Episode 59: Q&A: New “Good” Behavior, Emotional Affairs and an Open Marriage

by | Last updated: Jan 31, 2024 | Podcast

How do I know if my spouse is genuinely changing or not? Can I trust his new good behavior will last? What can we do if my husband wants to open our marriage and I’m not sure? How do I move forward after my husband’s emotional affair with a coworker? 

In this episode of The Loving Truth podcast, you’ll hear from three callers who want to understand how to encourage positive changes to make a marriage last, what to do when a partner comes out as bisexual, and how to move forward after an emotional affair.

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You’ll Learn In This Episode:

3:13 – How to appreciate the good things he does to encourage lasting change

8:24 – Her husband wants to open their marriage – does she?

10:03 – When you both want to feel seen and accepted (but neither of you does)

14:04 – The reality of emotional affairs (i.e. The Danger Zone)

18:13 – It’s not about the other woman

20:51 – What’s really going on when things go “bad”

Featured On Q&A: New “Good” Behavior, Emotional Affairs and an Open Marriage

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Book a Truth & Clarity Session with a member of my team. We’ll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there’s a fit for you and I to work together so you can make - and execute - the RIGHT decision for YOU and your marriage.

Welcome to the Loving Truth Podcast, where it's all about finding clarity, confidence, and peace in the face of marriage challenges. And now your host relationship expert and certified master life coach, Sharon Pope. Hello, loves. This is Sharon Pope and this is The Loving Truth. This is our monthly q and a call where I take your questions and I try to give you some support in terms of some answers for your life and your most intimate relationship.

So we have three that we're going to address today. The first is from Melissa. Hi, this is Alyssa. I've been married for 14 years and trying to save my marriage. I've noticed me and my husband get into a cycle where he kind of tries to do things for me or be more pleasant and then finds something to be upset about, and then stonewalls and otherwise is just critical and controlling.

Again, I've been trying to break out of this cycle more and feel like I've been doing a better job at standing up for myself. The question I have now is, separation has come up and since then he has been more significantly nice to me and seems to be more genuine versus just towing the line. But how do you know if your partner is really changing genuinely and maybe relapsing here and there versus just continuing in the cycle without really realizing that you're just following that same cycle again?

He tends to be pretty non vulnerable, and I tend to just suck up whatever abuse he throws my way, just mentally and emotionally, which like I said, I'm trying to change my dance so the whole thing can change. Thank you. So Melissa, I think that your initial question is, can I trust that this new good behavior will last or is it just gonna go back to the way that it was when maybe I'm not threatening separation and I wanna address that.

But I also think that there's another question that you're not yet asking that is also a part of this conversation. So I wanna take this from both angles. So there's this behavior that he's doing now that feels better than the behavior he was doing before. Now, look, most of us don't do what we should do in our marriages. Like, I don't know,

be kind to one another, give one another the benefit of the doubt. Do nice things for each other, seek out ways to meet each other's needs and, and bring light and joy to the other person. Like we should do those things. We just don't often until we have to. So now that separation has been put on the table, now he's on good behavior,

he's on his best behavior, and he is doing all the things that he knows to do. So I wanna take this from two different angles. The first is the positive side of the equation. The things that he's doing now that feels good from your perspective, right? The niceties and the the, the generosity and the things that he's doing. So anything that you want to see more of,

all you have to do is appreciate it. Notice it, value it, appreciate it verbally say, you know what? I really appreciate the effort that you're making and I want you to know I see it, I see it, and it, it means a lot to me. Anything like that is going to go a long way. And what you're going to then see is more of that because you're encouraging the exact behavior that you want.

So instead of beating up on all the things that he's not doing, or you know, criticizing him for how he's falling short in these 20 ways, if you just focus on these five things that he's doing really well and you take the time to genuinely appreciate and value those things, you will see more of those things. They will get larger in your experience and you'll get more and more of it.

And then it won't just be good behavior. It really will be lasting change because he will feel good on the receiving end of that. All of that love and appreciation that you are pointing towards him is gonna feel so good. He's not gonna wanna turn away from that. Okay? So that's the positive side of the equation. The negative side of the equation,

the sort of bad behavior on his part, which I'm, when I say bad behavior, what I'm referring to here is the stonewalling, the critical nature, and the controlling aspect. That's bad behavior. Specifically stonewalling and criticism are two of the top predictors of divorce. So it's bad behavior that can lead to things that that can be very destructive in our marriages.

