As Rivka Levy points out in The Relationship Priorities Matrix, “One of the biggest causes of stress is when we end up putting people who are low-priority ahead of those who should be top priority. Take that needy friend who is on the phone tying up your time and attention for hours while your kids start going bananas because you didn’t manage to get supper on the table, help them with their homework or maybe, even just say ‘hi’ to them and spend 5 minutes catching up on their day at school…”
Think about your relationship priorities matrix and prioritise your time and attention accordingly.
Typical relationship priority matrix for a couple with children is provided below.
“The idea behind it is pretty simple. The lower the number, the higher the priority. And if you’re spending a bunch of time and energy on people who are in the outer rings – at the expense of people who are in your ‘inner circles’ – then that for sure is going to be causing you some massive stress. And it may well be time to rethink what’s going on…”
What is your relationship priorities matrix and how do you prioritise your time?
1. You accept and love your partner for who they are, including their quirky qualities!
2. You don’t make jokes at your partner’s expense and you can have constructive conversations if something is bothering you in the relationship.
3. You trust your partner and don’t get suspicious of what they’re doing when you’re not around.
4. You and your partner make relationship decisions together with neither person feeling like they have no say.
5. Your relationship doesn’t feel like an emotional roller coaster. You keep your cool when you argue, drink, or get upset.
6. You and your partner are both happy with the amount of time you spend together and the amount of time you spent apart. You have your own life outside of your relationship and can balance a love life and a personal life.
7. If there’s a problem in the relationship, you and your partner can have a constructive conversation about it without fear of retaliation.
8. Your friends and family like your partner and your partner encourages you to maintain healthy relationships with these very important people in your life.
9. Your partner respects your decisions. They don’t tell you or make subtle hints about what you can do, what to eat or wear, and who you should talk to or be friends with.
10. You know your relationship is making you a better, happier person. You have no doubts about whether or not it’s right for you.
The Naughty List
1. Your partner tries to hide or change you instead of accepting you for who you really are. Your partner makes you feel like you need to change to keep them satisfied.
2. Your partner nitpicks and criticizes you more than you’d like.
3. Your partner is always wondering or worrying about what you’re doing when you’re not together.
4. Your partner is the one calling all the shots and you feel like you need to follow along to keep the peace.
5. Your partner wants all of your time, but you want a little more time to yourself. You don’t bother talking to them about it because you know they will overreact or, if you do bring it up, they lash out at you or make you feel guilty for wanting some time apart.
6. Your partner makes you feel responsible for their happiness or success.
7. Your partner makes you wonder if you’re the problem in the relationship and they blame you for everything.
8. Your partner doesn’t get along with your friends and family.
9. Your partner tries to control what you do, who you spend time with, and who you talk to. They’ll tell you an outfit doesn’t look good so you change, ask you not to talk to someone they perceive as a “threat,” or tell you what parties you can go to.
10. Your partner is belligerent and out of control when they drink.
If you find yourself thinking, “that’s my relationship” after reading this naughty list, start the New Year by addressing this and seek professional help if needed.
“My dear, In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love. In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile. In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm. I realized, through it all, that… In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
“Marriage is ugly, you see the absolute worst in someone. You see them when they’re mad, sad, being stubborn, when they’re so unlovable they make you scream. But you also get to see them when they are laughing so hard that tears run down their face, and they can’t help but let out those weird gurgling noises. You see them at 3am when the world is asleep except you two, and you’re eating in the middle of the kitchen floor. You get to see the side of them that no one else does, and it’s not always pretty. Its snorting while laughing, its the tears when it feels like its all crashing down, its the farting, its the bedhead and bad breath, its the random dances, its the anger and the joy. Marriage isn’t a beautiful thing, but it is amazing. It’s knowing that someone loves you so much, and won’t leave you even though you said something nasty. It’s having someone have your back no matter what. Its fights over stupid things, like someone not doing the dishes or picking up after themselves. And it’s those nights you fall asleep in each others arms, feeling like there will never be enough time with them. It’s cleaning up their throw up, or just rubbing their back when they’re sick. It’s the dirtiest, hardest, most rewarding job there is. Because at the end of the day you get to crawl into bed with your best friend, the weirdest, most annoying, loving, goofy, perfect person that you know. Marriage is not beautiful, but it’s one heaven of a ride.”
