Therapy That Works...

How To Detect Domestic Violence - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

by Dr. Sylvia Gearing

The tragic death of University Virginia athlete, Yeardley Love, has raised the question once again of domestic violence in young couples.

Here’s what the latest statistics tell us about this frightening phenomenon:

  • Just under 45% of this age group have experienced violence in a relationship either before or during college.
  • Relationship violence seems to peak prior to college for most kids with 53% of women and 27% of men reporting victimization.
  • Emotional violence was the most common type of violence at all ages but is more common in high school.
  • Both sexual and emotional violence increase in college, if not addressed properly.

How can you detect if someone you know is being abused? Here are the signs:

  • Isolation: Abusive partners prefer that their victim remain isolated and unable to turn to others. In addition, victims isolate themselves from friends and family.
  • Increasing Anxiety and Depression: Domestic abuse victims show signs of anxiety and depression such as agitation, sadness, withdrawal, low energy, emotional mood swings, tearfulness and a decline in functioning at school.
  • Avoiding The Truth: People who are being abused are shell shocked. They are literally frozen by the stress. Many kids from good homes are naive about what abuse is, normalize the actions of the abusive partner and make excuses for the abuser until it is too late.
  • Social Shedding: Victims of emotional of sexual abuse by a partner seem to shed their former relationships—best friends, family connections, socializing patterns. They stop responding to others and deny they are being harassed.
  • Progressive Pain: Look for signs of increasing disconnection from others, less responsiveness and avoidant behavior. They are locked in a cage of agony and don’t know how to ask for help.

So what can you do to help?

Many family and friends prefer not to get involved out of respect of personal boundaries. However, this is one time that you need to speak up. Caring about this person now involves compassionate intervention. Please, do not turn your back.

Gather Evidence: Collect the observations you have had and organize them into a coherent conversation. Specify behaviors you have seen and conversations you may have overheard or read online or through texting.

Stand Your Ground: Domestic violence at this age is especially lethal since adolescent and young adult brains are often immature and impulsive. If you present your evidence and they are still resistant, go to their community of friends and ask them to help. For more serious cases, please seek out a psychologist. However difficult these steps are, they may very well save her life.

Sources: JAMA and Archives Journals (July 8, 2008) Relationship Violence Appears Common Among College Students

Tiger Woods Press Conference - By Chris Gearing

Friday, February 19, 2010

Infidelity Trauma: Tiger Woods Sex Scandal

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, February 19, 2010

After three months of silence, Tiger Woods finally discussed the sex scandal that has overshadowed his marriage to Swedish model Elin Nordegren. But many of us are now wondering if this is “too little too late.” Can Tiger once again win the confidence of his wife and his fans?

So how well did Tiger handle himself in today’s new conference? Was he effective in apologizing to his wife and his fans? Did he pull it off?

Public apologies about such important events are always difficult to pull off due to our own cynicism about how genuine they are. But Tiger seemed to deliver both a heartfelt and a truthful review of the facts. He expressed remorse, a capable understanding of the trauma he has inflicted on everyone and an acknowledgment of the severe consequences for his irresponsible behavior. This live apology was especially difficult for a man who is as exacting and precise in his public behavior. For now, he seems to have delivered an effective apology. It will be a matter of time to see if he continues his marital fidelity.

But lets shift away from Tiger and focus on how Elin is doing in this situation.

Trauma is Lack of Power: Trauma is a condition of powerlessness and when it is inflicted within a marriage, it is especially devastating psychologically. Trauma is magnified exponentially when it inflicted by the spouse.

Life Rearranged: Infidelity “rearranges” life for the person who has been betrayed. When you are reeling from infidelity, previous formulas about life no longer apply. Trust is shot, the past and present are redefined and the future is an uncertain road that stretches on into oblivion. Your partner becomes someone “you no longer know.”

Isolated and Alone: Infidelity trauma is especially difficult especially when a celebrity is involved. The couple usually decides to withdraw into silence, as the affair is played out on the public stage. The betrayed partner is denied access to the social support of others and the secrecy deepens the feeling of disconnection and isolation.

Marital Crime: Infidelity is a marital “crime” and systematic concealment and falsification characterizes every affair. If you don’t lie, you can’t cheat. When you are the recipient of lying and infidelity, you have to go back and rewrite all of your past and present experiences. You begin to doubt your own perceptions since reality has now been redefined by these discoveries.

Especially in the case of infidelity, the situation can go from bad to worse rather quickly.

There are specific factors but there is a simple and direct correlation between the severity of the trauma and the effect on the partner.

The impact on the betrayed partner depends on these factors:

  • How Long the Affair Lasted
  • The Number of People Involved (number of partners or the birth of a child)
  • Who was Involved (Best Friends versus Strangers)
  • The Level of Falsification and Concealment
  • How Long It Took to Discover (Affairs that involve incremental disclosure are much harder to handle. Such disclosures affect the basic feelings of control, safety and predictability in the offended partner. Overwhelming anxiety increases as the progressive discoveries are made.)

Who usually leaves after an affair?

