Category: Articles

Take a Time Out to Calm Down

time out

Some conflicts become heated as levels of anger and frustration rise. Rather than speaking assertively, partners begin to accuse, criticize, or yell. Rather than listening actively, partners interrupt, belittle, and ignore.

Physiologically, the “fight or flight” response is triggered as each person goes into a protection mode with little or no regard for their partner. In this state of escalation, it is not uncommon to say or do things we later regret. Moreover, it is nearly impossible to have a productive conversation leading to a mutually agreed upon resolution.

This is when a “time-out” can be beneficial.

A time-out provides couples with an opportunity to cool down, identify their feelings and needs, and begin to think productively again about how to approach the issues they face.

1. RECOGNIZE YOUR NEED FOR A TIME-OUT Are your fists clenched? Is your face red? Are you breathing fast? Are the tears streaming down your face? Do you feel like screaming or throwing something? Are you afraid of your partner’s intensity Do you feel emotionally closed off?


  • Learn to recognize the signs that things have become too intense for you to have a productive interaction with your partner.
  • What physical and emotional reactions indicate you need a time-out?


2. REQUEST THE TIME-OUT: Call a time-out for yourself by saying something like “I’m just too angry to talk right now; I need to take a time-out. Please give me an hour to calm down and gather my thoughts.”


  • Remember to call the time-out for yourself. It is seldom helpful to tell the other person “You need a time-out!”
  • Suggest a time when you think you’ll be ready to resume.


3. RELAX AND CALM DOWN: Take some deep breaths. Go for a jog. Take a walk or a bath. Write in your journal. Read, pray, or watch television for a while.


  • Do something that will help you relax and recover from the emotional intensity.
  • What method(s) could you use to calm down?


4. REMEMBER WHAT’S IMPORTANT: Try to identify what you were thinking and feeling that became so difficult to discuss.


  • Think about “I” messages you could use to tell your partner what you were thinking or feeling, and what you need from him/her.
  • Try to spend some quiet time considering your partner’s point of view and what they are feeling.
  • Remember the two of you are a team, and the only way your relationship will “win” is if you work toward a solution that both individuals can feel good about.


5. RESUME THE CONVERSATION: Bring in the skills of Assertiveness and Active Listening and/or the Ten Steps for Conflict Resolution. These structured skills can help contain the intensity as you attempt to resolve a conflict. Honor your commitment to return to the issue when you are ready to have a more productive conversation.

More tips and reminders, tune in next week…



PREPARE/ENRICH is a customized online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas.

Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

Contact me for more information on how your relationship can be assessed.


are you my mother

How does my Attachment Style effect my Love Life?

are you my mother

Imagine that you’re an infant monkey, and you’ve just been thrown into a cage after several hours in isolation. You’ve been deprived of food, so you’re starving.

Facing you are two adult-looking (fake) monkeys, designed to look like each one could potentially be your mother. On the left is a “wire mother,” equipped with a bottle and feeding tube so you can cling to her and fill your belly with milk. On the right is a “cloth mother,” with no bottle, but with a fuzzy terrycloth exterior that will allow for hours of soft, warm snuggles. You can only run to one of the monkeys.

Which one will you choose?

Six or seven decades ago, many psychologists would have claimed that any affection that we experience towards our parental figures is a purely behaviorist response. After many instances of conditioning a sense of “positive affect” after receiving life-sustaining food from mothers, children associate that positive emotion with these caregivers, an association that serves as the sole explanation for why people “love” their mothers. But that’s not what Harry Harlow thought.

Harlow, a psychologist working at the University of Wisconsin – Madison during the 1960s, believed that there was something more important underlying our affection for Mom and Dad than our primal need to eat and survive. He believed that there was an additional factor: Comfort.

What Harlow did to test this hypothesis was arguably ingenious, though inarguably cruel.1 Harlow deprived monkeys of food, making them desperately hungry, and then stuck them into a cage where they had a choice of two “mother figures” to run towards. On the left was a wire mother – cold and uncomfortable, yet equipped with a bottle that would feed the baby with life-sustaining nutrients. On the right was a cloth mother – warm, soft, and comfortable, yet unable to provide the infant with any food. If the only reason why we “love” our mothers (and fathers) is based on a conditioned response to our need for food, then the infant monkeys should run to the wire mothers who can feed them every time. Yet that’s not what happened. Not even close.

Time after time, even when desperately hungry, the monkeys would run over to the wire mother just long enough to fill up on milk, and then dash to the cloth mother as quickly as possible to spend the next 17-18 hours snuggling into her warm, comforting body. The infants would sometimes come close to starvation before they would voluntarily leave their cloth mothers to refill their bellies.

The monkeys showed us that when push comes to shove, we don’t love our mothers just because they feed us. We love them because they cuddle us.

Harlow’s thinking on this was largely motivated by one of the most important psychologists in our field’s history: John Bowlby, who developed attachment theory in the 1950s based on his observations of young, orphaned boys.