All marriages have ups and downs. Relationship journey is not a straight line yet one that zigs and zags and has numerous curves. Sometimes it feels like it goes backwards and forwards all the time. You might be:
Feeling very close and intimate sometimes – then distant and disconnected other times
Communicating in ways that you feel heard, accepted and supported sometimes and other times communicating in a blaming and harsh manner where you feel unheard, rejected and disrespected
Resolving differences and conflicts effectively sometimes while other times your efforts seem to make matters worse resulting in ongoing disagreements and conflict
Having satisfying, passionate and intimate sex sometimes while other times it feels rote, mundane and boring
Sharing joy, laughter and fun while other times you are pushing each other’s buttons
Experiencing times of calm and ease with one another which may be suddenly interrupted by an intense explosive fight leaving you confused and shocked and wondering “where’d that come from”
Gazing at your partner and having the conviction that you are with your soul mate and other times wondering “who is this person and how did I end up with him/her”
Agreeing on lifestyle and financial needs and wants compared to strongly disagreeing about these things.
Wanting to spend as much time with your partner as possible and other times wanting to be alone or with friends, or maybe even wanting to be as far away from you partner as possible.
Perhaps you can think about these ups and downs and curves in the following way. Sometimes when you go on a trip you get directly to your destination with ease in a timely manner. The trip and the roads you take are as smooth as can be. Other times you go on a trip and you have to negotiate bumpy roads filled with potholes and/or inclement weather and/or you are re-routed due to construction and/or you get stuck in long tedious traffic delays… Travel, and life, is inconsistent and uncertain. Relationships are surely like this too.
How to Manage Ups and Downs in Your Relationship?
Understand that ups and downs and fluctuations are normal and know that they are surely going to happen
Be patient, kind and compassionate with yourself and your partner as you navigate the changes and curves
Look back to where you were and where you are now in terms of growth
Address concerns and issues as they arise to thwart building resentments
Communicate regularly with openness and honesty
Seek input and advice from friends or an experienced professional to help you see things objectively
Take responsibility for your part in the strengths and weaknesses of the relationship
Allow yourself to feel your feelings—your grief, relief, sadness, joy, sorrow, loneliness and anger
Divorce is one of the most difficult experiences a person can have. No one ever enters a divorce with joy and glee. Prior to the decision to divorce someone there has been a lot of hurt. Once you get to the divorce phase of the relationship you have already been through quite an agonizing process of grief and disappointment. Once it is all said and done, how do you proceed?
Be gentle with yourself. Showing yourself compassion as you work your way through the divorce will help you get through it a whole lot more quickly than if you’re impatient with yourself.
Don’t dwell on the past. Dwelling on the past keeps you there. Just like you can’t drive a car forward by staring in the rearview mirror, you can’t move your life forward if you’re focusing on the past. You can’t change the past. The best you can do is learn from it.
View your divorce is as an important lesson about relationships. You and your ex were in a relationship that didn’t make it. The relationship failed and you can learn from it – if you choose to. Once you decide to learn from your failed marriage instead of labelling yourself as a failure, you will regain confidence in yourself and your ability to have a successful relationship in the future.
Look forward. There is no point in focusing on the past. Picture yourself shutting the door on your marriage, visualizing it as a room you are leaving. See yourself entering a new room, full of possibilities and hope.
Clean house. It is time to get your life in order. Cleaning house is both literal and figurative. Take care of unfinished business. Organize your home. Whatever you have left unattended because of the emotional turmoil the divorce has caused you, now is the time to start putting the pieces back together.
Connect with your children. The divorce has impacted your entire family; this includes your children. Your children probably have no idea how to heal from what happened in their lives and probably have no idea what to do with their feelings. The best thing you can do is lean in to your relationship with your children and be there for them and with them.
Surround yourself with nurturing people. And definitively say “no” to those who are not providing you comfort. Now is the time to look at expanding or remodeling your social circle. Look for people who are happy, positive and self-assured in their own lives. While going the solo route can feel lonely, it’s also an incredible opportunity to develop a more grounded, fulfilling life.
Create a new normal. Now that you are no longer part of a marriage, you have a new reality. You are single and independent. You can do whatever you want. You no longer have to share your decisions with your spouse.
Develop your confidence. Divorce has a way of corroding your confidence. Regardless, you still have tremendous qualities that you can and should feel really great about. Figure out what you really like about yourself and remind yourself of these things daily.
Don’t close your door to love. Lastly, as you recover from divorce, don’t close the door to love and throw away the key! Allow yourself to meet new people and be open to the chance of falling in love again. Divorce is not the end of your life. Don’t allow your fears to prevent you from finding your happiness.
Yes, getting a divorce is difficult, but so is staying in an unhealthy marriage. It is hard to face, but it is helpful to know that you’re not alone… Getting divorced hurts, but you will recover and have a better future as you go through the healing process.
Love is a spiritual journey that involves constant learning and shedding of illusions. The illusions and fantasies of Love that we grew up with and have been fed through movies and the media. Let’s clear up the Fantasy of Love versus the Truth about Love.
