When you think of the future, do you feel a sense of foreboding, or hope?
Much of what you anticipate can be traced to past, unresolved experiences with your partner. In this episode, you’ll learn what probably happened and didn’t happen before the infidelity that is creating problems now.
Once you understand what is happening and what you can do about it, you’ll be able to choose how to view the future and be very intentional about what you are creating.
I’m Andrea Giles, and you’re listening to the Heal from Infidelity podcast,
episode number 98, Negative Expectations.
Hello, and welcome to the Heal from Infidelity podcast where courageous
women learn not only to heal from their spouse’s betrayal, but to become
the boldest, truest, most decisive and confident versions of themselves
ever. If you know there’s more for you than the life you’re currently
living, but don’t quite know how to get there, you are in the right place.
Stick around to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks
off. Is it possible? It is, and I’m here to show you how. I’m your host,
Andrea Giles. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Hello, everybody. I hope this podcast finds you moving along in your life,
feeling hopeful, feeling optimistic. Hope you’re doing well. I am doing
good over here. Little life update, I’ve got kids back in school. They went
back to school. And I don’t know if this happens to the rest of you, but
several of them got sick right out the gate. So last week, I had kids home
sick. I had some of my adult children visiting. They all left yesterday.
All the kids were back in school yesterday, and all the adults went back to
their places. And now, it feels a little more calm, a little more settled.
So anyway, I’m happy to be here hopping on with you, and let’s go ahead and
Okay, so today we’re going to talk about negative expectations, looking
forward and expecting bad outcomes. I’m reading a book right now that is so
good. I love it. It’s by an author named Terrence Real who’s a therapist.
And it’s called Us. It’s all about taking care of each individual to form a
healthy us. One particular chapter has just been riveting to me. I’m pretty
sure I’ve highlighted the whole thing or close to it, made notes on the
sides, because it lines up so much with what I believe about infidelity.
Just to give you a hint, the name of the chapter is Your Fantasies Have
Shattered, Your Real Relationship Begins. That’s the chapter name. It’s so,
so good. I’m going to be sharing some of the things he teaches in this
chapter, as well as adding in lots of my own take on things in regards to
you and my clients and how things tie in.
All right, so what are negative expectations? They are projected
assumptions about ourselves in the world and how the world will meet us,
what the world will bring to us. This shows up everywhere. In the
workplace, “Oh, no one will ever actually really appreciate me. Someone
else will get that promotion.” In the family, “They will always see me in
this way, so what’s the point trying to change anything? In our marriage,
“There’s so much hurt here. There’s so much pain. There’s too much to fix.
It’s probably always going to hurt. It’s probably always going to just be
hard.” Or, “We’ll probably end up divorced anyway.”
Where do negative expectations come from? Negative expectations come from
carryovers from past experiences, either discord, strife, that was too
much, too intense to process in the time, too traumatic, or from discord
that was left routinely unrepaired. It was just swept under the rug. It
may’ve ended with blaming, shaming. “If you wouldn’t have done this, I
wouldn’t have done this.” No resolution.
Another area expectations show up is when we hear popular things in our
culture that sound really nice or from sources that we respect and buy
into. For example, a buzzword right now in the therapy world is to be
attuned to your partner or to your child. We’re taught to seek harmony,
peace, calm. That is the golden standard. You may be one of the couples
that was so shocked at your spouse’s infidelity, because you thought, “We
never even fought. I thought we were okay. We didn’t fight. We generally
were good friends.” So, because we never fought, we assumed that all was
well, even if something inside us maybe knew that we are missing something
deeper, desiring more.
If we look at our past relationships and see either that we seemed attuned,
like that there wasn’t a lot of fighting, that it seemed pretty calm, we
may look to the future and see calm and peace as a problem. Or, if we look
at our past and see that there was strife, see that there were problems,
see that there was contention, we may make it mean that we were
exceptionally screwed up. So, if the golden standard is this really high
attunement, just so peaceful and Zen, then if we’re looking at our past and
going, “It was nothing like that,” we may think that there was something
seriously wrong and that we’re just too far gone, right? It’s too messy to
fix, too contentious, rather than understanding this truth. This truth is
that strife is actually part of what helps us grow. I’m going to come back
All right, let’s talk about kids for a minute. In the parenting world, we
are taught to tune into our kids, to know what’s going on with them at all
times. While I see the merit in this, it does not leave a whole lot of room
for error. And sometimes it does not leave a lot of room for autonomy for
the children. Sometimes we’re not going to be tuned in. We’ll be too
centered in ourselves, with ourselves and our own problems, and then we
might feel guilty for that. And then, what do we do? If we feel guilty,
sometimes we over correct by trying too hard, and then we feed this vicious
All right, so what is a healthy way to engage with the world, to relate to
the world, and not bring our old baggage, our old faulty beliefs, into the
future? How can we create positive expectations? Or let’s even shoot for
neutral. Neutral’s quite a bit better than negative, right?
