Do Not Say This (to a friend who has been cheated on)

So you just found out that your bestie’s husband has been cheating on her. She is devastated, hurt, confused, angry, and feels like she is the only one in the world who this has happened to. Of all of her friends, she chose you to confide in, so watch your words very carefully. This is a very vulnerable time in her life and she really needs a friend to listen. Did you catch that? Yes, to listen.

Most of the time, we love our best friend and step right into the fix it mode with all sorts of chatter. We may say things that really hurt, all the while thinking we are helping the situation. Here are a couple of things not to say. “Did you see it coming?”  Sometimes we hear the old cliche “a wife always knows”.  Perhaps I am as dumb as a box of rocks, but I did not know when my husband was cheating on me. We had just renewed our vows after 25 years of marriage and our sex life was still active and fulfilling. Our children were thriving in middle school, high school and college. We were paying all of our bills on time and were getting along well. So you accidentally say this very insensitive thing to your friend and now she is beginning to lose what little self-esteem she may be hanging onto. Her thoughts are “Why didn’t I see this coming if my friend assumed I knew on some level? Did my friend know and not tell me?” There went that last shred of dignity she may have had.

Another classic no-no is to say  “Kick him to the curb! He doesn’t deserve you.” Although this is meant to show your friend solidarity, she may still genuinely love her spouse. She may have every intention of getting to the bottom of the difficulty and moving through it. If she moves gracefully through the infidelity, she may always question if your well-meaning comment was meant to show support or if when you see your friend with her husband you will always be thinking about what a schmuck he was.

A better thing to say to a friend who just found out that his wife had been cheating or her husband had been cheating would be “Oh, I am so sorry. Do you want to talk about it?” Then you simply shut up and listen. Do not interject, and do not offer advice at first. The shock of finding out what this contemptible person did will take some time to sink in.

Your friend needs to vent and work through it in her own way. Remember that God gave you two ears but only one mouth! If she does ask for advice, please don’t offer it unless you too have gone through the pain, humiliation, doubt and trauma of an affair. The best thing you as a friend can say is “Do you have a pastor (or rabbi or priest) that you can talk to?”

If your friend is still pushing you for advice, offer it only by asking questions. When you ask a question, you are directing your friend to come up with her own conclusions. Questions that would be ok to ask are “Do you still love him?” or “Do you think you could find a place of forgiveness if he wants to work through this?” Allow your friend to process and vent. Just be a friend and listen.You won’t regret being there for her.

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Shhhh, just listen

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Sleeping With Your Spouse

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Do you remember the first time you slept in the same bed as the woman or man you married? Did you cuddle or stay up all night talking? Did you have crazy, hot sex or did you spoon each other and think romantic thoughts?

My husband and I slept together for years. Cuddle time, spooning, pillow talk and great sex were all part of marital bliss. Then the kids started coming. The eternal earth mother that I am convinced my husband that the family bed was the best way for baby’s night time feedings and parent-child bonding. I never regret that decision, as our lovely, grown children are smart, independent and healthy. The time that they were needy and dependent was fleeting in the grand scheme of things. However, at one point I realized my husbands need to get a good night sleep was not happening with all of us crowded into his space.  In order for him to be functional at work,  I started going into the kid’s room for one more story or one more feeding for the baby and just ended up sleeping the night there.

Years later when everyone was weaned and sleeping through the night, I crept back into my own room with my husband. He announced that he had gotten used to sleeping alone and I was relegated to the downstairs futon for anything other than the conjugal visits. In all honesty, I can sleep standing up, lying down, on a couch, in a chair, when a storm is knocking the house down or basically anywhere. I did not understand his sleep issues but saw what a grump he was when not well rested. No need to watch him take out his crappy nights sleep on the rest of us.

As time progressed I learned to stop missing the intimacy of sleeping next to a warm, delicious, loving body. I was busy taking care of the kids, the house and working part time. When I went into the bedroom one night and caught my husband throwing his cell phone under the sheets, I began to rethink our entire relationship. Yes, he was cheating on me and texting another woman before bed time. No, it was not entirely because we did not cuddle at night, but it did not help matters that we had become roommates with benefits instead of partners.

