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Infidelity: Cognitive Therapy for the Hurt Partner and Unfaithful Partner
Infidelity continuing education psychologist CEUs

Section 10
Emotionally Focused Therapy for Infidelity

CEU Question 10 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Couples
Psychologist CEs, Counselor CEUs, Social Worker CEUs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track, we discussed the impact of five essential growth experiences that can influence the way a couple handles an infidelity crisis. The five essential growth experiences we will discuss are being safe and secure, functioning independently, having solid emotional connections, being able to value yourself, and living with realistic limitations.

On this track, we will discuss how understanding the ‘flip flop factor’ can help couples working through an infidelity crisis address the disenchantment process. We will also discuss a specific technique to help couples analyze how the flip flop factor may be affecting their feelings of disenchantment towards their partner.

Tom, 35, an unfaithful partner, was a driven account executive. He and his wife Michelle sought counseling after Tom admitted to Michelle that he had rented a studio apartment in order to carry on an affair with a colleague’s wife during his ‘late nights at the office’. Tom stated, "I don’t want to leave my marriage to Michelle. But I’ve been unhappy about a lot of things for a long time."

As a child, Tom’s father used get-rich-quick schemes in order to avoid regular employment. As a result, Tom’s family had depended on the paychecks brought in by his mother. Tom stated, "I really resented Dad for not pulling his weight, but I adored my mum. I guess I came to believe loving someone meant sacrificing your happiness for them."

As an adult, Tom was very goal-driven and hard working. Tom stated, "I’ve always been proud of my ability to get things done. But I’m irritable a lot, and I always felt something was missing. Then I met Michelle. She’s a real free spirit. She can really enjoy the moment, and that’s what drew me to her." Michelle worked as a freelance photographer, and brought spontaneity into Tom’s life.

Before long, Tom entered the disenchantment phase with Michelle, as we discussed on Track 6. Tom stated, "at one point I loved Michelle’s spontaneity and easy going personality. Now she just seems irresponsible. I really started to resent being the one to support her photography habit. And I started hating how when she comes home from shopping, she’ll hop on the phone and call her friends instead of putting the groceries away. That’s when I started sleeping with Becky. Those few hours in that apartment gave me a chance to not be the conscientious one."

Two Key Aspects of the 'Flip Flop' Factor
Clearly, as disenchantment sets in, partners are likely to screen out their partner’s positive qualities and focus on his or her bad qualities. I explained to Tom and Michelle that the Flip Flop Factor addresses two key aspects of this disenchantment process.

-- Aspect # 1 - Positive with the Negative
First, I stated, "Often, the qualities we like best in our partner are flip sides of the same attribute. In most cases, the positive side cannot exist without its negative flip side. For example, Tom, you describe being frustrated with Michelle’s lack of discipline. Would you agree that this is the flip side of this attribute is the spontaneity that drew you to her?" 

-- Aspect # 2 - Unresolved Inner Conflict
I also explained that the second aspect of the Flip-Flop factor involves the fact that dissatisfaction about certain attributes may say as much about the client’s own unresolved inner conflict as it does about the partner.

Tom stated, "After Michelle found out about Becky, I realized I was unhappy at myself as well as upset with Michelle. I thought I was getting trapped the same way my mother did. I didn’t want Michelle to be a financial drain on me the way my father was on my mother. But I realized I had to remember Michelle isn’t my dad. She may not be the big earner, but she contributes to the relationship as much as I do. She helps me remember there’s more to life than making money."

Flip Flop Ledger Technique
To help Tom and Michelle further discuss their disenchantment process as a part of their cognitive-behavioral therapy, I introduced the Flip Flop Ledger technique. I find that this technique can help clients going through an infidelity crisis identify the reasons they were drawn to their partner.

I stated to Tom and Michelle, "Although some attributes of your partner may make you feel that you are a bad fit as a couple, the opposite may be true in the long run.  You may be drawn to your partner because they have qualities that are undeveloped in you. The very attributes that annoy you the most may be intimately related to another set of attributes that help you transcend you own limitations."

To begin the Flip Flop Ledger technique, I gave each partner a sheet of ledger paper, with a line down the center. I stated, "on the left side of the paper, list the qualities that disturb you the most about your partner. Next, on the right side of the paper, try to connect each of these attributes to a quality you admire in your partner." For example, Tom listed "uninterested in making money" as one of Michelle negative qualities. He connected this to Michelle’s positive quality, her being "relationship oriented".

Four More Questions for the Flip Flop Ledger
I asked Tom and Michelle the following four questions to further enhance the Flip Flop Ledger exercise:
-- 1. What attributes do I dislike in my partner?
-- 2. What does it reveal about me that I object to these attributes? Do they represent some disavowed aspect of myself?
-- 3. In what way are these negative attributes related attributes I admire, and that first attracted me to my partner?
-- 4. What does it reveal about me that I was attracted to these attributes in my partner? Do I lack them in myself? Do I envy them?

Are you treating a couple, like Tom and Michelle, who might benefit from the Flip Flop Ledger Technique? Would playing this track in your next session be helpful?

On this track, we have discussed how understanding the ‘flip flop factor’ can help couples working through an infidelity crisis address the disenchantment process. We also discussed a specific technique to help couples analyze how the flip flop factor may be affecting their feelings of disenchantment towards their partner.

On the next track, we will discuss beginning the process of low cost behavioral change in order to restore trust between partners who have chosen to work towards reconciliation following an infidelity crisis. We will specifically discuss constructing wish lists for low-cost behavioral change, and 7 guidelines for increasing the effectiveness of the wish list technique.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Balderrama-Durbin, C. M., Allen, E. S., & Rhoades, G. K. (2012). Demand and withdraw behaviors in couples with a history of infidelity. Journal of Family Psychology, 26(1), 11–17.

Heintzelman, A., Murdock, N. L., Krycak, R. C., & Seay, L. (2014). Recovery from infidelity: Differentiation of self, trauma, forgiveness, and posttraumatic growth among couples in continuing relationships. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 3(1), 13–29.

Hughes, S. M., & Harrison, M. A. (2019). Women reveal, men conceal: Current relationship disclosure when seeking an extrapair partner. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 13(3), 272–277.

Leone, R. M., Jarnecke, A. M., Back, S. E., Brady, K. T., & Flanagan, J. C. (2020). The moderating role of infidelity on the relation between oxytocin and conflict behaviors among substance misusing couples. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 28(3), 251–257

Negash, S., Carlson, S. H., & Linder, J. N. (2018). Emotionally focused therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: An integrated treatment to heal the trauma of infidelity. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 7(3-4), 143–157. 

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 10
What are two aspects of the Flip Flop Factor? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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