Tuesday, November 27, 2012

GETTING EVEN: a common response to cheating


“Hell hath no fury like a women’s scorn!”

William Shakespeare

And….”hell hath no fury like a man’s either!

Joan E. Childs, LCSW




When it comes to cheating, men and women respond very similarly, despite what they may tell you.  It’s difficult for them to let go of the mental video that replays over and over, imagining their spouse with another partner.  The gut wrenching feeling that pierces their hearts also shatters their trust, belief system, self-esteem, relationship/marriage and quite often, their lives.  This is where the genders merge.  It is where the human element super-cedes gender.  When a heart is broken, gender is irrelevant.  The response is more connected to the individual than the gender.  Both men and women feel the hurt and pain.  The most common response to hurt is anger.  Getting even becomes a personal choice, and__ it’s a poor one.




Carol called me early one morning on my way to my office in tears, nearly gasping between her words.  “I need to see you.  Do you have any time today?”

 She discovered her husband of nineteen years had been having an affair with his secretary.  When she confronted him, he had no way out because the secretary’s husband called Carol after he discovered them dead to rites.  Carol’s vitriolic response was to “get even.”  Her boss had been flirting with her for years, and her revenge was to have an affair with him.


When Carol came into my office that afternoon and spilled her guts, literally and figuratively, (she vomited), I asked her if she had one wish, what would it be.  Her first response was murderous rage, “To cut off his b____”, she screeched. (ala Loretta Babbit) After the rage, came the tears, the disbelief, the “What am I going to dos?” and “how will I ever get passed this?”


Ted learned from a co-worker that his wife was having an affair with her fitness trainer.  What made matters worse, was that the fitness trainer, was shared by both Ted and his wife for nearly nine years.  Ted was devastated and felt betrayed by both of them.

When Ted came in to see me he could hardly speak.  His tears were endless.  He howled like a wounded animal when he tried to tell me what happened.  Clutching his chest and shifting to holding his head in his hands, bending over in despair, I thought he might collapse.  He was speechless for the first fifteen minutes. Every time he tried to speak, the sobbing swallowed his words.  After he collected his emotions, having used his handkerchief until it was soaked and at least half a box of tissues, he mumbled, “I ‘m going to kill that bastard!  He deserves to die!” (ala UNFAITHFUL, the movie)  I gave her everything, never denied her anything and this is how she pays me back?”  The profanity followed the tears, and then the tears returned.  After asking him the same question I asked Carol, he said, “I want my wife back, but I want to f—k his first!


Carol and Ted’s response reflects most of the feelings my clients have when they learn about “the affair”.  No matter male or female, the shock and grief is pervasive, progressive and feels permanent.  It disrupts their sleep, their work and ability to stay focused.  The betrayal becomes omnipresent interfering with the quality of their lives.  Men more often want to kill the other man; women more often want to kill their spouse.  The next best thing to committing murder is to have a “get even” affair. 




This is the time to see a therapist.  Tit for tat is not a solution.  Believe it or not, relationships that have suffered infidelity can be repaired and often are better as a result of working through the issues that had never been addressed.  .


There is usually a reason for an affair.  Sometimes it is conscious, but more often it is the unconscious that dictates our behavior.  Nature abhors a vacuum, so we tend to fill the emptiness with something that feels good.  Sometimes it is a substance, like food, alcohol, or drugs.  Sometimes it can be an activity, but more often, the choice is another mate to take away the pain of loneliness, boredom, anger or whatever might have been lost. The writing is often on the wall before we want to see it.  Denial is the most common defense mechanism humans have.  It’s too painful to face, so we avoid.  Avoidance makes our relationships become contaminated over time.  A common response to an issue is to sweep it under the rug until the rug resembles the Swiss Alps.  Most couples don’t know how to effect change in their relationship, so they act out their feelings, and too often there arises a crisis that forces them to look at the issue. So, an affair can be a blessing in disguise if it is addressed with a professional.  It can become the catalyst for understanding and change.


Most of us grew up in dysfunctional families to a greater or lesser degree.  We had poor role models for communication.  The two most important roles we have in life, that of being a husband/wife and a parent is something we know least about, and are least prepared to do.  Some of us were intentionally or unintentionally abused, neglected or abandoned, leaving us to adapt in order to survive.  We unconsciously bring this survival roles and wounds into our adult relationships, hoping to heal the past.  We unwittingly choose the worst nightmarish partners to help us work through our issues.  In a way, this is supposed to happen.  It is that partner that we chose, that can teach us what we need to know about ourselves. In most cases, divorce or break-ups occur before we have a chance to mend our past and save our relationships.  It is the therapy that can help heal these wounds and find new pathways to save what might have been destroyed.