Okay, just a space of being open. First, I want to look at some science.
There’s a psychiatrist named Ed Tronick who has done a lot of work around
infant development. And he said this, “Rather than a sense of helplessness,
an infant who has moved through countless moments of error, to reconnect
develops a hopeful way of interacting with her world. She has made a
specific meaning of her experience, one of optimistic expectation, which
gives her a sense of resiliency”
I’m seeing this right now in real life, in real time, in my own home with
my baby. So, I have a baby, she’s nine months old, and right now we are
working with her with some sleep training. I’m a nursing mom. I’ve always
loved nursing my babies. And she really likes to nurse to fall asleep, and
she has been very resistant to going to sleep if she’s not nursed first.
And you can imagine nine months in, it’s got me pretty worn out. It’s hard.
It’s hard for my nanny that comes and watches her at my house while I’m
working. It’s been tricky. She wakes up at night expecting to nurse, even
if she’s not hungry. There’s some nights where she wakes up a lot, because
she’s got this thing that she really likes. Can you blame her?
So, we are trying to help my little baby girl lay down without needing to
be nursed first. And as you can imagine, she’s not a big fan yet. And so,
what we’re doing is we are establishing other habits, like she loves taking
a bath, putting her in the tub, and then nursing, and then reading a book,
and singing a song, and saying a prayer, and then laying her down. At
first, she was not happy. And so, what we did to make sure that she knows,
even though she’s uncomfortable, she knows that we’re still close is either
sitting with her, we’ve done that, sitting right next to her, or coming
back in after just a few minutes to just touch her, make sure she knows
that we’re close by. And if she’s really, really in duress, going and
getting her, picking her up, snuggling her.
You know what? It’s getting better, and she’s doing better, and she’s going
to sleep easier, and things like that. She is learning some resilience.
She’s learning that she can do this thing at nine months, that she can
learn how to soothe herself and calm herself. And she knows that we are
right there. There’s never been a time in her nine months of life that
we’ve just put her in there, and locked the door, and thrown away the key,
like good luck kid. That’s not at all my style of parenting. But I am
letting her feel some discomfort and letting her know that we’re still
connected, that I’m still close, and that she can grow, that she can
develop this resiliency.
Infants are extremely resilient. There’s something really, really,
important that is happening for her in her development that, sometime along
the way of childhood, hopefully you learn, but many of us did not, and that
is harmony, disharmony, repair. So, you’ve got harmony, that’s like the
attunement that we all seek. That’s the beginning of a relationship, like
when you’re dating. When you first start dating, there’s harmony. And for
many of us, when disharmony rears its head, we may go to a place of, “I
must’ve made a mistake. This is way too hard. I had no idea that this was
going on.” Especially, the disharmony of infidelity. It’s like everything
blew up that we thought was a certain way. The back end of that though is
repair. Repair. And that’s something that many of us did not learn growing
up. Many of us learned that if there are issues in the family, we don’t
talk about it. We don’t share our feelings. We stuff it. We pull up the rug
and sweep it all under. We move forward. We don’t complain. We just carry
on, soldier on.
Okay, so if you’re listening to this podcast, you are likely in the throws
of either disharmony or repair. Maybe you are projecting negative
expectations into the future, because there were many things that did not
get repaired before the infidelity. And in your mind, those are the things
that led to the infidelity. So, I want to give you a different way of
looking at it. If infidelity is the ultimate rupture, the ultimate
disharmony that either draws you both into repair or out of a disharmonious
relationship, into repair or out of this relationship, and into harmony
with yourself. Let me make that a little more clear. Okay? Either it can be
that this disharmony can push you both forward, like nothing else can, into
true repair, true resolution. Or this disharmony, this blowing up of your
marriage, can push you out of this disharmonious relationship, but can lead
you into a relationship with yourself that is repaired. Ah, can’t think of
a better thing.