Without a doubt, the one who is betrayed is more likely to ultimately leave the marriage. A profound discontent seems to disrupt their faith and allegiance to the partner and over time, they may become disillusioned. Although they often agree to stay in the marriage initially, they usually do not get the right treatment for trauma which sets them up to gradually detach from the marriage. The erosion of affection is a progression, not an event, and many people—including the spouse who has cheated-- are shocked when the betrayed partner finally calls it quits.

What about Tiger’s fans? Can they ever forgive him?

Separate the Man from the Image: Celebrities are just people and it is important to understand that Tiger made a series of terrible decisions systematically. He was his own worst enemy and will ultimately pay heavily for his behavior.

Self-Indulgence Overran Good Judgment: Understand exactly what happened. The explanations for cheating can be complex but they always boil down to one basic reason—we cheat when our emotions overrun our better judgment. Tiger allowed his self-indulgence to define him repeatedly. He was responsible regardless of any other issues such as addiction that may be present.

Deception is Hard to See: Although it is inexcusable, the entitlements and security of celebrities facilitates this kind of self-destructive behavior. The irresponsibly of the affair stands in stark contrast to every other part of that person’s public life. This was especially true of Tiger who was a public paragon of virtue and self-discipline.

Rules Don’t Apply to Me: Although it is no excuse, Tiger’s behavior reflects the social narcissism that defines us. We just don’t hold people to the same standards we used to observe. Affairs flourish in the current era of epidemic narcissism. We no longer value loyalty, sacrifice and duty as much as we did a generation ago. Tiger is the latest example of this erosion in values.

Finally, the ultimate question: how does Tiger win back his wife?

If the trauma has not been too severe and if the couple still possesses a deep affection for one another, it is wise to move forward. Marital outcomes can be positive in many of these cases. They need to hire the best team of psychologists who are specialists in trauma recovery to guides them through this process. They must not try to do it on their own. It is impossible to be objective in the wake of such strong emotions.

If you stay together, here are the initial steps you must take:

Reframe the Affair as Traumatic Event: The couple must view all aspects of infidelity as a distinct. The betrayed party may well be experiencing a posttraumatic stress disorder. The couple must reframe infidelity anxiety within a trauma model.

Responsibility for the Affair: The full responsibility for the affair must be fully assumed by the betrayer. Although there may have been mitigating circumstances, the decision to cheat was ultimately made by the betrayer. Remorse must be repeatedly expressed and demonstrated.

Safety and Predictability: This is when the betrayer must step up. He must establish a sense of safety, predictability and emotional containment by pledging fidelity, openness to all questions and constant accountability. The ultimate responsibility for transparency is with the partner who inflicted the pain.

Story of The Affair: Together the partners must create a clear story of the events of the affair, the decisions that were made and how the affair or affairs were ended.

Mental Health Issues Addressed: Any sexual or chemical addictions or issues with mood disorders in the wandering partner must be addressed and resolved.

Reemergence as a New Couple: Redefining ourselves as stronger, wiser and more engaged with one another are all hallmark strengths of people who survive infidelity. There is an abiding ability to forgive and to remember the unique aspects of the marriage that are worth fighting for.

Sources:

Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror, by Judith Herman, 1997.

Principles of Trauma Therapy: A Guide to Symptom Evaluation and Treatment by John N. Briere and Catherine Scott, 2006

Infidelity Trauma: Tiger & Elin Woods - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Infidelity Trauma: Tiger Woods Sex Scandal

TXA 21 News

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, February 18, 2010

After three months of silence, Tiger Woods finally discussed the sex scandal that has overshadowed his marriage to Swedish model Elin Nordegren. But many of us are now wondering if this is “too little too late.” Can Tiger once again win the confidence of his wife and his fans?

How has this scandal affected Tiger's wife, Elin?

Trauma is Lack of Power: Trauma is a condition of powerlessness and when it is inflicted within a marriage, it is especially devastating psychologically. Trauma is magnified exponentially when it inflicted by the spouse.

Life Rearranged: Infidelity “rearranges” life for the person who has been betrayed. When you are reeling from infidelity, previous formulas about life no longer apply. Trust is shot, the past and present are redefined and the future is an uncertain road that stretches on into oblivion. Your partner becomes someone “you no longer know.”

Isolated and Alone: Infidelity trauma is especially difficult especially when a celebrity is involved. The couple usually decides to withdraw into silence, as the affair is played out on the public stage. The betrayed partner is denied access to the social support of others and the secrecy deepens the feeling of disconnection and isolation.

Marital Crime: Infidelity is a marital “crime” and systematic concealment and falsification characterizes every affair. If you don’t lie, you can’t cheat. When you are the recipient of lying and infidelity, you have to go back and rewrite all of your past and present experiences. You begin to doubt your own perceptions since reality has now been redefined by these discoveries.