Sleeping with your spouse is an integral part of marriage. I get that one of you likes a firm mattress while the other likes it soft. He has to get up early for work while she gets to sleep in. She has to fall asleep to music while he needs it quiet. She falls asleep during a storm while he hears the neighbor’s dog barking 4 houses down. She loves the sheets tucked while he has to have one toe dangling out of the side of the bed. He tosses and turns while she sleeps like a rock. Sound familiar?

No matter what issues you think you have about sleeping in the same bed as your mate, think again.  Sleeping in separate beds is a great way to kill a marriage. I doubt that my husband would be texting another woman if this woman would have been there, every night, to hear his banter or cuddle, or let him open up in a safe space. I often wonder what my children thought when they saw me bringing a change of clothing into the family room and setting up an alarm clock by the futon night after night. Was this the example of a happy marriage?

Sleep with your husband or wife!  That 5 minutes you talk before dozing off is special. That 2 minutes of spooning before rolling over is precious. That argument you had at dinner softens as you melt into the warm sheets together. I know when I can’t get to sleep, nothing calms me down or relaxes me better than a “quickie”.  Get the special bed that has adjustments for soft and hard firmness.  Throw out the scratchy sheets. Get the sleep mask if he wakes you with the morning light as he is going to work.  Learn to sleep to her music playing and for goodness sake, keep the TV out of the bedroom. Keep your bedroom as a sacred, safe space where there are no distractions. Allow your alone time to be a time of relaxation, peace , joy and……………

If you don’t believe me, check out other blogs. Here are a couple that I like www.lifezette.com/momzette/why-sleeping-in-separate-beds-will-kill-your-marriage/, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-fitness/201308/the-importance-sharing-bed-your-lover, and http://romanticreminders.com/blog/uncategorized/happiest-couples-go-bed-time/1461

New Year Self Care

 

In the new year, most of us set some sort of specific goal or resolution like “lose 10 pounds” or “go to the gym three times a week”. Half the time we never keep the resolution. All of the countless self-help, leadership, and personal development books seem to say to set specific goals and what steps you will take to achieve them. Despite my best intentions, often I still fall short. So, this year my resolution will be general, not specific. It will be meaningful but perhaps not as tangible as the number on a scale or the bill from the gym. My goal will be to fill myself up before I can serve others. I love the saying that you cannot serve anyone with an empty cup.

Now, what my self-care may look like can be transient and change from day to day. Today it includes putting down my phone and reading an entire book while relaxing on the couch. “No, I am sorry I won’t walk the dog right now, honey. I am in the middle of a good part of this novel”. Tomorrow it may be “Yes, darling. I’m going to do the laundry right after my run.” Selfish? No. Self-care? Yes.

Remember that self-care in a relationship is paramount. You must be filled with your own good health, happy thoughts, and mental clarity before you can, in fact, be of any value in a relationship. When we first got married, I assumed that I would be so busy taking care of Jimmy and he would be so busy taking care of me that it would all work out. Now, after 30 years of being with a man who has so many more complexities than I ever imagined, I realize that I need to take care of me first, with no guilt. If I have to put aside an errand that he wants me to do because it conflicts with my self-care, I assure him that it is simply not on the agenda for the day. I offer to delegate it out to someone else, do it another time, or simply say “I just can’t fit it in”. He understands and likewise, I don’t expect him to immediately jump to a task I would like him to do around the house.

Enjoy your day, your week and your new year with the goal of happiness and not a number on a scale. Go for peace in the home and not a number, chart or measurement you may fall short of. Try self-care followed by serving and you will have a new appreciation for the “serving” portion of the relationship.1015162352a_burst02

 

Life After Infidelity

Ephesians 4:32  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave  you.

Has it been 4 years or five? I asked myself this question at a recent book signing. The woman purchasing my book was asking how long it had been since I discovered my husband texting another woman. I chuckled to myself as I realized that I could not remember if it was four years or five.2013-01-19-19-44-57-1

If I really want to, I can still dredge up the memory of when the pain was so fresh, so raw, so real. Each day brought a song on the radio that made me sad. I may be innocently walking through the grocery store and see the back of someone’s head that had the same color or style hair that she had. Maybe I was just cooking dinner and my husband was late getting home from work. There went my mind, wandering again and thinking of a dozen inappropriate reasons why he might be late.