Bowlby determined that our attachment to parental figures (in particular, he argued, to mothers) plays a huge, critical role in our ability to learn, grow, and develop healthy adult relationships. Without a strong attachment, we are destined to be deeply disturbed.2

Whereas Harlow took this research and used it to explore the hypothesis that we have a core motivation for love and affection, a student of Bowlby’s named Mary Ainsworth decided to examine something else: What do the different types of mother-child relationships look like?

How can we characterize them, and what types of parenting behaviors produce different kinds of children? To do this, Ainsworth created a paradigm known as the Strange Situation Procedure.3 The entire thing takes about 20 minutes, and follows a strict sequence of events:

  1. The parent and the infant enter a laboratory playroom.
  2. The parent and the infant are left alone. The infant is allowed to freely explore the room and all of the toys.
  3. A stranger walks in and begins talking to the parent. The stranger then approaches the infant.
  4. The parent leaves as inconspicuously as possible, leaving the stranger alone with the infant.
  5. The infant is now separated from his/her parent. The stranger tries to interact with the infant.
  6. The parent comes back into the room, greeting and comforting the infant.
  7. The stranger leaves the room, leaving the parent alone with the infant.
  8. The parent leaves the room again. The infant is left alone in the room (supervised through the mirror, of course).
  9. The stranger re-enters and again tries to interact with the infant.
  10. The parent re-enters, greets the infant, and tries to pick him/her up & provide comfort. The stranger leaves.

The experimenters, watching this whole sequence occur through a two-way mirror, are keeping track of the following four critical things:

  1. How much does the infant explore the environment, doing things like playing with new toys or crawling around?
  2. How does the infant respond when his/her parent leaves the room?
  3. How does the infant behave when he/she is alone with the stranger?
  4. How does the infant respond when his/her parent comes back into the room?

After watching dozens and dozens of these interactions, Ainsworth soon discovered that there are three main types of attachment styles: Secure, Avoidant, and Anxious. Infants can be separated into these categories based on how they act during the paradigm described above.

  • Secure Attachment: Securely attached infants are happy when Mom is around. They are happy to explore the playroom, using Mom as a “secure base” that they can turn to when they get scared or upset, but they don’t feel the need to cling to her. When she leaves, they become incredibly distressed, often crying or refusing to leave the door in the hopes that she will come back. However, once Mom returns into the room, they are happy to be comforted by her, and are soon back to normal. Within a short period of time, they are happy to explore the playroom again, as if Mom never left.
  • Avoidant Attachment: Avoidantly attached infants are generally nonplussed or uninterested when Mom is around. They are happy to explore the playroom, but this is mostly because they have no real interest in interacting with Mom. When she leaves, they don’t show obvious distress. When she returns, they don’t seem particularly happy to see her. Overall, these infants seem largely avoidant or disconnected from their mothers.
  • Anxious Attachment: Although anxiously attached infants might seem fine in the playroom at first, once Mom leaves, they become incredibly distressed. However, unlike the securely attached infants, they do not return to normal once Mom returns to the room. Instead, they might seem deeply conflicted, alternating between seeming very angry at Mom for daring to leave or clinging to her and continuing to cry hysterically. They do not quickly return to normal and go back to exploring the playroom; they continue to cling to Mom or express anger about the fact that she abandoned them.

These attachment styles are presumed to arise from different “parenting” behaviors, mostly revolving around emotional availability and responsiveness.

Generally, parents will create secure attachment bonds with their children if they are responsive to their needs and emotionally available. This means that when the child wants attention, the parent will reliably provide that attention and care; however, when the child wants to be left alone, the parent will give them an appropriate amount of space to explore and be independent (in a safe way, of course).

Parents might create avoidant attachment bonds with children if they are consistently unavailable, rejecting, or distant. In this case, children learn that their parents are not going to be there for them, so they adopt a pattern of attachment that revolves around being independent to the point of never needing their parents.

Finally, parents might create anxious attachment bonds with children if they are inconsistently responsive. This means that whereas they might sometimes respond to children’s needs, they might be unresponsive just as frequently. Someone who practices this parenting style can be thought of as practicing a fairly self-centered approach to parenting; attention is given when convenient for the parent, even if the child does not want to be held or played with, but not always given when the child wants (or needs) it.

Of course, parents will not always be able to respond to their children’s cries, needs, or wants. No parent is perfect! But these are patterns of behavior that emerge over a long period of time, in which a parent might be unresponsive as often as he/she is responsive, in a completely unpredictable way.

What else does a secure attachment look like? The three most important features of a secure attachment are that the infant will proximity seek (wanting to be close to the mother), use the mother as a safe haven (cling to her when upset or scared), and use her as a secure base (use the knowledge that she is there as a “safety net” to gain the necessary courage to explore the surrounding environment and try new, interesting things without being too scared).

What is truly fascinating is that these attachment patterns can end up influencing how we approach relationships for the rest of our lives! The general idea is that our relationships with our parents create “working models” (or mental representations) of what a relationship “should” look like. Our parents’ levels of emotional responsiveness, availability, and dependability lead us to create mental models that form our concepts of what to expect in relationships throughout our lives.

In the table below, you can see how people with each of the three attachment styles might approach adult relationships as they grow up, including romantic relationships, friendships, and more.