As mistress after mistress have come to light, one has to wonder - how bad can it get? Here are some factors that can make infidelity worse:

The impact on the betrayed partner depends on these factors:

  • How Long the Affair Lasted
  • The Number of People Involved (number of partners or the birth of a child)
  • Who was Involved (Best Friends versus Strangers)
  • The Level of Falsification and Concealment
  • How Long It Took to Discover (Affairs that involve incremental disclosure are much harder to handle. Such disclosures affect the basic feelings of control, safety and predictability in the offended partner. Overwhelming anxiety increases as the progressive discoveries are made.)

Who usually leaves after an affair (especially of this magnitude)?

Without a doubt, the one who is betrayed is more likely to ultimately leave the marriage. A profound discontent seems to disrupt their faith and allegiance to the partner and over time, they may become disillusioned. Although they often agree to stay in the marriage initially, they usually do not get the right treatment for trauma which sets them up to gradually detach from the marriage. The erosion of affection is a progression, not an event, and many people—including the spouse who has cheated-- are shocked when the betrayed partner finally calls it quits.

You are most likely wondering how Tiger's fans and family are supposed to ever forgive him.

Separate the Man from the Image: Celebrities are just people and it is important to understand that Tiger made a series of terrible decisions systematically. He was his own worst enemy and will ultimately pay heavily for his behavior.

Self-Indulgence Overran Good Judgment: Understand exactly what happened. The explanations for cheating can be complex but they always boil down to one basic reason—we cheat when our emotions overrun our better judgment. Tiger allowed his self-indulgence to define him repeatedly. He was responsible irregardless of any other issues such as addiction that may be present.

Deception is Hard to See: Although it is inexcusable, the entitlements and security of celebrities facilitates this kind of self-destructive behavior. The irresponsibly of the affair stands in stark contrast to every other part of that person’s public life. This was especially true of Tiger who was a public paragon of virtue and self-discipline.

Rules Don’t Apply to Me: Although it is no excuse, Tiger’s behavior reflects the social narcissism that defines us. We just don’t hold people to the same standards we used to observe. Affairs flourish in the current era of epidemic narcissism. We no longer value loyalty, sacrifice and duty as much as we did a generation ago. Tiger is the latest example of this erosion in values.

Finally, the ultimate question: How does Tiger win his wife back?

If the trauma has not been too severe and if the couple still possesses a deep affection for one another, it is wise to move forward. Marital outcomes can be positive in many of these cases. They need to hire the best team of psychologists who are specialists in trauma recovery to guides them through this process. They must not try to do it on their own. It is impossible to be objective in the wake of such strong emotions.

If you stay together, here are the initial steps you must take:

Reframe the Affair as Traumatic Event: The couple must view all aspects of infidelity as a distinct. The betrayed party may well be experiencing a posttraumatic stress disorder. The couple must reframe infidelity anxiety within a trauma model.

Responsibility for the Affair: The full responsibility for the affair must be fully assumed by the betrayer. Although there may have been mitigating circumstances, the decision to cheat was ultimately made by the betrayer. Remorse must be repeatedly expressed and demonstrated.

Safety and Predictability: This is when the betrayer must step up. He must establish a sense of safety, predictability and emotional containment by pledging fidelity, openness to all questions and constant accountability. The ultimate responsibility for transparency is with the partner who inflicted the pain.

Story of The Affair: Together the partners must create a clear story of the events of the affair, the decisions that were made and how the affair or affairs were ended.

Mental Health Issues Addressed: Any sexual or chemical addictions or issues with mood disorders in the wandering partner must be addressed and resolved.

Reemergence as a New Couple: Redefining ourselves as stronger, wiser and more engaged with one another are all hallmark strengths of people who survive infidelity. There is an abiding ability to forgive and to remember the unique aspects of the marriage that are worth fighting for.

Sources:

"Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror," by Judith Herman, 1997.

"Principles of Trauma Therapy: A Guide to Symptom Evaluation and Treatment" by John N. Briere and Catherine Scott, 2006

The Phenomenon of Mature Women - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It’s Complicated—The Phenomenon of Mature Women

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, January 12, 2010

“It’s Complicated,” the popular new Meryl Streep movie is once again illustrating how older women are taking the world by storm.

Here’s why so many women relate to Meryl Streep’s character:

Social Revolution: Meryl Streep’s character is a prime example of the social revolution that is sweeping the nation. Women have redefined aging. No longer are we held to antiquated definitions of attractiveness—youth, fertility, and tight skin. At midlife, we move into our most productive years, both personally and professionally.

New Power: Now, just like men, we acquire power and allure by achievement. Our accomplishments, complexity and history are now defined as assets rather than as liabilities. This movie showed that an older woman could trump a younger women on the social playing field. We can partner with men of assorted ages—young and old— or we can play the field solo if we prefer. Partnering is an option, not a mandate.

New Timeline, New Dreams: The MacArthur Foundation reports that by 2050, life expectancy for women will rise to up to 94 years. We now regard the 50s and 60s as “middle” age and a passage of life that is full of adventure, reinvention and excellence. Streep’s character reminded us of the empowerment that comes with this stage of life.

Meryl’s character entertains multiple suitors within the film, which begs the question: do women become more passionate as they age?

