Is Your Coupleship in Crisis?
by Marla and Jami
Life is short. Have an affair. ~Ashley Madison Tagline
(Jami) The Ashley Madison client reveal in 2015 hit very close to home…I cheated on Marla for the first 12 years of our marriage, and for another two years after I revealed my incredibly shameful secret I continued to be unfaithful. Getting caught saved my life, and finally exposed why I was doing these crazy, stupid things. Let’s face it; even just the disease risk is not worth sleeping around, but that’s not much of a deterrent when you are looking for approval from anywhere you can find it.
Having 33 years of marriage and being happier than ever together, we have incredible tools and also so much hope to share with those of you who are struggling to put the pieces of your relationship back together. What we realized on a deeper level is that the hook-up culture is more insidious than we even speculated. All you have to do is Google “discrete hook ups” and there are dozens of sites that will provide nude pictures of your neighbors that are willing to have sex tonight, or so they say. But, the amazing news is that it’s all fixable! We have couples tell us that they have gone to counseling for y e a r s and had never experienced the relief and freedom found in just 3 short sessions with us. Wow! What a privilege and honor that is to hear.
The short version...
(Marla) The whole truth came out through a family intervention on Christmas day. Not so fun (understatement of the year!), and very messy. Our daughters were in 3rd and 4th grade, and I had lost every one of my support systems because I chose to stay with Jami…my family except for my mom, all of our friends, our jobs, and our church support. I remember lying on the floor in a heartbroken puddle sobbing to the point of hoping I would not be able to take another breath because death seemed like the only relief from the gut-wrenching pain at that moment. (See Jami’s upcoming book Silhouette of a Man for the full story.)
The handling of our pain was devastatingly clumsy, and completely humiliating. As a result we had to re-evaluate everything. What we learned is that most people cheat because at their core they feel unworthy and need approval to feel good about themselves. Even if their partner is willing to be more connected and sexual with them, like I was, it feels to the cheater like there are strings attached, and like they can never do enough or be enough. This sounds crazy because there are even more strings and issues with an affair, but this wasn’t about logic, it was about honesty, or the lack of it, between Jami and I. And we have seen this over and over again with our clients who have asked us to come alongside of them to help them recover from infidelity in their relationship. (Note: not all cheating is sex.)
A successful coupleship requires consistent growth and freedom to talk about what goes on in our minds, even if it is not politically, or morally correct. This means building a foundation of honesty with the ability to share and actively listen to feelings without judgment, and with compassion.
The important thing to realize, even if your relationship was not “outed” in the release of Ashley Madison’s client list, is that we live in a disposable culture that says, “I’m not getting what I want, I’m not happy, and all I need to do is disengage from this relationship and find someone who will make me happy.” Relationships cannot be sustained with status-quo. And it’s time to create a culture that says, “We choose to recover this relationship because the healing of this relationship can create a wave of healing around the globe, and heal the world.”
What every couple needs
Forgiveness: Even if there is no infidelity in the relationship, you need to start here. It will open up a new conversation, and you do have things to forgive, we promise, even if those things are simply your unmet expectations or the little resentments that creep in when you least expect them. We teach people how to do this in an easy and fast way (really the shortest short-cut, guys!), and our book How Men Make Women Crazy (and Visa Versa): Ending the Madness sheds some light on the subject.
A new Conversation: There has to be an ongoing intimacy and excitement about the two of you. This means learning how to be present to your partner’s feelings and sharing your own feelings safely. We’re not going to sugar-coat this and say it’s easy, but it is well worth doing. We use a Feeling Wheel to help get the feelings out and train people on its use. The goal is to drain the shame out of the middle of this “compass for your heart,” and learn to filter every difficult feeling through LOVE.
Compassion: The reality is that your partner holds the key to unlocking your heart. We have seen it every time we work with a couple, even with the very small 3-5% who are not able to stay together using our process (we have a better than 95% success rate having only 8 to 12, seventy-five to ninety minute sessions, even if the couple is already separated or divorced). You chose your partner for a reason…help us help you keep that reason alive and healthy and full of passion!
What little thing can you do for your partner today to fan that flame of passion that your relationship started out with? Start with asking them, “What little thing can I do for you today?” And see what happens from there.
*These statistics are from 2018 and I am pretty positive there are more than "one woman in twelve" right now who are considering separation and/or divorce as soon as the holidays are over.
Ah, yes, forgiveness... A tough thing to do when feeling all the hard feels.
But so important!
I can attest to the fact that forgiveness is the best way forward out of pain and onto the healing journey. Been there, did NOT want to do it, but chose to anyway. And now I have the coupleship I’ve always desired.
Don’t let winter come and settle into your heart.
Forgive. It’s more than worth it!
Shame: The Insidious Love-Killer
by Jami and Marla
This week we need to start by talking about shame. Yes, this is a really different kind of conversation for some of us. (Jami) Men, we benefit from knowing what shame is so that we are able to deal with it in our hearts and minds and defeat anger which allows us to be open about it with those we love. Sidenote: Anger turned inward is depression and outward is rage. To be clear, rage is NOT a healthy way to express your anger and there is a definite difference in how it’s done. We need to step up and teach our children and our communities to deal with shame in love and kindness. (Don’t worry, men. It’s not all on you but it is so important for you to understand and acknowledge. Marla addresses women below..)
