Intimacy in your Marriage

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Intimacy in your Marriage

What do you feel your relationship struggles with more, non sexual intimacy or sexual intimacy? Did you know there was even a difference? Many times when people think about intimacy they think sex, though this is correct it neglects to acknowledge the non sexual counter part- friendship.

Non sexual intimacy

Is that part in which you deepen your emotional connection and grow your friendship. It is the time that is taken to sit with one another, ask the questions to learn about each other’s day, listening to the struggle your spouse is going through or going on those dates that keep you engaged with one another. Simply put, you are very much part of your spouse’s daily life and in “the know” of what is going on in their heart and mind. As you can imagine, the deeper the intimacy the stronger the security is within the relationship.

Along with the emotional connection, there is the non sexual touch that increases the intimacy between husband and wife. All too often, people stop hugging and kissing each other as they leave for the day or come home or forget that good night kiss. Ensuring that this part of your marriage’s intimacy doesn’t die, you want to make it a habit to hold their hand, give them a hug and a kiss, sit close to them on the couch, cuddle in bed and simply just touch your spouse. Physical affection is very important when it comes to deepening your marital intimacy. This then leads us to sexual intimacy.

Sexual intimacy

Sex is key to a healthy marriage. There are so many misconceptions out there regarding sex and how is “should” be. Let me make it clear right now, sex in the movies is not reality! That mutual high desire, wildly sexy positional sessions and intense sexual climaxes are not the norm for every day life. Can you experience these encounters with your spouse? Sure, but will they be described as such every time you are intimate with your spouse, I would think not. So often people feel that if their sex life is not outlined as above then something is wrong or the passion is dead but I would argue that is not true. Passion is very much alive as long as you and your spouse are still talking about it and engaging in it. Being attune to each others needs and desires can very much keep the passion alive. Romantic love between a husband and wife will naturally have its ups and downs with the course of life, that is normal. What is important is that we stay focused on pleasing our spouse. Even if fireworks do not go off every time, it does not mean that something good is not happening. Engaging in any type of sexual connection is connection — even if it is just fondling and caressing, it does not have to be sexual intercourse and orgasm every time.

Men and women are wired differently when it comes to sex. It is important that as husbands and wives we understand each other so we can have the most satisfaction when it comes to our sex life. Men tend to get a bad wrap when it comes to sex; they want it too much and that is all they think about. Although there may be truth to these accusations, we have to understand that sex is very important to men but not just because they are animals and they NEED to have sex but because it communicates something to them. Men are very much validated and reassured through sex. Have you ever experienced your husband pursuing sex after you had an argument? It seems crazy right? Well, it is actually because through sex men feel reconnected with their wife and it assures them of our bond. It provides a sense of security for them. So as wives we need to carefully think about how we respond to our husbands when ever they initiate sex, not that we have to oblige every time but be sure to affirm your desire for them even if sex is not going to happen in that moment.

Women, we also get some negative comments thrown our way regarding sex: women never want it, they control the sexual relationships, lack of sex is used as a punishment, etc. Again, all of this may be true in some instances but men you have to remember some key things about your wives. Women need to feel secure and emotionally connected to engage fully with her mind, body and soul within the sexual relationship. Even if there is not an actual affair going on, there are other ways in which women can feel insecure with their husbands affections. Meeting her non sexual needs will greatly increase the sexual relationship, as well. So often women are juggling so many things, therefore sex is pretty low on the priority list. When their husbands can be aware of the needs she has and provide for them then this allows for a higher level of desire for sexual intimacy. Lastly, men you will want to keep in mind that if your wife is a mom, she may be a bit insecure of her physical body; so encouraging her and being sensitive to this will also help her comfort level in the bedroom.

Overall, intimacy is an absolute must for a relationship to thrive. The difference between friendship and marriage is the sexual intimacy. So if you are married and you feel your sexual intimacy is lacking, something needs to be done to get your sexual relationship to a healthy level. Sex is a key indicator to the health of a marriage. It is not necessarily the quantity of sex but the quality of sex that matters. On the flip side, if your marriage lacks the non sexual intimacy then you also are missing out on a healthy and secure relationship. It is everything to be able to say “my spouse is my best friend.” Think about how that statement can dramatically change the dynamic of your marriage!

Is your relationship struggling with intimacy? Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns.

