Gaining faithfulness in a marriage
For couples struggling to stay connected to each other, or struggling to find the strength to change themselves or their relationship, there are two main outcomes to strive for. Couples can work toward finding ways to change patterns in a way that deepens their relationships, or they can work toward finding their way out of the relationship. As a therapist I have worked to facilitate both outcomes. The reality is that the stagnant space of continuing an unfaithful relationship is emotionally destructive, demoralizing and isolating. Sure you can find ways to keep going, but it becomes harder and harder. How far gone one or both partners are into this abyss helps us to determine which direction to take the relationship.
People in unfaithful relationships can be miserable and hopeless, trapped in the sadness of sacrificing themselves. It can start to feel like you’ve given up and are trudging through life and relationships like the walking dead. You feel too discouraged to address the relationship’s challenges because it would require actually admitting to yourself that your internal fantasy world and your external lived world are at extreme odds, which can evoke further shame, self-disgust, and hopelessness.
Addressing the problems in your relationship requires acknowledging how your history, your sense of self, your value system, your moral compass, and others’ expectations have all contributed to your unhappiness. Instead, it can seem like you are just supposed to continue trudging through, feeling like the walking dead than it is to assert your desire for change and actually address the conflicts in a way that could create substantive change in one direction or another. The process and sheer magnitude of this kind of change is daunting and challenging in so many ways. Maybe your past attempts to disconnect and disengage haven’t stuck. You might be scared, overwhelmed, even hopeless about making substantive change happen, and so you continue to acquiesce to your partner’s needs, put yourself second, rebel and/or retreat, feel resentful, so the cycle of despair, remorse, frustration, and anger continues.
Over time your emotional health deteriorates. You feel resigned to misery and undeserving of more. You feel like you’re not a “fighter.” You keep trying to make the best of it, but without communication, you are left feeling more dissatisfied each day.
For your emotional survival, it’s important to look at yourself first and work toward compassion for your self and your situation. You are who you are; your past is your past, but it does affect your present; you are where you are; your reality is your reality. Again, compassion for yourself is crucial. Trying to understand your relationship from a place of self-compassion rather than self-disgust can help you to better understand why you do what you do. This process alone can create subtle shifts.
Work toward respecting and honoring your emotional needs. It is healthy and appropriate to have these needs – they reflect a longing and even hopefulness to feel more emotionally connected and present. If you experience your partner as not supporting you in this process or even further shutting you down, he or she may not be able to repair the relationship with you, or may not want to. As scary as it is, resuscitating your emotional health may require ending the relationship.