E.J. Smith, Author at Engaged Marriage - Page 4 of 5

All Posts by E.J. Smith

About the Author

E.J. Smith is a Nationally Certified Counselor, motivational speaker, writer and advocate for survivors of sexual abuse. She is also the face (and mouth) behind SimplyEJ.com. Born in New Jersey, and transplanted to Texas, this self-professed holistic health nut enjoys a wide variety of athletics, reading, and cooking. Raised Catholic and the wife of an active duty Marine, E.J. uses introspection and pragmatism to help readers create loving, fulfilling relationships from the inside out. Follow EJ on Twitter @SimplyEJS

Grammar for Marriages: Why ‘Husband’ and ‘Wife’ Should Really be Verbs

By E.J. Smith | Help

FreeDigitalPhotos10097580editMy husband and I were driving down the road  on a particularly gorgeous Texas winter evening.  I guess I’d gone quiet—I didn’t notice—so my husband gently queried, “Whatcha’ thinking?”

I didn’t waste any time with context… I dove right in:  “You know what I think frustrates me more than anything about people trying to fix their marriages,” I asked rhetorically, “Half the folks I talk to are trying to restore something that was never there to begin with!  You can’t fix a broken vase if what you had to begin with wasn’t a vase…

You can’t really be a better husband, if you were never really a husband to begin with.  You can’t really be a better wife, if you were never really a wife to begin with.   That’s like looking at the remains of a house that’s been burnt down and saying to the contractor, “I think we’ll start by putting on a better roof.”

Nouns State the Obvious.  Verbs Take Action.

The terms husband, wife, spouse, and partner are not just terms used for social status and updating your “life events” on social media or filing your tax returns.   These terms connote a certain set of actions.  Simply stated, the words husband and wife in healthy relationships are verbs rather than nouns.

With this in mind, I want you to think about your marriage and ask yourself: 

Do you husband?  Do you wife? Do you partner?

It even extends into other family roles as well—

Do you mother?  Do you father?  Do you parent?

Recently, a dear friend of mine flew from Florida to our home State of New Jersey just in time for the Polar Vortex and some serious snowfall.   His children joyfully requested that he make a snowman.

Now as my Northern  friends will clearly agree—there are different types of snow—for simplicity sake I will divide them into 2 categories:

1) Those that are great for building snowmen

2) Those that are not.

The snow there was of the “not” variety.  And yet, several hours later, this was on facebook with the caption:

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You try telling a 3-year-old Florida girl who’s never seen snow in her life that it’s too light and powdery to build a snowman. Daddy can — and does — do anything. 

The whole thing is just too flippin’ precious isn’t it?  However the warm fuzzies alone are not the reason his statement stuck out to me.  It stuck out to me because of the last line… “Daddy can—and does—do anything.”  Daddy can.  Daddy does.

For my friend… “Daddy” is an active word.

And from what I can see from him and his wife, so are the words “husband” and “partner”.

Defining Your Verbs

Perhaps one could argue – and rightly so—that the definition of “husband”, “wife”, “partner” is going to change depending on the person.

And to that I say, “Absolutely! It should.”

It needs to be different because every relationship and personality in that relationship is unique. Create your own definition of what that verb means to you.   And while you’re at it, ask you spouse what “your verb” means to them.  It’s a very simple way of learning what your spouse values in a partner, and it’s also a lot healthier to answer than the poisonous, “What the [censored] do you want from me?!”

Doing Makes a Healthy Marriage… er… Doable.

So where and when to start?

Honestly, start now.    Start today—this minute even!

Often, I think we (and believe me, therapists are guilty of this too sometimes!) think the ‘end goal’ of our efforts is a distant point further down the line in our marriage. Tell me, have you ever thought or heard someone else speak this way:

“Our marriage is in an awful spot right now, but if I/we do all this work—at some point—maybe two, three, six months down the road we’ll be better. “

Instead of thinking about it that way, I’ll invite you to consider this:  What if the process a couple goes through of co-creating a healthy marriage IS the result.  What if the creative process IS the goal?

