…a starting point for overcoming the pain of infidelity.
Holy #@%!, I don’t need to tell you about the anguish you’re going through if you’ve discovered your partner cheated.
Most couples don’t have a “no cheat” agreement. It is simply assumed you won’t lie about who you are with and what you are doing.
The discovery feels like getting hit in the stomach by a cinder block flying at the speed of sound.
Suddenly it feels like your relationship was built on a pile of broken stones.
What’s real? What can you believe? You wonder if you are crazy. (You’re not.) You wonder if you should stay or go. You contemplate the painful uncertainties of any decision you make.
It takes a lot of difficult, awkward, challenging and illuminating discussions to sort out your individual and mutual values, interests, priorities and concerns.
But you have no chance of getting through this together if you don’t work together – as a team.
That’s right. This is a mutual reconstruction process.
a special message to the betrayed partner
You are going to have some tough sledding in front of you. Duh. And I am going to add to it. But my words will make things clearer sooner rather than later.
Here’s what I mean.
You will be asking tough and uncomfortable questions. And a part of your brain will be automatically scanning for the honesty and accuracy of your partner’s replies.
All it takes is a whiff of inconsistency or shading the truth, and you will be revisited by the cinder block.
And then you will be sorely tempted to attack the “lie.”
I understand the urge to attack. It is almost impossible to squelch it.
But you must refrain. Here’s why.
The attack will just drive your partner deeper into emotional hiding.
Which gives you more reason to attack – or retreat.
The wedge between you will grow even larger than before the discovery.
What I am going to suggest isn’t fair. But it gives you the best possible shot at a better future.
Whenever you ask troubling questions preface them by saying:
I know it won’t be easy to be honest to me, but I would like to know about _______and that is important to me because ________.
I promise not to attack your responses because that will make it even more difficult for you to be candid. It won’t be easy for me to avoid criticizing a response that seems only partially honest but I will do my best because we both have to be more candid about our perceptions, attitudes, hopes and fears.
We will have to get through this together or we will continue to suffer alone.
If a part of me suspects you are not being totally candid I will say, “I am having a hard time believing X part of what you are saying. If there was something you left out please try again and I will not attack what you say, thought or did. We have to get through this together.”
The big challenge for you is to avoid criticizing what you hear. It is not easy. It is not simple. It is not enjoyable.
But you seek honesty and clarity, and this will help you find it.
I’m not going to sugar coat it. The amount of repair work is huge.
But sometimes affairs are a wake-up call, a chance to reverse a bad direction or improve something that could be better. By using your head and your heart you stack the odds in favor of getting stronger.
Two books by Janis Spring “After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful, 2nd Edition” and “How Can I Forgive You?: The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To” are excellent guides for this rocky journey.
Next time a bit of advice for the betrayer. Read the second blog in this series.
Tell me in the comments below – are you ready to take this first step?
We help couples struggling with cheating partners in Menlo Park, San Francisco, San Mateo, Redwood City, San Jose, Campbell and the surrounding areas.
Peter Pearson, Ph.D., Relationship & Teamwork Expert for Entrepreneur Couples
Pete has been training and coaching couples to become a strong team since 1984 when he co-founded The Couples Institute with his psychologist wife, Ellyn Bader. Their popular book, “Tell Me No Lies,” is about being honest with compassion and growing stronger as a couple.
Pete has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” and “CBS Early Morning News,” and quoted in major publications including “The New York Times,” “Oprah Magazine,” “Redbook,” “Cosmopolitan,” and “Business Insider.”