More Sensual with the Years: Women become more sensual as they mature and this is especially true of boomer women who led the sexual revolution. They are more at ease with their bodies, enjoy more self-acceptance and have less attachment to social definitions of beauty. They know their bodies better and they take their intimate needs more seriously.

Passion Begins in the Mind: Passion begins in a woman’s mind and it is a product of her self-confidence and experience. As her thinking become more sophisticated, her passion increases and she may enjoy sensuality more. If she is married, she invests more deeply in her partner and is often willing to be fully physically and emotionally vulnerable, often for the first time. If she is single, she chooses her partners more carefully and is a wiser evaluator of other’s intentions.

This trend of empowered older women was made possible by the economic opportunities.

Money Talks: The economic empowerment of women over the last fifty years was certainly a facilitator of these social trends. No longer dependent on the support of a man, millions of women crafted spectacular careers and took the reins of their fate into their own hands. Their social and psychological transformation accelerated as their incomes increased.

Global Economy Shifted Women: The shift in the global economy has had a lot to do with the increase in female power. Brains count more than brawn now. As manufacturing decreased, the service industries increased and women rose to the challenge. We have fared especially well in the recession and now comprise over 50%of the labor force.

Education and Innovation: Women are more educated and enjoy the modern innovations in communication and domestic technology that make it possible to work outside of the home. Washboards have been replaced by motherboards and women have derived untold freedoms from a world that increasingly rewards them for smarts, drive and persistence.

Ladies, here’s what you can do to be maximally empowered in midlife:

Social Ties are Cheap Medicine: Women have to remember how you age is often under their control. Stay connected with your friends since studies show that social ties are essential to longevity. In fact, a study by the MacArthur Foundation reported that “ the influence of genetics shrinks proportionately as you get older, while social and physical habits become increasingly integral to your state of health—both mental and physical.”

Attitude is Everything: Optimism pays off and a recently release study of 97,000 women older than 50 reported that optimists were 9% less likely to develop heart disease and 14% less likely to die from it.

Shifting to a Brighter Outlook: Take the following three steps:

1.) Commit to a Cause Greater than Yourself

2.) Control the factors you can influence and disregard the rest.

3.) Challenge yourself to view setbacks as surmountable and problems as solvable.

For more information about Dr. Sylvia, please go to www.gearingup.com

Sources:

“Researchers ask why optimism is associated with health, pessimism with disease” The Washington Post, January 12, 2010, Carolyn Butler

“Women and Work: We Did It!” The Economist, January 2010

“Sex and the Seasoned Woman, Pursuing the Passionate Life” by Gail Sheehy, 2006

Parental Alienation At The Holidays - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Parental Alienation During The Holidays

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, Dec 17, 2009

During the holidays, millions of children from divorced families will be spending time with their parents separately. But what happens when a parent engages in parental alienation--a systematic campaign to discredit the other parent and alienate the child?

Parental alienation is becoming a major problem for American children.

Systematic Campaign of Alienation: Parental alienation is a systematic campaign of character assassination. It is not gender related or age related. One parent is determined to alienate the child’s affections toward the other parent or toward a grandparent. It is most prevalent in child custody cases and it is worse at the holidays as parents have increased access to their children.

Spans the Range: Parental Alienation spans the range from outright malicious intent, legal battles and reckless accusations to careless, self serving comments that undermine the child’s view of their parent.

Emotional Abuse of Children: Parental alienation is a form of emotional abuse of the child. As one expert said “Bad mouth your ex and you simultaneously bad mouth your child.” (Richard Warshak, Ph.D.)

Legitimized by Self Absorbed Culture: Most divorces involve pain and suffering and parental alienation flourishes in a family culture of dissent and conflict. However, the epidemic of narcissism that has defined our country in recent years legitimizes winning at any cost. Savage and unethical behavior is justified even if it involves waging war against an innocent party.

Parents engage in parental alienation because of the following reasons:

Revenge: There are complex reasons to explain this behavior but all explanations boil down to one principle reason. People receive secondary gain from inflicting pain on people they believe have wronged them. The mind of the child becomes the battlefield for revenge.

Child is Perceived as a Possession: For some parents, adequate boundaries with their children are absent. They child is perceived as an extension of themselves. They inflict parental alienation on the other parent to banish him or her so they can have the child to themselves.

Compensating for Inadequacy and Guilt: Parents may try to resolve their low self-esteem and sense of failure by reinforcing their belief that they are the best parent. Posturing as the superior parent makes them feel better even if it is at the expense of their child. They have no conscience about the suffering of the child and the other parent.

Children suffer from parental alienation in the following ways:

Brainwashed by Lies: These kids are basically brainwashed and now regard their targeted parent as the enemy or as a worthless afterthought. This kind of betrayal can occur even in the most tender and loving relationships. Tragically, such division can last for years.

Contempt, Rejection and Disrespect: They show contempt, rejection, and disrespect for the targeted parent. These comments are often irrational, insulting and traumatizing to the targeted parent.

Rehearsed Answers: They have been taught to orient to the controlling needs of the alienating parent at all costs. They are often unable to specify why they dislike the targeted parent or they exaggerate faults of their parent to justify their rejection. Their comments parrot the alienator’s words and feelings.

