The “Joint Account Of A Relationship”
When two people are in a committed relationship with each other, there is usually the expectation of exclusivity. “I will be your everything, and you will be my everything.” In the language of romantic love, we will complete each other in all the meaningful ways: we will be each other’s lover, best friend, confidant, biggest supporter, housemate, center of the universe.
To use the analogy of a bank account, the couple expects to keep all their assets in a joint checking account. Like financial assets, relationship assets are the riches the couple grow in their relationship with each other.
These relationship assets cover several areas:
- Emotional energy: I am interested in you, I want to hear about your day, I care about the details of your life, I want us to build our lives together
- Time: I come home to you after work, I spend weekends with you, when I am away on a business trip I talk to you on the phone at the end of the work day.
- Trust: “Forsaking all others, I am true only unto you.” All my eggs are in your basket. I am honest about where I am going and with whom. You have the password to my phone and computer.
- Exclusivity: You are the only one with whom I will have sex or touch in a sexual way. I might flirt with other people, but you can trust me not to take it further.
- Money: Our money is spent on us, and you know how I am spending our money. I do not lie or omit information about how I spend my discretionary money. I do not have any secret bank accounts.
Infidelity involves the loss of exclusivity. The unfaithful partner secretly opens an individual account and deposits some money from the joint account into this account. This partner withdraws some of his/her energy from the main relationship and invests it in another relationship. This secondary relationship can be short-term or long-term. There can be an ongoing connection or “only sex.” Either way, the two-person relationship is replaced by a triangle. Assets from the joint account are being spent on a third person.
Like money in the bank, time and energy is finite. There is only one dinner per day, there are a set number of weekends per month. If a spouse is having dinner with the lover or spending weekends with them, the other spouse is not getting that time or attention. Relationships need time and attention to grow. Busy parents of young children learn that to keep their marriage strong, they have to spend time as “a couple,” not just as “mommy and daddy.”
When the cheating partner is constantly making withdrawals of time and energy from the primary relationship, downturns are inevitable. Dissatisfaction, lack of fulfillment, decrease in enjoyment and intimacy and superficial contact weaken the bond in the relationship.
After an affair is discovered and the breach in the bank balance is revealed, emotions run high. There is anger, hurt, guilt and recrimination. Couples counseling can be very productive in helping a couple cope with the fallout. If both partners want to preserve the marriage, it is possible to build up the relationship assets again. We know a lot about what it takes to help a couple to heal their rift. Both partners have to create the blueprint of their new relationship – one that is based on trust and honesty, so that they can build a new better relationship with each other.
At GroundWork we are here to help you rebuild your relationship following an affair.
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