To get right to the heart of the matter, I’ll address your general question statement regarding help for a better marriage. You’ve taken some very practical steps so far seeking 26 sessions of marital counseling and adjunct individual psychotherapy as a very healthy response to the past affair.
I’ve worked with hundreds of couples and individuals in my private practice towards the effective stabilization of strong marital distress. My focus is most often based on helping a couple change their behavior and to learn effective communication, much along the lines of John Gottman’s work and some other similarly oriented researchers and therapists. It’s likely the couple’s counselor you worked with had a similar orientation based on his or her choice of the Gottman book as a counseling tool.
As you probably know, marital distress, the hurt, reactive anger and frustration that leads to “the four horsemen” styles of communication most often results from chronically unmet core-relationship needs. A precise or pinpoint re-clarification of your current relationship needs (yours and your husbands) will be very helpful here I think, along with revisiting communication that results in action steps towards improved mutual needs meeting.
The deception you describe may have 2 basic roots. Lying, from a behavioral perspective, is a behavior that has a short term pay-off, you get to avoid immediate consequences for choices and actions by hiding or disguising them. The cumulative long term consequences of these cover-ups or avoidances can very negatively impact the emotional stability of a marriage. So, from a behavioral perspective, one strategy would be to learn with your husband more about what the short term payoffs are and to more fully discuss the long term negative consequences of his deceitful behavior.
In some cases this behavior can be an unconscious or automatic choice, shaped and maintained by the payoffs. Building a stronger awareness of this very process can enable you husband to interfere by assessment or re-appraisal (I’m using a bit of clinical language here because I saw that you wrote with a good basic understanding form your earlier therapeutic work).
You can also look at replacement behaviors (like catching himself in fib) and setting up payoffs such as praise and positive attention from you, that are both more enjoyable than just avoidance to him and more conducive to a healthy relationship for both of you.
I don’t see evidence from your examples that these small deceits serve more than the function of avoiding conflicts as you’ve described. I’m wondering if these small acts of deceitfulness are in some ways reminiscent of the major transgression of the affair for you. If so, what you are experiencing is a core-relationship need at the level of emotional attachment, the need to feel safe and secure with your husband in much the same way as a child feels with a caring and protective parent. The latest and most amazing research in marital relationships and therapy, shows that the need to feel safe, loved, secure and trusting of our partners, is as fundamental to our emotional health as food and oxygen are to our physical health.
John Gottman himself resisted this view for a number of years but know acknowledges attachment needs are the primary relationship needs. Normal relationship needs, like resolving money issues, sharing the housework, and even for sex, have now been shown to in fact, be secondary expressions of the deeper emotional attachment needs. You mentioned trust in your question and trust is one of the most import expressions of what I’m describing here.
For years marital counselors like myself have worked on changing couples behaviors to get usually secondary relationship needs met and related issues resolved, like I mentioned above. The evidence once showed this was the best approach in marital therapy. I’m not necessarily advocating more counseling here but I’m suggesting that both you and your husband learn more about how to meet express and meet each other’s core-emotional or attachment needs.
What floored me a few years back as a therapist was that couples therapy in just 7 sessions, based on this model and not on any behavior change approach, was having sustained 5 and seven year positive results when highly distressed couples were re-assessed. This approach, literally resolves mild to moderate clinical depression more effectively than depression targeted CBT therapy and/or medications. That’s a depression cure in most cases, and a relationship “transformation” that lasts for years without behavior based intervention as we see in the Gottman approach.
I’m not an EFT trained therapist but I have studied the research behind it for years. I recommend that both you and your Husband read Dr. Sue Johnson’s (founder of emotion focused therapy for couples or EFT) together in much the same way you did the Gottman book. If you can take 30 minutes before bed together for a reading date and read it to one and other. You should ask and answer the simple questions at the end of each easy to read chapter. You can get the book at your local library most likely, so you don’t even have to pay for it.
This will enable you to get a shared-pulse so to speak on the emotional quality and experience of your marriage. The deceit issue will come up. I’d use a gentler term like white lies, (less critical a la Gottman). If later you chose to seek counseling again EFT as I mentioned is the best marital therapy in the world and you have an 80-90% chance of benefiting together for the rest of your lives from it in 2 months on average. Addressing the little white lies in the context of learning to re-expand and deepen your love together will very likely causes the little white lies to melt away for good.
Here are some links to learn more about EFT and the book I’m recommending:
Here’s the book I recommended you and your partner read at or around the same time. It can provide you a practical new emotional language for discussing your relationship:
Here’s the page for finding an EFT therapist in your area if you do decide to get some counseling again. If there isn’t one in your area talk to an EFT Clinical Trainer/Therapist to explore alternatives in your region :
If you can’t find an EFT therapist, I’d try to find a trained Gotmann therapist. Here’s the link to their site, which will outline their research you are probably already familiar with. They also have a “find a therapist link” on this site: http://www.gottman.com/
I hope that helps. Let me know if I’ve missed anything answering your question. Your feedback is very important to me.
Please don’t forget to push the “accept” but if you find value in my detailed answer.