I think its important to view healthy marriage in this manner, rather than as a fixed point, because the alternative has you chasing a moving target.  A healthy, happy marriage is not something a couple arrives at—it’s a constant process.

 Decoding the Process:  Questions 

I think by now we all know that I’m not going to close an article with out leaving you to ponder some difficult questions.  And from the comments I get every month, I know you’re doing the work.   So here it goes:

1)  Ask yourself this question:  “If I were married to me, would I be happy?”

Be honest.  This isn’t time to be narcissist, or a martyr.  Just answer the question.  What do you think you would appreciate? What would you have a problem with?

2) Only you know your true potential as a mate.  Are you really giving your role in your marriage 100% or are you doing enough to get by?  The idea that marriage is 50/50 is a lie.  Marriage is 100/100.  Each person needs to give it his/her best shot.  This is supposed to be for life.

If you’re not entirely sure about your percentage, look at other areas of your life—your spiritual life, your work life, your fitness routine.  Are you dedicated to the fullest extent or do you do just enough to stay out of trouble?  Do you value comfort over success?

3)  Do your actions add value to your relationship, or do they simply perpetuate the status quo?

Because let me tell you, friends, “neutral” is a death sentence for relationships.  In fact, according to some research by the Gottman Institute, those marriages that had more active arguing actually lasted longer than those who had silent, disengaged partners.  To get angry with someone means, on some level, you’re still plugged in.  (Unless of course the only time you get angry with someone is when they’re not leaving you alone).

So I’ll leave it there for now.  I look forward, as always to hearing your thoughts and listening to your feedback.

 

A quick note on comments: A lot of the comments I’ve gotten recently focus on a person who is actively trying to save the marriage while their spouse is otherwise disengaged.  I hate to be the bearer of bad (albeit obvious) news, but your marriage is a covenant between TWO people.  Two.  You didn’t get into this marriage by yourself, and you’re not going to save it by yourself either.

Now before you reach for your favorite copy of the Love Dare to tell me I’m wrong, please realize that the “happy ending” of that movie was contingent on the Mike Seaver’s Kirk Cameron’s character’s wife getting on board.

All you can do is give it your best shot, right?  Actually no.  You could choose to not give it your best shot.  You have choices and power over what you ultimately do or do not do for the sake or your marriage.  And the truth is, so does your spouse.

While I will NEVER dissuade someone from taking ownership for their part of the pie, I have to caution you from trying to own more than your part.  As a dear mentor used to say, “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.”  Own your part, and give your partner the respect of owning theirs– good, bad or indifferent.

 

Image courtesy of stockphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Tis the Season… For Blindsiding Your Spouse?

By E.J. Smith | Communication , Help

Wait, what? I thought this was going to be a holiday post?!  It is a holiday post, friends.  Just not the holiday post you were expecting.ID-10045265

If you’ve been watching the news at all lately, you may’ve heard of this “game” some kids thugs are “playing” in which they run up to an innocent stranger on the street and throw a punch with the goal of knocking the person out cold.  It’s termed, “The Knockout Game”.  Lovely.

If you’re like some of my friends, fans and readers of late, you may be able to empathize with these innocent victims on a much more personal and profound level.  See, the truth is that although we typically look towards the holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s) as a time of great joy, love and warmth, there is a darker side to the season.   It’s the time of year when a lot of people decide to clean out their closets—namely of the secrets they’ve been stuffing in there.  Turns out, not all the skeletons are for Halloween.

Take my friend (we’ll call her “Kate”) who recently had her husband of less than a year reveal that when they were dating, he had a one night stand with a woman from “back home” while he was visiting family.  It wasn’t the fact that he’d “cheated” per se, since they were admittedly in that kinda-sorta-not-sure-if-we’re-exclusive phase when the event happened.  It was the idea that she now had to deal with the mess of this new information, and consider how its absence had influenced subsequent decisions—like, umm… getting married.

