58 posts categorized "Relationships" Feed

Live in Wisdom: How do we respond well in difficult situations?

Why haven't you been _______? A common picture for 2020

I was recently asked, "Hey, why haven't I seen you at ________?" I left the place blank on purpose because it doesn't necessarily matter what you put in that blank, you probably haven't seen me in a lot of places.

Some people have asked from, what I believe, is a sincere place if I haven't been going places that we had gone regularly pre COVID because of fear.

You're afraid you're going to get the Virus?

The answer is no.

My wife and I are limiting our out of the house experiences because we feel it is wise to do so. But not for any of the reasons that have been suggested to me at this point.  Before I explain the reasons that we have chosen this approach, I'd like to share another version of it.

We have policies for all of our offices regarding the COVID-19 and our state and federal government mandates. Invariably, someone will come in and complain about some part of the policy or they will ask my opinion on the virus or our collective government's response.

Invariably, I tell them that my opinion doesn't matter.

Hear me out. As a citizen, my opinion matters, and my vote can reflect those opinions this November. My opinion matters as someone who lives here in this state and country.

But, as someone on a mission, my opinion does not matter.

What is wise?

We start with a basic question. What is wise? As a family, our basic answer to that question is whatever is right in the short term, the long term, and for legacy.  When we consider things like our current situation we ask some more basic questions to get us going.

  1. What is the likely outcome of __________ decision?
  2. What is the likely outcome if it goes badly?
  3. What happens if something happens that I'm not accounting for?
  4. How does this help me with what I am trying to accomplish?

When we run our responses and eventual actions through these lenses, we usually end up with more questions that help us navigate our decisions.

So when we run out our response to the current situation, we have policies that reflect the best opportunity for us to remain open and serve people.  That's the only opinion that matters to us as a couple and a family.

So, we don't go to a lot of big people type things. We take precautions that we believe give us the best chance to stay open and serve people.

We try to filter things through what happens if we're exposed to someone who is positive? How do we best manage that possibility and the negative outcomes that would follow that situation?

We view this as an opportunity to teach our children what it means to examine the impact of our decisions on other people. How will our client's mental health be impacted by the consequences of our decisions?

I still have opinions about this whole mess. I've had conversations with close friends whom I trust about those opinions. There is a lot of fear and anger out there to go around. My wife and I have chosen to do our best to spread kindness and grace. We've chosen to do what we can to help as many people as possible. That's our mission.

One of the core values we teach our children is that if life is going to be meaningful, it has to be about more than us.

That's true in almost every situation we find ourselves in. This situation has taken a lot from people and it is certainly happening in an extremely divisive time in our society, but wisdom is still the best course of action.

May you find wisdom in your response to these events. May you spread grace and kindness.




You probably don't need to improve your communication

There is something of a joke amongst marriage and relationship therapists. Everyone we meet, regardless of what is going on in their marriage, just needs to improve their communication.

Domestic Violence? Just help us improve our communication.

Infidelity? Just help us improve our communication.

Financial Issues? Just help us improve our communication.

Criminal Enterprise? Just help us improve our communication

And often, when people are in trouble relationally, they have Communication that looks like a winding road of destruction and mayhem. IMG_1601

There is screaming and name-calling. There is usually vitriol and cursing. There are statements about mamma and poppa.

Incidents from years ago are unleased from the elephant-like memory room in someone's brain. 

Silence might settle in like a heart-pounding fog for hours or even days.

Wait. Doesn't this mean that they do need to improve their relationship?

At this point, a lot of people tend to think I'm disproving my point. All of these things point to lousy communication, right? 


None of those things happened because the person doing them thought they were the right thing to happen.

Not one of the people calling names thought that calling names was the right thing to do. In fact, while all of them probably could add to their toolbox of communication, in almost every case they were ignoring and failing to utilize the tools they already had in the toolbox.

They need to improve their emotional regulation. What they actually need to improve is their emotional regulation, which is actually a misnomer in my opinion.

Emotional regulation allows a person to be angry, upset, or experiencing any emotion and still act in an appropriate manner.

Emotional regulation regulates the somatic expression of emotions. It is regulating your actions in times of stress, which is what most couples need to develop. 

You see, any therapist can teach a couple better communication skills but if the couple learning the skills lacks the ability to regulate their behaviors during times of distress it doesn't really matter what skills they have.

Part of this is on our brain. Over time we develop habits that feel like they are serving us well, but in reality, we are hurting our efforts to be healthy.  Regardless of that, we need to do what is necessary to act appropriately in times of distress.

