say and not over-react.  Can you make the same promise?”

Does Sally want to have sex with Bob? Sally talks so much about wanting him to initiate sex so much so, I wonder if she has lost focus on if she even wants to have sex with him. It is easy, especially in contemptuous relationships, for the focus to become wining fights or getting your way versus working with your partner. So, I’d challenge Sally to ask herself if she even wants to have sex with Bob at this point.

If Sally does (want to have sex with him), then why does she expect him to initiate? Is it ok if she initiates sex?  In our society, the fantasy of the male being the dominant/leader/initiator and the female being the submissive/follower/care-taker is still very strong.

Why doesn’t he initiate? There could be a number of answers to this but consider the following: The act of “making love” requires vulnerability…emotionally and physically.  We get naked with our partner, we look them in the eye during the act, etc. Typically, partners “ask” one another to engage (which again requires vulnerability). Narcissists don’t do vulnerability.

Further, if he promises (to have sex with her) and then doesn’t, why? Is he indirectly punishing her or showing her he is the one in charge? Is he taking care of his sexual needs by masturbation or sex with another?

Finally and most importantly, Sally must be willing and able to tolerate the fact that she does not know the answers to some of these questions about Bob and must not succumb to her emotions while discussing such. Further, she must accept that all people make decisions while not having all the information and believe in herself/her opinions if she is to ever find her way through these current dilemmas.

This blog entry encompassed two sessions. More to come.

 

 

How Couples Can Rebuild Trust after an Affair

Below is a link to a TED TALK by Ester Perel.  She speaks of trust in relationships and more specifically the impact of an affair on trust in a marriage.

Really worth a listen…

http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/how-can-couples-rebuild-trust-after-affair

A Therapist’s Guide to Living with a “Narcissist” – Chapter Five

In our last session, Sally and I discussed more things Bob does that really display narcissism in a relationship, the dynamics between two people in a narcissistic relationship and touched on why Sally may be staying with Bob.

Sally described an event that occurred quite a few months ago. She had decided to move out (They were lived together early in their relationship.) and in one of their post-break-up conversations, Bob asked her to tell him what she really thought about him. Sally said Bob told her that because they were broken up, it would be ok if she told him what she really thought about him; that her comments would not hurt his feelings. She shared a number of observations. He acknowledged the behaviors/faults she described, suggesting he had been aware of such and that he was working on such.  Later, they got back together. According to Sally, within weeks, Bob was accusing her of criticizing him, citing the faults she had described when they were broken up.

This is interesting for a number of reasons:

First, women think of and experience intimacy differently than men. In general, when you reference “intimacy” to women, they think of talking and sharing difficult experiences (These are called “Trouble Talks.”). When you reference “intimacy” to men, they usually think sex. I think Sally interpreted “Since we are broken up, give me some personal feedback.” from Bob as an invitation to intimacy (an intimate conversation) but later had it thrown in her face. Giving personal feedback to a narcissist is very dangerous because they will use it against you if/when an opportunity arises. Keep in mind that the prime motivator for the narcissist is interpersonal power…having control over their partner.  Bob’s request for such information suggests to me that he may have been planning to use this against her in the future and that the current “broken-up” status was just temporary, in his mind.

Second, one may wonder why Bob acknowledged/confessed to such behaviors/traits when Sally described such.  It may have been that there was a part of Bob that was afraid that he would lose her and so decided to acknowledge his faults to perhaps thwart her plans to leave him.

This leads to the second major topic of the session; Sally’s comment of “I feel lonely in this relationship.” Loneliness occurs in these relationships for a variety of reasons; let’s look at two.

First. Narcissists are…..narcissistic.  They think/talk/reference themselves primarily in their conversations and interactions with others. So, you don’t or rarely hear “How was your day?”, “How did that make you feel?” or “I bet that was hard for you.” comments from them. It is easy then to see why one would feel lonely with a narcissist.

Second. Any complaint will be seen as an accusation of the narcissist. So comments such as, “I am lonely.”, “I feel sad.”, “Your blue suit looks bad.” are/can be interpreted as a criticism of the narcissist and in turn they become defensive. They attack. After this occurs a number of times, the partner learns to keep not make comments. Hence, they feel lonely.