There are even questionnaires that you can take to assess your attachment style within romantic relationships, or your adult attachment to your parents, which asks questions about how much you feel you can depend on your father or whether or not you worry about being abandoned by your mother (I’ve included some great links to a wide range of these “attachment quizzes” at the bottom of this post).

But the nuances of adult attachments are a story for another day… For now, all we need to know is that our mothers (and fathers) are incredibly important. We need love — in some ways, we crave it as much as (or even more than) we crave basic needs like food. The different ways in which our mothers might respond to our wants and needs shape how we interact with others, respond to strangers, and explore our environments, which ends up playing a big role in how we learn and grow throughout our entire lives.

Even into adulthood, our attachments with parents continue to play a huge role, and the models they provide for us about how we should expect other people to respond to us within close relationships can shape what we look for in romantic partners, friends, and colleagues.

Fun Stuff


1. It should obviously go without saying that Harlow’s experiments on infant rhesus macaques were incredibly unethical. He raised infant monkeys in isolation, leading to serious mental and emotional disturbances that plagued these poor monkeys for the remainder of their lives. I do not condone this behavior. While I remain glad that there is empirical evidence in support of our core need for love and comfort, and I think the evidence that Harlow established is important for our field and for our understanding of human nature, I am deeply saddened that these theories were developed in this way. Descriptions of Harlow’s experiments on this site should never be taken as an endorsement for the inhumane treatment of animals.

2. I would like to make it very, incredibly, explicitly clear that this statement says NOTHING about any debate on working mothers, working fathers, etc. There are no differences in attachment quality when comparing children of working parents and children with a stay-at-home parent. Bowlby is speaking about children who were, largely, treated like the monkeys in Harlow’s experiments. These were children who were extremely isolated, had no social contact for hours and hours on end, and had absolutely no parental figures present during their formative years. Research has shown that as long as the quality of an attachment is strong when the parent and child interact, it does not matter if that parent happens to be at work for most of the day. Please understand this.

3. All participating mothers provided consent in the original study for these videos to be shared and used for educational purposes in perpetuity.

4. Even though most early attachment research was conducted with mothers as the primary caregiver being observed, attachment relationships with fathers are absolutely crucial.

Computer Spying: How to Investigate Web Browser History

7 Infidelity Facts

With the advent of the internet, infidelity in the virtual realm has become a major problem in relationships for both partners. The increased ease of infidelity has tempted men and women alike into the darker realms of internet chat rooms and pornography sites in a way that was never possible in the pre-internet age.

Along with this ease of infidelity comes a whole new level of technological prowess necessary to know the truth. The old standards of lipstick on the collar and the smell of perfume simply do not apply in an internet chat room, though the infidelity is just as real.

Learning a few basic skills will help you to check up on your spouse’s online habits, as well as their level of fidelity, but before you look, be sure you want to know the answer. With social media affairs being a rising number in divorce cases, we ask ourselves, what is it about these social media relationships that make us drawn to them?

Web Browsers

There are two main areas to investigate in a web browser when looking for a clue to your partner’s online habits. These are the history and the cookie folder. The history of a web browser lists the websites the browser has visited, and cookies are small text files that record information about where your browser has been. Sometimes, cookies are malicious and can cause trouble. Other times, they are innocent and save web settings or help to automatically sign you into a site. Cookies have to be manually deleted, however, and are often forgotten when the browser is cleaned.

Each of the main web browsers used today has an easy way of accessing the information stored in these places. Here are a few instructions for Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer – two of the most popular browsers available.

To check the browser history, follow these steps:

1) Ctrl-H will open the History Sidebar in Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. This will display a list of visited websites on the left-hand side of the browser frame.
2) Arrange the websites with the drop-down menu and use the scroll bar on the right to look at each website. If one of them seems suspicious, click on it and the browser window will navigate to the site. Be prepared for x-rated content, however. Also, to search for certain keywords, type the word in the blank field and hit “Enter.” Words to search for might include sexual terms.

To check a browser’s cookie folder, follow these steps:

For Internet Explorer:
1) Click Tools -> Internet Options -> General Tab. 
2) Under “Temporary Internet Files” click Settings. 
3) Click the button that says “View Files.”

For Mozilla Firefox:
1) Click Tools -> Options -> Privacy. The Privacy option has a “lock” graphic. 
2) Select the Cookies tab
3) Click “View Cookies.”

In each of these cases, these processes will give you a list of cookies. This list is searchable by keyword in Firefox, and is opened in a containing folder through Explorer. Some of these cookies will be innocent, such as Hotmail or Google cookies, but if you see anything with XXX in the name, the browser has navigated to a site containing pornography. Whether this was intentional or otherwise will be a matter for your judgment.


While spying on your partner is not the best solution, it can help you to either confirm your suspicions once and for all, or stop being so suspicious and enjoy your relationship!

Jessica London has been a P.I in Las Vegas for many years, and as written a detailed book called “Cheating, Spying, Lying.”

For the sake of your sanity and peace of mind. It will be the best 20 bucks you will ever spend.