If you are the recovering spouse of an affair, do not think that forgiveness will make all of those hurt feelings simply go away. Forgiveness is just the beginning of what may take up to a full year to get through, and a lifetime to fully understand. With my situation, it felt similar to the loss of a loved one. It was in fact, a loss of trust which can be just as painful. As with the loss of someone dear to you, that first year seems so difficult. The first Christmas without them, the first time their (or your) birthday comes around you are tempted to feel that loss. It is the same thing for the recovery process in getting through the affair. I remember the first Chrismas after the infidelity thinking about what a crummy gift I had received the year before when he was giving her a much nicer present. The first birthday after the affair I lamented about how the last year he had snuck out to see her after giving me a 99 cent card and a cake from the grocery store.

If you and your partner have decided to rebuild the marriage, think of it as reconstructing a house. You may have to start from the foundation and work you way up. If that is the case, then expect some sawdust, splinters, and drywall dust as you work on this new and improved “house”. Expect that you will have days where you hardly think of the infidelity at all, and other days when all you can do is feel like a failure. Be strong. Good times do come if you are faithful in your commitment to continue to love this person.

The best advice I can give is to avoid the huge temptation to play the guilt card. For about a year or two after the affair, when I felt that I was not getting the kind of attention, love, or time I felt I deserved, I would work into the conversation that she got the texts in the middle of the day or the lunch at a restaurant on a weekday and I didn’t. I felt it really set us back as a couple, as Jimmy was truly trying to put this behind him, and there I was, throwing it in his face again. Why? Was it just to get a little more attention? Did I think making him feel guilty would make him drop everything that was going on in his life and fawn over me like a lovesick teenager? It was a bitter pill I had to swallow to step back and realize that he was trying his best and still is trying  to be the best man he can for me. Am I doing the same to be the best woman I can for him? I think of Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

     Continue to love, respect, honor, enjoy and laugh with your spouse. Keep the lines of communication open and honest, and eventually, you too will be scratching your head saying “Hmmm, has it been four years, or five?”

Keeping Intimacy Alive

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Marriage can be a delicate balance of the mundane and the passionate, the ordinary and the romantic. For many, mundane and ordinary take precedence over the passion and intimacy. When you were young and madly in love, I bet you never thought it would get so vanilla. It is common for intimacy to lessen, but only if you are the average couple. If you want a stellar relationship, you have to be above average and willing to work at a continuing development of the partnership.
Comfort in the relationship is often the reason why our intimacy lessens. A wife may feel like she can get away with coming home from work and donning the sweat pants. A husband may let that beer gut protrude a little more.  A busy lifestyle with distractions like TV shows, attending the kid’s concerts and sporting events can leave little time for each other.
Can you start to recreate that spark by spicing things up in the bedroom? It keeps the mystery alive. Recently my husband surprised me by taking out the back seats of the “mom” van and filling it with pillows and blankets. He drove me to a secluded place and made love in the van like crazy teenagers.
Once in a while, I will take my husband on a mystery date. The latest one was to take him to a winery where we enjoyed painting our own set of wine glasses as we drank.  Now, every time we use the glasses, we are reminded how much fun date night is, even after 30 years of marriage.
When you have been married for years and years you may feel like you know everything about them, but you will never fully know your partner, as we are (and should be) always evolving, growing, learning and changing. Therefore, it should be fun and easy to continually attempt new things. Perhaps a new genre of book you can read together, a different restaurant, meeting new friends, going up to a couple you have never met at coffee time after church and chatting with them, redecorating a room together, learning how to play a game or sport that only the other spouse excels at are just a few ideas that come to mind.
Some of my married friends feel like they are living separate lives from their spouse and think that it is healthy to maintain some autonomy. I am not entirely sure that couples should maintain separate lives. I never enjoyed drinking and dancing on date night. I prefer dinner and a movie. But, when my husband complained that I never liked the bar scene, I was totally fine with him going out with his male friends to tie one on. Later I discovered that the man he hung out with was divorced and that they would dance with women they met. The seemingly innocent night out with the guys led to an affair that I had discovered had been going on for about 5 or 6 months. When he and I decided to resurrect the marriage, I had to learn how to enjoy an occasional drink and to be ok with looking like a fool on the dance floor.  It was a lesson for me that my husband didn’t care how stupid I looked dancing around. He just wanted a fun night with his wife. When I stayed home or worked an evening job, I deprived him of the opportunity to enjoy being with me.
That being said, we do enjoy different things. He loves to shoot his bow and arrow at a target range. I love to grow organic vegetables. He likes Clint Eastwood movies. I don’t.  Do you see where I am going here? It is fine to have different interests that make our lives richer for being able to share our differences. I enjoy watching him shoot at the target and he enjoys eating my garden goodies.
If you think you have seen it all, it is time for a meeting. Yes, I know, it is no fun to have a board meeting with a spouse, but often times you must approach your mate with your concerns and your goals for keeping the love alive. Make a list if you have to, of all of the things you would like to try. Read a relationship book and assure your husband that you are not trying to “fix” anything, but simply continuing to love and grow with him. You never want to get to the point of where one of you is looking for something outside of the relationship!

