I admit it. I suck at updating blogposts. It’s because I can’t stand bad writing — especially my own. And it takes too much time to write well and consistently. So I’ve decided on the next best thing. I’ve created a public Facebook page.
I got this idea when I gave a talk in Hong Kong last month, and one of the co-speakers in the event talked about the Attention Economy.
As I was leaving for work, my son came running to hug me. I had stayed out late working the last few days and did not see much of him. His eyes misted over while we hugged and a pang of guilt hit me. “I really suck at this work-life balance thing,” I thought myself. For the rest of the day, I mulled over why achieving balance can be so difficult.
When we think of the word “balance,” the picture that comes to mind most often is that of a weighing scale. A weighing scale implies fairness — a static fairness. When one side dips down, it is necessarily unfair to the other side. Balance is a static state that is only achieved when both sides are equal.
Several year ago, when my Singaporean friend was stationed in Kuala Lumpur at Al-Jazeera, I remarked that Malaysia is a very diverse country and that it is quite surprising to me that we lived in such harmony. He then remarked that Malaysians generally live in parallel realities and we don’t fully intermingle culturally. It got me thinking.
Living in Malaysia, you can’t avoid the month of fasting for Muslims. You hear it everywhere, you see it everywhere, from the closed Malay restaurants to the tired looks of Muslims. Practicing as a therapist in Malaysia for the last 5 years, I have become sensitive not to offer drinks to my Muslim clients during this month. And I am also sensitive to their differing levels of energy throughout the day.
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My wife and I have been married for more than 15 years. In fact, next month will mark our 16th anniversary together. We have gone through our fair share of ups and downs, and like many couples, after a while of doing regular life, things can get dull.
The World Wide Web (which we now simply call the Internet) was beginning to take shape with the launch of Mosaic web browser. It was also the year I first encountered the term Systems Thinking.
The Cambridge University MBA programme, in particular Dr. John Roberts, took us on this weird and wonderful world of seeing our workplaces and the world through the lens of interconnectivity. I fell in love with the idea once I understood it. I devoured every page of Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline (1990), and I still have my copy today, albeit somewhat tattered (yes, that is my copy on the right).
Over the years, I have worked with many couples presenting with infidelity or extramarital affairs. Although every couple’s experience is uniquely challenging, there are some similar patterns.
For couples where the affair with the third-party has ended, the marriage can begin to heal. But it is easier said than done. Often, the acted spouse (the one who committed the infidelity) believes that since he (often male, but not always) has ended the relationship with the third party, his wife ought to relax and have things go back to normal. But for the injured party, nothing feels normal anymore. Distrust, insecurity, sleeplessness, even flashbacks can take place despite her best intentions not to be bothered by them.
In helping couples to heal post-infidelity, I have heard similar metaphors being used again and again by my past clients. More recently, I started to offer these metaphors right at the beginning of therapy to my new clients. To my delight, I discovered that clients have appreciated having these pictures to hang on to—almost as if the metaphors help them to feel more normal more quickly, and enable them to be more understanding of each other’s experience going through the difficult process of recovery. It is my hope that by sharing these metaphors here, many couples can be helped in trying to salvage their marriage post-infidelity. Continue reading “Metaphors for Healing, Post-Infidelity”