– Jessica London

Trust your unconcious mind over your concious mind to Pick a Lie


It’s remarkably difficult to tell when other people are lying.

That’s not just my opinion, that’s the result of many studies on lying conducted over the years.

As, Leanne ten Brinke, the author of a new study investigating lie detection, says:

“Our research was prompted by the puzzling but consistent finding that humans are very poor lie detectors, performing at only about 54% accuracy in traditional lie detection tasks.”

Given that 50% is pure chance, this isn’t much of an improvement.

But perhaps our unconscious minds are naturally better at lie detection and our conscious minds get in the way of that innate ability?

That’s what ten Brinke et al. (2014) tested by having participants watch videos of suspects in a mock-crime interview.

Some of these videos showed people lying about having stolen some money, while others showed them telling the truth.

Could the participants tell the difference?

The results showed that, consciously, they were very poor at telling who was lying and who wasn’t.

Lies were detected 43% of the time and truth-telling only 48% of the time. Neither even broke through the pure chance barrier.

The experimenters, however, also gave participants a test of what their unconscious thought.

They were shown a series of words, some associated with lying and others associated with truth-telling.

What they found was that participants displayed an unconscious association between the words related to deception and the suspects who had been lying.

Similarly, truth-related words were unconsciously associated with the suspects who’d been telling the truth.

On the unconscious test, then, participants did much better than they did consciously.

These findings challenge the traditional view of human beings as terrible lie detectors:

“Across two experiments, indirect measures of accuracy in deception detection were superior to traditional, direct measures, providing strong evidence for the idea that, although humans can’t consciously report who is lying and who is telling the truth, somewhere on a less conscious level we do actually have a sense of when someone is lying.”

The question then becomes: if on some level we know when people are lying, how can we access this information?

At present, we don’t know.


About the author


Dr Savannah Ellis is a psychologist and the author of Her latest book is “I Cheated: Easy Affair Recovery Strategies for the Unfaithful Spouse“. You can follow Sav by RSS feed, on Twitter and Facebook.




exit affair

The Exit Affair

exit affair

The Exit Affair


Out The Door Affair



Finally it’s my turn



Exiters are Conflict Avoiders at heart, but they take it further. One spouse has already decided to leave the marriage and the affair provides the justification. The other partner usually blames the affair rather than looking at how their marriage got to this point.


  • The relationship had underlying tension and resentment building up for years (perhaps starting before their wedding)
  • They are either unwilling to meet each other’s needs, or unwilling to talk about meeting each others needs.
  • The lack of conflict, is often misinterpreted as a sign “all is fine”
  • Leaving the relationship is often surrounded in guilt, however staying in the relationship would be unbearable.
  • The relationship with the lover would typically only last as long as the pain of leaving the relationship. The cheater will often spend many years by themselves avoiding commitment and “entrapment.”

Why the affair happened

This type of affair is usually the outcome of the 20 year train of thought based on some marker:
– The kids leaving home
– The end of a career
– end of government service

The affair is actually initiated years earlier in the mind of the infidel, and the marriage relationship is maintained and tolerated by the infidel on the basis of the future plan.

By the time the infidel is ready to leave the infidel often say “I’ve toyed with this idea for many years and I finally decided to do it”

Advice for the Betrayed Spouse

It is best to recognize this for what it is, handle the reality of loss, and build a new life.

– Recovery Potential: Unlikely

– Affair Reason: Loss of self


Recovery Tips:

– As the unfaithful spouse has been planning an exit for some time, this partner is less likely to want to work on the relationship. If he/she does enter counseling, the reason is guilt rather than desire.

– Time and space are needed for personal growth. After this time, the unfaithful partner may wish to return to the marriage and work on a recovery. This can take up to two years.

– Work on your communication and conflict resolution skills, to keep the relationship respectful and the friendship in place.

Deciding Whether to Stay Married or Get a Divorce?


time to wait before divorce

The decision needs to be based on thoughtful assessment rather than emotional reaction.


Based on the results of a survey of 1,083 people whose spouses had affairs


How long after discovery was there a decision as to whether to stay married or get a divorce?*

56% – Less than 3 months

30% – Three months to a year

14% – More than a year


The fact that most respondents (56%) made a decision about the fate of the marriage in less than 3 months after discovery reflects the tendency to feel pressure to quickly decide what to do.

However, most people are so overcome with emotion during the first few months that any decision reached during that time is unlikely to be based on clear, rational thinking.

If at all possible, it’s better to remain open to either possibility (rebuilding the marriage or divorcing) until after spending time and effort getting more clarity about the prospects for the future of the relationship.

The bottom line is that the decision is best made based on the prospects for the future rather than being based on what happened in the past.

Any life crisis (and an affair certainly qualifies as a crisis) “changes the world as we’ve known it.” And it takes time to envision the world based on the new reality—and even more time to reach some understanding of what has happened and what to do about it.

Even if there is a decision to get a divorce at some future time (after investing a lot of effort in determining whether the marriage can be rebuilt), this does not mean that a decision to divorce should have been made earlier. That’s because it’s not just what decision is made—but how well you can live with the decision.

