Recently, I’ve been in a front row seat to watch the dynamics of a couple of experiences that on their face may have nothing in common.

The first is a friend dealing with a spouse having an affair.

The second is a business relationship, in which the service provider refuses to acknowledge that she fell short of providing what she promised and is playing the role of a victim toward her “demanding” client.

When reading Kim Oliver’s new book this week, Secrets of Happy Couples, these two experiences came to mind as I was reading a passage. A common thread appeared.

Kim was discussing the work of Dr. Harville Hendrix, an experienced marriage therapist. He says in all of his years, he’s never encountered a couple where only one partner was having an affair. In some way, the “victims” were having more socially acceptable “affairs” of their own.

Dr. Hendrix frames an affair as any attachment or activity that takes precedence over your intimate, committed relationship with your partner. These “affairs” can be with your children, work, friends, pets, and other things. His observation puts devoting too much of yourself to your kids, your work, or any source in a whole new light.

Dr. Hendrix says, “Infidelity is a co-creation designed to regulate intimacy by acting out their anxiety in ways that involved them with other people…There are always two affairs. They are always co-created.”

Do you see the common thread?

If you consider yourself the “victim”  in any situation right now, personal or business, it will be helpful to do some soul searching to determine how you contributed to create the situation. 

Was there something you were prioritizing over your relationship? Did you not do what you promised and why? Did you openly communicate about why you made the choices you made? Are you now owning up to your contribution – or are you more invested in maintaining your story with you in the victim role?

This process is not about placing blame on you. It is about you assuming the responsibility that is yours to take. 

In order to heal yourself and have any chance at healing your relationship, you need to stop having what Dr. Hendrix calls vertical conversations — where one person “knows” what is right and is attempting to educate the other one. Equally damaging is stonewalling, where the person who “knows” what is right refuses to even talk about the situation

These behaviors create an inherently unequal balance of power. In order to heal, you must move toward a dialogue, based on an even balance of power where each party acknowledges the other’s point of view as valid.

This is easier said than done. The first step? Re-distributing the responsibility for what happened and equalizing the efforts for repairing the damage. 

This work leaves little room for a victim.

To begin, consciously choose to shift from a negative tone to one filled with acknowledgement, appreciation, forgiveness, and acceptance. As long as either party is focused on the other’s limitations or faults, the relationship will not heal.

Want to improve your business? Instead of picking up a best-selling business book this week, try picking up a relationship book like Secrets of Happy Couples or a self development book like The Gifts of Imperfection by Dr. Brene’ Brown

After all, a successful business begins and ends with authentic relationships … and authentic relationships begin and end with you.

Author's Bio: 

Mollie Marti is a psychologist, lawyer, and adjunct professor of psychology at the University of Iowa. She brings years of experience in coaching a prestigious list of clients, including Olympians and business elites, to her mission of helping leaders thrive and serve.

Dr. Mollie speaks around the globe on servant leadership and mentorship, resiliency, life design, and business ethics. In addition to numerous academic articles, her business success books have been published in several languages. Her most recent book, Walking with Justice: Uncommon Lessons from One of Life’s Greatest Mentors, is being welcomed as “a timeless handbook for being human.”

She is host of the popular Make an Impact! event, bringing together internationally renowned thought leaders to raise philanthropic funds while empowering innovative attendees to make a bigger impact in a way that fuels their health, relationships, and life priorities.

A passionate advocate for youth and communities, Dr. Mollie directs the non-profit Community Resiliency Project to help communities support their youth and grow their capacity to thrive.

With her unique ability to combine the science of success with the art of exceptional living, she is a frequent media resource ( and was recognized by The Entrepreneur Blog as one of the Top 25 Business Coaches on twitter (@DrMollieMarti).

Having graduated first in her class in both undergraduate and graduate school, Dr. Mollie continues to learn – and unlearn – on a daily basis. She walks out these lessons from an apple orchard in scenic northeast Iowa where she lives with her husband, their three children, and a large family of pets. Join her for weekly musings on this grand experiment at