A group of independent counselors serving Kingwood and Houston
Specializing in Gottman MethodTM Couples and Marriage Counseling

Archive for the ‘Conflict’ Category

Couples Counseling for Affairs – What To Expect

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

If your world has been shattered by the discovery that your partner is having an affair, you may be wondering if your relationship can survive this, or maybe even wondering if you should bother trying.

The word affair conjures up an image of a sexual tryst but that is not the only type of betrayal we are seeing these days.  Emotional affairs, sexting, online or virtual romances can be equally, if not more, destructive to partnerships.

Most think that infidelity stems from availability . . . . a husband on an overnight business trip has opportunity or a wife with a hot personal trainer while her husband is at work.  But that is not generally how the path to a cheating heart is travelled.

Affairs arise from emotional dismissiveness and emotional avoidance in relationships.  These couples avoid expressing their true feelings to their partners in an attempt to avoid conflict. Over time these couples become very emotionally distant and feel very neglected in their relationship.  It is this isolation and loneliness that primes them to make room for an attentive affair partner in their life . . . someone who will listen, give them compliments and laugh at their jokes.  And eventually this leads to make negative comparisons about their partner and permission to stray.

Of course all hell breaks loose when an affair is discovered.  The betrayed partner has a knife jammed in their heart, feeling the deep wounds of broken trust, blindsided by someone they thought they knew.  The traumatic nature of this discovery leads to symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTSD) that include intrusive thoughts, depression, anxiety, emotional numbing and flashbacks.

Often this is the juncture where couples seek relationship counseling.  They are in such crisis that I liken it to an anaphylactic reaction in need of an Epi-Pen . . . they want immediate relief.  Remember, these are a couples that hate conflict and they are at a loss on what to do or how to heal.

A skilled couples therapist will complete a thorough assessment of the current situation, their history as a couple and their individual backgrounds.  In Gottman Method Couples Therapy we follow the Gottmans’ Trust Revival Method for dealing with affairs.  This three phase approach involves:

The Atonement Phase:  This phase involves full confession, expression of remorse and apology, verification that the affair is over and dealing with the betrayed partner’s PTSD.  The couple begins to explore what went wrong in the relationship and why it culminated in an affair, but the cheating partner must take 100% responsibility for the breach of trust.  The most difficult phase of therapy, this stage will last as long as it needs to last, and the cheating partner must have infinite patience while their partner deals with his their emotions.

The Attunement Phase:   In this phase the couple begins rebuilding their relationship.  They recognize that previous relationship wasn’t meeting their needs and it cannot and should not be resurrected in the same manner.  They need to build skill in developing deeper emotional bonds, better communication, conflict management skills, friendship and romance.

The Attachment Phase:  In the final stage we work on forgiveness having real meaning, deepening their commitment, building a shared meaning for the future and re-establishing a strong foundation.

Some couples can survive affairs and some can’t.  The likelihood of survival increases if they can openly talk about the affair, their pre-existing problems and have infinite patience while they work through the three  phases of recovery.


Repair Attempts: One of the Secrets of Marriages That Work

Friday, December 9th, 2011

One of the secrets of marriages that work is using and receiving repair attempts.

According to John Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, repair attempts are a way to put the kibosh on escalating tension between a couple.  Think of it as an adult time out, a tool used to bring emotions under control.

Repair attempts can be communicated from one partner to the other in a variety of ways.  Sometimes it’s a request (“let’s not fight, OK?”).  Other times it’s an apology (“sorry I jumped to conclusions”).  And other times they can be a humorous gesture, like sticking your tongue out or making an Elvis face.  When one partner makes a repair attempt it is a signal that they don’t want to feel the pain of yet another argument.

It takes insight and courage for someone to make a repair attempt.

The receiver of the repair attempt needs to accept the gesture and re-focus their emotional energy as well.  They need to understand that their partner doesn’t want to fight.  This is a  critical component of learning to de-escalate a fight.  If the receiver refuses the repair attempt and continues to push for an argument, their partner will either engage in a  full blown knock-down, drag-out fight or they will simply disengage, neither of which will help to improve the partnership.

Once both parties take a breather and calm down, then it’s time for the fair fight.  All couples argue and the point of a repair attempt is not to squelch all communication but to redirect energies into talking and listening, rather than screaming and defensiveness.  Learning to discuss differences with respect and not pushing each other’s buttons is a skill  employed in the healthiest of unions.  Using and receiving repair attempts is a sign of cooperation and ultimately builds stronger relationships.

It’s important to realize that most conflicts are not resolved.  That may seem defeating but  Gottman’s research shows us that 69% of the time conflicts go unresolved.  What is important though is the willingness to let go of another pointless argument that erodes the relationship.

When your partner uses a repair attempt you have a choice to make:  escalate a fight or de-escalate to a conversation.  Arguments in couples are less about being right or wrong and more about respect and understanding your partner.

So the next time you and your partner disagree, think very clearly about how you want the scene to go.  If you are interested in being right you will not use or receive repair attempts.  If you are interested in a healthier relationship you will find a way to de-escalate the tension.


Couples Counseling and Psychotherapy Associates provides service to Kingwood, Humble, Atascocita, Porter, Fall Creek, Summerwood, North Houston and surrounding areas.

Couples Counseling & Psychotherapy Associates

2330 Timber Shadows Drive
Suite 106
Kingwood, Texas 77339
Ph: 281-812-7529


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