The Four Horsemen

 

The Four Horsemen

John Gottman, Ph.D. is a leader in the marriage counseling world. He has been researching couples and how they interact for decades. His research has brought a wealth of knowledge to relationships and counseling practices. One of his well known areas of research is the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. This is a metaphor depicting the end of times in the New Testament which he now uses to depict communication styles that, according to his research, can predict the end of a relationship.

So what do they each entail? We will go through these but additionally, here's a guide

1. Criticism

There is a big difference between a complaint and a criticism. A complaint addresses a specific action in which a person failed; whereas a criticism is more global and it becomes an attack on your partner’s character and/or personality. Criticism ups the ante by throwing in blame and assumptions. A statement that turns a complaint into a criticism is basically asking “what is wrong with you?” We can often admit that there is a legit complaint to be made but the problem is that even if we begin with just a complaint it quickly escalates into a criticism.  

The Antidote: A Gentle Start-up

Complain without blame by using “I” statements with a positive need. Do not use “you” statements with negative judgments.

Ask yourself two questions:  1. What emotions do I feel? 2. What do I need from my partner? Behind every complaint, there typically is a wish or longing so it’s to articulate that.

Criticism becomes a problem when its pervasive in your relationship because it will pave the way for the other three horsemen. So allow your partner the room to make an attempt to repair. All couples fight, but you must learn how to fight better.

2. Contempt

Gottman says that this is the worst out of the four horsemen. It is poisonous because it conveys disgust and it has the most negative behavior. Types of contempt are sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. Gottman says that this is the number one predictor of divorce. Essentially what contempt is saying is, “I am better than you and you are lesser than me.” This then leads to further, more hurtful, conflict rather than reconciliation. Contempt is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about your partner.

The Antidote: Describe your feelings and needs; fondness and admiration

In the short term, describe your feelings and needs rather than “you” statements. This can turn conflict into positive growth.

Here’s an example, “it is important for me to be on time. Can you help me with that?”

For the long-term, you will want to build a culture of fondness and admiration in your relationship. But this takes time, it will not happen overnight. There are many exercises and changes you can implement in your relationship to create this culture. First, you will want to begin by engaging in small positive gestures every day that express appreciation, kindness, support, and love. This can be: a 6-second kiss, 30-second hug, take five minutes to thank each other, and/or have a stress-reducing conversation. To help reconnect, start talking about past happy moments in your relationship or some tough times you got through to build confidence in your relationship. These things are not difficult but they often dwindle over time because of conflict, resentment, simple absentmindedness, or taking one another for granted due to life’s many distractions but it can be done, even if you think the positive feelings are buried deep under all the conflicts. Fondness and admiration will create a sense of “we-ness” and solidarity as a couple to keep you feeling connected.

 

3. Defensiveness

It can make sense many times to want to defend ourselves to our partner but research shows this approach rarely has the desired effect. Typically the attacking spouse does not back down or apologize because when we defend ourselves we are really saying, “the problem is not me, it is you!” The defensive spouse doesn’t take responsibility for their part in the situation so the conflict does not get resolved, it gets escalated allowing room for criticism and contempt to show their ugly face, which is why defensiveness is so deadly.

The Antidote: Accept responsibility for your role in the situation.

Accepting your part in the situation helps to create a space for a conversation to happen rather than conflict. This helps build a team mentality and enables you to work through a problem together rather than against one another. Also, this shows you have an interest in your partner’s feelings and not just about proving yourself right.

4. Stonewalling

This is the last of the four horsemen because it only comes after the previous three have been consistently present for some time. This is where the partner disengages, tunes out and turns away because they are emotionally shutting down, feeling overwhelmed and physiologically flooded. well-known any participation in the argument. The person who is stonewalling is literally cut off from the interaction and possibly even doing something else like reading the newspaper, scrolling their phone, or walking away completely because this is the out that they have now learned. The partner who is pursuing the argument can get to a point of checking out as well due to the frustration experienced by trying to engage with someone who is stonewalling.

The Antidote: STOP! and self-soothe.

In order to break this horseman, you must stop the behavior. In order to do so, you need to learn to self-soothe. Because the person is flooded (physiological response to emotions such as increased heart rate, the stress hormone released into the bloodstream, and even the fight or flight response) they need to take a break and self-soothe for at least twenty minutes to get themselves back into a calm state.