This leads to a question; why does Sally stay with Bob if his behavior is so bad? Consider the following: Your family taught you how relationships work. They taught you how men act in relationships and how women act in relationships, similar to how a dance instructor might teach you how to dance a particular dance, i.e., the Fox Trot. Most of us, unknowingly, take this information and, typically in high school, pick out someone who knows that way of being in relationships/that way of dancing and you begin a relationship.

Now, consider a comment by Sally a few sessions ago, “He reminds me of my mother.” It is conceivable that one of the reasons Sally stays with Bob is because Bob is like Sally’s mother (Sally was taught a particular dance by her mother and later discovered Bob who also knows the same dance; so they start a relationship together.).

But why not leave him? Anything would be better than what Bob has to offer, you think. Quite the contrary; I know many people who stay in unhappy relationships because they are afraid of being alone. People prefer the familiar, even if they are unhappy with it, to the unfamiliar.

A teaser: Sally describes her past two boyfriends as drug addicts. Do you see the connection between a narcissistic personality and an addiction?

A Monster Calls

The following is dialog from the movie, A Monster Calls, between a 15 year-old boy, Connor O’Malley, and a “monster”, voiced by Liam Niesen.  The boy’s mother is dying from cancer.  The monster has come to help the boy face this tragedy.  The boy has been having a dream in which his mother is falling into a deep hole and he catches her by the arm.  He struggles to pull her up.  Eventually, he can’t save her and after considerable struggles, he lets go of her.  He’s deeply ashamed of this.

The dialog occurs after the boy describes this dream to the monster.  Note what the monster says about the lies we tell ourselves.

Connor:  “I’ve known forever she wasn’t going to make it.  She kept telling me that she’d get better….because that is what I wanted to hear.  I believed her.  Except I didn’t.  I started to think how much I wanted it (her death) to be over but I couldn’t stand how alone it would make me feel.”

Monster:  “A part of you wished it would end even if it meant losing her.”

Connor:  “I let her go, I couldn’t hold on any longer, I always let her go.”

Monster:  “That is your truth, Connor O’Malley.”

Connor:  “I wanted to be there.  That was real.  Now, she is going to die and it’s all my fault.”

Monster:  “That is not the truth at all.  You were merely wishing for an end of pain.  Your own pain.  That is the most human wish there is.”

Connor:  “I didn’t mean it (the wish) though.”

Monster:  “You did but you also did not.”

Connor:  “How can both be true?”

Monster:  “How can a prince be a murderer and be loved by his people?”  How can an apothecary be evil-tempered but right thinking?” (referring to earlier sections in the movie)

Connor:  “I don’t know.  Those stories never made any sense to me.”

Monster:  (chuckles) “You humans are complicated beasts.  You believe comforting lies while knowing full well the painful truths that make those lies necessary.  In the end Connor, it is not important what you think.  It is important what you do.”

Connor:  “So what do I do?”

Monster:  “What you did just now….speak the truth.”

Connor:  “That’s all?”

Monster:  “You think it is easy?  You were willing to die rather than speak it.”

A Therapist’s Suggestions for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

A couple came in recently….grandparents, wanting to discuss rules to set before their grandson moves in. They brought in a list of rules/expectations they had created. It is the best set of expectations I’ve seen…so I thought I’d share them with you.