Being angry is often a chemical response to distress. There is little to nothing we can do about that in the moment. The key to good communication is to make our words match when we are calm or angry. In the above illustrations, no one did what they did or said what they said because they thought it was the right thing to do. Rather, they did what they did because they didn't care about right or wrong.

If you think you need to improve your communication, you may be right but it is more likely that you need to practice your emotional regulation.

It's OK to be angry. It's OK to feel hurt. It's OK to be scared.

It's not OK to act in a hurtful way toward someone else because you are feeling any of those emotions. 

If you'd like to watch a short video on emotional regulation, I have included one below. 

Our words and actions need to build each other up, even in times of distress.







Do you give yourself a hall pass

Relationships are hard

They can have painful experiences. Those painful experiences from past experiences can cast shadows into our current relationships. People are complicated messes. Even, perhaps especially, the people we love. 

Often, when I'm working with a couple I will see a phenomenon I call "Hall Pass." Hallpass

When they are feeling their loved ones behavior is painful, they will give themselves a hall pass to do bad behavior. Let's say that Rose approaches Jack with something that has been bothering her. She starts out well matching facts and feelings. She follows the six rules of communication.


But then things go sideways. Jack starts talking about this one time she could have shared the floating door with him and he starts to raise his voice...

...and he starts to raise his voice...

How is she to respond? Well, she can yell and be mean and say whatever feels good in the moment. That's the power of a hall pass. You get to do what you want because you feel threatened.

Of course, that's incredibly damaging to relationships. It feels safe in the moment but in reality, it's destructive and painful to relationships. 

So how should she respond?

Well, first of all, it is good to recognize that Jack's behavior or not acceptable. She can tell him that it's not OK for him to be yelling at her or calling him names.

If can't control himself, she can tell him that she is not going to talk to him until they can talk in a productive way.

She might say, "Jack, I don't think we're being very productive right now, let's take an hour to calm down. Could we talk in one hour?"

She might say, "Jack, I don't appreciate being yelled at and I'd like to solve this problem with you but I can't be in this conversation if you're going to call me names or yell. Can we take a few moments to step back and calm down?"

What if Jack isn't doing those things but Rose can see that he's bothered by her statements. He's doing that thing he does with this jaw line when he's upset.

He's not violating the six rules. He's not calling her names. He's not even yelling. But she knows! Because she knows him!.

So she starts yelling. She gives herself a hall pass.

He could respond as listed above. He could even admit his frustration with her and he could kindly point out that while he is frustrated, he's not violating any of their ground rules for communication.

In this scenario, Rose is caught in a place where she's reacting to his emotions and not his actions. That's a dangerous and damaging place to be. 

I think almost everyone knows the right and wrong way to communicate. I find that most people just give themselves a hall pass when they feel distressed or in pain.

Please note that saying, "let's take a step back" is not the same as just shutting down to avoid the pain. One is intentionally taking a step back to move the relationship forward, the other is done to avoid discomfort and for the benefit of the individual only.

That's the rub in relationships (and I know there are plenty of people who disagree with me on this) but a healthy relationship requires an unfaltering commitment to what is best for the relationship. We have to set aside our own individual fears and pain and engage our partner in a healthy manner. 

Here is a list of some ways you might engage while keeping safe boundaries and move the relationship forward.

1. Follow good rules of communication

2. Do what is right regardless of what the other person is doing.

3. Do not call names or attack the other person. 

4. Deal with what happened and how you felt about it.

5. If necessary, take a step back but set a time to re-engage the topic.


Above all, don't allow your behavior to be dictated by someone else. Do what's right regardless of what they do.

Wait is this us? Thoughts on friendship and hurt.

Recently, my wife and I went out to dinner with friends. I was telling a story about how there was someone I had to interact with regularly, but I didn't trust the person.
The wife asked, "is this us?" Risk post 2
I replied, "Yes, that's exactly why we go out to dinner with you guys regularly." I wasn't being serious. I don't know for sure if the wife was being serious, but I suspect there was some serious wondering in there.

I suspect that because if I put myself in her shoes, I'd wonder.
I'd wonder because I've felt the hot sting of friendships I thought I had.

I've tasted the acrid pain of friendships lost.
I've felt gut wrenching loss of duplicity.

I imagine that we all have felt these things.

Unfortunately, it's not new. In 2000, a book called Bowling Alone, author Robert Putnum notes that Americans are engaging in community in decreasing terms regularly. I am unaware of another book being done with Putnam's research but it's hard for me to believe that community involvement has gone up in the last twenty-years.