Long Term Damage: There is minimal data on the long-term effects of such alienation on kids. However, we do know that the earlier the separation from a parent, the more traumatic it is for the child. The basic tenants of loving relationships—trust, loyalty, and forgiveness are never learned and the child may struggle for a lifetime because of these experiences.

Parents can protect themselves and their children by taking the following steps:

Educate Yourself: Parental alienation can be an elusive phenomenon to prove especially in a highly intense forum such as child custody. There are several books with great resources that are “must reads” for parents (see below).

Remain Calm: Understand that you have been systematically undermined and that you are taking every step to remediate the situation. Focus on what you can control and don’t stress about other factors. Do not lose your temper, reject your child or insult your ex in front of your child.

Work with Great Experts: Hire a psychologist and a lawyer who are proven experts in parental alienation. The therapist must acknowledge the massive psychological impact such alienation has on the child and targeted parent. Your attorney needs to possess a solid understanding of this type of emotional abuse and the substantial legal skills to protect your child and your interests.

For more information on Dr. Sylvia please go to www.gearingup.com

Resources:

"Divorce Poison," Dr. Richard Warshak

"The Custody Revolution," by Dr. Richard Warshak

"Divorce Casualties: Understanding Parental Alienation," Dr. Douglas Darnall

Tiger Woods' Infidelity - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Tiger Wood’s Infidelity Ordeal

December 3, 2009 

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Superstar golfer Tiger Woods has now joined the long list of celebrities who have been unfaithful in their marriages. To add to the scandal, recently released phone calls and 300 text messages between the golfer and his affair partner have highlighted the central part technology plays in modern affairs.

As we see in the Tiger Woods story, technology is so central to cheating now. Why is this phenomenon increasing?

Technological Superhighway: Technology is the communication superhighway that facilitates clandestine contact. If you want to move with stealth and with speed, you move with technology. Now with a simple cell phone, you can orchestrate an entire rendezvous quickly. Having an affair has never been easier.

Technology Hides Lying: It is also easier to lie with technology. Seventy two percent of lying occurs through technology. Cell phones, texting and Internet chatter are rife with deceit. It is easier to craft a lie when you are not facing the recipient.

Social Networking Sites Increasing: Face book claims to have 350 active users with 35 million people updating their profiles on a daily basis. More than 65 million use their mobile devices to stay connected. Such sites, while laden with social benefits, are easily misused to facilitate affairs.

With this year of busted affairs and scandals, it may seem like powerful men are cheating more often. Here’s why:

Men and women have always cheated but technology is making it more difficult to hide. But there are several personality factors that explain the increase in infidelity in the “Age of Celebrity.”

Driven Personalities: Tiger Woods is known for his self-discipline and elegance on the links. Unfortunately, highly driven personalities may also lapse into impulsive, irrational behaviors that are counter to their public image.

Strengths Become Weaknesses: Over time, the very strengths that account for their achievements—that self-discipline, self- control and single mindedness--can result in disastrous lapses of judgment. Fueled by an impossible schedule and long absences from home, they may lose that internal compass that has served them so well.

Self-Importance Increases: Oftentimes, the perks allotted to celebrities can create an exaggerated sense of entitlement and self-importance. They can engage in self destructive, impulsive behaviors because they feel entitled to play by a different set of rules. In their own minds, they rationalize their misbehavior or disregard it altogether.

Let’s not forget that there was a female side to the equation, too. Why do so many women pursue these public figures, even when they obviously know that they are married?

Aggressive Women: We underestimate the predatory nature of women, especially when competing for powerful men. Young women cheat more than men now and they crave the aura of influential partners. Celebrities are viewed as special conquests. The affair partner elevates her status by aligning with a powerful man. He is a “notch” in her belt.

Star Power Increases Propositioning: Eighty seven percent of men claim that they have been approached for a short-term sexual fling. Male celebrities have many more propositions because of their star power. According to one study, seventy percent of married celebrities with a net worth of over 10 million dollars have strayed.

Men are Beguiled by Beauty: Men are drawn to the visual and beautiful women have intense influence with most men. Male celebrities whose fame is often based on charisma and attractiveness value such qualities in affair partners. Women spend nearly ten times as much on beauty enhancing products when compared to men.

And finally, the number one question that I hear in my marriage counseling sessions when adultery has occurred: Is it possible to salvage the marriage?

Affairs change a relationship forever. It is a wound that many marriages cannot survive. However, marriages that continue after affairs require the following steps:

Technological Transparency: As we saw in the Woods case, technology was a huge part of the deceit. New standards of absolute transparency must be instituted and observed rigidly. The motto needs to be, “lose the technology, and gain the wife.”

New Limitations on Freedom: Unlimited freedom creates opportunity, which can create impulsive behavior. If you have cheated, you must restrict your behavior and rigorously self monitor. Inevitably, you will encounter new temptations and it is up to you to make the right call.