  1. Chores. The grandson would be given a list of household chores. He had to pick, I think 3-4 that he had to do every week (or he would lose a privilege). He could also opt to do an extra chore (a bigger one, like mow the yard), for which he would be paid.
  1. Curfew. They listed their curfew times for him. Not negotiable. They allowed his curfew to be later on Friday and Saturday nights but not beyond the legal curfew.
  1. Study time. They expected a set amount of time for the youth to study, either at the dining room table or in his bedroom, with the door open.
  1. Special events (i.e., basket/football games, etc.). They expected him to let them know 2-3 days before the event, ask permission to go and if they consented, they expected him to put it on the family calendar.
  1. Civility. They expected him to say “Hello” to them upon arriving home, “Good morning”, “Good night”, and “Good bye”.
  1. Meals together. They expected him to eat 2-4 meals with them a week, depending on practices and his work schedule.
  1. Privacy. They expected him to have his bedroom door open at particular times….study time, anytime there was a girl in his bedroom, and when unknown friends were visiting (until they were known to the grandparents).
  1. Transportation. They expected him to use his bike with temperatures above 40 degrees and to ask 1-3 days ahead of time if he needed them to take him to/from or wanted the use of their car.
  1. Accidents. He is expected to report all accidents (in-home or away, minor or major) immediately and would be granted amnesty, unless the circumstances were grossly irresponsible.
  1. Doctor appointments. He must make them aware of all doctor appointments; he must go; they will be taking on the “parental part” of any treatments and he must follow-through with any doctor recommendations.
  1. Checking and savings accounts. He must open such and put them on the accounts. He must allow all checks/withdrawal to be counter-signed by them. He must put 1/3 of his paychecks in his savings, 1/3 in checking and 1/3 will be for him to spend as he wishes.
  1. Employment. He must have a part-time job, even if he plays a sport at school.
  1. Specific rules. Specific rules could be added as needed, i.e., No sitting in grandpa’s chair in the living room.

This was the most complete list I have ever seen a couple comprise. Kudos to them.

A Therapist’s Guide to Living with a “Narcissist” – Chapter Four

I was sick at the time of our appointment.  The next day, I received (at work) an email from Sally.  What follows is Sally’s original email, my response, and her response to my response.

Next session, I want to discuss with Sally, her comment, “He makes me feel horrible about everything I do…”

I was at my home and away from Bob for the past week and a half.  I came last night to stay the week with him and I noticed all morning I was feeling bad about myself. Everything from I made his coffee wrong to I opened the window blind wrong.  I realized that I’m constantly apologizing and feeling like a f*ck up, even when I didn’t do anything wrong. His way of doing it is that he doesn’t get angry, but he’s more passive-aggressive (Bob: “there’s way too much cream in my coffee” Me: “here, take my cup, I didn’t add as much cream”. Bob: ‘no, it’s fine, I’ll drink it…”) I insisted multiple times to switch cups to make him happy.  He has an amazing way to make me feel horrible about everything I do. I know if I ever brought his attention to it, he would argue and probably have a narcissistic response. I wish I loved a man who was maybe a bit more relaxed and just…happy.   – Sally

Be aware, it is not my intent that you two break-up but the more we talk, the more you will see things about him that you don’t like. This always happens in therapy….people talk in therapy about things they don’t like or want changed.

Your comment at the end of your email struck me…”I wish I loved a man who was…” Love is both a feeling and a choice/decision.  We feel love for a person and then decide to create a life with them, i.e., move in with them, cook supper with them, get coffee for them, run errands for them, etc. But, just because you love someone, that doesn’t mean you have to do what your heart tells you or what you should do because you love them. My point is that your comment suggests that because you love him, you are somehow stuck with him. You are not stuck because you love him.  I have no doubt that you love him but I also believe you could love a number of men and be just as happy with them.  But be aware, if you left him and met and fell in love with another, you would have a different set of issues/problems to address and, depending on that person’s response to your comments/complaints, you two would either continue to have or not have such struggles and/or stay together or break-up. This is not a matter of “wish”. This is a matter of decision and action. Some women will respond to this with “I can’t (speak up/break up with them), don’t want to hurt their feelings.” But they can continue to hurt yours? I believe you can see how, if he reminds you of your mother, how it could be easy to think of this as a matter out of your hands as opposed to something you can address and change (In childhood relationships, we often had little power. We can forget that we have power as adults when in a relationship with someone who reminds us of one of our childhood authority figures.).

Your observations about how you felt when around him were disconcerting and important. Do you want to feel like a “f**k-up” when you are around him? If no, have you told him this is how you feel when you are around him? Has he tried to change his part of that situation?  You can change how you speak to yourself. If you ask him to change and he doesn’t, then you have a decision to make.