The goal is to find our authenticity and abandon our survival/adaptive roles.  Intimacy requires authenticity.  There is no intimacy without conflict, and unless you are in your true essence, conflict cannot be resolved.  When you are in your essence, connection is created and time is eternal.  When you are in your survival roles, those roles will hi-jack your relationship, and the connection will be lost.


 Advancing technology in couple’s counseling has paved the way to perpetual possibilities and hope for healthier relationships.  We now know ways to teach couples to reconnect and reach levels of intimacy never before realized.  We understand that human beings are wired for connection and when we disconnect, we go into crisis.  The goal is to help couples become authentic; to relinquish their survival roles so they can discover each other, perhaps for the first time, thus allowing them to fall in love again.  When the relational space between them becomes polluted, a “disconnect” is certain to happen.  When we clean up the contaminated space, we reconnect with a more meaningful, honest and mature relationship than ever thought possible 


 We clean up the space by having the couples cross the bridge to the world of their partner, leaving behind their perceptions, opinions, and judgments while they visit their partner’s world.  They learn how to be present to one another; they learn the language of the other.  They learn about their partner’s past, their fears, and childhood experiences that they may never have known before.  And___. they learn to listen with a third ear, an open mind and an open heart.  Together, they build new neuro-pathways to the future.  They learn new ways of communicating.  They have a new set of tools for conflict resolution.  They learn how to be in attunement with each other.  The space between them becomes sacred once more.




What to do if this happens to you


1, Recognize you have a deeper problem than the affair.  Understand that the affair is the result of the deeper problem.


  1. Get professional help with a trained couple’s counselor who can help you understand the underlying causes of the affair and teach you how to express your feelings that may have been repressed until it could no longer stay contained.  Acting out is a feeling that gets translated into a behavior.


  1. Understand that not unlike an abscess, the only way to make it go away is to lance it.  It hurts like hell, but once the pus is out, healing begins and the pain disappears.  This is a metaphor for the therapeutic process.


  1. Don’t go for right or wrong.  Hang in there and go for resolution.  Be patient __this takes time.  But the results make it all worthwhile.  See the movie SPRING HOPE!!  It’s my first exercise for those of you who can relate to this article!




Monday, November 26, 2012



By now everyone has heard of the term, “codependent”.  Since the 80’s this word has been passed down for nearly 3 decades since Melody Beattie coined the word for those folks who were addicted to the addict.  (Codependent No More)  Since its original coining, that word has morphed into many meanings, until today, when it signifies those who are involved with partners in dysfunctional relationships that are ruining their lives.  If you are in a relationship that brings you down, that causes you to feel drained, pained, anxious, worried, have a fear of abandonment, fear of being consumed, and other panic driven disorders, and feeling you can’t live with him/her or without him/her, can’t let go, but don’t want to stay, then chances are, you are in an addictive, codependent relationship. 

Hundreds of books have been written on the subject.  television shows and movies provide our world of entertainment with relationships that exemplify these pathetic love addicted relationships.  Twelve step program groups are filled with members who attend regular meetings to fight the addiction, yet countless people plunge in everyday, stay for years and suffer enormous consequences that cause pain, illness, financial disaster, loss of control and sometimes, even death.  Without treatment, codependency  rarely gets better.

So what is the answer?  We have to look inside and try to understand why we think so little of ourselves to allow another human being to have so much power over us, that we jeopardize and undermine our well being and quality of life.  We need to understand the dynamics that we are bringing from our childhood into our”here and now” relationships, trying desperately to work out old conflicts with our families of origin in our adult relationships. We need to learn why we subjugate our needs and desires to please another person  instead of ourselves. 

How do we do this?  By learning where the original pain began and how it manifested so we can undo the doing.  It requires a commitment of time, money and honest exploration as well as learning skills, techniques and resources to fight and win.  A good sense of self esteem is the most important ingredient that is needed to win the battle.  Those of you who are in these kind of relationships, twisting in the wind and unable to get out of the painful day to day feelings, need to examine how you got there in the first place.  The next thing you need to do is get help.  No one does this alone.  According to Neuro-biology, the brain is the only organ in the body that needs another brain to regulate itself.  All the other organs can self regulate; not the brain.  Seek out a qualified, trained therapist who specializes in Codependency and Family of Origin Work.  A therapist who has been trained in Inner Child Work can take you back to the beginning when you first felt the feeling that you weren’t good enough or that you didn’t matter.  It might have come from abuse, neglect, and /or abandonment that occurred before you had a chance to understand what was happening to you.  A child has stages of development to master and in each stage has a task to accomplish.  That stage can only be successful if the child has reached a level of maturity to understand what has happened or has not been inflicted with abuse, neglect or abandonment.  When these things occur, they leave deep wounds in the child that affect the outcome of these developmental tasks.  Having a successful outcome with a trained therapist can change the way we think about ourselves and give us the courage to let go of relationships that keep us frozen in our dysfunctional childhood states.  Many of the techniques that are employed are geared to breaking down adapted roles we had to learn as children in order to survive and finding our authentic selves.  Our authentic selves will shine the light to reveal our essence and protect us from behaviors that jeopardize our well being.  Our true selves will provide ways to fight this addiction and help us make healthy choices.  Choosing partners that cause us pain and grief come from the wounded inner child.  If that child is made to feel safe and lovable, it will allow the authentic adult in us to take care of that part of ourselves that got stuck in our source relationships when we did not have boundaries and ways to protect ourselves.  Now as adults, we have acquired knowledge, experience, information and maturity that we can use to take care of our wounded child and make them feel like they DO INDEED matter; perhaps for the first time in their life. 

