Face/Off was a movie made in 1997 starring Nicolas Cage and John Travolta. I remember being both mesmerized and freaked out at how someone’s face (Nicolas Cage) could be transplanted onto someone else’s face (John Travolta) and vice versa, along with vocal training, to impersonate one another. They were able to pretend to be one another so well that even John Travolta’s movie wife thought it was him. I often wondered if I were married, would I be able to tell the difference between my husband and an imposter. Oh, the worries of a 19 year old!Fast forward 20 plus years and I have gained a lot of personal and professional experience when it comes to relationships and faces. There’s something so intimate about touching someone’s face. Many relationship experts including John Gottman, Sue Johnson, and Ester Perel, to name a few, talk about the significance of face holding. I love to watch reactions of my client couples when I ask them, “So, when’s the last time you held one another’s faces?”Holding your partner’s face slows this fast paced, crammed schedule, children needing, work-driven life down. It tells the other person, “Hey, I see you. I notice you. You matter.” It opens the door to reminiscing of last summer’s vacation when you got that freckle on your cheek or the partner expressing how smooth your skin is or the feeling pokey whisker missed while shaving. It’s looking deep into the dark or light iris of the eyes and smiling into the soul. Compliments seem to naturally ebb and flow when you’re gazing into one another’s eyes while holding each other’s cheeks. We need this connection. Our relationship craves this affection. When’s the last time you felt like you mattered to your partner? That you were seen past the phone, laptop, paper, or child(ren)?I chuckle now at my future spouse impersonation fear 20 years ago. No one could pull off being as quirky and loving as my husband. However, more significantly is that as our relationship has deepened, not perfectly, but intentional, this has been a regular check-in time routine for us. Even when we’re both spent and absolutely exhausted, five minutes of face-holding reminds us that we’re in this together and that we belong and matter.I encourage you to try this. See what happens. If you want to learn ways to be more intentional in your relationship, I encourage you to find a therapist who will help you improve your communication, help manage conflict more effectively, and strengthen your intimacy.
According to couples therapists, infidelity is the second most difficult relationship problem, surpassed only by domestic violence. Most of the time, the other partner gets blindsided in the knowledge about their partner’s affair. Affairs do not have to be sexual for there to be infidelity. Sometimes the greatest betrayals happen without touching. Infidelity is any emotional or sexual intimacy that violates trust. “At least one or both parties in 50% of all couples, married and living together, straight and gay, will break their vows of sexual or emotional exclusivity during the lifetime of the relationship.” While most people want to be loving and dedicated to their partner, there obviously needs to be more awareness of the appropriate boundaries in friendships, work relationships, and internet interactions. Where are the lines between platonic and romantic feelings outside of the couple relationship? What are the signs or myths to look for? First and foremost, anytime there is a secret emotional intimacy, there is potential for an impending betrayal. Here are some myths encompassing affairs:Myth: Affairs happen in unhappy or unloving marriages/relationships.Fact: Affairs can happen in good marriages.Myth: Affairs occur mostly because of sexual attraction.Fact: The lure of an affair is how the unfaithful partner is mirrored back through the adorning eyes of the new love. Another appeal is that individuals experience new roles and opportunities for growth in new relationships.Myth: A cheating partner almost always leaves clues, so a naïve spouse must be burying his or her head in the sand. Fact: The majority of the affairs are never detected.Myth: The person having an affair isn’t ‘getting enough’ at home.Fact: The truth is that the unfaithful partner may not be giving enough.There is hope after an affair. If both partners are willing and wanting to stay together, here are some ways to bring about healing:
- Find a therapist whom you can trust and confide in. Make sure both of partners feel validated and heard in the therapy session.
- In order to rebuild intimacy, you must be willing to talk about the affair with the betrayed partner. “Trying to recover without discussing the betrayal is like waxing a dirty floor.”
- The aftermath of an affair can offer partners who are still committed to their marriage an opportunity to strengthen their bond. “Exploring vulnerability often leads to a more intimate relationship.”
- If you notice you and/or your partner turning outwards in the relationship instead of towards one another, seek help before bigger issues emerge. All relationships need tweaks and tune ups every now and then. Nevertheless, when the tweaks are not attended to, that leads to greater risk of greater damage.
Adapted from: Not “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity.” By Shirley P. Glass, Ph.D.
Have you ever wondered what it is like for someone on the 5th floor of a building versus someone on the 9th floor? Can you see more, can you see less, can you see what I see? Perspective is a critical item in understanding. Anything that happens in the world lacks meaning until we decide to give it meaning. We all have our own ideas of how life should be, could be, and would be if things appeared or happened a certain way. However, we all know life does not always play out the way we want.In relationships, perspectives play an important role in empathy, sympathy, compromise, and cooperation. There are times where one person sees the glass as half empty and the other as half full. While these two statements are each true, what meaning is given to the reason for the perspective? Sometimes seeing another person's perspective gives us a new perspective on life. The person on the 5th floor only sees what they can see and the same goes for the person on the 9th floor. So, what do you do when you have reached your own perspective and you do not or cannot see the other’s? Come together, compromise, and tell the person to “meet me on the 7th floor.” Each person takes their own steps to give up their perspective to meet in the middle for a better understanding. The key is to understand the power of your perception and recognize your ability to change it. Here are a few steps to help:
- Explain your perspective respectfully, honestly, and openly
- Be open to hearing the other person’s perspective intently, respectfully, and openly
- Be willing to meet the person in the middle on finding some understanding if a resolution is desired
- Every now and then, do not be afraid to go up to the 9th floor or go down to the 5th because there is always something to be learned
People ask me all the time if couples therapy can help them or someone they know. Hesitations range from doubting its usefulness to how long it's going to take to how much it's going to cost. Others worry that their problems have been occurring for so long that there's no way to improve them or maybe they could even get worse. However, research shows that anywhere from 70-90% of couples that complete couples therapy report significant improvement in their relationship, often in as little as 6 sessions.In my practice, I take my research- and experience-informed methods and tailor them to each couple. I find that true change comes when we work together to stop blaming each other and waiting for the other person to change. Instead, I encourage partners to each take responsibility for their own part, both in the problems and in the potential solutions. Oftentimes therapy helps to process the problems and hurts of the past, but also focus on what partners can each do to be a part of the solution. As these solutions can vary greatly from couple to couple, I see my job as helping identify the problems, come up with solutions that each partner agrees to, and walk you through the steps until you're back on solid ground.My goal for my clients is not to simply find a way to keep the relationship in tact, but instead to help partners create a relationship that can thrive. I help provide the tools necessary to not only get you out of the current crisis, but also to maintain that movement and set the stage for the relationship to continue growing moving forward. If your relationship is in trouble, I encourage you to call or email me so we can talk further about how therapy can help guide you to a better relationship and a better life.