Here is a suggestion…the next time you prepare him a cup of coffee and he makes a comment that if was prepared wrong, ask him if he wants you to prepare a second cup for him. If he says no, then indicate that if he continues to complain (directly or indirectly, and you are the judge of that), you will leave the room. If you do this, you must do this without tone, sarcasm or threat. The point here is boundaries; making it clear that you will not continue to endure his disapproval, especially after you offered to correct it and if he tries to continue this, you will leave, the situation at least. This move requires you trust your decisions and act on them.   – Ed

That’s a big part of why I stay, I love him, but also, no relationship is perfect, no man is perfect, and I am not perfect, so if it’s not these particular issues…which new issues will they be with a new man? Bob has taught me value in perseverance in relationships; a value that I think is lacking in our society. But on the flip side, I don’t want to rely on the idea of perseverance in an unhealthy or detrimental relationship. So, for me, it’s about figuring out which one I am doing, persevering or staying stuck.

Boundaries are still difficult for me probably because of my mother. I don’t remember having “boundaries”, so I think my way of compensating was to hide things and emotionally close off from her. I still do this.  – Sally

A Therapist’s Guide to Living with a “Narcissist” – Chapter Three

Today, Sally discussed a number of situations that recently occurred with which she wanted assistance.

Sally was recently hit by another car in traffic. The situation was that she was stopped at a stoplight, in a line of traffic. She was in the middle of a long line of cars and the stoplight was flashing red.  As the cars were slowly moving up, the woman in the car behind her, the driver distracted by her cellphone, ran into Sally. There were no injuries, to either driver or cars, and Sally did not get a ticket.

Later, she related the story to Bob. He responded with, “Yeah, I know how distracted you can get with your phone.” She corrected him, explaining that she was hit, not that she hit another car and that the other driver was on her phone, distracted.  Bob’s response, “But you do get distracted when you are on your phone….I’m just saying”. This was followed by a long argument. Bob kept making the point that she is easily distracted and Sally kept pointing out that that was not the point.  After fighting about this, they separated but he eventually came to her and apologized; “I don’t understand why I must say ‘I’m sorry’ when I wasn’t the one who gets distracted. There!  I said I was sorry.” Sally went home (She was at his apartment.) and Bob complained that she is never satisfied.

A number of points to consider…

First.  As I indicated before, I am not here to and have not diagnosed Bob but from this (one sided) description of their conversation, I immediately questioned if Bob was narcissistic or just immature.  I ask this because I recall having such fights when I was a younger man (I also hear of such fights between the younger couples in my office.). When I was a younger man, I was quick to point out the weaknesses of others….thinking it made me, I don’t know….stronger, bigger, right…?

Second. Narcissists are prone to vie for control in interactions with others. Bob’s focus on Sally’s tendency to get distracted when she is on her phone can be explained as an attempt on his part to gain some kind of control in the conversation.

I asked about her response to Bob.  She indicated that during the fight, she tried to think clearly and speak slowly. She indicated, in the past, she has often gotten confused in discussions/fights with Bob. In an attempt to fight this, she deliberately tried to speak slowly so as to ensure what she was saying, answer one question at a time and ensure the clarity of her thinking. I asked about where she came up with these ideas. She indicated it is part of the routines she teaches her students when talking about good self presentation. Impressive! She said it helped her, to use this technique when talking with him or when she is in a fight or confused when talking to him.

Another situation: One Saturday morning, they were doing some house-cleaning.  Bob apparently moved a chair or couch and discovered something on the floor. She was nearby and he said, “Pick that up.” She responded with “Please..?” The following conversation ensued:

Bob: “Why do you always do that? Always challenging me?”

Sally: “Are you going to talk or treat our kids that way? When you talk to me like that, it feels rude…and I don’t like it!”

Bob: “I shouldn’t have to ask “please” over everything. That is just crazy!”

Sally: “I am not crazy.  You are just rude!”