And of course there were questions.  Questions like:

Why did you do that?

Why didn’t you tell me?

Why on earth are you telling me NOW?!

And perhaps most importantly:

How do we fix this?

I can’t quite tell if the timing is a conscious one or not, but ask almost anyone in the mental health community and they’ll tell you the holidays are notorious for “stirring the pot”.  And just in case that wasn’t enough to run a chill through your hot cocoa, consider the fact that more divorces are filed in January than any other month!  If you’re a therapist, lawyer or crisis hotline worker, you probably know the holidays by another name: “busy season”.

Of course, not all instances of bad news are marriage-endingly horrific, or worthy of “bomb” status.  In fact, there are times your spouse might drop a piece of bad news on of you that’s not even their fault!  For the sake of thematic consistency, I’ll call these smaller events “grenades”.  They’re not on the same level of devastation like an affair, but they catch you off guard, and frankly—it sucks.

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Recently, my husband took our dog to the vet for his “Senior Checkup”. As you can tell from the picture—he’s still pretty spry for an old guy!  Anyway, when I got home from work, I asked about how everything went.  Our little wonder-mutt was in perfect health, however the vet bill was not.  It was $750.  Yes. You read that right… $750 to learn that our pooch was COMPLETELY FINE.

The next words out of my mouth were: “Why didn’t you call me?!”

My husband looked at me and calmly replied, “Because he’s fine and I took care of the bill right then.”

“Yes, but you didn’t call me.  It was over $300.  We have an agreement.”

Side note: We have an agreement that we always  usually discuss major purchases over a certain amount.

“Because you would’ve told me to pay it,” he replied sounding equally confused and slightly perturbed.

And really, he was right. I would’ve told him to pay it.  Of course I would’ve told him to pay it.  We had the money.  That wasn’t the issue.  He was right. I knew this.

But why could I not shake the feeling that someone had socked me in the gut?

After some careful thought, I realized it was because I would’ve called him.  To me, our agreement was sacrosanct.  Black and white.  Non-negotiable. And perhaps most importantly, it was an expression of equality.  I also realized it had stirred up some old hurts– not even remotely related to him—but rather in connection to the way I related to money.

In this case, he had dropped the “bomb,” but the mess was all mine.

So how do you survive a “bomb dropping” or even a “grenade”?

Here are a few things to consider—

1)   Give yourself time to react.

As I’m sure you know, when it comes to good communication—even in the face of some seriously disturbing, earth-shattering news, it’s good to curb your immediate response and take a few seconds to breathe.  This isn’t just some fluffy therapist-speak either.

Without getting too technical, when the brain processes an event that elicits a strong stress response, the limbic system (aka the “emotional brain”) takes over –overriding the logical part of the brain (aka the prefrontal cortex).  Giving yourself some time to process the news allows your brain to rebalance itself, and will hopefully prevent you from saying or doing anything you’ll likely regret later.

2)   Give yourself MORE time…

It seems to me that when things like this happen, the person who detonated the bad news often seems to want an immediate response and then later on, a clear-cut pathway to resolution one way or another.  Here’s why this makes sense:  Depending on the secret, your spouse may have been carrying it around for hours, days or even years! S/He has had plenty of time to mull it around, evaluate it from several– if not all– sides, and then drop it on you at his/her convenience.  Simply said, they want a resolution now, but they’ve also had a head start.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point this out to your spouse. I once listened to a professor relate an experience of working with a patient who had terminal cancer.  This patient had already come to terms with her death, and was having angry response to her family’s reaction to the news. My professor said that he had to point out to her that while it was “old news” for her, it was “new news” for them.

In my situation, my husband had already had time to process the sticker shock, make logical steps towards resolving the issue, and research pet insurance to avoid the situation in the future, well before I ever knew anything about the original bill! Of course I wasn’t going to be on the same page! He was on a different chapter!

