Learning to identify and cope with your emotional triggers is vital to a healthy second marriage. Recognizing the triggers that provoke extreme responses will lessen the risk of sabotaging your marriage by withdrawing or issuing ultimatums, such as threatening divorce.
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Webster’s defines infidelity as unfaithfulness to the marriage vow or contract; a violation of the marriage contract by adultery. If you have ever been the victim of a cheating husband, you know it is much more.
Infidelity is the breaking of trust that has negative consequences in every area of your life. The first step in surviving a husband’s infidelity is being able to rationalize and understand the actions that have caused so much harm.
Sexual infidelity, as its name suggests, refers to sexual activities that are engaged in with someone other than one’s spouse. Activities that constitute sexual infidelity include all forms of physical intimacy, from kissing to sexual intercourse.
Emotional infidelity refers to becoming emotionally involved with someone other than one’s spouse. Dr. Seth Meyers, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, describes emotional infidelity as “behavior that one partner engages in that fosters emotional intimacy in the here-and-now and sometimes promotes the possibility of sexual intimacy in the future.”
It all sounds fairly simple, huh? Either your husband did the hanky panky with someone else or he has put someone else’s emotional needs before your emotional needs. If you’ve been on the receiving end of either, the need to understand runs a bit deeper, doesn’t it?
It has been my experience, after coaching many women who were victims of infidelity, that the roots of the infidelity can generally be traced back to one of three underlying causes.
What Drives Men To Cheat
Men who suffer emotional injuries during childhood are more likely to cheat on a spouse. Emotional childhood injuries may cause a fear of intimacy, a fear of commitment, and a fear of being unworthy of love.
If your husband has had problems with attaching himself to you intimately, was commitment-phobic, and suffers from low self-esteem, these traits probably played a role in his infidelity.
Some men cheat because of the sense of loneliness they feel in the marriage. Usually, this type of man is not able to fully engage with his wife. He doesn’t fully participate in the relationship and is a sitting duck for any woman who can give him the companionship he feels is missing in his marriage.
Are you married to a conflict avoider — a man who thinks that any show of disappointment by you is an affront to the relationship?
This guy acts as if he is happy, everything is coming up roses and all the while, he is seething with anger inside. He is angry because you poked fun at his bald spot. We all know that a woman who truly loves her husband would never poke fun or so he believes.
He is angry because you failed to pick up his dry cleaning. You will be the last to know how angry he is, though, because of his skewed belief that his marriage is perfect and perfection means putting a lid on anger.
He doesn’t even realize how angry he is until he meets a woman who would never poke fun at his bald spot and never forget to pick up his dry cleaning. Not until she got comfortable in the relationship, anyway. Once she becomes comfortable and turns into a normal human being, he can go back to repressing anger again.
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Narcissistic parents harm their children whether there is a divorce or not. Add divorce to the mix and the narcissist become vindictive, suffers a narcissistic injury and goes full-force vindictive.
It’s almost as if they are hell-bent on making their ex and children pay for the suffering they are experiencing do to the narcissistic injury.
With a lack of insight into their behavior the narcissist is either unable to see the damage they do, or, due to their lack of empathy doesn’t care about the damage they do. If you’re the other parent, I’m sharing insights into their behavior plus personal experiences from my son’s relationship with their narcissistic father.
8 Ways the Narcissistic Parent Can Cause Harm
1. Your Child Won’t Be Heard or Validated
As I’ve said in the video, the narcissist doesn’t consider consequences before acting and if he doesn’t something that hurts your child, he doesn’t consider your child’s voice or opinion. He doesn’t care or take into consideration how his actions impact his children. Only he deserves validation, everyone else will be immediately shut down by him.
2. Your Child Will Learn That Being Real Isn’t Safe
The narcissistic parent defines what is and isn’t real. If your daughter is uncomfortable meeting his new girlfriend, he will dismiss her discomfort and something she is making up because of what she has heard from her Mom. If your son writes an email that is grammatically correct with no spelling errors he will accuse the son of letting Mom write the email. The narcissistic parent deflects what is real to your child onto what is real to him.
3. The Narcissist Will Share Too Much With Your Child
No information is sacred to the narcissistic parent. No child’s emotional state is of importance to the narcissistic parent. If it’s information that can make you look back, it will be shared with their child and the child will be told it’s a secret. “Don’t tell Mom.” This puts the child in the precarious position of having to carry around harmful information and no one to soothe their emotional upheaval.
4. Your Child Won’t Be Emotionally Nourished.
Asking for or expecting emotional nourishment from a narcissist is like asking a 2-year-old to carry on a conversation about quantum physics. They don’t have the emotional IQ to offer other’s emotional nourishment. And, if it is offered, it’s only because the narcissist is in a situation of trying to look good in front of others.