She refused to pick the item up. He eventually picked the item up but referenced it sarcastically multiple times throughout the day.

I asked Sally why she stood up to him as she did. She explained that when things are going badly, she tends to stand up to him more, feeling she has less to lose.  She went on to say that their sex life has been in toilet. More about that later.

A third situation: It was early in the day and after a few interactions, Bob ask/exclaimed, “What is wrong with you?” Sally didn’t feel there was anything “wrong” with her but took more offense to the way he worded his statement/question.  She pointed this out to him, how the wording made her feel and how he could have worded the question, i.e., “Is there something bothering you today?”, or “You seem distracted. Is there something you want to talk about?” He again dismissed her comments.

It is common when doing therapy that I ask for a person to describe different situations they have encountered since our last appointment and then pick one they want to discuss in depth. I don’t recall which situation Sally was describing but in the process of her comments, she indicated Bob reminds her of her mother.  Big red flag!!!!  Let me explain.

Every family “teaches” you, when a child, how to view and interact with the world; how people think, what motivates them, how you are to react, how you are to think, what you are to do, what situations you are likely to encounter and how to deal with them, etc. This is what I call “a dance”. Fast-forward to adolescence and you starting to look for a boy/girlfriend. Guess who you’ll look for? You will look for someone who knows your dance….so you two can dance together. You don’t know that this is going on then but it is.  Later, when you are older, if you have been in a long term relationship and if you have wondered what motivates you to act the way you do, you may recognize this more easily.

Sally and I discussed how she chose her mother when she chose Bob. Some may call that sick or weird but if you think about it, it makes sense and you can probably see examples of it in other parts of your life. For example, when you were first married, how did you fold your bath towels? Who taught you to fold them that way? What recipes did you use? Who taught you them?  What toothpaste did you use and where did you learn to use that toothpaste? All of these examples display, in most cases, that we copy what our parents taught us. Couldn’t they have also taught you how to pick a mate?

So, if you think you are in a relationship with a narcissist, look back in your family. Is there one there? And are you responding to your narcissist the way you learned to respond to the narcissist you grew up with?

More to come.

The New Infidelity: Are You Guilty?

This is an article from Men’s Health, January/February 2018.  Be forewarned, this article contains adult themes, ideas, and crude, sexual wording.  However, it also references an interesting book on affairs, The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by therapist Ester Perel and observations by therapist Marty Klein.  From the book, old myths of affairs are examined and thought provoking questions are posed.  Dr. Klein then shares 3 stories of affairs, provides intriguing views of each, and gives specific suggestions the participants are to consider.  The article closes with factors to consider and factors that suggest he or she could be unfaithful.

Worth a read!!

Ever sexted with a woman who’s not your partner?  Followed an ex on social media?  Shared secrets with a “work wife”?  Many women would call you a cheater, our exclusive poll found.  And a gender gap appeared:  Women are more likely than men to call given behaviors cheating.  Fair warning, men.

What’s clear:  Lust and temptation are eternal, and modern life makes it easier to succumb.  Of course, intercourse and oral are considered cheating by nearly 100 percent of men and women.  Kissing?  For 95 percent of women and 81 percent of men, yeah, that’s cheating.

But beyond that, it’s complicated.  Watch porn?  She’s probably okay with it.  Log on with a camgirl?  Not so much.  And cheating is not just a guy thing:  Plenty of wives and girlfriends cheat too.

There’s a new thinking about why we cross the line into a real affair.  Therapist Ester Perel sets out to bust myths in her new book, The State of Affairs:  Rethinking Infidelity.  Such as:  that an affair means the relationship is bad – or the cheater is.  The motive is often a yearning for a lost part of your identity.  “It isn’t so much that we’re looking for another person,” she notes in a TED Talk, “as much as we are looking for another self.”  Other myths, she tells us:  that men cheat out of boredom and that a marriage can never recover from infidelity.