For you to be successful in stopping the stonewall behavior it is best to come up with a neutral signal, word, or phrase that indicates to your partner that you need a break. Once you have that break you will need to learn how to soothe yourself. Ways to do this include:

  • Imagine a place that is calm or happy

  • Practice focusing on your breathe

  • Tense and relax your muscles from your head to your toes (progressive relaxation)

  • Spend your time doing something soothing or relaxing for you (reading a book, taking a walk, listening to music)

Gottman found that stonewalling is found to occur more in men than women and when found in women that were a greater predictor for divorce.

All four horsemen can and will wreak havoc on your relationship and potential be the demise of your marriage if they are not changed. Hopefully, this blog post helps you to pinpoint where you might fall short and some antidotes to begin implementing. If feel you need more assistance with this, reach out and seek the help you need. If you are unsure if you need help with the Four Horsemen, you can click here to take a quick quiz to find out.

 

Coping Strategies to Deal With Infidelity

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Coping Strategies to Deal With Infidelity

Everybody copes. Coping is necessary to move through life. Anything that is thrown at us, we
need to learn how to cope with. The problem is, not everyone knows or chooses the helpful and
healthy way to cope. Many people choose the unhelpful, unhealthy, “feel good in the moment”
way to cope to get through it. Unfortunately, that is not going to help anyone in the long run.
Today I wanted to detail some coping strategies by giving contrasts of unhelpful versus helpful
ways. You can also gauge your coping skills here

Powerless vs. Helpless:

You are powerless over people, places, and things. Some of us have the need for control and we seek the power to control others. You have to identify and realize that you don't have power over anyone. We cannot make people do, think, or feel any sort of way. But you are not helpless. YOU are powerful within your own strengths. You can regain power by taking control of your coping and feelings and emotions.

Processing vs. Suppressing:

Figuring out ways to process the pain to cope. Processing is when you are taking steps to cope with the pain and hurt. While suppressing is ignoring because it hurts too bad. Work, drugs, sex, alcohol are means to suppress. You need to be able to feel. You need to go through the steps.

Seeking help vs. Seeking Sympathy:

While both are actually important because you need to connect and you need someone to confide in or relate to but you need help. Seeking sympathy solely is unhealthy.

Solving vs. Obsessing:

We tend to obsess when something very emotional or traumatic happens. Remember you have a problem, that problem is discovering that your spouse was unfaithful. But now you have to think about how you are going to move forward for you, and/or your relationship. Obsessing will keep you in a negative mental state. Think of obsessing as being on a treadmill - you're doing the motions however you are stationary, you're going nowhere. You have to move forward and process through the pain.

Rational vs. emotional decisions:

Making emotional decisions aren't the best decisions we would make. You have to get yourself to a place where you are thinking logically so you can base your decisions on fact than on momentary feelings because it may not be what you ultimately want to do.

Correction vs. Punishment:

You may want your spouse to feel pain and the same emotions as you. But remember punishment is not correction. Punishment is not the way to reconcile or move forward. It's like the saying "two wrongs don't make a right." Although it may feel like the more satisfying thing to do, it's adding more damage than reconciliation. Punishment doesn't take away the pain in the long run.

I hope this helps give more of a distinction between helpful and unhelpful coping strategies. If
you need or would like to learn more about coping with your specific situation click here for
further information. 

5 Steps to Manage After Infidelity

5 Steps to Manage After Infidelity

So here you are completely shocked, you have no words and you suddenly are numb. The spouse you once thought you knew inside and out has revealed to you a side you never fathomed existed. They shared with you the reality of their infidelity. The emotions you feel, if you are able to feel any, are so overwhelming you are unsure of what to do next.

This experience is very common when you find yourself in a crisis situation, and I assure you when someone finds out their partner has been unfaithful it most certainly is categorized as a crisis situation. The last blog we spoke of surprising feelings, if you missed it you can read it here.

Today I want to talk about what to do after you find out about the infidelity. I want to give you tangible steps to take to manage the crisis situation. I've also included a crisis management inventory worksheet. There are five steps and they are as follows:

1. TRIAGE:

This is where you assess the immediate needs of the situation. Just as in the hospital, you need to asses what is most important to tend to with your life. Look at it as a nice vs. necessary. You need to eat, sleep, bathe, take care of your kids, etc. because you still need to take care of your responsibilities. Something nice would be helping a friend, baking cookies, or organizing your closet. Those are nice to do but not necessary and can add stress to this difficult time. Put yourself first. It's exhausting to have all of the thoughts that come with learning of an affair. Think about the things you need to do to get through the day.