Anecdotally, as I talk to people regularly, I hear about how more people are spending time alone. 

How more and more people feel alone.

In a world that is connected more than in any point in the history of the world, people feel more alone than ever.

I think part of the problem is that we don't tolerate differences very well in our society. I don't know if we ever did but I am certain that we don't now.
My liberal friends tell me that anyone who supports Trump has to be evil. My conservative friends tell me that anyone who supports the liberal candidate does so because they are evil. 

I once was taken to task for saying that there was such a thing as bad teachers (not all teachers, but some) just like there are bad counselors, police officers and clergy.

"You can't say that about people who doing something for the good of others," I was told.

I had a friend that was supposed to be in the inner circle of my life. We had an agreement about what we would do if we ever engaged in certain behavior. We called it, "The Skinny Jean" agreement. As in, "If you ever wear skinny jeans, I can..."

Then he did one of the things on the list. I told him, "I love you and I hate what you are doing."

He stopped talking to me.

When I invited him to breakfast so that we could talk it through, he told me that I "scolded" him.
I apologized. He apologized.

We haven't talked to each other in a long time. Risk post

I still feel that wound of the hole left behind.

I think that's leads to another issue; as we age we collect hurts like a collection of small weights. Overtime, they weigh us down. They dampen our ability to reach out.

And truthfully, I think for most people the idea of risking that hurt keeps us from reaching out to others. It stops us from reaching for the very thing that we want most: relationship and connection.

When I was in High School, there was a quote shared with me.

"To risk nothing is to risk everything"

I think for much of our society that is what we are doing. We are risking nothing. And in so doing, we are risking everything.

We're trying to keep ourselves from pain but shutting everyone else out. But that isn't healthy for us. That becomes part of the problem.

Because we need people. We need relationship.

Even with the pain those relationships bring.

May we all risk.

When we do, we will all be better for it. Science is clear on this fact. We are physically healthier when we have relationships that we care about and hold dear.

If you are interested I did a podcast inspired by this idea, which can be found here.



Five things every relationship needs

In our ever increasingly busy society, I fear that we are losing time to educate and learn about relationships. And because of this, our relationships are suffering.

Things like personal, emotional and feeling regulation are minimized. As humans, we crave relationships. And for some reason, we seem to be getting worse at doing something healthy with them. I believe, part of the problem is that we don't seem to know what should comprise a relationship.

To exasperate that issue, many of the things that are required for a relationship to be a relationship distress us and we tend to avoid distressful things. So, Let's talk about some key ingredients necessary for any relationship. This list is not exhaustive but it's a good start. Relationships Not Romantic1

We were made for relationships and there are benefits. People who have deep meaningful relationships tend to have an increased sense of belonging and purpose. Their health tends to be better. They have a boost in their happiness and reduced stress. There is even research that suggests a link between healthy relationships and a boost in your immune system. 

Good friends can help us cope with traumas such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one. They can also help us to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyles. 

Relationships are good for us.

And yet, for so many they are the cause, or at least the breeding ground, for much trauma. Maybe we need an overhaul in what we seek to put into relationships.

Five things every relationship needs.