Marty Klein, Ph.D., a California therapist for more than 30 years, says many of his patients want to make marital sex as exciting as affair sex.  “It isn’t a realistic comparison,” he says.  But you can learn from cheaters.  Treat your partner like a paramour:  Prepare for sex (prioritize, visualize), be present (savor it), embrace novelty (break your normal routine), and make your partner feel attractive, desired, and excited.  Start by reading some of his case studies on the next page. (below)

  1. The guy who keeps going back to younger women:

Joel had one or two affairs every year.  He took up with inexperienced young women impressed by his nice clothes and fancy dinners.  But he wasn’t just a jerk looking to screw younger women – it was more complicated.

According to Joel, his wife loved him but wasn’t impressed with him.  She knew him before his success and had plenty of sexual experience of her own.  And while Joel had no concerns about disappointing his girlfriends’ sexually, he was concerned about disappointing his wife.  The results:  performance anxiety, sexual frustration, and lower desire for his wife.

He needed a new attitude, I told him, one of “we’ll have fun in bed no matter what.”  First:  De-emphasize intercourse, making it one of many activities in bed.  That makes erections unnecessary, reducing pressure.

Joel also needed to understand that he is interesting to his wife.  I suggested he ask her what she liked about him – and to believe it.

He didn’t need to confess the affairs; he needed to confess his insecurity.  This meant opening uncomfortable conversations with his wife and choosing to be vulnerable, disclosing his lack of confidence.  “If you can do that,” I told him, “you’ll have plenty of erections and desire, and you’ll both enjoy sex more.”

He did, and they did.

What you can do:  Some Saturday evening when you and your mate have privacy, make a list of fail-safe erotic activities that you both enjoy:  dirty talk, stroking your own genitalia together, reading a hot story together, kissing for fun (not as “foreplay”), and asking questions.

  1. The guy who just wants some superhot porn sex, that’s all:

Claudio hadn’t had an affair – yet.  He loved his wife and thought she was hot.  But they couldn’t sustain a decent sex life.  They’d quarrel over sex, and then it was off the table for weeks.  Claudio was reaching his limit.

He wanted porn sex.  “Some deep throat once in a while,” he said.  “A little anal – not every day, but maybe once every month or two.  And she won’t even discuss a threesome with one of her girlfriends.”

“It isn’t helpful to think your wife is the problem,” I said.  “It’s a lot easier to change yourself than someone else.”  For starters, Claudio needed to realize that real sex doesn’t feel the way porn looks.  When we see porn as a manual, or expect our partner to be like the actress, that is a problem.

Instead of focusing on specific acts, I said, he should focus on how he wanted to feel during sex – and work with his wife to create that.  Some want to feel young or free or wildly attractive.  That’s what people create in affairs – sex that satisfies those emotions.

Like many people, Claudio wanted to feel manly, alive, desired, and as if the world had no boundaries – that he could do anything he wanted, without refusal by a partner or society.

He yearned to feel his wife’s enthusiasm for him.  This, of course, wouldn’t look like porn sex, something he needed to understand.  In real life, a little bit goes a long way.

What could he and his wife agree to do that would give him those feelings?  She was willing to send him a few sexy texts during the week.  He could pull her hair in bed as long as he didn’t hurt her.  They could have a soft light on, just not so bright to make her self-conscious.  She could be the one to reach for the lube, and she could stroke his penis without being asked.

What can you do:  Maybe you want sex to make you feel more desired.  If she says, “But I do desire you,” negotiate how she can express that.  She could look in your eyes during sex, use a pet name, text you during the day (“Can’t wait for tonight”), or ask during sex if you’re loving what she’s doing – even when she knows you are.  Invite her to negotiate like that with you.  Talk about what each of you can do to create the feelings you each desire.

  1. The guy who fears his wife’s judgment if he asks to get kinky.

Ted was having great sex, but the guilt and fear were killing him, so he wanted to end his five-month affair.  The sex in his marriage, though, was so-so.  “I’ve tried to leave my girlfriend, LaDonna, a million times in my head,” he said.  “But giving up a Mercedes for an old Chevy, I can’t do it.”

He loved a finger in his butt during oral sex – it made him orgasm like he had in college.  He loved playing a brother-sister pretend game with LaDonna.  And he loved lying on his back while she “climbed aboard.”

