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

Posts Tagged ‘Emotional affairs’

Is Facebook the Source of Relationship Problems?

Monday, August 18th, 2014

The recently published study of Facebook participants and how emotions can spread across social networks caused a big stir.  The researchers called it “emotional contagion”, meaning that our moods are affected by our friend’s posts.

That study is the tip of the iceberg on how social media affects us.  As a couple’s therapist I can tell you not a week goes by that I don’t hear the myriad ways Facebook impacts relationships.  And yes, that definitely affects your mood.

Here are some common scenarios . . .

1.  Singles often use Facebook as a free, online dating site.  You could meet new people through friends of friends or reignite an old flame. Meeting someone this way feels safer than engaging with total strangers.

The down side is everyone makes themselves look better on Facebook.  You miss body language, facial expressions and tone, three things that help us discern sincerity from deception.  Online communication often turns from platonic to flirty (or sexual) very quickly.  While that may be ego boosting, it can also cause poor decision making early in relationships as we can confuse lust for love.

2.  Facebook can be a source of relationship betrayal, and that includes everything from arousing feelings of jealousy to actual infidelity.

Our egos demand that we collect many Facebook friends, the higher the number, the better.  Problems arise when these friends are not friends of the couple.  Exes, co-workers and old friends are all targets of jealousy by your partner.  Commenting on how great your co-worker looks in her bikini seems innocent enough, but problems with trust almost always ensue.

Since it is easy to meet or re-connect with someone on Facebook, it is the genesis of many extra-relationship affairs.  Facebook is available 24/7, thus increasing the temptation to communicate.  It is easy to hide messages from your partner, and you can even change your password or block your partner from seeing your timeline.

3.  We all have curiosity about our exes when we break up, but Facebook makes it easy for us to keep tabs on them.  Why unfriend your ex when you can see their relationship status, where they are going, who they are with and how much fun they are having?  Facebook stalking is a form of throwing salt on your own wound.

It seems logical to point an accusing finger at Facebook for these relationship issues, but social media is not the the problem.  Poor boundaries, loss of friendship/romance, and lack of trust are the underlying causes of pain.

The internet provides convenience in all aspects of life, and that includes relationship issues.  Before social media we would “go the store to get milk” to create time to see our affair partner.  Now all we have to do is log on and that could be while we are in bed next to our spouse.  We used to have to drive by our exes apartment or workplace to keep tabs on them, but Facebook stalking is much more efficient.

The internet gives the illusion of secrecy so we say and do things we wouldn’t dream of saying in person, especially in the presence of our spouse. Making negative comparisons of your real life partner to a photoshopped Facebook picture makes the fantasy of a perfect partner feel more real.  But these things are major boundary violations in your relationship and help you to jump on the express train to infidelity.

If your relationship is suffering and Facebook is a central theme, it may be wise to dig below the surface.  Facebook is most likely a symptom of bigger problems.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC

Certified Gottman Therapist









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.

May Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

Certified Gottman Therapist


6 Step Recovery Plan for Betrayal

Friday, November 16th, 2012


Even if you have never been in a relationship that involved an affair, the word itself invokes a deep feeling of betrayal in most people.  Being betrayed is a universal human experience, so on some level the Petraeus story resonates with all of us.  We all know what it’s like to have a knife jammed in our back, to feel the deep wounds of broken trust, to be blindsided and victimized by someone we thought we knew.

Betrayals come in all shapes and sizes, but the deeper the love bond, the deeper the wound of betrayal.  We often think of an affair as the only form of betrayal in intimate relationships, but according to Dr. John Gottman, breaches of trust occur in many disguises.  Can you trust your partner to listen to you when you are upset or anxious?  Can you trust that your partner will place a priority on your relationship, above his mother, friends, work?  Can you trust that your partner won’t abuse alcohol or drugs?  Can you trust that your partner is an involved parent?

But trust is not only important for love relationships.  We want to feel a sense of trust in schools, the workplace, our cities and nations.  A few months ago I experienced one such betrayal that left my head spinning.   Not only did I feel the weight of the injustice that was thrust upon me, I felt the negative feelings that follow any betrayal . . . anger, blame, self-pity and desire for revenge.   At the same time I had a strong desire to move towards forgiveness, because I knew that harboring that mountain of resentment was getting in my way of healing.  To add salt to my already festering wound, my seemingly guilt-free betrayer was happily moving forward, dismissing all of my feelings.

It was at this point that I knew I needed a survival plan.  No, not a survival plan, but a plan to thrive.   Here’s my six-step betrayal recovery plan:

  1. Allow yourself to fully feel your feelings.  You have been violated and trying to jump to forgiveness too soon won’t work.  Betrayal usually equates to loss of some sort.  No matter how scared you are of moving in a new direction, do not try to bypass the stages of grief.
  2. Find a healthy level of detachment from the situation.  If you need space from your betrayer, take it.  If you need self-soothing, do it.  Now more than ever you need to take care of yourself.
  3. Do not be more of a victim than you need to be.  Of course that other person wronged you in unimaginable ways, but identifying too much with your Poor Pitiful Pearl story will keep you stuck in your pain.
  4. Be careful who you talk to about your betrayal.  Some people will dismiss your feelings and side with the enemy, so they are not good confidants.  But neither are people who encourage you to wallow in your pain.  Finding a therapist may be your best option if your family and friends are favoring one side or another.
  5. Do not idealize the past.  Accept that there were troubles in that relationship.  Betrayals often arise because of conflict avoidance, meaning the betrayer (and possibly the betrayed) was having deep feelings they were not sharing.  This emotional distance is anything but ideal.
  6. Channel the energy of your painful feelings into self-growth.  Time does not heal all wounds, so don’t take a passive approach to healing.  While you are not responsible in any way, shape or form for the betrayal that occurred, you might be able to see how you participated in the damaged relationship that lead up to that event.  Work on becoming a better, stronger, more empowered version of you.  Create a better future for yourself, whether it is with or without your betrayer.

As the knife wounds start to scab over you may be vacillating between negative and positive feelings.  One minute you may feel better about the situation, the next you may get great joy out of envisioning bad things happening to your betrayer.  This is normal on the road to recovery.  While living through betrayal is a terrible feeling, try not to look backwards, as that is not the direction you are going.  You can choose to inch (or run) towards empowerment and then, and only then, will you feel healed and truly ready to forgive.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC

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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