Those who divorce only after investing lots of time and energy into determining the possibilities for rebuilding the marriage are likely to be able to live with their decision, knowing they did all they could. But those who decide to get out too quickly tend to second-guess themselves and wonder “what if…” or “should I have…”—so they have more difficulty living with their decision.

Even if the final decision is the same, the process used to reach the decision makes a significant difference.

What was the decision? *

54% – To stay married

19% – To get a divorce

27% – Still undecided


Most people DO stay married.

There has long been an assumption that most marriages end when an affair is discovered. That assumption is related to the fact that the secrecy surrounding this issue leads us to only hear about affairs in those marriages that end. When couples stay together, they may never share the information about the affair, leaving the general public to falsely assume that most marriages end when there is an affair. This assumption is further strengthened by the fact that most people will say, “if my spouse ever had an affair, I’d get out.” But any such comment is meaningless, since nobody knows what they would do unless/until it actually happens to them. At that point, there are many factors, both emotional and practical, that come into consideration.

Every couple needs 3rd party help after an affair. If you cannot see a counselor face-to-face, try our online affair recovery course.


1. Peggy Vaughan


Can a couple survive an affair?

Affair recovery story

It was just before midnight one night in October when Hillary Rothrock, a 30-year-old stay-at-home mom, discovered a side of her husband she’d never known existed.

The Lancaster, Pa., couple had been to an exercise class at the YMCA, then took their two small daughters for ice cream. When they got home, Ms. Rothrock put the girls to bed, took a shower and decided to check Facebook.

“Hey, can I look at your computer for a sec?” she asked her husband, Paul Rothrock, a 30-year-old product-support representative for a social-media ad company. He was in the living room, on his laptop, and his reaction stunned her. “No!” he hissed, pulling the computer to his chest.

Confused, she asked him again, and he became even more agitated. “You are not looking at this!” he insisted, gripping the computer tightly.

That was when Ms. Rothrock realized what was wrong.

There are few moments more painful than the disclosure of an extramarital affair, an event that provokes stress and anger in both the betrayer and betrayed. What each spouse does and says in the aftermath will reverberate a long time.

It is critical to stay calm, counselors say. The realization “felt like being punched in the chest,” Ms. Rothrock recalls, of the moment her husband wouldn’t surrender his laptop. Her training as a mental-health crisis counselor served her well when, as calmly as she could, she told her husband to hand over his computer-and his phone-or they were “done.”

Counselors say it is possible to repair a relationship after infidelity, but only if both parties are willing to work hard and honestly acknowledge shortcomings in the relationship and in themselves.

Some 20% of men and 14% of women who have ever been married have had extramarital sex, according to federally sponsored research conducted since 1972 by the social-science research organization NORC at the University of Chicago. (Reliable statistics about infidelity are scarce, largely because many people won’t own up to an affair.) Mr. Rothrock’s affair took place by video chat and other electronic means, but it was no less sexual or emotional, he says.

How many marriages survive infidelity? Peggy Vaughan, a San Diego researcher who runs the website, surveyed 1,083 people and found 76% of those whose spouses had affairs were still married and living with the spouse. That figure may skew high, though: Respondents were self-selecting visitors to Ms. Vaughan’s website, an “extramarital affairs resource center.” Estimates from a sampling of marriage therapists range from 30% to 80%.

Several studies indicate couples in marital therapy dealing with infidelity were just as successful as couples for whom no cheating was involved, says Jay Lebow, psychologist and clinical professor at the Family Institute at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., who published a review of couples-therapy research in the January 2012 issue of the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy.

Whether a marriage survives an affair depends on how healthy the marriage was to begin with, how long the affair lasted and the manner in which it was discovered.

“The couples who have a real chance of making it are the ones who are committed because they really want to be with each other, not because of the kids or because they feel obligated,” says Joan Sherman, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Lancaster, Pa.

For years after their wedding in 2004, the Rothrocks had fun. They went camping and to concerts and enjoyed their children. But with Mr. Rothrock working days and his wife working nights, they were exhausted and rarely saw each other. Their sex life suffered.

“We were in a mommy-and-daddy rut,” Mr. Rothrock says.

Ms. Rothrock quit her job last year to spend more time with the kids and found it difficult to adjust. Mr. Rothrock began going to Washington, D.C., twice a week for business.

When he was home, he found the din of family life hard to take. He started to think of his wife as a mother. When she became irritated with him, he felt scolded like a child. He withdrew emotionally and began to snap at her. When Ms. Rothrock asked him what was wrong, he replied: “I don’t know what you mean.”

In his Washington hotel room, Mr. Rothrock went to a social-networking site and communicated with people online, including an attractive single woman in the Midwest. She was about his age, and she was a flirt.

Soon, he was spending several hours a day talking with her on Facebook, via text and in private video chats. He told her he felt disconnected from his marriage. He sent her a birthday present and made plans to meet her at a tech conference. They had virtual sex, via instant message and video, but it was more than physical.

“It was definitely an emotional affair,” Mr. Rothrock says.

While re-establishing trust and communication, each spouse has a difficult task, says Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and Rutgers University research professor. The betrayer has to be willing to answer questions honestly. The betrayed has to stop asking questions eventually and never mention the affair again.