  1. Relationships require vulnerability. A friend of mine once said, "To love anything is invite pain." I love that quote. I see so many people try to have relationships without any vulnerability. They give themselves a pass for bad behavior because the other person does something that they find painful. This creates a cycle of destructiveness. If you want anything other than extremely surface relationships, you'll have to risk. Risk is just a shorter spelling of vulnerability.
  2. Relationships require boundaries. Not all relationships are friendships. Not all friendships are intimate. Boundaries are for us, not the other person. In other words, a boundary is not designed to control another person's behavior. It is designed to determine what behaviors from other people we will allow into our own life. Boundaries bring safety. They help us to avoid toxicity.
  3. Relationships require conflict. I find that a lot of people disagree with me on this one, which is fine. They're just wrong. (See what I did there?).  Conflict gets a really bad rap in our society because we tend to be so bad at it and hurt people with it. But you can have conflict and not hurt each other. We have to embrace this truth. I find there are four types of conflict...and friendship. First of all, there is the "Not really" friend. This is the person that if you saw them at a grocery store, you would try to avoid them. When conflict comes, you're gone. Secondly, there is the "Sort of" friend. You won't avoid this girl, but you won't go out of your way to converse with her either. When conflict comes, you're gone as fast and as politely as possible. Third, there is the "Not quite intimate" friend. This is where most people go. You'll hang out with this guy, chat with him, go to dinner etc. You'll even tolerate minimal conflict but when real stress comes, you're out. Finally, there is the "Intimate"  friend. This person you've been through real conflict with. They've been angry with you and you've been angry with them. And you've made it through. You've resolved the conflict.  If you're going to have real relationships, you have to have conflict.
  4. Relationships require pursuit. So many  times, I see relationships where there was pursuit but it has ended. If you want healthy relationships, you'll have to engage in pursuit. The problem is that we often have unequal pursuit at any given time in a relationship. There is a ratio of intimacy and time that we can expend in any given time period in our life. Sometimes, you will be the pursuer and sometimes you will be the pursued. Problems arise when we stop pursuing because we don't feel pursued. When we don't feel pursued, and just stop pursuing without having a conversation with the other person about how we feel, we skip vulnerability, and conflict.
  5. Relationships require time to grow. You cannot have a relationship where you meet and just jump straight into intimacy. That isn't how intimacy works. All relationships need time to grow.  Recently, I met a woman who was telling me about her fiance that she had met just four weeks before. "Too soon," I told her. She responded about her cousin's second uncle's neighbor's brother's first grade teacher who met her husband on a Monday and got married on a Thursday fifty years ago.  We all know someone like that, but they are the exception, not the rule. Understanding this concept should help when you are examining a relationship and are not sure where it is on the intimacy meter. If it's new, it should still be shy of deep intimacy.

As an extra tidbit, most relationships will have a shorter life span that our own life. This can cause us a lot of pain. We may succeed in avoiding this pain, but in so doing, we will invite a different pain into our life.

What about you? What's something that you think relationships need that isn't on this list?

If you'd like to listen to my podcast on this topic. Click here.


Just be kind

My wife and I are both therapists. Unless you're new to this , you probably know that. We talk about a therapy and communication and relationships a lot.

One day she says to me that she thinks we need to add a rule to my six rules of communication. Those rules are:

  1. Be Intentional.
  2. Always avoid always and never say never.
  3. Does it have to be a problem. BeKind
  4. Facts only.
  5. Issues not people
  6. Today's news.

We've used them for years. Four of them were shared with us in our own premarital counseling and I added two (#2 and #3). I've shared them with thousands of people of the years. They form a bedrock of almost all the couples counseling we do. So I was a bit taken back.

It turns out she doesn't need to add a rule. It's covered under #1 but I do want to highlight her observation and discuss it a little bit here.

She observed that people are just mean to each other. Especially, if it's someone they love.

I once read that John Gottman gathered a lot of emails and texts between people (It might have been thousands but to be honest, I don't remember and this is not an academic paper so I'm not looking it up). What they discovered was that they could edit out the names and relations of the people so that all they had was a number. They could figure out who the spouse was with a high 90+ percentage of accuracy.

Well, no duh Joe, I mean it would be obvious based on stuff like grocery lists and kid things, right?


They figured out who the spouse was by adding up the mean communications.

Go back and read that again.

For some reason, we seem to think that we can be rude to those we love the most. We're often willing to be beyond rude and just be flat out mean to them.

If we feel threatened, we'll just get mean.

I wrote about the idea of giving ourselves a hall pass for bad behavior here.

Being mean is like taking a blow torch to your house and setting it on fire because you decide you didn't like dinner tonight.

Too often, people come back after their mean explosion and say, "I'm sorry" as if that will fix everything. That's like trying to put the fire we set with the blow torch over supper with a garden house after the house has been engulfed for an hour.

Saying I'm sorry is good, but changed behavior is better.

What's even better than changed behavior is not having to put a fire out.

So what's my wife's rule? Well, you've probably figured it out by now, but just in case you have not, here it is.

Just be kind!

She may have worded it a little more colorfully but her mom reads this so we'll keep it at that.
It should be simple, but it often isn't. 
So here's a challenge.

Set fire to all of your hall passes and just be kind. No matter what you have to say, find a kind way to say it. No matter how angry you over something that happened, be kind.

Be kind when you're happy

Be kind when you're not.

Be kind. 




Grief for People We have Never Met

This past Sunday I was taking my daughter to practice driving. We were driving down the main road here in town and my wife and I were texting (my daughter was driving) and she sent me a text, "Did you hear Kobe Bryant died this morning in a helicopter crash?"

