I like the quote I found recently in Esther Perel’s best seller. As a couples therapist and a sex therapist, she echoes my sentiment when my clients walk in with this bomb that has detonated in their relationship.
This may be the end of the relationship as you knew it. Are you ready to begin another one?
The trauma that comes from this unravels even the most rational of us. We are left in a cloud of reaction and confusion. Making sense of this particular time needs delicacy and skilled handling. Like navigating through landmines, we can be blown away at any moment.
As therapists we walk carefully between both partners, building bridges and bringing some sense into this difficult time. One partner may be bewildered and angry; hurt beyond recognition. The other partner defensive, apologetic and confused themselves. Lost in feelings and thoughts that are only the surface of what really is going on.
Couples cope in so many different ways. Some learn to bury the problem and exist as though there is nothing wrong, but the struggle goes on quietly under the surface. Couples appear in therapy at different stages. Some come to the room when there is the searing heat of the revelation; looking to release or ride the storm. Others may decide to come in months or years later when the scars can still be felt through symptoms of unhappiness or disconnection.
Symptoms of these issues can appear in places we don’t expect. Children in the family may pick up on the “off” atmosphere and through them, the couple will realise something is still amiss.
Sometimes lingering resentments are displaced into other parts of the relationship. Triggers have
a strange way of being activated, detonated by a fleeting memory or thought that knocks us
‘Is she really going where she says she is? Last year she told me that. ‘
‘Did he look at that waitress, does she remind him of her?’
We can begin to behave in ways that we are not accustomed to, watching out for signs of trouble on the horizon or putting up walls in hope that we won’t get hurt again.
In this atmosphere crucial connection between the couple becomes strained.
Relationships live on goodwill. Goodwill is built in the quiet, small transactions that allow us to trust and know that person is my person. An ally, a friend. It gets us through everyday interactions and helps us negotiate daily trials and tribulations. It helps us foster kindness toward one another.
A study showed that a connected and bonded couple can reduce the pain received in the brain.
An affair can leave us unable to recognise ourselves, our deepest fears can be awakened.
Goodwill is on the other side, but a dormant gargoyle lies in between you.
At times it rises up, threatening to explode, the issues, the unheard voice becomes more present and urgent. Some of us feel defeated at the thought of a mountain we didn’t expect to have to climb. It’s helpful to have a guide, a map and a compass when travelling this tricky path. Journeying these parts are indeed tricky.
Sex can become a battleground of unexpressed thoughts and feelings. Swinging between passion and urgency, even as cold war rumbles in the shadows.
There are so many feelings about ourselves and about our partners, that are triggered by this bomb. It can be an isolating time as new fears are awakened. We can feel bereft when there is no understanding of why this happened. Some people do better when they bury the bomb but it impairs the trust between a couple which is crucial to a good connection.
At the Neu Practice we have created workshops, designed by therapists who are highly skilled and knowledgeable at helping you navigate this tricky minefield. Shabina specialises in working with clients who are dealing with either side of this dilemma. Couples or individuals, focusing on how it affects you.