3)   Consider the Power Differential

—it may actually be in your favor.  Yes, I just said that.

Assuming your spouse just dropped a bomb on you, like the one Kate experienced—after following the advice given in Steps 1 & 2, you’ll want to follow up with an evaluation of who’s who and what’s what.

Yes, s/he just dropped the bomb—but, if your spouse isn’t already halfway out the door towards divorce, and is interested in fixing the issue, then in many cases this puts you at an advantage for setting the terms of how, when and where the relationship will be remedied.  This is the exact advice I gave my friend Kate.

A week or so after the news, Kate’s husband thought she’d be over it.  Kate was far from feeling over it, and was struggling to appease his timeline.  In no uncertain terms, I validated her struggle.  He got to choose when to “start” the issue, and she most certainly had the right to work through it to a reasonable end.

Notice the word “reasonable”.  A reasonable end is not one where you stew and simmer for some undetermined length of time with absolutely no productivity whatsoever.  Holding grudges does not a happy marriage make.  However, processing and actively grieving the news so you can figure out where to go or what to do next is a very different story.

4)    Create a Proposal.

If you want to fix your marriage after an injury, you’ll eventually need a plan of action.  Now that the logical part of your brain is back up and running, and you’ve figured out how you fit into the equation moving forward, it’s time to make a plan.  To illustrate, let’s go back to my friend Kate:

For Kate, a day or two of feeling heard and validated by friends was enough to help her confront her husband with the painful truth that she wasn’t feeling “over it”. She calmly presented her terms:  marriage counseling, and co-reading a book I’d recommended (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work*), along with more quality time (one of her predominate love languages*) reconnecting and rekindling the trusting bond she’d come to adore and rely on as a wife and as a woman.  Her husband, being the wise man that he is, decided to accept Kate’s terms.

Have you suffered an emotional “knockout” or “bomb-dropping” by your spouse?  If so, I want to hear how you dealt with it!

Digital Image Source: http://www.freedigitalphotos.com Artist: digitalart

*links to affiliate source

Do NOT Ask This Question in Your Marriage…

By E.J. Smith | Communication , General , Help

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If there’s a gene for being blunt, I promise you that my Jersey Italian family got it two-fold.

We’re not crass or mean-spirited per se, but as my mother would put it, we’re “efficient in our honesty.” (Well, that’s one way to put it!)  Anyway, growing up in this family—this loving, open, boisterous and brutally honest family– gasps of horror at the honest answers to questions like, “Does this dress make me look fat?” or “What do you think of my new hair cut?” often resulted in the aforementioned statement:  Don’t ask the question if you’re not ready to hear the answer.

So you’re probably wondering how this piece of familial “wisdom” relates to fixing troubled relationships.

Allow me to explain:  When one partner in a marriage expresses that a need of his or hers feels unmet, such as, “I don’t feel respected at home,” a question we hope the other partner will ask is:

“What can I do to help you feel respected?”

Why is this question so critical?

This question is critical for two reasons:

#1) Notice that the question makes an offer of assistance—not ownership. 

The partner does not respond by asking what he or she can do to make the other person feel respected.  Assuming you have the power to force a change on someone’s psyche is not only the exact opposite of respect, but also robs the individual of ownership of his or her emotional experiences.

 

Are you with me so far?

 

#2) Asking for guidance as to how one may assist is — in itself–  an act that conveys respect.  You show respect when you assume your spouse is the expert on his or her needs.

So there you go– easy enough, right?  WRONG!

You must NEVER ever ask your spouse, “What can I do to help you feel respected?”  (or something similar) unless you have already considered this:

How willing are you to give your partner what he or she requests? 

How much do you trust that your spouse’s request will be reasonable?

 

Trust and believe,  these are questions worth asking yourself.  If my own past experience and the many couples I’ve met over the years are any indicator, I’m guessing there are probably some needs or compromises to which you’re more willing to acquiesce than others.

