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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”
When I returned to Malaysia after my Ph.D., people looked at me funnily and asked why I didn’t remain overseas. My answer to them was simple: my family is here.
For our 57th Hari Merdeka, Maxis and Digi have come up with ads that promote Malaysia as a family. When I watched them, one made me laugh out loud and the other moved me to tears. [Watch the ads at the end of this blogpost.]
The past few years have been very challenging for us here in Malaysia. I have tried to remain positive and hopeful despite the political battle cries, the droughts and haze that seemed not to have a solution, and most recently, planes that go missing or are bombed out of the sky. It hasn’t been easy to remain positive.
Some people chide me for being a workaholic. One of Rekindle’s clinical interns said to me yesterday that he could not fathom how I manage to do all that I do. I replied that during my Ph.D. studies, I was three times as busy as I am now. He didn’t seem very encouraged.
I admit that I am busy and sometimes physically tired from all the work, but I don’t feel tired in my soul. I love what I do. For instance, while I was sitting on the plane alone traveling to my holiday destination, I found myself thinking about what could be done to train up good marriage and family therapists in Malaysia. Instead of watching an inflight movie, I opened my new book, Common Factors in Couple and Family Therapy (authored by one of my mentors, Doug Sprenkle) and devoured it for ideas on training therapists. Continue reading “What do you do on a holiday? I re-create!”
There is nothing so precious to me as a retreat to a remote location on my own for a time of quiet reflection. With my journal in hand and nature all around me, I enter into my soul, look for my core self, and as if meeting an old friend, we get comfortable, sit down, and have long, deep conversations. Work stresses and family difficulties melt into the background.
I have been journaling since I was eleven. For years, I thought everyone journaled. So it still surprises me every now and then when I ask clients to spend some time journaling, and they look back strangely at me.
“Journaling? What do you mean?” some would ask.
Journaling is one of the best self-care activities you can do for yourself. When you are troubled and have no one to talk to, your journal can become your best friend and personal therapist. In this post, I would like to teach you a simple and effective way to engage in expressive journaling. The exercise itself will only take 10 minutes. Continue reading “Troubled? Try Journaling”
When clients come to see me for the first time, I explain to them what therapy is all about. I say something like this:
As I see it, therapy is about change. People come in to see me because they want to move from their current circumstance to a preferred situation. It could be a lack of life-clarity, or an inability to stop an addictive behaviour, or difficulties communicating well with a partner. They want to get better, but somehow find themselves stuck again and again.