One of the main questions I get when I am meeting with clients that are having marital problems due to the stresses and strains of the stepfamily life and remarriage itself, is how can I keep my spouse from withdrawing from me? Unfortunately, there have been times when I have met with clients that allowed the stresses and strains to consume their remarriage to the point that they are emotionally disengaged with one another. They both were purposely becoming more preoccupied with themselves and ignoring their marriages, spending less time together and definitely not interested in intimacy, with their spouses that is. I have even had clients that have fallen into the trap of having emotional affairs with other people outside of their marriages. Spouses guilty of this type of betrayal justify same by focusing on the fact that “no sexual contact” had been made and that the other person is only a “platonic friend,” but what they don’t realize is that actually, emotional affairs , 99% of the time lead to physical affairs. This is dangerous territory for any marriage to say the least, but when there is already the dynamics of step involved, this territory becomes even more dangerous.
Let’s talk about how couples become emotionally disengaged with one another. Here are a few examples:
- Communication is limited.
- One or both spouses are too lenient on issues pertaining to boundaries, standards and expectations in the household.
- Quality time between spouses is limited.
- Matters of discipline regarding stepchildren cannot be agreed upon.
- Expectations are unrealistic.
- Stepchildren are non-accepting of stepmom or stepdad and causing issues.The marriage doesn’t feel like a partnership but rather one or both partners’ feels like a criminal or scapegoat in their own home.
When all or some of these factors are present in an already stressful situation, it is my opinion that as human beings we become more vulnerable to making mistakes and to falling into the trap of relying on someone else outside of our marriage to provide emotional support. That emotional support may seem harmless at first because one might be thinking that they just need to “get stress off their chest” so they lean on someone of the opposite sex to get their “viewpoint” or something of the like. As time passes, they come to find out that they are not just reaching for another point of view, but rather they are beginning to invest more of their emotions than they expected in this person. Those emotions eventually turn into companionship and an emotional affair/betrayal has been formed. Unfortunately, your “guilt-free” feelings become damaging to your marriage.
Protecting your marriage is the number one thing we preach here at Today’s Modern Family. If your marriage isn’t healthy, your family will not be healthy. If you marriage isn’t strong, your co-parenting skills will be weak at best. If your remarriage isn’t bonded and you and your spouse are not on one accord, your family foundation will crumble. Here are some tips to avoid the pitfalls of emotional betrayal.
- Work together to have a marriage based on trust, friendship and love.
- Spend quality and quantity time together. Take time out for your marriage. It takes sacrifice to make any remarriage work but acknowledging that parenting is only one part of your life together. Take time for each other. This is one area you do not want to sacrifice.
- Support one another’s goals and dreams. Get involved and show that you care. Nothing is more uplifting than to know that your partner shares your dreams and supports your quest for same. Keep in mind that support is a two-way street. Don’t just depend on your spouse to step up and understand everything right way. Invite his/her participation as well. Share your vision.
- Don’t sweep existing issues under the rug or pretend there isn’t things you need to work on. Talk, talk, talk! Communication is key to understanding and to being heard.
- Touch one another frequently. Small hugs, love pats and romantic kisses throughout the day leads to bond building.
- Combine your strengths. In every remarriage and in every nuclear marriage, where one might be weak, the other might be strong. Complement one another. Help one another.
- Compromise, compromise, compromise. This is one of the main components I stress in all of my coaching sessions. Without compromise, you will not effectively be able to coparent nor will your remarriage stand the test of time. Compromise is one of the tools in your remarriage toolbox that you cannot go without.
- Fidelity in your marriage is crucial. When you took your vows, you promised to forsake all others in order to protect your union. Don’t lean on others outside of your marriage for things that you should be getting from your spouse. If you are feeling uneasy in this area, communicate your feelings to your spouse and seek professional coaching.
TMF Readers, don’t be one of those couples that I end up meeting with that have a list of “things” they wish they had talked about or compromised on. Put your marriage first and foremost on your “to do” list if you feel like there are issues arising. As your relationship grows, it is important to always put in the work it needs so that your love becomes not just a simple “want.” It goes deeper than that. Your love your relationship becomes a “need” and a “longing.” With that bond and commitment, there is absolutely no room for emotional betrayals and no room for division.
Peace & Blessings,