And hey,  that’s okay.  You’re allowed to have boundaries too!

The point is to know what those boundaries are, and go into that conversation with honesty.

One of the worst things you could do in this situation is promise to do something and then not do it.

Let me say that again:  One of the worst things you can do in this situation is promise to do something, and then not do it.

Do you hear me?  Worst!

 

But E.J., what if my spouse requests something of me that I truly am unwilling to give?

Well that’s certainly possible.  Assuming your spouse hasn’t asked you to be an accomplice in some illegal activity, or put your family in physical, mental, emotional or spiritual danger (because I’m assuming you married a reasonable, generally decent person):  Ask yourself what about the request feels unreasonable to you.

 

This inner exploration is wise for two reasons:

1)    You’re much more likely to have a rational, respectful discussion (as opposed to an emotion-filled rant) if you’ve done your inner homework around the request.

2)    Since compromise is an important component of any marriage or relationship, understanding your stance on the issue will also help you reach a compromise that leaves both parties feeling heard and satisfied.

If all else fails, seek mediation from a neutral, safe, and mutually agreed upon third party together.  This might be a chaplain, pastor, or even a counselor.  In this scenario, the ideal would be for you to both be present.  However, if your partner is unavailable or unwilling to meet, I think its at least important that you go.  Get that perspective.  Feel heard and be willing to listen.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and questions.  Can you relate?

Image source: www.freedigitalphotos.net; photographer: stockimages

 

Troubled Marriages & Technology (Part 2 of 2)

By E.J. Smith | Communication , General , Help

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So as you’ll recall, last month I wrote about two of the major ways technology can screw up marriages in Troubled Marriages and Technology (Part 1).  And to be completely honest, it was a heavy conversation.  This month, as promised, I want to talk about some of the ways that you and your spouse can use technology to further your connection, or even rekindle it!

Truth be told, there appear to be far more resources and experts out there talking about how technology, and specifically things like social media and the internet, are taking their toll on relationships.  Last month, I added my own voice to the chorus.  At the same time, I want to let you know that it doesn’t have to be that way.  The Internet, your iPhone and twitter account in and of themselves are not negative.

Believe me, as a military spouse who has endured deployments, the Internet has been a major blessing for my family.  A Facebook message from my husband could leave me grinning ear-to-ear for a week at a time.  And last year when we spent several months apart due to a training assignment, Skype/FaceTime chats allowed us to interact in a more dynamic manner.  Suffice it to say I’m a firm believer that when utilized in the right manner, technology can help couples maintain and even strengthen their marital bonds.

Marriage Affirming Uses of Technology

1)    Playful Flirtation

Remember when you were dating/engaged or first married, and there were those “little things” that each of you would do for the other?  Perhaps it was a little note left where the other person would find it, or flowers for no reason at all?  Not wanting to get off the phone (You hang up first… No, you hang up first!), or driving massively out of one’s way to visit?

Those things were great, weren’t they?

Well now you’re married, and if you’re like me, your life has gotten busier over the years.  Kid stressors, school stressors, work stressors have weaseled their way into your life, and taken up way more time than you ever intended.  Scheduled date nights and sexy time are great, but you miss the everyday romance.

Technology-Facilitated Fix: The Text Message   

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 15 years, you may be familiar with a little gadget known as a cellphone.  You more than likely have a feature on it called “text messaging”.  In addition to its practical uses, such as reminding your spouse to pick up milk on the way home, you can also use it as a tool to infuse little romantic gestures into every day life.

Picture this:  You’re having a really stressful day—whatever that looks like for you—and in the middle of that stress, all of a sudden your phone beeps indicating you have a message.  You check the message, “I love you, (pet name)!” Are you smiling at the thought?  I am. Some how in the middle of a hectic day, hearing from my husband seems to make everything a little more manageable.  The next time you’re apart from your spouse, and a loving thought about them crosses your mind—please let him/her know!  Romance doesn’t have to entail huge gestures!