Love will always feel exciting, passionate, and fearless. We will always feel attraction
Love eliminates feelings of pain and grief and sorrow and promises only ecstasy
We will never argue, have disagreements or fight
It will be completely effortless, always
Holds everything, every feeling. Ecstasy and pain, magic and sorrow. We will disappoint and upset each other and we will have to choose to love each other. We will have to practice forgiveness and compassion.
Requires my conscious effort each day. Every day is brand new and every day it’s my responsibility to show up fully. I am responsible for my part in the relationship
We are wildly imperfect
Everything changes and we are always changing
We will have to talk about responsibilities, money and sex and taxes and values and children and time and needs and fears and feelings and make lots of difficult decisions together
The work never ends, there is no destination and I intend to make sure my partner feels loved and appreciated every day
My partner can’t read my mind. It’s my responsibility to express what I need and how I feel.
The fantasy keeps so many in such painful, excruciating struggles and their feet are never on the ground. The fantasy fuels unrealistic expectations that leave us empty and starving for real love. Real love is grounding, humbling and messy. It is a choice that requires effort every day. It shines through the routine experiences of the everyday life.
Infidelity is a major factor in broken marriages. It destroys families, and paves the way for traumatic experiences for children.
Cheating does not always mean actual sexual activity. Emotional cheating and flirting are still considered as cheating.
The cheater’s actions hurt the spouse who was betrayed, their children, their families, close friends. But these aren’t the only people infidelity hurts. Cheating hurts the cheater too.
Despite the initial thrill of an affair, cheating often negatively affects the cheater emotionally. It’s common for them to feel anxiety, guilt, shame, worry, regret, confusion, embarrassment, and self-loathing when they contemplate how their actions impact those they love and why they cheated in the first place.
When they think about and experience how their actions impact them and others they feel the sting and anguish of their poor judgment.
All of these thoughts swirling through their heads and the rollercoaster of their emotions can lead cheaters to live two completely different lives while the affair continues. One where they feel the addictive ecstasy of love and one where they feel hatred.
Of course, living these two polar-opposite lives puts extreme stress not only on themselves, but on their marriage too. And when the spouse does discover the truth, they will feel pain to their core as they rightfully wonder what part of the relationship with their wayward spouse was real and what part was a lie.
Not only can the spouse now blame the cheater for every bad thing that happens to them and every problem in their relationship, but their children get to blame them too. If they feel depressed, if they cheat or their spouse cheats on them, that will be their cheater-parent’s fault. When their children are sitting on the therapist’s couch unmarried, unloved and childless at 44, the cheater-parent will be the reason they can’t trust or make and keep commitments.
Cheaters often are not able to trust others to be loyal to them. After all if they did this themselves, anyone can. If they could violate trust and hurt someone they love in such a deeply damaging way, what’s to stop others from doing it to them?
Being on the receiving end of the pain their spouse is suffering because of the cheating can easily become too much for the straying spouse. At one extreme, they may deny their responsibility for causing the pain and blame their spouse for forcing them to cheat. At the other extreme, they may feel they deserve the punishment, accept it as just, and live out the rest of their lives as a mere shadow of their true selves.
How cheating affects the cheater is complicated and painful. Why do they cheat then?
There are a lot of reasons why cheaters cheat, including:
personality disorders: narcissism, borderline personality disorder, and psychopathy.
childhood trauma, or
being raised with bad influence regarding relationships.
Cheaters often deeply fear abandonment and seek out their second relationship as something of a security blanket against physical or emotional loneliness.
Repeat cheaters often have certain core negative beliefs. They feel unworthy, feel no one can genuinely love them and so on. As a result of these insecurities, people addicted to cheating tend to avoid intimacy and to compartmentalise and split off part of their sexual, romantic or intimate life. Being intimate with a spouse is problematic for them and they find an escape.
People who cheat will look for opportunities where the potential mate may be in a vulnerable state, such as after a break-up or divorce. When the preyed-upon is in a more vulnerable state, they are more likely to be open to and engage in the cheating behavior because they miss the feeling of being loved and are not emotionally grounded enough yet to set secure boundaries.
Like with all addictions, repeat cheating is a dependency on a ‘drug’ to escape pain, fear and other negative emotions.
The prospects for repeat cheaters can be good if addicts give up all the related behaviours and get treatment that addresses their insecurities and their fears around intimacy; in other words the “deeper work”. This might involve:
Professional help to uncover the root cause of cheating
Practicing total transparency with the spouse OR
Changing the relationship type. Instead of cheating, they can find partners who are comfortable with non-monogamy. Sometimes it is better to follow a less traditional — but honest — path, then live a life of destruction, betrayal and lies.
As with all recovery, it takes time and treatment to change a lifelong adaptation. It also takes vigilance. Even well into recovery, addicts may still be drawn to sexual validation and non-sexual forms of cheating. But these behaviors will continue to fade away over the years.