In her book Daring Greatly author and shame researcher Brené Brown says,
“When shame becomes a management style, engagement dies. When failure is not an option we can forget about learning, creativity, and innovation. When it comes to parenting, the practice of framing mothers and fathers as good or bad is both rampant and corrosive—it turns parenting into a shame minefield. The real questions for parents should be: ‘Are you engaged? Are you paying attention?’ If so, plan to make lots of mistakes and bad decisions. Imperfect parenting moments turn into gifts as our children watch us try to figure out what went wrong and how we can do better next time.”
The truth is that I let my shame issues get in the way of my relationship with Marla in the ’90s, and recently I nearly lost it all. I thought I was above it. The truth is without a connected group of accountable and authentic men consistently in my life, I again let fear and isolation take me down an ugly road. It is so easy to believe the lie that if I share with even my best friends that I will lose something. Credibility? My career? My wife (a very real fear)? And maybe even my life? Yes, when we are accountable and connected in honest ways we only lose isolation, depression, fear, and hate. Sadly there is so much fear and hate coming from men these days and we must band together and find better ways! Please do not let the fear of being honest keep you down as I did. I got lucky and didn’t end up losing everything I love, especially the love of my life, Marla. She has stuck with me through thick and thin and I am forever grateful and a much better man because of her.
(Marla) I am certainly not without my own shame web, and it has been a nasty, sticky web indeed. It was in 1995 that I began to realize that I had been living a life based on my shame. Everything I said and did I carefully adjusted to make sure that I would not be disapproved of (can you relate, girlfriends?). My core shame created this belief in me that I was not enough, therefore I needed to perform, be perfect in all areas, and do it with such finesse that I would never be “found out” for the fraud I was. This was all very unconscious at the time, but as I began to embark on the journey of healing, I came face to face with my addictions. No, I was not addicted to drugs, alcohol, medications, sex, work or rage. I was addicted to approval. Ughh. I was addicted to perfectionism (creating the façade that everything around me was “perfect”). I was addicted to being right. More ugghhh. And I literally felt unsafe whenever I was wrong. These are the things I did to keep from being vulnerable; to keep from letting anyone know who I really was:
Ladies (and maybe most of you reading this) can you relate to any of these statements? If so, you are also struggling with your core shame. (And for those of you who can’t relate at all, you may need to read the definition of “denial” because, from what Brené Brown’s research says, we ALL have shame at our core. Men, as Jami mentioned above it may look a little differently for you. Something like “I should never be weak…I should always be strong…I should be a good provider…”) The cool, and hopeful, thing is that you can have healing and relief from this dangerous place. I have. I’m certainly not completely rid of my shame, but it continues to get better and better. I am more full of joy and peace today than anything else, but to be honest Jami’s struggle that he gives a nod to above just about killed me and sent me straight back to this core shame for a time. It was horrible, earthshattering, paradigm-shifting, heart-crushing and also allowed me another run at cleaning out this very deeply-seeded shame. For this I am grateful.
(Jami) Marla and I have developed the Feeling Wheel 5.0 to help all of us learn better strategies for relationships. Because…well…shame.
The core of the wheel has three feelings: Shame, Forgiveness, and Love. This is the center of all our conflicts. All our behaviors are related to how we deal with these three feelings. Think of Shame as the giant lie that you are not worthy of love. This is why Marla and I put Shame across from Love. It is because it is the only toxic feeling on the wheel, and it is, in fact, based on a lie; the lie when any person believes that they are a bad person. And because of the nature of Shame, it sticks to other feelings like Fear, Anger, Jealousy and even Peace (worry much?) and Joy (have sexual shame?). All feelings free from shame are healthy feelings. Feelings are raw information. Our brains are highly efficient at making connections with how events in our life make us feel. We then develop strategies and we repeat what gets us what we expect, which is not necessarily the best outcome.
Just outside the core of the wheel are six feelings that we reference as ”modes.” A mode is a pattern of behavior solidified to help us function and communicate. Think of it as an autopilot program that gets activated in certain situations, designed to protect your heart. Most often we don’t think much about doing these things, we just do them often without much conscious thought. These are often packages of behaviors that once served us well and helped us survive, but are now needing to be updated to serve us better.
The question this week is where does your life hurt? What do you avoid? Why? Can you find a pattern of your behavior that is contributing to the pain? Let’s talk about how we can help each other and get better results for our families and communities. Schedule your Free Discovery Session today HERE.
Marla and Jami
Cofounders of JamiAndMarla.LOVE (fka Passion Provokers and Keller Coaching) Jami and Marla are proud to bring a new level of success to coupleships worldwide with their unique coaching, mentoring, and consulting process. Their blogs are not only informative for coupleships they are personal. For over 25 years they have been helping people create emotionally and physically intimate coupleships.
Ariel is a freelance blogger, web designer, and SEO consultant. She is 23 years young, married to her soulmate, and a proud “mother” to boxer Bruce and Yorkie Dexter. She focuses on writing content that is raw and relatable. (Info relevant at the time of writing, circa 2013-2015)