 For my husband, he found something outside of the boundary of marriage after our 25th year together. Perhaps it was a typical mid-life crisis. He saw our first born going off to college and felt old. I had been working a lot at an evening job and he was lonely. 

For me, I have not looked outside of the relationship for fulfillment unless you call changing careers looking for something more. As of late, I have changed my circle of friends to include more people who are committed to healthy relationships and prosperity. It has been an exciting thing to expand my breadth of knowledge as I go into my 50s.
To avoid confusion and heartache, I recommend that you do not be subtle in your relationship. Your needs must be known, heard and understood. Subtle often does not work when dealing with your spouse. It’s ok to be blunt if you can do it with love in your heart.
If you need more suggestions, read a risqué chapter from a book, throw away the flannel pajamas, get new sheets, put some different music on the MP3, gaze into each other’s eyes, or role play. You are only limited by your own creativity. Just remember that love and happiness is a choice. Choose love!

Emotional Infidelity

What is emotional infidelity? Some say that the book of Matthew from the Bible (Matthew 5:28) is a bit extreme. I mean, come on, that book was written over 2000 years ago! But let’s think again. Do you think people 2000 years ago had money problems? Did they have relationship issues? Did the men look at women other than their wives? Did the wives look at other men and wonder “What if….”?  I think our current issues are as old as time itself. Today we just have fancier gadgets, different modes of transportation and entertainment, but the emotions, arguments, tastes of individuals are basically the same.

So let’s check out the N.I.V. version. It says “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart.”

Most of us look at this as a bit out of touch with reality, but having been cheated on in the very real sense, I cannot help but think that it all began there……with just some emotional infidelity. It was only a simple look across  the bar. A lonely, single mom checking out a lonely, married man.What began as emotional infidelity blossomed into a full blown affair. Perhaps it was as innocent as a simple smile or a kind look. Maybe it progressed to sitting closer at the bar, offering to buy the next drink or a guiltless dance to a great song the band was playing, but on and on it went.

Whether this went on in one night of over the course of several weeks is irrelevant. Whether an innocent dance with another woman ended right there or progressed to sharing phone numbers and sex is irrelevant. In my mind, it is still hurtful and still “cheating”.

Wives, be careful how long you linger at the post office talking to that nice looking, male teller. Husbands, why are you stopping off at the bar after work while your wife worked all day and is rushing to get the kids home from baseball practice in time to have a family dinner? Wives, is it appropriate to go to a business dinner with a male co-worker? Husbands, when you are in a hotel for business are you really just being entertained by the TV choices at your hotel?

Let’s start thinking of our partner first, and seeing if that cheap thrill is really so innocent after all. Remember that we truly did fall in love with our mate at one time and even through many changes, they are still yours to love, adore, and cherish.