At first, I thought maybe she fell victim to an internet hoax. As a side note, what does it say about our society that we actually live in a world where we have to consider the possibility that someone may have purposely started a fake story just to see if it would go viral?

image from en.wikipedia.orgUpon checking the news, I realized it wasn't a hoax. It felt like a kick to the gut.  A man I never knew, never met, never even saw play in person and it took my breath away.

I am a firm believer that if we're going to make sports players our heroes, they should be second tier heroes. Elevating someone simply because they can put a ball through a hoop or use a piece of wood to send a leather ball over a fence seems inherently tricky to me.

But, there is something transcendent about sports. Something that many connect with on a visceral level.

The responses were interesting as always to me, when a celebrity passes away. There is always someone willing to tell someone else why they shouldn't be grieving the passing of a celebrity.

That seems beyond silly to me, it seems downright unhealthy.

Because in grieving someone we never met, we are afforded the opportunity to remember those we have met and lost. We are given the opportunity to grapple with our own mortality.

We all only get so many trips around the sun (thank you, Kenny Chesney) and we don't know when the last trip has started or ended until it's done.

Someone once wrote that if we number our days we will have a heart of wisdom.

Even as I type these words, I feel a level of sadness for Kobe and his daughter. For his family. Maybe you don't.  I think that's probably OK too. I'm not sure it's healthy if you're telling other people that they shouldn't be mourning.

And for the many, many people that do, that's OK too. In fact, it's an opportunity.

It's an opportunity to examine our own life. I once read that it is better to go to a house of mourning than to a party. I couldn't understand what I was reading at the time. As I have aged, I think I understand it better. Mourning the loss of someone else helps us to all realize that death is coming for us all.

We will all die.

What we do between that day and this day is completely up to us. 

It's an opportunity to reconcile broken relationships. The idea of reconciliation is something that many people give up on. I hope that changes. We can attempt to reconcile, of course it takes two people and maybe the other person isn't ready or willing but at moments like this. Moments where in all of the business, and chaos of every day life, we are given the chance to stop, pause and reflect are a great time to consider what broken relationships we might be able to mend.

It's an opportunity to cultivate gratefulness. Take the time to remind your loved ones that you love them and that you are thankful for their presence in your life. You might not get another chance. Take stock of your life and express gratitude for all that is in it. This might be starting a gratitude journal or writing someone note. Whatever it is, do it.

We know that gratitude does many wonderful things for our brain and actually improves our quality of life.

It's an opportunity to feel like you have to be happy all of the time. I often tell clients that they need to develop an ability to experience and sit in "dark" emotions. Those feelings and emotions that are not happy and excited are also part of the human experience and are necessary for a healthy life. Give yourself to sit in them. Give yourself time to just live with them.

For reasons that I can't quite explain I feel a sense of loss with Kobe's passing. I feel grief for all of the lives lost that day and for the family members left behind with the devastating pain trying to make sense of it all. I hope that I will take this feeling of a sense of loss and grief to examine my own life and grow.

May we all.


Signs of a toxic relationship

I find that many of my clients and people that I come in contact with actually see the early warning signs but tend to ignore them because of the narrative in their own head. Some obvious early warning signs are over sharing too soon, when it is not appropriate. This is often an attempt at creating intimacy instead of allowing it to grow over time. People who do this, are often not capable with their current skill set. A few other warning signs are: Warning

  1. Temper outbursts. Often toxic people will seek to find meaning from relationships and they put the burden of achieving this on the people they are in a relationship with. They expect the other person to make them feel a certain way. If the person doesn’t perform to standard, they will often try to coerce them via temper tantrums and out right violence.
  2. Violence. This leads us to another red flag to consider. Violence. This could be as “mild” as yelling or screaming. It could be as severe as physical violence or property damage. The intensity of their responses will often not be commensurate with the event that happened.
  3. Blame you. These violent acts will often be covered by blaming you. They will explain that they didn’t mean to do it but you…. fill in the blank. The key here is that you are somehow responsible for their behaviors.
  4. NSA Surveillance. They want to know where you are when you are not with them. It’s as if the government hired them to track you. They don’t allow you to have your own life away from them. They expect your life to revolve around them.
  5. Bad Friends. They don’t like any of your other friends. This is a quick one to fester. They to isolate you from your friends. They couch it in phrases like, “I just want what’s best for you,” or “I don’t think they’re good for you,” etc.
  6. Arrogance. They talk down to you as though you are an idiot or stupid. They will remind of you how great they are and how much you need them. I’d love to address your questions
  7. Don’t criticize me. They tend to respond very poorly to any criticism. When you suggest you didn’t like something or they could have done something differently (even if it’s innocuous), they respond in a heavy handed way. 
  8. They are the director.  They explain to you what you should have said. How you could have done this or that better. In social interactions, they might answer for you. If you don’t admit that they had the better approach they might get angry at you. 
  9. Deep insight. They will constantly position their opinion and approach as a deep insight that other people don’t have. 
  10. Dismissive. They will dismiss your feelings and often tell you why you are not feeling what you just said you are feeling. They might say that you are putting on a show or acting out for other people. 