5. Your Child Is Expected To Be There For The Narcissistic Parent
The narcissistic parent won’t be there for the child. My ex goes 6 and 7 years at a time without contacting or seeing his sons. Why? Because he thinks it is their place to contact him. It is their place to be there for him, not the other way around. It’s sick!
6. Your Child’s Needs Won’t Be Met
The narcissistic parent cares about no one’s needs but their own. They will plow right over their own children if it means getting their needs met. They, at no time, put any thought or effort into meeting their children’s needs. This can lead to feelings of worthlessness in your child and it’s imperative that you take up the slack when it comes to meeting their needs.
7. The Narcissistic Parent Will Shame and Humiliate Their Child
If it will make the narcissist feel better about themselves they have no qualms about shaming and humiliating their child in front of others. They will compare your child to others, disparaging the way your child dresses or even looks. This can lead to low self-esteem in your child and I, personally have no problem with you telling your child that their father is sick and twisted and unable to behave like an adult.
8. Your Child May Suffer Mental Health Issues
There is a high probability that exposure to the narcissistic parent will cause PTSD symptoms, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues in your child. My youngest was diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder at 17-years-old. After my ex had a session with the psychiatrist, the psychiatrist told me this, “That fucking narcissist has nearly destroyed his son’s life.”
Please, at the first sign of distress, get your child into therapy.
Parenting The Child With a Narcissistic Parent
The narcissistic parent, parents without empathy. They have no ability to feel empathy so it only makes sense they would parent without it. You have to do the opposite and parent with empathy and love.
To maintain a close bond with your children, it is essential for you to focus on being lovingly responsive in your interactions with them. You want to relate well with them, sense what they are feeling, help them put their thoughts and feelings into words, and anticipate their reactions as well as their needs.
Validate Their Feelings
Validating a child means letting them share their thoughts and feelings without judging, criticizing, ridiculing or abandoning them. You let your child feel heard and understood. You convey that you love and accept them no matter what they’re feeling or thinking.
Coach Your Child Through Negative Emotions
Emotion coaching is the practice of talking with children about their feelings and offering kids concrete strategies for coping with emotionally difficult situations.
Get Them Into Therapy
In the video, I advise parents to get their children in therapy at the first sign of distress. If you’re 100 percent sure your are dealing with a narcissistic ex, you may not want to wait until you see signs of distress.
If you can do the 4 things above you have a very good chance of countering the harm the narcissistic parent will do. You have the opportunity to counterbalance and fill up the gaping holes the narcissistic parent will leave in your child’s heart.
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We want to feel we belong and have a sense of purpose. We want to feel self-esteem and respect from others.
These are some of the most common needs, but individuals have emotional needs unique to them. In a healthy relationship, both of you understand the other’s primary emotional needs, and you both work to respond to them because you love and respect your partner.
In order to get your emotional needs met in a relationship, you should discuss those needs with your relationship partner. It’s imperative that you each know the other’s emotional needs in order to meet those needs.
Below are questions that you and your partner can use to open up a line of communication about emotional needs. What they are, whether they are being met and, if not, what needs to change.
Questions That Help Build Emotional Intimacy In Relationships
1. Am I responsive enough to your emotional needs?
We can’t expect anyone person to meet all our emotional needs, even our love partners. Sometimes we have needs that are beyond the scope of any one person to handle.
But we can ask our partners to be responsive to our needs and to honor them. There are some emotional needs your partner might be happy and willing to meet, but he or she is simply not aware of them. It’s your job to enlighten your partner.
There might be needs that they aren’t able to meet. Discuss the emotional needs you have where you’d like more from your partner. Speak honestly and specifically about what you are each willing to offer the other, and discuss alternatives for getting your needs met without your partner if necessary.
2. What should I say to you when I need more from you emotionally?
It’s hard to hear the words, “I need more from you. I need more love, more affection, more respect, and more intimacy.” We all want to feel like we’re enough, that we are appreciated and accepted for all that we do and give to our partners.
But you can’t intuit all your partner’s needs, and you might not be able to understand or relate to some of them. Even so, your partner should feel comfortable expressing those needs and asking you to respond to them. How can you make that request safe and easy for your partner?
3. Do I give you enough emotional space?
One of your emotional needs might be autonomy and freedom. Perhaps you need less emotionally than your spouse does. Needing emotional space doesn’t mean you don’t want to be intimate or close with your partner.
You can balance the need for closeness with the desire for space. Ask each other if you have enough emotional space. If not, exactly what kind of space do you need, and how can your partner support you in this need?
4. What could I do to make you feel more understood?
Even if we can’t meet all of our partner’s emotional needs, we can strive to empathize with him or her. We can listen and show we care. We can acknowledge the efforts at meeting his or her own needs (for self-esteem or independence, for example) or in reaching out to another support person to help.