Having been the first affiliate for the John Bradshaw Institute, I have been practicing Inner Child Work for more than twenty years in my thirty-five year practice.  We have come a long way from the first encounter with Codependency and our lost child.  We now have wonderful, state of the art techniques to re-engineer ourselves and become the master of our destiny.  No longer do we have to re-enact our lost childhood.  We can reclaim, heal and champion our inner child and make choices in our best interest.

Joan E. Childs is a practicing psychotherapist for thirty-five years with offices in two locations: 2500 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd. #503, and 1040 Bayview Dr. #408 Ft. Lauderdale, FL

She can be reached by email: joanec@aol.com; web site: www.joanechilds.com  or telephone: (954) 568-1004.


The Legend of The  Lost Libido

Everyone knows that over time relationships shift: sometimes for the better; sometimes for the worse.  This is a natural phenomenon with every couple.  In the beginning of all relationships, everyone puts their best foot forward.  When we enter the first stage, commonly known as “the falling in love” stage, all our boundaries collapse; we can’t wait to see each other and our sexual appetite is perennially aroused.  But then comes the next phase, when the newness wears off, and the authentic  person emerges.  This concludes the honeymoon stage.

  Usually, the first things that begin to evaporate are the barrage of multiple daily phone calls, the “I love you’s” along with our sexual desire.  What follows is usually a shift in the show of affection; those tender moments that we cherished from the beginning, when his arm was around her shoulder, hands were held and good night kisses were a ritual, now begin to fade.  It is replaced with discovering the deficits in our partner that were not visible in the first stage.  Finding fault with each other is the first level of pollution to enter the relational space in which the couple lives; faults that were not evident in the first stage.  Even if they were, we were not willing to see or acknowledge them.  It’s a strange phenomenon, but once we get between the sheets, we project what we want to see on each other; not necessarily what is there.  These projections are often the cause of disappointment, disillusion and bitterness.  What is worse is that most people avoid communicating their feelings, fearful that being honest may upset the homeostasis of the relationship. The unconscious or conscious fear is that if I express my anger or hurt him/her, my partner might end the relationship.  This is not true.  The truth is, that avoidance it worse.  Avoidance brews “the collecting of stamps”, and one day, the energy that gets lodged, breaks loose, and bites you in the ass.  We tend to act out what we don’t communicate.  Acting out is taking a feeling and translating it into a behavior. Our feelings are energy: e- motions,  energy in motion.  Stuffing them only makes them stronger until our container can no longer house them.  So what happens is they come out the side, worse than if we spoke our truth from the get go.  Our insecurities rule our behavior and cause us to make poor choices.

   One of the first things to lose its luster is our sexuality.  When we are hurt or angry, we simply lose our sexual interest.  Effective communication is crucial.  It will always make things better.  However, most folks don’t know how to communicate effectively.   That’s because we grew up in homes where healthy communication was never modeled.  Think about how your parents settled their conflicts and differences.  Our fathers usually chose one of two options, depending upon their disposition.  They entered their cave and shut down, or they carried a club.  Our mothers either cried or shopped.  Things didn’t change much from the good old days of Fred and Wilma.  We only know what we know; therefore, we tend to do what comes naturally.  Doing what comes naturally is not usually healthy.  There is a right and a wrong way to fight.  Fighting fair takes some learning.  Tools and skills to communicate with a desired outcome, needs to be taught, like driving a car, learning how to play golf, tennis, the piano, etc.

This is when couple’s/marriage counseling is vital in order to help the couple find resources to work through their issues and clean up the polluted relational space that if not corrected, can destroy the marriage/relationship.  And if the couple has children, this polluted relational space is their playground.  So imagine the impact this has on them.

The truth is that sexual dysfunction is a result of not having a safe place to express how we feel.  When our feelings are repressed, our sexuality is impaired.  Most people don’t need a sex therapist.  They need to learn how to communicate with each other.

Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher said that human beings are wired for connection.  If we disconnect, we go into crisis.  It’s only in a relationship that we can know who we really are.  In his own words, he says, “Our relationships live in the space in between which is sacred.  The meaning is to be found neither in one of the two partners, nor in both together, but only in the “between” which they live in together. “