New Emotional Accountability: Choosing to stay after infidelity requires a new definition of the marital expectations and a massive determination on both partner’s part. Most of all, post affair marriages must have emotional accountability on the betrayer’s part. In turn the betrayed party must demonstrate a willingness to forgive and to create a new relationship.

For more information about Dr. Gearing, please go to www.gearingup.com

Sources for the is Story:

The First Sex by Helen Fisher

Why Women Have Sex by Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss

What's Love Got To Do With It? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

October 28, 2009 

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

With a fifty percent divorce rate, millions of Americans experience the agony of divorce each year. Dr. Sylvia Gearing discusses the top risk factors of breaking up, the secrets to staying together and what you can do tonight to make your relationship better.

Here are the latest findings on factors that lead to divorce:

A new study reveals the following risk factors:

Difference in Age: Age differences between the partners are linked to marital instability. Couples in which the husband is two or more years younger than the wife are 53% more likely to break up. Husbands nine or more years older are twice as likely to separate.

Disagreement About Having Children: When the wife has a much stronger preference for having a child than the husband, there is twice the risk of separation.

Women Tolerate Misery: There are distinct gender differences in tolerating misery. Women who are in difficult marriages tend to adapt to their husband’s negativity. In happy marriages, women initiate conversation to solve the problem. In contrast, men compartmentalize their angst until they are overwhelmed with it. Once they are aware of their unhappiness, they often leave the relationship.

Here’s how this new research compares to findings you already know about:

These findings are purely correlations and don’t explain the basic relationship patterns of breaking up. There are two major keys to staying together happily in a relationship.

Repairing the Argument: If you cannot make up, agree to disagree, or change direction in real time, your relationship will eventually fold. If you get overwhelmed and fall into the Distance Isolation Cascade, your marriage is seriously threatened and your affection, no matter how great, will begin to erode.

Avoiding Distance- Isolation Cascade: Pulling out of a fight through repairing the conflict and avoiding the Distance-Isolation Cascade are pivotal skills.

Here are the progressive steps partners experience as the conflict progresses:

Flooding: When an emotion becomes so overwhelming it takes over the emotional world of the person and the individual floods with anxiety and anger. If you cannot calm and soothe yourself and your partner, you cannot solve the problem at hand.

Viewing Problems as Severe and Permanent: Viewing the problems in the marriage as unsolvable and never ending is a hallmark of impending breaking up.

Decision to Work Problems Out Alone: Detachment is the final step in leaving a relationship. Eighty percent of divorced partners attribute the divorce to growing apart.

Parallel Lives: Building a social infrastructure outside the marriage gives the person a place to land after breaking up.

Loneliness: There is nothing lonelier in the world than remaining in a relationship when it is over. This outcome is especially difficult for women who are more willing to tolerate misery for a longer period of time.

Everybody wants to know the secrets of staying happily married. Although there’s no magic wand, here are my best tips for keeping your marriage magical:

Accepting Influence: Although this marital skill is difficult to master, it is a key to making love last and building confidence in the relationship. Allowing your spouse to influence your opinion by finding the common ground, the common strategy and the compromise that always exists are important in de-escalating conflict.

Gridlock: Sixty nine percent of issues are perpetual and are never solved. Masterful couples pull together to converse capably and respectfully around issues they disagree upon. Common ground and a shared solution are then possible.

Overlooking the Negative: When marriages are new, we are all accepting and reinforcing of our partners. After 15 years, rates of satisfaction, adoration, shared activities decline precipitously in couples that divorce. In happy marriages that last, the couples show the reverse patterns. Increasing companionship, higher rates of satisfaction and adoration are all typical.

But if you want immediate results, try these strategies tonight:

There are two powerful antidotes to negativity that work every time:

The Magic of Positive Emotions: Use positive emotions, words and behaviors to love your partner through conflict. Great couples use positive emotion judiciously in de-escalating disagreements. Kind words, a smile and humor all soothe the accelerating heart and calm the angry and resentful mind.

Thirty Seconds a Day: According to marital research, just thirty seconds of positive emotion a day can change the direction of a love affair. “Thirty seconds of positivity a day amounts to 100 positive words a day: multiplied by 365 days a year, this comes to 36, 500 words –enough to fill a book of poetry.” John Gottman, Ph.D.

For more information about Dr. Sylvia, please visit www.gearingup.com!

Sources:

The Marriage Clinic, John Gottman, Ph.D.

What’s Love Got to Do With It? Dr. Rebecca Kippen, Professor Bruce Chapman, Dr. Peng Yu

Letterman's Infidelity - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Letterman’s Infidelity

October 7, 2009 

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News 

David Letterman’s startling admission of infidelity with co-workers once again raises the difficult question of why so many powerful men cheat. Former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, former presidential candidate John Edwards and South Carolina governor Mark Sanford are just a few public figures who have been in the news for marital infidelity.

Why do so many powerful men have affairs?

Huge Egos: Unfortunately, huge power is often accompanied by a huge ego. Powerful men are often experts at manipulating others into admiring and catering to them. Female subordinates find power intoxicating in men and are often willing participants. They disregard the fact that this is an affair and they are being used.