We can let our partners know they aren’t in this alone, and that we acknowledge and understand their feelings and desires.
5. Do you feel free to express your emotions with me?
Some of us are more expressive with our feelings than others. We laugh and cry easily and have little difficulty saying what we feel. Others don’t feel so free to express emotion, especially painful emotions.
Or we might express our feelings in unhealthy ways, such as anger or withdrawal. In a love relationship, we need to feel safe expressing our deepest emotions, especially those that are painful or shameful.
We need to know that our loved one will treat our feelings tenderly, without judgment or criticism. Find out from your partner whether or not he or she is completely at ease with you in expressing emotions. If not, what is holding him or her back?
6. Do you have any negative emotions about our relationship you need to express?
We might hold back when expressing our emotions because we fear the reaction of our partners. Maybe they will be hurt or angry. Maybe they won’t understand. Maybe they’ll diminish how we feel.
If either of you are harboring negative emotions about the relationship, you need to discuss these and get to the root cause. When communicating negative emotions, speak kindly and constructively. When listening, set aside defensiveness. If negativity exists for one of you, it is an issue you both need to resolve.
7. What from your past has shaped your emotional needs and reactions?
So many of our emotional reactions and triggers are shaped by our childhood experiences. How you were parented and the environment in which you grew up can have a profound effect on your emotional well-being as an adult.
Your significant other can’t fully understand you and your needs until he or she knows something about how the past has shaped your outlook and behaviors. Share with each other the positive and negative events that have contributed to your particular emotional needs.
Would you consider yourself a highly sensitive person, and if so, how can I support you?
A highly sensitive person (HSP) is one who feels things more keenly than the average person. You notice more subtleties in the environment, feel overwhelmed by too much sensory input, and are easily affected by other people’s moods.
You have a rich inner life and enjoy creative pursuits. You also need time alone to recharge and get relief from too much stimulation. Highly sensitive people are extremely conscientious and try hard to please others.
If one or both of you are highly sensitive, you will need to have a special understanding of the traits of HSPs and what they need in order to feel comfortable and thrive. This is particularly true for the non-sensitive, as many of the HSP traits might seem overly sensitive or needy. However, this trait is perfectly normal and has many positive qualities. Find out how your highly sensitive partner needs your understanding and support.
8. What other ways do you have for dealing with your emotions if I feel overwhelmed by them?
When emotions run high during conflict or during times of difficulty or pain, both partners might be flooded with emotion and have little reserve to offer each other. If you are accustomed to turning to your spouse or partner for emotional support, then you need an alternative plan when you are both feeling overwhelmed.
If one of you loses a job, there’s a death in the family, or you have financial difficulties, you both might need outside support to see you through. What is your emotional back-up plan if your partner can’t handle your emotions in a particular situation?
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Most of us have been there at some point. Standing at the airline ticketing desk and crossing our fingers for a hopeful outcome as we place our bags on the scale.
But alas, our luggage has exceeded the allowance we’re able to check for free and we’re slapped with a hefty overage fee.
Our frustration, however, overshadows the reason for this limitation – to keep the weight of the aircraft less than a certain amount. If the plane is overloaded, it may not make it off the ground.
And even if it does take off, it will likely have trouble maintaining level flight. If we equate these concepts with relationships, romantic or otherwise, and simply use the term “excess emotional baggage,” we can often draw the same conclusion. If both parties are entering into a relationship with overloaded with baggage from the past, it is bound to have problems.
And if it manages to get off the ground safely, it still may have trouble maintaining level flight.
The poor habits we developed in past relationships
The accumulation of well-intended communications gone wrong
Emotional baggage feels like emotionally stepping back in time. Rather than reacting to a situation like a mature adult, we may react like a younger version of ourselves. And much like lugging a massive suitcase through a busy airport, carrying excess emotional baggage can be exhausting or even crippling, and demands a high price. Physical side effects (high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia, depression, etc.) aside, excess emotional baggage is detrimental to our behavior and attitudes and can harm our relationships.
Unpacking Your Baggage
Digging up the past isn’t easy, but it is a critical step in moving forward.
Here are a few tips to help you lose that emotional baggage.
The first step to unpacking that excess baggage is to identify it. First, try and jot down some of the problems and conflicts that have surfaced in your life. How much of your time and energy is spent in dealing with these issues? How has your emotional, physical, and spiritual health been affected by the weight of these issues?
Next, stop blaming others for your problems. You have to take responsibility for your life, your actions, and your emotions. The blame game won’t change anything. And this includes blaming yourself! Break the blame chain and you’re bound to escape this vicious cycle.