What if this is the thing that blew up the marriage enough to really see
what needs healing, what needs mending, what needs attending to, that needs
repair? What if there’s nothing else that could shake things up enough to
build the necessary ingredients to move forward? Like the baby, one of
those ingredients is resiliency. That may be really uncomfortable. It may
be uncomfortable not to be responded to in a way that you want to. Just
like the baby, a healthily attached child may fuss a little bit when their
parents walk away, but they learn how to sooth themselves. They learn that
they are not forgotten. They learn that this person is coming back, and
they gain resilience. They’re building a general trust with the world that
they are cared for and someone will come for them. Like children, our
relationships can develop the same resiliency.
Terrence Real says this, “Resilience originates not in the absence of
disharmony and discord, but in its survival in you as a pair. You
experience disharmony, mismatch, and failures, and attunement as
disruptions in the relational field, but not as unbreachable eruptions.”
Yes, they are disharmonious. There’s a mismatch. There’s failures. But it
might not necessarily be an unreachable rupture, and resilience is
something that rises from the ashes here. If we can withstand this, we got
it. We can take on the world. What this means to me is that, as unsettling
and painful to a marriage infidelity can be, what matters more than
anything is the willingness of the partners to want to repair, the desire
to come together even if it’s messy and hard.
What is it that needs to be repaired? Right now, you probably don’t feel
very safe. It’s all about safety. Safety within your self, safety within
the relationship. For people to really feel like they can show up and be
themselves they need what is called distance regulation. This is what
Terrence Real says about it. “You will not wall off and abandon me nor will
you intrude and try to control me.” Another therapist named Stephen Porges
says that, “Feeling safety in another person with whom we interact consists
of two important qualities, the absence of an agenda and the absence of
judgment. I will neither intrude nor disappear.”
Okay, so one question I get a lot is, what should I be working on? What
should I be doing? I answer that we first need to be working with
ourselves, understanding what is going on for us before we can fully invest
in the relationship. We can’t really lean in and expect this person to make
us safe if we don’t know how to first help ourselves feel safe. It’s giving
the job to them when really learning how to do this yourself is so much
That said, we can help each other through this process. It’s called
co-regulating. If your spouse, for example, seems like he’s trying to
control your healing by telling you, “You need to move past it. I don’t
want to talk about it anymore. We’ve talked about it all. You need to move
on,” he’s coming into your lane. And you can help regulate the relationship
by telling him directly, or her, that he or she is trying to control your
healing and needs to back off. And vice versa, if we are acting because
someone told us to, it is never as powerful as when someone acts on their
own accord because they want to. As much as we may want to control our
spouse’s recovery, this will not heal the relationship or bring you into a
space of healthy give and take. And it will not create a real safety, which
you both need, to truly move forward.
Sometimes, in the process, one person will want to back away or disappear
into their own pain or shame, et cetera. The other partner does not need to
solve this for them, does not need to be panicked and anxious, but can help
co-regulate the relationship by calling them back in. “Hey, don’t disappear
for me. Stay with me here. What’s going on for you that makes you want to
disappear?” These are all questions that can help move things forward and
strengthen each individual as they grow stronger in addressing things head
As you move forward into either repair, for those of you who are seeking
this with the person you’re with, in the words of Terrence Real again,
“What renders a relationship bad or good is not the depths of disharmony,
but the presence or absence of repair.” I’m going to say it one more time.
“What renders the relationship bad or good is not the depths of disharmony,
but the presence or absence of repair.” I think that’s so powerful. It
doesn’t matter how crappy it is. It doesn’t matter how much hurt there is.
It doesn’t matter how much dysfunction. What matters is, are you both
willing to be in repair mode? And let’s dive in, let’s roll up our sleeves,
let’s get dirty, let’s feel it, let’s go all in.
As you look to the future, take stock of the past. Did you learn how to
repair before the infidelity? My guess is many of you will say no. Things
were swept under the rug, pushed away. Because they were not resolved,
often resentments were formed. What I want you to do is to practice leaning
into this repair, lean into saying what is true for you, lean into not
being controlled, not running away, staying present. Your past does not
determine your future. What you do now, today, does. People are very
resilient and relationships are too.
For those of you listening who did not get a choice or who are choosing to
leave, you’re developing this resilience and repair within yourself. You’re
learning these same skills that you can take with you with a partner who
wants to learn with you, who wants to develop these habits of harmony,
disharmony, and repair. There is hope and light ahead of you as well.
Okay, that’s what I have for you today. I hope that you found this helpful.
If you would, if you’ve thought about leaving a review on my podcast, I
would greatly, greatly appreciate it. It matters, matters a lot. It matters
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could do that, I would greatly, greatly appreciate it. All right, take
care, my friends. Thank you so much. Bye-bye.
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