Now, every ounce of controlling behavior, which by the way, stonewalling is a way to control. For those of you that don't know what stonewalling is, all that is, is giving each other the silent treatment, refusing to engage with your partner. It's incredibly toxic to a relationship that is controlling behavior. It's a passive aggressive means of controlling behavior, but it's controlling and being critical of someone else can also feel a bit controlling as well.

In all controlling behavior, my friends originates in fear. Now he's not able as a man to say, I'm in fear, but that is what's happening. It's like the fear is underneath and the outward expression of that fear and maybe his deepest fear of being abandoned by you, by being rejected by you, that might be his deepest fear. It's coming out in an aggressive way or a passive aggressive way through the bad behavior.

So when he does that bad behavior, and of course he will, that's the time that I don't want you to just take it. That's the time that I want you to lean into it and go, look, I know this is hard. I know opening up and having vulnerable conversations and talking about the things that we fear the most, including that whether or not this marriage is going to last is really hard,

but we've gotta talk about it. Don't turn away from me. Don't turn away from me right now. I'm standing here and I want, I want to explore this with you. I want to understand what's going on. I wanna understand how you feel right now, but you gotta talk to me, right? So I want you to lean into that and definitely like the worst thing you can do is just shut down and either take it,

because then that's just teaching him that you're willing to keep putting up with that bad behavior. But it also is never gonna feel good. Look, I get that being vulnerable is awkward for anyone. It's particularly awkward and difficult for men to do. But if you just own the awkwardness, if you just say like, look, I know that this is hard.

I get that it's hard, but don't turn away from me. Don't turn away from us right now, and you don't have to do it this minute, but we do have to talk about this. I need to understand what's going on with you and why are you so critical of me? Is it because you genuinely don't like me? Because that has one solution,

but is it because you don't feel good about yourself and you're putting me down so that then you can feel better about yourself? That's gonna have a different solution, but I need to understand what's going on. Why are you so critical of me right now? There's something going on within you. Don't take it on, you. Express it to him and see if he will dive into that conversation with you,

okay? And keep trying and see if he'll go there with you. That's really the the questions that I, that I think you're asking. Okay? And I hope that that's helpful for you. Okay, now we're moving on to Carol, who has been married for 33 years. Hi, this is Carol. My question for you is, I have a husband of 33 years who recently came out to me as bi and wants to have an open marriage.

I've been disconnected from him for about the last three years or so with a lot of resentment over his lack of mental and emotional presence. So when he asked for an open marriage, I thought it could be an easy path to divorce. But he's been telling me that by opening the marriage, he can explore relationships with men, and that would make him a better husband to me because he could be more focused on me.

And he has been trying to be a better husband, but I still don't feel any empathy or emotional intimacy with him that I'm craving, and I'm not really comfortable that he's having sexual relations with men while he's still having physical intimacy with me. So my question is, do I try to mend our relationship? Do I tell him to stop seeing men? I'm concerned that it's a lot to ask after he's been closeted for 40 years.

And so I just don't know which way to go. So if you have some thoughts, I'd appreciate it. Thanks. Bye. So, Carol, this is, this is an interesting problem that you have. Here's the thing, I actually don't think that, you know, him being bisexual is the problem in your marriage. I think it's a bit of a distraction that he's,

he's bolted onto the relationship, at least from your perspective. Let me explain. I don't think that his bisexuality is the issue. I feel like the issue is that you don't feel seen, understood, or known inside your most intimate relationship. And the reality is, is that every single one of us wants to feel deeply known by our partners. He wants to be known,

he wants to be understood and accepted as he is. But it doesn't sound like there's any conversation going on related to him really deeply knowing and understanding you. And that's really the issue. It's become a little bit tit for tat like, well, if you let me do this, then I'll give you what you want over here. I'll be a better husband to you.