I could add to this list but I feel ten is a good start.  I  think the best way anyone can protect themselves is to listen to their own inner voice. Don’t ignore the warning signs that you see because you feel desperate to be in a relationship. So many people falsely believe that they will somehow be the change agent in a person’s life. In other words, they will be the reason someone changes. Put bluntly, the toxic person will not change without a strong professional intervention.

If you find yourself in a toxic relationship, seek professional help. You do not have to live this way.

The Subtle Stages of an Affair

Unfortunately, in my line of work I see a lot of people who have affairs.  I see people on all parts of parts of the spectrum as they move toward an affair.
Many people think they can engage in activity that moves them toward an affair and not be effected. This is nearly impossible.


The following list is adopted from a list that my pastor shared in a talk he gave this weekend.  I've added a few of my own thoughts. They are found in blue.

The Subtle Stages of An Affair:
1. Feeling like you’re under-appreciated and overlooked
    --->A person here will tend to start to complain loudly about their spouse. image from c2.staticflickr.com
2. Sensing a dissatisfaction or an emotional vulnerability
    --->The complaining intensifies and their becomes no way for the other person to do much right.
3. Loss of verbal communication and sexual connection 
    --->A quiet peace will often descend over the couple at this point as they disengage from each other. The absence of conlict becomes the goal, rather than goal of a healthy relationship.
4. Fantasizing about relational or romantic encounters with others
    --->The person begins to lie to themselves about how much happier they'll be and why they "deserve" what they are seeking.
5. Overly friendly (flirtatious) behavior around opposite sex
    --->Say hello to dopamine and other brain "happy" drugs.
6. Seeking out attention and affirmation from the opposite sex
    --->Say hello to dopamine and other brain "happy" drugs.
7. Sharing with them disappointment with your current marriage
    --->Blatant gossip and complaining commences. This often comes with an added feeling of having found a "confidant." The "happy" drugs in the brain begin to flow like a fire hydrant on a hot summer day that has been opened for kids to play in.
8. Getting specific with them about unmet needs and nagging frustrations.
9. Feeling like they listen to and relate to you…they understand and care
    --->At this point the spouse is "competing" with someone they don't even know exists in a game they can't possibly win. The object of the affair lust doesn't have to deal with real life. The relationship feels real, but it is not.
10. Going out of your way to have more contact with them
    --->Chasing what feels good, the person racing down the affair path begins to think about what they'll wear to work, can they go left when normally they would go right so that they can see the person who triggers their happy drugs? They are fully in the infatuation stage of the destruction. They rarely stop to think about what real life would be like, and when they do, they only see fantasy life. They discount anything the other person does that they dislike, while simultaneously magnifying the thing their spouse does that they dislike.
11. Letting them know that they make you feel special and valued.
    --->Initial blatant overtures about romantic activity are beginning to occur.
12. (Waiting to see if they reciprocate emotional attraction)
    --->The fake dance continues.
13. If they do, making a bold move either physically or verbally.
    --->The fake dance culminates quickly moving toward climax.
14. Playfully talking about what you wish could happen with them
    --->Justification for moving beyond the "next" line begins to be verbalized.
15. Setting up times to get together outside normal rhythms of life
    --->"She's just helping me be a better husband." "He's just helping me to better understand my husband." Lies begin to be told inward and outwardly.
16. The romance moves from emotional to verbal to physical to sexual.
    --->People here talk about how they would have never had sex or done whatever the next step would have been while ignoring that they have already done things that they said they would never have done. The most powerful lies are the ones we tell ourselves.
17. The physical act of sex occurs and the last of a thousand lines is crossed.
Few people are actually chasing an affair at first, they are often chasing other things that lead to the affair. But few people, if they are honest with the themselves, will deny that they knew where it was heading when they jumped on the path.
If you saw yourself in any of these steps, I can't encourage you enough to seek counseling.
Affairs are terrible storms that leave dark and deep swaths of destruction in their wake.
Counseling can help.