Ms. Rothrock spent hours reading her husband’s correspondence with the other woman, at times crying, while he sat by her side, she says. “I was completely devastated.”

The two stayed up the entire first night talking. Ms. Rothrock asked her husband questions about the affair, which he answered honestly. They talked about what they had each done wrong and what they wanted in their marriage. Mr. Rothrock apologized. And, perhaps for the first time, they openly discussed their sexual desires. In the morning, they took off their wedding rings.

“We both said, ‘We burnt down the house,’ ” Ms. Rothrock says.

And yet they kept talking. They got a therapist—Ms. Rothrock found a man, so her husband wouldn’t feel outnumbered. Mr. Rothrock cut ties with the other woman. The couple decided to tell their family and friends about the affair—which they feel helped a lot. “They gave a lot of feedback, like ‘Paul is a great guy, he made a mistake,’ ” says Ms. Rothrock.

The Rothrocks decided to start over-together. They treated each other as if they were the people they would date if they had divorced. They wrote a “constitution” to express what they each wanted: “A partner who trusts me to take care of things,” Mr. Rothrock says. “A partner who tells me what he’s thinking,” says Ms. Rothrock, who is now wearing her wedding band again.

Back to Happily Ever After “What Couples Do in the Aftermath of an Affair Can Determine Whether They’ll Have a Future Together”
By Elizabeth Bernstein

How to stay married for life – 9 Key Tasks


Research on what makes a marriage work shows that people in a good marriage have completed these  “tasks”:

1. Separate emotionally from the family you grew up in; not to the point of estrangement, but enough so that your identity is separate from that of your parents and siblings.

2. Build togetherness based on a shared intimacy and identity, while at the same time set boundaries to protect each partner’s autonomy.

3. Establish a rich and pleasurable sexual relationship and protect it from the intrusions of the workplace and family obligations.

4. For couples with children, embrace the daunting roles of parenthood and absorb the impact of a baby’s entrance into the marriage. Learn to continue the work of protecting the privacy of you and your spouse as a couple.

5. Confront and master the inevitable crises of life.

6. Maintain the strength of the marital bond in the face of adversity. The marriage should be a safe haven in which partners are able to express their differences, anger and conflict.

7. Use humor and laughter to keep things in perspective and to avoid boredom and isolation.

8. Nurture and comfort each other, satisfying each partner’s needs for dependency and offering continuing encouragement and support.

9. Keep alive the early romantic, idealized images of falling in love, while facing the sober realities of the changes wrought by time.

What do you think? Can you add to this list? What would you advise to a newly wed couple?


Conversation killers

How to Ask Questions to Improve Your Relationship Conversation Skills

Couple communication


Communication is the first pillar on which a stable relationship is founded for an important reason: if you don’t talk, it’s difficult to have a positive long-term relationship.

Part of being in an intimate relationship is knowing your partner intimately. Intimacy is more than just having sex. Intimacy is opening your vulnerabilities to your partner. It leads to having a deep and emotional understanding of each another. It is very difficult for anyone’s needs to get met if the partners engaged in the relationship do not have this kind of connection.

One of the most important ways this connection develops is through talking with your partner. This week, we will focus on teaching you the skill of how to ask a question.

8 tips to Communicate Effectively:

1. Be open and honest. If you aren’t honest with your partner, or your partner isn’t honest with you, it’s difficult to know each other well. Agree to be honest.

2. Learn how to talk and listen. Most of us think these are inborn traits. They aren’t. You need to learn how to talk and listen well. You should concentrate on using “I” statements – revealing feelings from inside yourself – trying to state what you are saying as clearly as you can, and listening with your whole body.

3. Set aside a time and place to talk. In this busy world, there are always reasons not to talk. Make sure you set aside specific times and places for conversations.

4. Develop parameters before the conversation begins. Considering that you have recently come from an affair, you will have more effective conversation if you agree on the limits of your conversation in advance. Consider specifying the topic and stating what you won’t talk about if the issue is contentious.

5. Ask open-ended questions. Questions that can only be answered with a “yes” or a “no” do not invite conversations. Learn to ask open-ended questions that encourage your partner to express themselves.

6. Know what to ask and what not to ask. Once you agree to be completely honest with one another, you should be careful what you ask. Don’t ask questions to which you don’t want the answers. Make sure you know what to ask before you do the asking.

7. Know what to do when and if the conversation gets out of hand. Some conversations could get too heated to do any good. Make sure you set up a signal that lets your partner know that you can’t move on with the conversation at this point in time.

8. Be consistent. It won’t do you much good to talk “once in a while.” Set your appointments to talk, and keep them. Your communication skills will improve with practice and decline without practice.

Asking Questions

When we ask questions, we are not only showing that we are listening, but we are also helping the speaker to communicate effectively with us.  The ability to ask good questions also helps us to learn and can even have social rewards.

Questions can come in many forms.  Some are basic, others are quite demanding of both the questioner and the questioned.