Other options include snapping pictures of things that make you think of them, or even a picture of you and sending them along.

2)    A Wealth of Knowledge and Resources at Your Fingertips

This second tip is one that I think should be a “no-brainer” but at the same time, a staggering number of people email me, Facebook message me, text me asking how to go about creating a thoughtful or romantic experience for their partner.  I’m flattered they think to ask me, but the truth is—the answer is already at their fingertips, and it’s the source for probably 99% of the ideas I’m going to give them.  The answer?  “Google it!”

Technology Facilitated Fix:  Google. 

Yes, seriously.  I don’t mean to sound glib.  The answer really is that simple.  If you want an idea for creating romantic evening for your spouse, cooking a nice dinner, or topics of conversation to get you guys talking again—look no further than the Google search bar.  I’m guessing that’s how you stumbled onto EM.com to begin with—at least that’s how I first found Dustin’s page!

If you’re feeling fancy, you can also check out Pinterest.  Many people, including myself, have created specific boards full of romantic ideas, quotes and tips.  You can check out my Couples Therapy board by clicking on the link.

3) Status Symbol

You might recall that in Part I of this article series, I mentioned how Facebook posts taking vague (or not-so-vague) digs at your spouse were definitely NOT a good idea in terms of helping your marriage stay healthy.  Neither is implying that you’re getting divorced every time you have a fight by changing your status.  You’d think I was talking about teenagers, right?  But I assure you, I’ve seen full-grown adults with jobs, kids, careers and even graduate degrees behave in this manner.

Technology-Facilitated Fix:  E-go Fluffing!

Despite the fact that the older we get and the less our worlds seem to revolve around our Facebook statuses, social media provides a wonderful outlet for gushing about your spouse in a positive manner.  I call it “e-go fluffing.”  Something I hear over and over again from married folks is that they fear they’ve become dull or boring to their spouses.  Some even feel taken for granted.

While social media cannot begin to undo the totality of those thoughts or beliefs, sharing that you’re going out on a date night, or hanging at home with a cheesy movie can be a fantastic way of communicating your happiness.  Reveling in your partner’s accomplishments on a semi-public platform is also great for bolstering positive feelings.

“Out celebrating my brilliant wife and her new job!”

I particularly love when people gush about each other on their anniversaries—

“11 years ago today, I married my best friend.  What a road it has been!   I’d do it all over again, just to be with you.”

—Seriously, how cute was that?  (And yes, that was a real status I saw a few months back). Again, these are little gestures to compliment some of the more complex and time-consuming tasks of rekindling a marriage.  At the same time, I’ve yet to meet a person who didn’t enjoy seeing/hearing/reading that their partner was proud of them.

So there you have it—3 Ways to Utilize Technology to Rekindle Your Connection!

1) The Text Message

2) Google It!

3) E-go Fluffing

Now it’s your turn!  I want to hear from you in the comments!  Have you tried any of these tips?  Do you have any other uses for technology that really seem to help out your marriage?  The EM community wants to know!!!

 Image Source:  Courtesy of FreeDigitalphotos.net and anankkml (photographer)

 

Troubled Marriages and Technology: Part 1 of 2

By E.J. Smith | Communication

ID-10098766When I asked friends and fans on my facebook page what type of content my September article needed to cover, the response was overwhelmingly in favor of discussing the challenge of balancing one’s tech-savvy nature with a relationship-nurturing home environment.

While doing my research for this article, I found a ton of blog posts, online magazine articles, and even scholarly research examining the topic and offering several solutions such as “taking time to unplug”, or instituting a “no talking on the phone as your walk through the door” rule.  These are fantastic suggestions.

Seriously.  As soon as you finish reading this article, you should definitely go over to Disengaging from Your Cell Phone  to check out some of the simple ways you can start setting healthy boundaries for technology in your families.