“We do other nasty stuff too,” he said.

And how many of these things had he discussed with his wife?  None.  He was sure she’d judge him, and idea he couldn’t bear.

“Maybe you’re judging yourself.” I said.  “It would be hard for you to imagine her accepting your sexual preferences – like a finger in the butt – if you didn’t accept them yourself.”

Self-acceptance is always easier in an affair than in a long-term relationship.  That’s because the stakes regarding rejection are so much lower.

I suggested he and his wife have a meta-conversation:  that they discuss how to share without fear.  They could agree not to ask “Where’d you get that idea?”  They could agree to be more curious when one partner suggest something new.  They could agree to take a few sexual risks together.  And he could start.

What can you do:  Tell your wife you want to make your relationship emotionally safe by each disclosing something that makes you self-conscious. (“You can be rougher with my nipples,” “Telling me you love my butt while we make love gets me hot!”)  Assure her that you’ll receive what she says without judgment.  Don’t tease her.  And do not compare her to other women, even favorably (“Your clit is more sensitive than most women’s”).

Daddy, I’m getting married!!!

Remember the movie, Guess Who is Coming to Dinner?

Remember the song by Paul Simon, Slip-sliding Away?

Remember the movie, Fiddler on the Roof?

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me his daughter (with fiancé) made that announcement, “Daddy, I’m getting married! Isn’t that great!”

My friend is divorced, successful business man, father of two children (a boy and a girl). His daughter is in the third year of college and intends to go to graduate school. She is a good student and expects (and is expected) to do well in grad school. She believes she will not have trouble finding employment after school. Her skills are and will continue to be in high demand.  She is also known as a serious, deliberate person; one who thinks through her decisions.

Her fiancé is 3 years older and a recent college graduate who is well established locally with strong working relationships with other colleagues in his field, in the area. He is a hard worker, has initiative and is eager to prove himself.

They dated on and off in high school. They have been dating steady for the past three years; since she began college. She loves him and all indications are that he loves her. They have been through some tough times and worked through them together, staying together as they worked through them.

All indications are that they are a level-headed couple with a bright future ahead of them.

Now….for those of you who are in this situation or fear being in it (a divorced parent of marrying aged children), this is a moment of great pause.

What do you say?

She/he wants you to say, “Wonderful. I am so happy for you!”  You may want to say, “Wonderful. I am so happy for you!” It would be easy to say, “Wonderful. I am so happy for you!”

But you hesitate. Why? Because….you are divorced. You have been there, done that. And you found out how life has a way of living itself, whether you notice it or not.  Life has a way of changing things. And no one told you about that. And yet, you are still responsible…for the consequences of those changes, for your reactions, despite your lack of experience in such situations,

What do you say then to this, “Daddy, I’m getting married!”

After A LOT of consideration, something like this occurred to me:

“Darling, I am so happy for you. You will make a beautiful bride and _____ will make a very handsome groom. You are in love and your futures look so bright!

I wish for you and _____ all the happiness in the world.

I also wish for you time for consideration about the decision you are about to make. The decision you are about to make is unlike any decision you have ever made before. It will be both a private and public decision that will affect you for the rest of your life. You will think about this decision nearly every day of your life…judge yourself by it and imagine others judging you by it.

You are going to change as you age. _____ will also. Despite these unknown changes, you will expect yourself to love and remain with _____. And he, you. Further, no one knows how you will change and you can’t prepare for such changing.

There will be times in marriage that you can’t see your partner; nor he, you; won’t know your partner, nor he, you; won’t know the right thing to do; can’t give any more despite there is more to be done; and can’t see a way around obstacles in your way.

It is in our very nature to pair off and everyone enters marriage this way.

If you want my permission or my blessing to marry, know that there is a big part of me inside saying, “No, don’t” because of what I have learned about marriage.  This is too big of an issue for you to ask someone else’s direction. It is your decision and your decision alone. All I can tell you is to consider what I have said about marriage and if you still feel the right choice is to marry, than know that I will support you, win or lose.”