Thrill of the Forbidden Enticing: Affairs are a grand source of narcissism and flattery for both parties. Many powerful men become addicted to the thrill of the forbidden and become serial cheaters. They enjoy exercising their ability to acquire the sexual favors of others “just because they can.” They consider themselves entitled to extramarital activities.

Collateral Damage: They often fail to think of the emotional consequences to their own partner or to the affair partner since the affair is “all about them.” Anyone else’s feelings are simply collateral damage. Impulsivity, self indulgence, egotism mixed with a penchant for rationalizing can push many men into crossing the line.

Most of the marital couples in my office want to understand how these kinds of affairs begin and under what circumstances:

“I Met Her at Work:” Today's workplace is the most fertile breeding ground for affairs. Forty six percent of unfaithful wives and sixty two percent of unfaithful husbands have an affair with someone they met through their work.

Men Like to Look: Men are more turned on than women by visual stimuli. Affairs begin in the mind and the office setting now offers an abundance of beautiful, young, and attentive people with whom we spend the bulk of our waking hours.

Attraction Versus Adrenaline: Very few activities are more captivating than working hard together to achieve common goals. The pressures of teamwork and shared deadlines lead to that adrenaline rush. Sexual chemistry flourishes in high-pressure situations. Many of us misinterpret that sexual “rush” as attraction.

Most couples don’t understand how affairs can happen if they are “happily married.”

You can regard yourself as “happily married” but you may be misleading yourself. A lot of men and women who stray consider themselves victims of their insensitive spouse or imprisoned in a marriage that has grown more companionable than romantic. Such excuses are rationalizations for cheating. Remember that having an affair means that you are choosing to lie deliberately and systematically. No amount of marital neglect or incompatibility is a sufficient justification for this kind of betrayal. Leave your marriage before you cheat.

You may be wondering how affairs have changed over the years:

Infidelity has changed over the last ten years with more good people in marriages straying. They unwittingly form deep, passionate connections with people at work or in the neighborhood before realizing that they've crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love. In one study, 82% of 200 unfaithful partners were described as "just a friend” in the beginning. But let’s be honest, at some point you said “yes” when you should have said “no.”

A common belief is that infidelity automatically leads to divorce.

However, cheating is not an automatic death knell for your marriage. However, according to this latest poll, cheating is responsible for around 54% of divorces. In the end, most unfaithful people want to stay in their marriages and work hard to revive them. Almost seventy percent of Americans don’t want to lose their partner with men being a little more worried than women.

If you or your partner have strayed, here are some of the steps you should take:

Stop All Contact with the Affair Partner: Remember, history creates interest which creates opportunity. Stop all contact with the affair partner. Avoid at all costs any risky situations that could compromise your judgment. Remind yourself that just because there has been an attraction to this person, it does not mean that you are married to the wrong person.

Emotional Accountability: The number one predictor of marital survival following infidelity is the ability of the betrayer to be emotionally accountable.

Here are the steps of Emotional Accountability:

Remorse, Reparations and Restitution: He must be able to take responsibility for what he did and how he hurt his partner and his commitment to the marriage. Remorse now becomes a verb.

Acknowledging the Affair: They must be willing to repeatedly acknowledge their actions and to provide all details to help their partner’s healing.

Pledging to a New Transparent Marriage: He must pledge unyielding commitment to a new, transparent marriage. Reinvented marriages are often among the most successful since each partner has worked hard to rebuild the alliance.

For more information on Dr. Gearing, please go to www.gearingup.com.

Sources:

The Narcissism Epidemic by Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell

Ellis, B.J. and D. Symons. 1990. “Sex differences in sexual fantasy: An evolutionary psychological approach.” The Journal of Sex Research 27: 527-555.

What Turns Her On - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What Turns Her On: Women and Sexual Attraction

September 30, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

What attracts a woman to a man has been an elusive question for millions of men trying to “get it right.” Now a just released study from the University of Texas provides some surprising new information that may help struggling couples improve their love lives.

So, what’s so new about these findings?

First of all, it is wonderful that female sexual attraction is even being talked about. Most of the research money historically has focused on male sexuality and we have been all but ignored. Here are a few highlights of Drs. Meston and Buss’ new findings:

Complex Attraction: A woman’s attraction to a man is much more complex than we ever thought possible. Universally, the number one reason men are attracted to women is beauty. In contrast, women seem to consider many more factors in whether they like a guy. Such complex factors explain why there are some couples that, on the surface, seem highly dissimilar.

It is All In Her Head: Since the brain is the primary generator of female sexual attraction, psychological factors in female attraction are the “ballgame.” A woman not only has to be in the “mood” physically she must also “think” herself into the “mood.”

Body Image: The more a woman judges herself to be attractive, the more likely she is to report an increase in sexual responsiveness and activity over the past ten years. Again, such self-appraisal does not have to be objective—she just has to like how she looks. Unfortunately, 55% of American women express dissatisfaction with their bodies. This dissatisfaction is worse in media saturated America accounting for the $50 billion we spend on the diet industry.

