Join Kelly Matthews, LCSW and Miriam Bellamy, LMFT as we explore infidelity and infidelity counseling from the perspective of Bowen Family Systems Theory. Conventional approaches to infidelity counseling can encourage a process that can make things worse…the kind of emotional process that made the marriage vulnerable to an affair in the first place. We explore an alternate route.
Many couples, after the affair, experience a kind of honeymoon phase with high highs and low lows, with a lot of clinging to each other and then swinging to a lot of intense conflict. Once this begins to settle down a bit, couples are able to settle in and do some life changing work in infidelity counseling. But it takes more than date nights, “I” statements, trust checklists, and getting vulnerable.
Kelly states, “The work has to be more than just date nights and so forth.” She says couples will say to themselves, “We’re doing all the things the books are telling us to do…that conventional therapy is telling us to do, and it’s not enough. It’s not moving this ball enough.” Kelly says, “I think this is where the wisdom of Bowen Theory can come in.”
“If there is anybody,” Miriam says, “who understands that there has to be something more [than just date nights and trust checklists] it’s the couples going through infidelity. Because it just puts a couple right up against a wall…People have to be able to dig in and think about this differently if they’re going to make it through.”
In Bowen Family Systems Theory, development of one’s self is key. We call it Differentiation of Self. It means being yourself while in close proximity to family members (including spouse) where, for whatever reasons, it’s hardest for you to be yourself. Here is a cringy and then funny video a client sent me of a couple not being themselves with each other: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfO_f7aIlc8
Join Kelly and Miriam as we discuss the challenges of developing a self in marriage and family life, asking what vs. why, and what actually goes into the personal accountability of the cheating spouse.