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In the last section, we discussed the impact of five essential growth experiences that can influence the way a couple handles an infidelity crisis. The five essential growth experiences we discussed are being safe and secure, functioning independently, having solid emotional connections, being able to value yourself, and living with realistic limitations.
In this section, we will discuss how understanding the "flip flop factor" can help couples working through an infidelity crisis address the disenchantment process. We will also discuss a specific technique to help couples analyze how the flip flop factor may be affecting their feelings of disenchantment towards their partner.
Tom, 35, an unfaithful partner, was a driven account executive. He and his wife Michelle sought counseling after Tom admitted to Michelle that he had rented a studio apartment in order to carry on an affair with a colleague’s wife during his "late nights at the office." Tom stated, "I don’t want to leave my marriage to Michelle. But I’ve been unhappy about a lot of things for a long time."
As a child, Tom’s father used get-rich-quick schemes in order to avoid regular employment. As a result, Tom’s family had depended on the paychecks brought in by his mother. Tom stated, "I really resented Dad for not pulling his weight, but I adored my mum. I guess I came to believe loving someone meant sacrificing your happiness for them."
As an adult, Tom was very goal-driven and hard working. Tom stated, "I’ve always been proud of my ability to get things done. But I’m irritable a lot, and I always felt something was missing. Then I met Michelle. She’s a real free spirit. She can really enjoy the moment, and that’s what drew me to her." Michelle worked as a freelance photographer, and brought spontaneity into Tom’s life.
Before long, Tom entered the disenchantment phase with Michelle, as we discussed in Section 6. Tom stated, "At one point I loved Michelle’s spontaneity and easy going personality. Now she just seems irresponsible. I really started to resent being the one to support her photography habit. And I started hating how when she comes home from shopping, she’ll hop on the phone and call her friends instead of putting the groceries away. That’s when I started sleeping with Becky. Those few hours in that apartment gave me a chance to not be the conscientious one."
♦ Two Key Aspects of the 'Flip Flop' Factor
-- Aspect # 1 - Positive with the Negative
-- Aspect # 2 - Unresolved Inner Conflict
Tom stated, "After Michelle found out about Becky, I realized I was unhappy at myself as well as upset with Michelle. I thought I was getting trapped the same way my mother did. I didn’t want Michelle to be a financial drain on me the way my father was on my mother. But I realized I had to remember Michelle isn’t my dad. She may not be the big earner, but she contributes to the relationship as much as I do. She helps me remember there’s more to life than making money."
♦ Flip Flop Ledger Technique
I stated to Tom and Michelle, "Although some attributes of your partner may make you feel that you are a bad fit as a couple, the opposite may be true in the long run. You may be drawn to your partner because they have qualities that are undeveloped in you. The very attributes that annoy you the most may be intimately related to another set of attributes that help you transcend you own limitations."
To begin the Flip Flop Ledger technique, I gave each partner a sheet of ledger paper, with a line down the center. I stated, "On the left side of the paper, list the qualities that disturb you the most about your partner. Next, on the right side of the paper, try to connect each of these attributes to a quality you admire in your partner." For example, Tom listed "uninterested in making money" as one of Michelle negative qualities. He connected this to Michelle’s positive quality, her being "relationship oriented."
Four More Questions for the Flip Flop Ledger
Are you treating a couple, like Tom and Michelle, who might benefit from the Flip Flop Ledger Technique? Would playing this section in your next session be helpful?
In this section, we have discussed how understanding the "flip flop factor" can help couples working through an infidelity crisis address the disenchantment process. We also discussed a specific technique to help couples analyze how the flip flop factor may be affecting their feelings of disenchantment towards their partner.
In the next section, we will discuss beginning the process of low cost behavioral change in order to restore trust between partners who have chosen to work towards reconciliation following an infidelity crisis. We will specifically discuss constructing wish lists for low-cost behavioral change, and 7 guidelines for increasing the effectiveness of the wish list technique.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References: