The Geometry of Cheating: Triangles

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Unfortunately, many people experience infidelity as either the cheater or the partner of the cheater. This post will highlight the dynamics of cheating, based on Bowen’s concept of triangulation.

A triangle occurs when a person goes outside their primary relationship in order to fulfill emotional or sexual needs. In fact, triangles are not exclusive to physical affairs. Some individuals triangulate with their pets, children, parents, and even memories of an old flame. The underlying factor here is that one of the partners will be left feeling like the odd man out.

With regard to emotional or sexual affairs, one partner is redistributing their energy, actions, anxiety onto a third person. Triangles easily indicate deficits in the primary relationship- whether it be lack of communication, intimacy or passion. Paradoxically, triangles guarantee that no one is getting their needs met, yet the third-party helps stabilize and even maintain the primary relationship. In other words, for some individuals, infidelity keeps the primary relationship intact, for a time. Overall, there is no resolution all around.

Therefore, triangulation, an underlying factor of cheating requires that partners in the primary relationship recognize relational deficits and work toward improving them.

Facebook and Old Boyfriends: To Friend or Not to Friend?

In 2004 Facebook was launched, revolutionizing how we communicate and keep in touch with one another. While it’s fun to reconnect with our friends from the past, getting back in touch with old flames sometimes carries an additional layer of complexity. In fact, Facebook has been cited as an emerging catalyst for infidelity and divorce. While most intentions are innocent, it’s a slippery slope when you’re sharing personal stories with someone you cared about, and they happen to be emotionally available too.

A question that I often hear is whether or not to friend request old boyfriends. The answer depends on several factors that should be considered prior to sending that friend request:

  • What are your motives for reaching out? Are they strictly platonic or do you have an underlying goal?
  • How did the relationship end?
  • Do you need closure?
  • Was this the “love of your life” or a more casual relationship?
  • Are you able to be respectful of your old flame in their current relationship (including their partner and children) if you do reconnect?
  • If you reconnect, will you be able to respect the boundaries of your own relationship?
  • Do you feel the need to hide or minimize your intentions from your current partner?

And the last and more important questions:

  • Are you satisfied with your current relationship?
  • Are your emotional needs being met within your current relationship?

If you answer no or sometimes to either of these questions, you should redirect your energy into improving your current relationship rather than reaching out to that old boyfriend. Although your intentions are innocent, getting your emotional needs met from conversing with your old flame on Facebook, rather than your current partner, indicates there might be some deficiencies in your relationship.

So, your old flame has popped up in your potential friend list for a while, but they haven’t initiated contact with you.

What should you do? I would love to hear your opinion, so please leave a comment below!

Millie Cordaro, PhD, LPC

www.goodlifepsychotherapy.com

Attachment: Understanding You In Your Relationship

John Bowlby conceptualized attachment theory as the quality of the emotional bond between the primary caregiver and child. According to Bowlby, the quality of this affectional bond during early childhood sets the stage for the quality of romantic relationships during adulthood. Therefore, infants who experienced secure and harmonious interactions with their mothers would mature into adults with healthy and satisfying romantic relationships.

Mary Ainsworth extended Bowlby’s theory of attachment, and described three major styles of attachment. These are:

  • Secure Attachment- Parent responds consistently and appropriately to child’s needs. The child uses parent as a “home base” from which to explore the environment, and checks back in with parent for comfort before further exploration.
  • Anxious-Ambivalent (Insecure) Attachment– Parent inconsistently meets child’s needs. The child is unable to use caregiver as a secure base. These children are usually distressed upon separation with indifference, anger, reluctance to warm to caregiver. The child is typically preoccupied with caregiver’s availability, seeking contact, yet resisting when it is achieved.
  • Anxious- Avoidant (Insecure) Attachment– Parent conveys little to no response to a distressed child. There is minimal affective interaction between parent and child, or the child does not convey distress when apart from parent and tries to avoid physical contact with parent.

Unfortunately, many people were not able to have the ideal, secure attachment, but experienced degrees of insecure attachment. Given that these early emotional experiences directly impact later adult relationships, characteristics from each of these early attachment styles can be found in our current relational styles.

  • Secure Attachment-These adults are comfortable being emotionally connected to their partner, and are comfortable spending time away from their partner to spend time with others and pursue their own interests.
  • Anxious-Ambivalent (Insecure) Attachment– As adults, they often look to their partner for approval and assurance, often becoming overly dependent; however, they can often be less trusting, have less positive views about themselves and their partners, and may exhibit high levels of  impulsivity in their relationships.
  • Anxious- Avoidant (Insecure) Attachment– These adults require a large degree of independence, often appearing aloof or afraid of commitment.  They tend to disconnect from their feelings, dealing with rejection by distancing themselves from partners.

So, can you see parts of yourself in one of these attachment styles? The good news is that you can work to improve your current relational functioning. You will need to work toward feeling secure as you emotionally connect with your partner, but also feel secure being on your own and away from your partner.

I would love to help you find this balance in your relationship. You can find me at www.goodlifepsychotherapy.com.

Characteristics of Happy People

What makes happy people, happy? According to David Myers, there are several key factors that happy people share. Happy people tend to:

  • Have high self-esteem
  • Be extroverted
  • Be decisive
  • Have close relationships with family and friends
  • Delay immediate gratification
  • Be religious
  • Be forgiving
  • Have an optimistic explanatory style

How do you measure up to these characteristics?

If you think you fall short on identifying with any or all of these factors, you can begin to increase your levels of happiness. I suggest selecting one, maybe two, factors to begin improving or incorporating into your life.

I would love to hear which of these characteristics you select, or are working on as you pave your road to happiness.

Engage: Get Ready for Marriage! Part 2

This is a two-part series, and you can read Part 1 here.

I know that a majority of you reading this are seeking pre-marital counseling. Kudos!! However, some of you are avoiding or deciding against pre-marital counseling. If you are not seeking pre-marital counseling or actively working to improve your relationship than you’re not meeting the overall objective of being engaged.

Dr. John Gottman, a leading expert on marriage and divorce, has identified four problematic areas in relationships that are risk factors for divorce. These areas are referred to as the Four Horseman. Using the Four Horseman, Gottman can predict the likelihood of divorce with 96% accuracy. Yes, you read that correctly. Here are the Four Horseman:

  • Criticism– Attacking “faulty”  personality characteristics rather than making general complaints
  • Contempt– The best predictor of the demise of a relationship, contempt includes making partner feel inferior through  insults and other tactics
  • Defensiveness– Deflecting one’s role in a problem
  • Stonewalling– Tuning out or shutting down

Here is a video clip of Dr. Gottman discussing the Four Horseman:

So, what if you see yourself or your partner in one or more of the Four Horseman? I encourage you to consider exploring pre-marital counseling. Again, identifying and working to improve these relational problems can reduce your relationship’s vulnerability for divorce.

I congratulate you on your recent or upcoming engagement. Remember, planning the wedding is necessary, but one aspect of a greater objective. Engage in your relationship as you get ready for marriage!

Engage: Get Ready for Marriage! Part 1

December is a popular time for marriage proposals. When most American couples think about getting engaged, thoughts automatically turn to the logistics of planning a wedding. The priorities include setting a date, finding a dress, and crafting a guest list.

In addition to planning the dream wedding, couples should also consider identifying and working on areas of the relationship that need improvement. Chances are these “sticking-points” will continue to reemerge throughout the duration of your marriage. After all, the term engagement isn’t just a promise to get married. The verb engage also means to employ or enter into conflict with. In other words, when you’re engaged you should be working on your relationship (especially the sticking-points) as well as working on your wedding.

Now, I know some of you do not want to think about dredging up the past or confronting your fiance about a hot-button issue; I understand. We are a culture driven by romantic love, and who wants to take the magic out of the engagement period? More importantly, who wants a lasting relationship? A relationship where you and your partner can co-exist together over time?

You can find Part 2 here.