Finally, extend forgiveness to yourself and others so you can truly let go of the hurt that you have experienced. It won’t be easy and a person may not be deserving or even ask for your grace, but it is crucial to paving a positive path forward.
Unlike luggage, we don’t have the option to pack up our emotions and ship them off to a faraway destination. We do, however, have the option to take charge of them and choose how they will affect us from this point forward. Choosing to drop our baggage can lead to a much stronger, more balanced life.
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My parents divorced right after I was born and I was raised by my mother. She was a social worker for the New York State Division for Youth. She worked there for decades and I can remember going into her government office, in Syracuse, New York, and raiding the office’s supply closet. Money was always tight.
Being raised by a single mother was challenging, for sure, but I was very fortunate that my mother was emotionally intelligent. In fact, had I been raised by my father I suspect my life would have been far less purpose-driven and more focused on self-centered endeavors. I am a very lucky man in that respect.
I am now a divorce and family attorney with a family of my own. I speak with people every day about divorce, custody modifications, relocation, decision-making and everything else one would expect of someone managing a large family law firm. I watch competitors everyday market to their “target audience.”
Marketing Based on Fear:
We have a lot of “Men’s Rights Firms” here in our state, and they get many clients calling every day. We have law firms locally that market “aggressive representation” (admittedly I did as well in the beginning) and messaging similar to “We Win Family Law cases.” Nobody wins these cases. I see no value in advertising expertise or specialty related to the sex of a client. It’s marketing based on fear, and it’s natural for parents to be fearful as they contemplate major life changes.
I disagree with the idea that you need to have any plan in place other than being very deliberate and thoughtful about choosing an attorney.
If someone told you, when you are raw and emotional, to get aggressive and hire Lawyer X to fight for you, I suspect you would think that is a good idea. I suspect I would feel the same way. But that is really, really bad advice.
The Secret to Hiring an Effective Attorney: Emotional Intelligence
Fighting and being aggressive has its place in every family law case, but how you fight and how you are aggressive is the key. Understand that you are extracting yourself from a dysfunctional relationship. There is pain, fear, anger and every other emotion open and available for you to experience.The feeling you do not want is regret with your choice in representation.
I strongly suggest that you seek representation that does not mirror you, your emotions, or your anger…at least at the outset. Do not hire an attorney who gets you motivated to destroy him. If your case warrants a parenting time restriction, or a protection order, a private investigator or a Child and Family Investigator then the right attorney will guide you only after he or she understands your case, your relationship with your husband and children, and your goals.
Choose an emotionally intelligent lawyer.
What exactly is that?
Emotionally intelligent people are…aware. That’s all. But that’s huge! An emotionally intelligent attorney uses all her tools in her toolbox. She doesn’t react to opposing counsel who thinks being a jerk is in the job description.
An emotionally intelligent attorney uses data, strategy and thought in accordance with a communicated plan of action geared towards a successful outcome. They think about their actions and advice, understanding the raw nature of the situation, and they don’t exploit the client’s fears. Emotionally intelligent attorneys can inspire and protect clients, oftentimes, from themselves.
Think about it. Your husband cheated on you with someone you know. He is clearly a piece of trash and shouldn’t have parenting time because he can’t be trusted. Right? Or, even more cutting, he introduces your children to her as he and your babies “accidentally” run into her while grocery shopping. You want it to stop. You want him to pay dearly. That mindset will have many lawyers licking their chops to follow your strategy and blow it all up…and bill you for it all.
Emotional intelligence is not a weakness. It is the epitome of strength and most lawyers don’t have it. Emotional intelligence is seeing the case from both the 30,000-foot view, anticipating behaviors based on the data, and having the legal and factual knowledge to make strategic decisions that benefit the client in the short term and long term.
Emotional intelligence is not ripping off scathing emails to opposing counsel, at your behest, because you are hurt. Emotional intelligence is using your narcissist husband’s abusive texts to your advantage by waiting until he portrays himself the way he sees himself and opposite to what the facts, collateral witnesses and written or recorded communications conclusively portray him to be.
If your “aggressive lawyer” did what you asked, or on her own, acted, by emailing opposing counsel and threatened your husband you will feel better…and you likely lost the benefit of all the data because you allowed the lawyer to tip off your husband that he has bad facts to overcome.
Emotionally intelligent lawyers see the forest through the trees and effectively save you from your emotions, while at the same time advancing your effectively strategized case towards a successful resolution. Sophisticated, emotionally intelligent representation can be lulling your husband to sleep with false confidence, only to trap him in his lies at mediation or trial.
That is effective, and even aggressive, representation and is done at the highest level by very few attorneys.
There is nothing worse than lining up a narcissist with his own words/actions/behaviors only to see this leverage disappear because a lawyer was lazy, greedy or both.