A Good Man is Hard to Find: According to the study, men differ dramatically from each other in their desirability to women. Ten different women will have ten different opinions about a man’s attractiveness. This phenomenon explains why a beautiful woman is often attracted to the less attractive, but charismatic man.

Guys, here are some specific characteristics and tips to turn your woman on:

Smell of Attraction: The smell of a man is vitally important to women when it comes to basic sexual attraction. A woman’s olfactory acuity reaches its peak during ovulation.

It’s All in the Kiss: Men who are good kissers have a distinct advantage with women. Good kissing awakens a woman’s erotic interest and many women think great kissing is a clue to sexual compatibility.

Proximity: Repeated contact with someone can increase the odds of attraction exponentially. We like people as we get to know them over time.

Eye Gazing: Mutual and intense eye gazing is key for women in becoming attracted to a man. Men who sweep their eyes (respectfully) over women can be arousing. Studies have found that even with total strangers continuous “eye lock” can lead to attraction.

The Exotic Becomes Erotic: Although we like the guy next door who is available as a potential long-term choice, our pulses are “revved up” when we encounter the mysterious, unavailable and handsome guy. That guy who swaggers, has little to say and is unavailable will catch our attention. Many women love the anticipation of unpredictable contact.

Height: Many women love tall men and studies reveal that women consider tall men to be more attractive, more masculine and commanding.

V-Shaped Torso: Women are drawn to a specific male body type. They love broad shoulders, slender hips and well-developed, toned muscles. Men with a high shoulder to hip ratio are especially valued since they are regarded as more athletic.

Resonant Male Voice: A resonant male voice with a deeper tone and pitch is incredibly attractive to women. High levels of testosterone predict deeper voices among adult men. At some level, according to the researchers, women associate a deep baritone with good health, good genes, the capacity to protect and social influence. Think “Luciano Pavarotti versus Truman Capote.”

Something in the Way He Moves: How he moves indicates age, health, energy levels and biomechanical efficiency. To improve their attractiveness, men need to watch those dance moves (larger, more sweeping movements are preferred), how they walk (guy’s upper body sways laterally) and his gestures (space maximizing movements such as arm and leg stretching to dominate space).

You may be wondering where personality fits in here:

Personality is the essential spark for female attraction and it boils down to several essential characteristics.

Good Sense of Humor: Women who describe their husbands as more witty report higher rates of marital satisfaction. A sense of humor indicates empathy and understanding. David Buss, the study’s co-author, argues that displaying a good sense of humor is the most effective tactic for attracting women. Positive feelings, laughter and good cheer all make women like you. On an interesting note, men and women have huge gender differences on humor. Men like women who laugh at their jokes while women prefer that men make them laugh.

Self Confidence Versus Cockiness: A guy who knows what he is doing, is commanding with others, is poised and decisive are incredible attributes for attraction. Self-confidence is different from cockiness, which indicates false pride. Self-confidence is also a sign that he can protect and provide which are characteristics that are attractive to many women.

Character and Emotional Intelligence: The presence of integrity and honesty are unbeatable combinations for men who are interested in attracting a long-term mate. While they may not help a man in the initial attraction dance, these characteristics are essential for the long-term health of the marriage. Women love to be understood and having an emotionally self-aware guy is a huge allure.

Ladies, if you meet a nice guy that you are not attracted to or if you want to inject some passion into a current relationship – here’s what to do:

While you can never create that sexual chemistry on your own, you need to reconsider how you are thinking about this guy. Remember that for women, attraction is highly psychological. Research shows that a lot of women are attracted to the “bad boys” who are dashing, handsome and potentially unfaithful but that they outgrow such relationships over time.

Historical Foundations of Attraction: For the selection of a long-term relationship, pay attention to your history. Sexologist, John Money, says that we all have a unique template of what we find attractive. This “love map” accounts for some of the choices we make that may seem illogical such as why we like guys with brown hair versus blonde. We may choose against “type” when we meet someone whom we enjoy and with whom we build a lifetime bond. He may have our “love map” characteristics.

Weighted Values: Write a list of attributes that this man has and assign them values (one to ten etc.). Rate what is most important to least important. Think long and hard about what you want in a partner long term. For example, while he may not have the self-confidence and swagger of some more dashing men, he may have a great sense of humor that will keep you laughing through the night for the next fifty years.

Source: “Why Women Have Sex,” Carol Meson and David Buss

New Home Page and Marriage Program! - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, September 24, 2009

You may have seen our new home page on your way in!

Also, make sure to click over to Marriage (under Your Relationships) and read up on our NEW marriage program: 

Our Marital-Emotional Intelligence Program!

Written and developed by both Drs. Milton and Sylvia Gearing, this program will improve your communication strategies, give you a deepened understanding of one another and of yourself, and enhance your passion in the bedroom. A different kind of intelligence, our emotional intelligence skills breakthrough gridlock, heal emotional wounds and develop emotional empathy. All of these attributes are essential for a long and lasting love affair with your spouse.

Click over for all the information, or call and make an appointment today!


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