As we consider how to ask thoughtful, productive questions, Bloom’s Taxonomy will be a helpful framework with which to view things.  It establishes six levels of thinking, starting with the most basic and building up to what is known as “higher order thinking.”

The levels, starting with the base, are as follows:

  • Knowledge (building awareness of a topic)
  • Comprehension (understanding a topic)
  • Application (knowledge and comprehension put to practical use)
  • Analysis (how the topic “works” and/or affects other topics)
  • Synthesis (combining knowledge, comprehension, application, and analysis of multiple topics together)
  • Evaluation (judging the value of a topic)

Higher order questions such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation are not only more difficult to develop, but also more difficult to answer.  Familiarity with these levels allows us to identify where any particular question lands within the scale of complexity.  Don’t feel compelled to operate solely out of the higher level questions.  There is nothing wrong with basic questions; they form the backbone of critical thinking and daily life.  As is true of most things, a healthy balance is the key.

On that note, don’t feel the need to ask questions about everything, either.  We could think of it like we think about food: we need to eat, but we do not need to eat all the time.  We choose when to eat and when to refrain.  The same thing applies to questions.  Use your discretion.  When is it a genuine question and when are you just using a question as some sort of filler (or as a way to make yourself seem smart)?

Question Templates

When teaching my students the finer points of discourse, I provide them with a series of templates that they can use (or modify) as they continually work to improve their style and voice in writing.  The templates act sort of like training wheels on a bicycle: once you understand how it’s done, you don’t need them anymore, but while you’re learning it’s nice to have them there.

The same principle can apply for us here as we learn to ask better questions.  The templates below give us a clear framework for how to develop questions with a variety of goals, ranging from simple clarification to asking questions about questions.  Reading over the templates a time or two can prod your mind into thinking of good questions to ponder when someone is speaking, keeping you more engaged as you listen, and provide fodder for questions to pose aloud when appropriate. You’ll notice that these question templates apply much of what we just discussed about Bloom’s Taxonomy in a practical way.

I should note that I cannot take credit for developing the following templates, nor do I have the foggiest idea as to who first developed this particular set; I assume it was something I wrote down or photocopied during graduate school, but the original author has been lost to time.

Questions of Clarification

These are “basic” questions that help us comprehend meaning

  • What does he/she mean by _____?
  • What is the main point of _____?
  • How does _____ relate to _____?
  • Does he/she mean _____ or _____?
  • Could you give me an example of _____?
  • Would _____ be an example of _____?
  • Why does he/she say that?

Questions that Examine Reasons and Evidence

These are more complex questions that target why certain things are said or done.

  • How do you know _____?
  • Why do you think _____ is true?
  • Is there any evidence for _____?
  • Is there any evidence that _____?
  • What difference does _____ make?
  • What are his/her reasons for saying _____?
  • Are the reasons for _____ adequate?
  • What led him/her to believe _____?
  • How does _____ apply to _____?
  • Is there a reason to doubt _____?
  • Who could confirm that _____ is true?
  • Can someone else give evidence to support the view that _____?

Questions that Examine Assumptions

These are more complex questions that target what is being implied (things not being said directly).

  • What is he/she assuming?
  • All of his/her reasoning depends on the idea that _____.  Why is his/her reasoning based on _____ instead of _____?
  • He/she seems to assume that _____.  What is the reasoning for that assumption?
  • Why would someone make that assumption?

Questions about Viewpoints and Perspectives

These are more complex questions that target worldviews and beliefs. 

  • What does _____ imply?
  • When he/she says _____, is he/she implying _____?
  • If _____ happened, what else would happen as a result?  Why?
  • What effect would _____ have on _____?
  • If _____ and _____ are true, then what might also be true?
  • If we say that _____ is right, then would _____ be right too?
  • How might _____ respond to this issue?
  • How would you answer the objection that _____ would make?
  • How are _____’s and _____’s ideas alike?  How are they different?
  • How does _____ compare to Scripture?

Questions that Examine Implications and Consequences

These are more complex questions that target cause and effect relationships.

  • What effect would _____ have?
  • Could _____ really happen?
  • Is there an alternative to _____?
  • If _____ happened, what else would happen as a result?  Why?
  • When is _____ too much?

Questions about Questions

These are questions that allow us to evaluate the questions that we ask.

  • Can we break this question down at all?
  • Is this question clear?  Do we understand it?
  • Does this question ask us to evaluate something?  What?
  • Do we all agree that _____ is the heart of the question?
  • To answer this question, what other questions must be answered first?
  • Is this question easy or hard to answer?  Why?
  • Why is this question important?
  • Does this question lead to other important issues and questions?

Keep in mind that these may be modified to fit various situations as well as your particular style, of course, which is the beauty of templates.

The Social Benefits of Questions the-art-of-conversation

Questions do not have to be used exclusively for clarity.  There is much to be said for the aphorism that a person’s favorite subject is himself.  Asking questions can be a way to clarify, a way to learn, or simply a good social tool.  People love to talk about themselves, and asking questions is a great way to show interest and develop new relationships with people.  I find that when you ask questions, eventually most people (unless they are a sufferer of conversational narcissism) will start to feel the one-sided nature of things and naturally extend the speaker role to you so you can have a turn. Since you have played the part of the gentleman, they have a desire to (and a good model of how to) show the same courtesy to you.  They will listen more attentively and will most likely ask questions in the same manner that you did.