2. CONTAIN:

Think of a toxic spill, when it spills you quickly try to contain it because you don't want to do any more damage. The same is with this crisis situation, you want to contain it until you figure out what happens next. The way you do this is to think of whom you are confiding in and how much you want to tell people. Use discernment with whom you seek comfort in.

3. CONTROL:

When you find out about the infidelity, you lose your sense of security and it makes you feel out of control. In order to feel secure, you need a certain level of predictability, reliability, and trust. You need to understand that you don’t nor did you ever have control over your spouse. Do not try to gain a sense of control by trying to change what has happened or take responsibility for it. Rather, think about you and take control over what happens next and take responsibility for solutions.

4. COPING:

You need healthy strategies and tools in order to work through this crisis. There's a right way and a wrong way to cope. Solve vs obsess. Powerless vs helpless. Seek help vs seeking sympathy. Correct vs punish. There is a right way to cope, so learn how to seek proper help if you feel that would be best. This process does take time so do not pressure yourself.

5. ADJUST:

Unfortunately, things are different now and there's no going back, which means you have to adjust to this new piece of information and reality. You either can adjust or resist. In order to adjust, forgiveness is the key. Even if you don't plan to reconcile the marriage, it's healthiest for you to move forward with forgiveness, especially if there are children involved.

Those are the five steps to manage this crisis situation of infidelity. I strongly encourage you to seek help to facilitate your movement through this time in your life. This is not a situation best left to be done alone. You are struggling and experiencing a great deal of emotions, it is best to get the support you need to help you manage the best way you can. To take the first step in helping you understand where you might rate in regards to these five steps, click here to take a brief inventory.

 

Resource: https://www.goasksuzie.com/adjusting-aftermath-infidelity

5 Surprising Emotions From an Affair

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5 Surprising Emotions From an Affair

What feelings come to mind when you think about the possibility of your spouse or significant other cheating on you? I am sure just even having that thought makes your blood boil or your stomach turn. Rightfully so, because the thought of your partner betraying you elicits anger, sadness and possibly even fear. There is nothing positive about the unfaithfulness of a partner; though there are some surprising emotions that can be experienced.

Let’s explore five surprising emotions one can feel when they have found out their partner has been unfaithful. Additionally, here's a worksheet to help you work through your emotions. 

1. Shame/ Humiliation

You would think that the person who committed infidelity would be the one feeling shame or humiliation but the victim in the situation very well can experience this emotion. You may find yourself replaying your entire relationship and seeking answers as to why this happened. Questioning where you went wrong and seeking proof as to how it “must be your fault.” Also, the shame of having family and friends find out can be very overwhelming. To feel humiliated that your marriage was not as strong as you might have portrayed it to be.

2. Emptiness

Often times people misinterpret emptiness as sadness. But emptiness is really the absence of feelings. You feel void. Nothing is present. Hollow. This is the psychological mechanism of protecting your mental wellbeing from the shock of the reality of what your partner has done.

3. Possession

This, I feel, is the most shocking of the five emotions for people. The thought of wanting to be possessive of someone who has just betrayed you seems completely backward. But it is not unlikely if you feel the need to draw your partner closer and want to claim them as your’s; not as a piece of property to take ownership but a stake in the commitment you had both made. Feelings of wanting them back and not wanting to let others take them away.

4. Annoyance

You can feel irritated, thinking “they are stupid” for throwing the marriage away by engaging in such a negligent act. Annoyed that they were so foolish and careless. Feeling disappointed in their lack of judgment and annoyed that you trusted them to be more committed to your relationship.

5. Relief

This is felt because maybe you had a feeling that something wasn't right but you weren't sure. You felt like something was going on but couldn’t put your finger on it but then when you found out, you were able to put a name to it, process it and work towards a resolution. Some people might even be relieved because they feel they now have a justified reason to finally leave an otherwise unhappy marriage, often found among religious couples.

No matter what emotions you are experiencing, it is important to let yourself feel them. Give yourself permission to do so and tell yourself that it's okay. Don't push it away because that does not do you any good. Those emotions are still there and they need to be processed. Give yourself room to feel and process these emotions; however, don't let yourself dwell. It's healthy to either journal or talk to someone like your spouse or a professional when you feel you are dwelling and getting stuck.

Click here for a worksheet to help yourself begin the process of expressing your feelings. As always, if you have any questions or feedback I would love to hear from you!