But it still doesn't sound like you're getting that deeper need met. He might be more attentive, but that you don't feel deeply known and understood and accepted in the same way that he wants to be. And I feel like that's really the issue inside the relationship. Now, to answer your question, I think your instinct about not wanting to change him is a good one,

right? If, if you give him some ultimatum, like, Nope. If you wanna stay married to me, you will deny that whole part of yourself and you'll pretend that it doesn't exist, and you will live out the rest of your life as a lie. Look, that's not a winning strategy for anyone, and he'll just end up resenting you in the process,

and he'll never feel deeply known and understood and accepted, right? So that's not a winning strategy. But whether or not you should stay or go inside of this new awareness for both of you that your husband's bisexual, that is a deeply personal question. And there's no right or wrong answer, right? There are, there are, there are some people that would be okay with that,

and there are some people that would not be okay with that. Like I'm very clear that if my husband came to me and said, I wanna have an open relationship while I might thrash about a bit at first, ultimately, where I really, genuinely feel like I would land is that, darling, I love you and I genuinely want you to be happy,

and I also want me to be happy. I want us both to have what we need, but right now, we don't want the same things. You want something that is at the polar opposite of what I want. And so for that reason, and because I love you, I'm going to release you. Like that's where I know that I would end up in that situation.

But that's because I'm very, very clear about what works for me and what doesn't without judgment, just what works for me personally and what I want to create in my most intimate relationship. That doesn't mean that my answer is everybody's answer. I'm not trying to give you the, this is the right way to live because it's just my preference. It's my preference and,

and how I want to live and what I want to create for my life. And so that's what you have to figure out, my darling. You have to get that clear about whether or not this is what you want to create in your life. And the ultimate answer, because this really would be the challenge if you felt great about your marriage, but you just weren't sure about this other thing.

The problem is this other thing is going on and you still don't feel great about your marriage. And that's why I say it's, it's a bit of a distraction because of the way that he's positioned it. When it's not really the issue, you're still not having the kind of relationship that feels really good to you. And so I feel like that's what you've gotta address.

Okay? Our last one is Devin, and she has been married 10 years. Hi, my name is Devin. My husband formed a relationship with a coworker, and I had found out he did not deny anything. There was nothing physical, but more emotional. He never denied it. And when I told him that I would rather him quit his job,

he refuses. He had just got a promotion and he refuses to quit his job. So now I have to worry about every day and seeing her talking to her, and I'm just not sure what to do. I've thought highly about divorce. We've been together 10 years and we are still young. I, I really have no idea what to do. Okay?

Devin, oh my gosh, I just wanna like hug you. I wish I could hug you through the podcast. I would do it right now. First of all, let me tell you something, I'm gonna be direct here because I want you to hear me really directly. Every emotional affair is just the precursor to a physical affair, right? No one is out there looking for another euchre partner.

They're not like, it's just that the physical part of it, it hasn't progressed to the point of where it's become physical yet, but that's what it's on its way to being, okay? So don't delude yourself about emotional affairs, okay? It, it's, it's just because you caught it in time and you are you too. If, if you did catch it in time,

you are in the danger zone like this. Things are serious right now because he's sharing his heart with someone else. He's sharing feelings with someone else. He might even be sharing details about your marriage with someone else. Now, here's the thing I also want you to hear. It's not because this other woman is so damn magical. She's not. As a matter of fact,

there's been tons of research about men and affairs, and the, the vast majority of the time, they will say that the, the person that they cheat with is not more attractive than their wife. They don't find them more desirable. They, she, they don't have better qualities necessarily. It's all about how that relationship, that interaction makes him feel.

That's what it's all about, is there's something about that interaction that makes him feel a certain way, like it's probably some version of appreciated, seen, understood, valued, desired, attractive. Like, it, it, there's something about the interactions that he is having with this woman that is making him feel that way, but it's not really about her,

it's about the context of it. Okay? Context matters so greatly inside of affairs, because think about it. So this is all new and new equals exciting and interesting, right? So he's learning about someone new. The fact that it is a relationship outside of his marriage is automatically risky and more than a little dangerous. So that hits the dopamine response in our bodies.

And there's, there's something about what the dynamic and something that's going on between them that's creating this energy that makes him wanna keep going back to it. So that's the stuff that you've gotta understand right now. It's not really like he doesn't, I know it would make you feel better if he would quit his job and not see this woman every day. I know that would make you feel better.