What Is Qualifying?

Asking questions will be a very fluid, interactive time in which the role of speaker and listener will bounce back and forth quickly.  However, in the course of the conversation you will eventually be called upon to agree, disagree, or qualify on the issue at hand, whether it be as heady as philosophy or as simple as where to eat lunch.  Agreeing and disagreeing are straightforward, but qualification gives us room for a more complicated response to a speaker.

When we qualify, we are agreeing with a difference.  For example, you could agree that the public school system needs radical change, but you may disagree with the current solutions that are being implemented to achieve that goal.  It’s nice to know we have the option to qualify available to us, especially when we are concerned that listening equals complete agreement.

Qualification is also the essence of the Rogerian Method of argumentation.  The Rogerian Method asks us to look at the person with whom we are arguing (or communicating) as a “colleague” rather than as an “opponent.”  Plainly stated, begin by giving the other person and their viewpoints respect.  The Rogerian Method then requires us to thoughtfully listen to what the other is saying, which, as we have been discussing, requires quite a bit of effort on our part.

The next step in the process begins our transition from listener to speaker.  We need to confirm that we have accurately understood what the other person has said, perhaps through restating the central idea(s) or asking questions to clarify.  Then, if at all possible, we want to find common ground with this “colleague” (remember, this is assuming that you have differing viewpoints and wish to persuade the other person towards your way of thinking).

Finding this common ground is a crucial step; it is a point of the topic being discussed upon which you can both agree. This can then be used as the springboard into the persuasive aspect of your response.  Starting at the point where all parties agree will make your colleague feel less defensive, and will makes your qualification–the point(s) on which you differ–seem slightly less foreign and the advantages of your perspective easier to see and (hopefully) accept.

The Golden Rule of Responding

The importance of respectfulness and tact in our responses cannot be overstated, regardless of whether we are asking questions, agreeing, disagreeing, or qualifying.  We need not stoop to rude or abrasive responses.  Even the best listening can be nullified and the interaction ruined by boorish behavior.

You invest much as a listener; invest equally as much in your thoughtful responses to others.  And although most interactions call for some sort of verbal or non-verbal response, we can always choose not to respond (or to respond minimally) as common sense and discretion dictate; if we cannot show respect, it is better to step aside and maintain a dignified silence.

Concluding Thoughts

Listening can change our lives.  Learning to do it well is a significant step towards our goal to have a more intimate relationship.  The techniques we have examined are fairly self-explanatory, but that does not mean they are easy.

Consider the sort of verbs involved with effective listening: hearing, attending, concentrating, comprehending, remembering, interpreting, re-creating, retaining, thinking, and responding (or choosing to not respond).  That’s a lot of work.  Another way to think of it is to assume that as a listener you will need to put forth 51% of the effort in the conversation.

Easier said than done, right?

It’s a long list of active steps we can take to overcome our old habits and establish new ones.  But, as the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  We have been practicing bad habits for most of our lives; good habits will not emerge overnight.  It will take time and practice, and like learning any new skill, there will be times when we will catch ourselves falling back into bad habits.

Choose a few of these areas to focus on in the next couple of weeks, and once you’ve gotten the hang of those, add a few more, and so on.  Before you know it, a whole new world will be opened to you.  And, let’s be honest, there will be people that we simply find impossible to tolerate listening to.  In spite of this, however, we can improve and reap the benefits if we’re willing to commit ourselves to genuinely paying attention to those around us.

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how to apologize

How to apologize after an affair?


An apology needs to be an unequivocal statement that communicates to the injured partner a real understanding of the pain the cheater has caused and a legitimate and heartfelt promise never to engage in the same behavior again.

The apology might also include, as an optional bonus, an explanation of what or how things have changed and are changing in the cheater’s personal world, perceptions, understandings, and experiences that contribute to the cheater’s re- commitment to faithfulness.

In this apology, the cheater should explain that they understand they are solely responsible for the affair, and explain in detail, setting the scene into context, how they have caused their partner pain. They should apologize for the pain they have caused and assure the partner that they intend to do everything in their power, giving details whenever possible, to make this relationship strong and stable again.

Above all, this apology must be genuine. If you try and apologize in order to move the healing process forward more quickly, your partner will sense this and you will simply do further damage to the relationship. This means that you need to wait to apologize until you really feel the apology in your heart.

You will know when it is time.

If you have already apologized for your actions, you need to do it again. And again; and again; until your partner can hear it.

Even when you do it “perfectly,” it almost always takes a few repetitions because the injured person wants to hear the authenticity again or wants to make sure of some specific point you might have made earlier.

This doesn’t mean you should rain down apologies every time you see them. It means you should take every available opportunity to let your partner know how badly you feel for what you did.

I’m here to help you on your path to recovery,



DBA, MBA, BBSc, MPsych (Clin)




Join us online and learn how to recover from betrayal together – as a couple.

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