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In the last section, we discussed overcoming the resistance to behavior change in order to help couples survive cheating. We specifically discussed 7 cognitive blocks that can create resistance to making behavioral changes. These 7 cognitive blocks are, I don’t have the right to ask my partner to change; I should keep my dissatisfaction to myself to avoid conflict; I shouldn’t have to tell my partner what I need; If I have to ask for love, I don’t want it; as soon as I start trusting again, we’ll be back where we started; my partner hurt me so they should change first; and I can’t act in trust enhancing ways when I’m so angry.
In this section, we will discuss helping couples who have experienced an infidelity crisis to talk about the affair. We will also discuss two techniques for enhancing intimate listening, the Cross-Over technique, and the Disarming technique.
Sandra, 38, entered counseling after discovering that her husband Carter had had an ongoing affair with a sales representative he knew from his workplace. Sandra stated, "A few months after Carter stopped seeing Annie, I found a drawer full of hardcore erotica. I wanted to ask whether Carter had done these things with Annie. I knew I couldn’t handle the answer, but I felt I just had to know!"
I stated to Sandra, "Learning how to talk about the affair can be a big challenge for both the hurt and unfaithful partner. The hurt partner needs to decide what he or she really wants to know. The unfaithful partner needs to decide how to answer the hurt partner’s questions in a healthy way."
Sandra stated, "Knowing that Carter and Annie have secrets together hurts. But I think it would be bad to know every little detail. I mean, wouldn’t that just feed my obsession with finding out the little things?" I stated, "Some of the best advice I can give you is to try to focus your questions focused on your relationship with Carter, not on his former lover. Some questions you might ask are, ‘what do you need from me to feel more loved and cared for?’ or ‘how do you like to be touched?’"
In our next session, Carter stated, "Sandra once asked me if the sex with Annie was better than sex with her. How do I answer that question? If I tell the truth, it’ll ruin the progress Sandra and I have made!" I stated, "If you try to soften the truth to protect Sandra’s feelings, you might come across as controlling, evasive, or deceptive. Sandra has the right to know the details she asks for. You may want to point out that the truth may hurt more than it heals, but you should try to answer honestly. Try to focus on choosing words sensitively, and give feedback to point your relationship in a positive direction."
Carter stated, "So, maybe I should say something like, ‘sex with Annie was better than sex between us has been in years, because it was forbidden. I also sometimes felt that you didn’t want to be with me sexually. But I’d like to work on this together.’"
Carter stated, "Sandra and I have tried to talk about the affair from time to time, but we always end up fighting. Last night, Sandra told me I haven’t been making her feel wanted. I knew she was just trying to get me to listen, but I ended up lashing out at her."
2 Intimate Listening Techniques
♦ #1 - The Cross-Over Technique
I encouraged Sandra and Carter to practice the Cross-Over technique. Sandra and Carter frequently had fights when discussing how to spend their free time. Sandra wanted to spend more time together as a couple, and Carter more frequently wanted to spend his free time on his own. Sandra saw Carter as cold and rejecting. Carter saw Sandra as needy an insecure.
After using the Cross Over Technique, Sandra paraphrased Carter’s position, stating "you’d like to be able to go off by yourself sometimes and not have me take it as personal rejection. You see my wanting to be with you as a way of checking up on you, which feels imprisoning." Carter rated Sandra’s understanding at a 10, then paraphrased Sandra’s position.
Carter stated, "you want me to understand that I create a lot of insecurity by pushing you away. You’d feel better about letting me go off by myself if some of the time I sought you out to do fun things with me." Sandra also rated Carter’s understanding at a 10. Both partners reported feeling well heard and understood.
♦ #2 - The Disarming Technique
Another significant source of conflict for Sandra and Carter was the situation at Carter’s workplace. Although Carter had ended his affair with Annie, he saw her on a weekly basis. When this conflict came up in a recent session, I invited Sandra and Carter to try the disarming technique. Using the Disarming technique, Carter acknowledge Sandra’s position instead of trying to defend himself.
Carter stated, "It must be hard for you to stop obsessing about Annie when you know I’ll see her at the office so much. I can understand how you’d like me to find a job someplace else, even if I would earn less." Hearing Carter validate her point of view then made it easier for Sandra to validate Carter’s position.
Sandra stated, "I know it must be hard to want to please me, but worry about finding a good job somewhere else. It’s got to be hard to leave a good, secure job. It takes more energy and confidence than you feel you have right now." Sandra and Carter found that by applying the Disarming technique, they were able to deescalate this conflict. Both partners were able to feel like collaborators working on a common problem.
Would the Cross Over technique and Disarming technique help you Carter and Sandra? Would playing this section in your next session be helpful to them?
In this section, we have discussed helping couples who have experienced an infidelity crisis to talk about the affair. We also discussed two techniques for enhancing intimate listening, Cross-Over technique, and the Disarming technique.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
I hope you have found the information to be both practical and beneficial. We appreciate that you've chosen the Healthcare Training Institute as a means for receiving your continuing education credit.
Other Home Study Courses we offer include: Treating Teen Self Mutilation; Treating Post Holiday Let-Down and Depression; Living with Secrets: Treating Childhood Sexual Trauma; Interventions for Anxiety Disorders with Children and Adults; and Balancing the Power Dynamic in the Therapeutic Relationship.
I wish you the best of luck in your practice. Thank you.