For my purpose today, we’re going to focus on 2 ways that technology can really screw up your relationships.

So lets start with perhaps the most common:

1) Social Media:  (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Instagram and one I just found out about yesterday, Snap Chat)

We all know that social media is a fantastic way to keep connected to old friends.  As a military spouse, I’ve lived all over the country and have friends that I love to keep in touch with from “back home”, and from the many “homes” I’ve had over the years. And with advances in technology, I can keep in touch with these people from just about anywhere via my phone, tablet, and laptop.

That being said, there’s no denying that having instant access to so many “blasts from the past” as well as complete strangers, can potentially spell trouble.  For one, let’s get rid of the notion that cheating is always a “big production”.

When we’re talking about emotional cheating (what I would argue is the precursor to every other form of cheating), it often appears in little, perhaps even seemingly innocent conversations.  There are too many examples to give you here.

How to Avoid Trouble: As a general rule consider the following – if you wouldn’t say it or type it with your spouse watching, it’s probably not something you should be saying or typing.  If it really is as “innocent” as you keep telling yourself that it is, it wouldn’t matter who was around or reading it.  This goes for coworkers, friends, past relationships and more.

And while we’re talking about it:  Those passive aggressive facebook statuses– how “someone didn’t do the dishes” or how “it must be so nice to live in a house that magically gets cleaned every week”–  aren’t helping your marriage either.

2) CyberSex – Pornography, Chat Rooms and the like…

Like it or not, one of the byproducts of technology on the web has been an explosion of access to sexual content.  If you can think of it, and it’s sexual… the Internet already has it available for your viewing.  It makes sense, if you think about it.

Our culture doesn’t like to talk about sex—it’s still taboo for most polite conversation.  The web offers anonymity like we’ve never experienced before.  All of a sudden, there is seemingly unlimited access with equally few consequences.

In working with clients, I have spent some time  learning about sex addiction and behaviors on the Internet.  What’s remarkable is near universal justification for the behavior:  It’s not a real person, therefore, it’s not cheating1.

Even the spouses of people engaged in cybersexual activities often offered this same rationalization.  At the same time, however, they couldn’t shake the feeling of having been “cheated” in some way.

This is usually where I introduce what I believe to be the best definition of cheating that I’ve heard to date: cheating is the investment of energy (physical, mental, emotional, financial) in outside sources for personal fulfillment that would normally be directed towards your spouse, partner or family.

Many clients, upon hearing that definition agree with it.  They feel robbed of some part of their marriage.  And while a full explanation of the emotional destruction that can occur in both partners is beyond the scope of this article, simply stated, both partners suffer greatly.

How to Avoid Trouble:  Now this is not the article where I tell you what should or shouldn’t be going on in your marriage.  That is your covenant.  What I do get to tell you is that if you haven’t had the explicit discussion about personal boundaries, comfort level, acceptability, etc… regarding pornography/cybersex with your partner—it might be a good time to check in and make sure you’re both on the same page.

And please do not fall into the trap of thinking that other prudent behaviors can serve as indicators that this conversation is unnecessary.

I recently spoke with the wife of a pastor at a local parish who disclosed to me that among church leaders in our area, one of the leading concerns is how to deal with the issue of cybersex, as it seems to have greatly influenced the even some of the most seemingly devout populations.

Have the conversation.  Honest communication is #1 in cultivating healthy relationships.  Have the conversation.

Phew… that was a heavy one wasn’t it?

Next month, in Part 2, I promise to lighten things up when I give you several ways that technology can enhance the one-on-one work that you’re doing with your spouse to help rejuvenate your marriage!

In the mean time, let me know what you think of the issues presented above.  Also, if you’re someone whose marriage has been in trouble in the past, and you’ve found a way to use technology to help it get back on track—I want to hear from you!

 

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Adamr

1 – Carnes, P. (2001). Out of the Shadows. Center City, MN: Hazelden.