It would make me feel better too, right? But it's not really about this woman because I have seen this happen so many times where like the woman moves away or the woman gets a new job and then two years later he's just involved in another affair because the underlying need that is not being met still doesn't get met. So it's not about this other woman,

it's about him. It's about him, and it's about your marriage. And so you've gotta understand what's going on for him or what's not going on for him inside your marriage today. So I would want to know when you're engaging with this woman, how does, what does she say? What does she do? And how does it make you feel? I would want to know those things because that tells me what is missing inside the relationship.

And then I would wanna get really clear about how do you want to feel inside of our marriage? And, and by the way, I would want to express, here's how I want to feel inside of our marriage. 'cause I bet you don't feel, you probably weren't feeling super tightly connected to your husband before you found out about this. And it's normal.

It's right around 10 years into a relationship that we have put the relationship on the shelf for long enough and we become very disconnected. We're living life side by side, but not really together. We don't have common goals together. We don't check in with each other enough. Then sometimes kids come into the picture and then all of our focus goes around the kids,

particularly for the woman, if she's the primary caretaker of the kids, and then the man feels left out of that, there's probably some version of him that is feeling disregarded by you, and I would want to understand that. So, so your marriage is in a place of where it's time to pay attention. And if you don't pay attention right now,

it's not going to magically get better. And even if this woman moves away to Timbuktu, these problems are still going to exist, and it's just gonna show up in the form of another one down the road. And it might not be two years, it could be two months from now, it could be 10 years from now. But if the problem exists or the the lack of whatever it is that you want to create and feel in your most intimate relationship,

if that exists and we don't solve for that, then it's just going to continue to get expressed in a different way. Now, the really important thing here is that when things got difficult in your marriage, and I'm assuming that there's some level of difficulty, but maybe it's just disconnection, or maybe it's just you're having sex less frequently or whatever, but there's something going on in the relationship.

Instead of coming to you and talking about it, like, darling, I'm feeling disconnected from you and I miss us. I miss us being close. Instead of coming to you and talking about it, what he did is he turned away from you and frankly took the easy way out. Let me go avoid, let me avoid what's happening inside of my marriage,

not deal with it, and instead turn to someone else to make, to distract me, to make me feel the way I want to feel without ever standing up and being the person who can address the challenges inside the relationship and openly communicate about it. That's the stuff that both of you have to solve for right now. Because if we don't solve for that the next time that there's something missing in your relationship,

why would we assume he is going to do anything different? Right? A lot of people do this, by the way, like it's easier to distract and numb, and there's lots of ways to distract ourselves from the challenges in our lives. We can turn to a bottle of tequila, we can eat a pint of ice cream, we can numb out on Netflix,

we can use porn, we can use other people IE affairs so that we can avoid the truth and the challenges in our lives. And at some point, you both have to be able to come together and address those challenges rather than numbing out and avoiding them and potentially using other people as a way to avoid the challenges inside the marriage, right? So I want both of you to be able to show up for that in a really mature way,

right? And I just send you big hugs because I know that this is super hurtful, but affairs like they're, they're about what's missing in the marriage or what the other person, so your husband is either seeking or running from. And until we know what those things are, we can't actually solve it. And I promise it's not about this other woman,

okay? You are enough, and he chose you. He's just gotten a little bit lost and it felt easier to do this than stand there and be a man and address the challenges in his marriage because that feels super scary. Okay? So this is at a place right now where it can be fixed. Let's see if it can be fixed, and let's see if both of you can show up to it.

Where are we in it when it gets challenging? Are we willing to work through those challenges? Or when things get hard, are we just gonna bail and run and numb? Because if that's who he is and that's never gonna change, then it is better to know that now than 30 years from now, because you'll have a whole slew of heartbreak over the next 30 years if that can't change within him.

Okay? Big hugs to you, honey. If you have questions for me, I want to hear them and I wanna be able to give you some love and support in the process. So be sure to send me your question. You can just dial in at 7 2 7 5 3 7 0 3 5 9. Leave me a voicemail and maybe next month I will address your question on this podcast.

All right? Until then, take really good care. If you're listening to this podcast because you're struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage and you're serious about finding that answer, it's time to book a Truth and Clarity session with a member of my team on the call, we'll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there's a fit for you and I to work together so you can make and execute the right decision for you and your marriage.

Go to clarity for my marriage.com to fill out an application now that's clarity for my marriage.com.


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