We Both Eat the Same Salad – Finding a Neutral Activity

Are you and your mate competitive with each other? If not, I am 100 % jealous and suggest you read a different blog today. However, if you are like me and my husband, everything can become a competition if we allow it.

For some background, my husband and I met when we were both competitive athletes, racing almost every weekend. The year we decided to marry, the wedding had to be on the one weekend that both of us were free from races.

Riding our bikes together meant Jimmy sprinting to the top of a hill without even breaking a sweat. For Jimmy, swimming with me meant struggling to catch a quick breath while I glided by him not even needing a breath every stroke, but only every third stroke.

Let’s face it. We each had our own strengths that we worked hard for. Sad thing is, often I felt just a bit too much satisfaction beating him at Scrabble. He would seem just a bit too smug kicking my rear at Labyrinth, the game where you must take a metal ball through a moving maze. I could win 3 out of 4 games of pinball and he could always annihilate me at darts, and the list went on and on and on.

I wish I could tell you that close to thirty years later I am more mature, but I still like to show my prowess. Just being honest here. My solution? Try something neutral, or something that neither one of us has much experience in. I recently asked my husband to brainstorm with me, and here are some of the things that the two of us came up with.

1) Bird watching while hiking. No competition there unless we are keeping score of who identified more species.
2) Reading . We can read a book to each other, taking turns at the chapters, or we can just bask in the physical presence of each other reading our own books. When we do this, I also enjoy distracting him when I think we have read enough!
3) Canoeing. This can be horrible if you are in separate boats, as there will always be a winner. Same boat, no problem.
4) Gardening. Unless you are childish enough to say “My tomato plant grew taller than yours”, then you are fairly safe here too. This is a fantastic way to spend time together, and I do not mind doing more of the weeding when I know that Jimmy is doing more of the heavy tilling. The end result is….we are both eating the same salad.

I would love to hear what other couples are doing to stay sane in a competitive relationship. Please comment.

5 Tips to falling in love again, with your spouse.

 

Have you been married for more than 4 years?  Is the romance starting to stall?  Are kids on the way?  Are you seeing her true colors?  Is he becoming just a bit too familiar?   I call the time between the newlywed period and the time where you and your love are blissfully sitting in rocking chairs looking at pictures of the grandkids, the middle marriage.  Middle marriage can be rough.  On the one hand, we enjoy the familiarity and security of the same set of lips kissing us goodnight, the same person to keep your secrets safe, and the same person to talk to after a bad day.  On the other hand, there is a super hot woman your husband works with and it has really started to bug you how he looks at other women when you are out to eat.  Maybe there is an extra accommodating gentleman behind the counter at the post office that you find yourself going out of your way to get in his line to chit chat.

Maybe your issues go way beyond that.  Bills are piling up, the house is a wreck every day from your toddler running wild. Perhaps there is a recent job loss, your lazy teenagers are giving you lip, your weight is up and your spirits down.  Don’t forget that as couples age, their taste in music, friends, foods and even TV shows can change too.  Does that mean you are growing apart?  No……it just means you are continually changing and evolving, as all of us humans; married and unmarried do!

So when did that sweet man become a crab?  When did she become such a whiner? Why can’t he just listen to you and stop telling you to get to the point?  Why won’t she just get to the point?  Enjoy these 5 tips to reframe the way you see your spouse.

1)    Remember that you fell in love with someone who did listen to your long stories.  Shorten them.

2)    Never forget the magical feeling you got when her eyes danced after that soft kiss. Now go and give her that totally unexpected kiss.

3)    When you come home and see the house trashed…..again, pick up a few toys and think of the Bible verse from 2 Corinthians 4: 17 that says  “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.”

4)    Instead of rolling your eyes that she wants to go out for dinner, when you just reconciled your checkbook down to $42.03, see if you can do take out from her favorite place and eat in a different room other than the cluttered living room with that TV blaring.

5)    Finally, play a game where you face each other, hold hands and see how long you can make eye contact with your mate before you blink or burst into laughter.  The winner gets to pick the desserts for the night. And, yes, you may interpret “desserts” any way you like.

Stacey Greene is the author of Stronger Than Broken – One couple’s decision to move through an affair.