“How will we ever put our marriage back together again if he won’t even talk about his affair?” Jenny poses this frustrated question to her good friend.
Jenny’s husband, Todd, cheated 6 months ago and, while he has ended the affair and promised her that he’s now committed to their marriage, Todd refuses to talk about the infidelity. Whenever Jenny asks him why he cheated and what they can learn from the affair, he becomes angry and defensive.
Todd often tells Jenny to stop “living in the past” and to let what happened go.
Unfortunately, Jenny feels like they are doomed to repeat the same mistakes again unless they talk about Todd’s affair and learn from it.
Anybody who has lived through a partner cheating would probably agree…
The idea of re-living the betrayal and the pain of infidelity by talking about is not anyone’s idea of fun. However, in order to rebuild trust, it’s helpful to identify what you two were doing before the affair and then come up with a plan that will increase your chances of NOT falling into the same disconnecting patterns again.
If you want to repair your marriage, it’s a good idea to find a way to forgive your partner. It’s also helpful to train yourself to live in the present moment and acknowledge the improvements that are occurring.
At the same time, if you and your partner don’t try to better understand how the infidelity happened and how your marriage became distant and tense, it will be nearly impossible to truly rebuild trust and move closer together.
Perhaps, like Jenny, you are convinced about this, but your spouse– the one who cheated– is not. Whether he or she clams up and refuses to talk about anything related to infidelity or if your partner becomes defensive and lashes out at you when the topic arises, the effect is the same.
It can feel like you are the only one in your marriage willing to rebuild trust.
If so, here are 3 tips to keep in mind…
#1: Focus mostly on the disconnecting habits in your marriage.
For the time being, you can stop talking about the fact that your partner had an affair and, instead, hone in on the habits that you both had (and probably still have) that have torn you apart.
Your spouse who cheated most certainly needs to take ownership for his or her decision to cheat. Proving to you that he or she is trustable is essential to healing.
In addition to this, find the courage to put your marriage under the microscope. Take a close look at the ways that you and your spouse tend to communicate with one another, how you two interact in the bedroom and how open and honest you both are with one another.
This investigation is not about deciding which one of you is ultimately “to blame” for where your marriage is at the moment. What it IS about is uncovering the habits that are driving you two far apart that can be changed.
Once you have recognized that, for example, you and your mate have put everything else in your lives ahead of your relationship, it’s time to create some new agreements together. Propose to your spouse that you try an experiment for a period of time during which you will make one another and your marriage at least as important as your kids, your careers, hobbies, etc.
#2: Choose words that will keep you both open.
When a person makes a big mistake– such as having an affair– it’s understandable that it would feel embarrassing, guilt-inducing and even painful for him or her to have to re-live that error over and over again.
Keep in mind that when a person feels embarrassment or guilt, he or she is likely to close down to a conversation that is centered on that big mistake.
When you do talk about your relationship with your spouse (which may or may not include references to the infidelity), you probably want him or her to stay open and engaged so that you two can move toward further healing and connection.
For this reason, whenever you are communicating with your partner about rebuilding trust and repairing your relationship, it’s advisable for you to choose words that promote openness as well as honesty.
For example, Jenny used to say to Todd, “It’s time that we talk about your affair. Why won’t you ever open up about what happened?” While it’s understandable that Jenny is frustrated, as you might guess, Todd shuts down every time she begins a conversation like this.
Instead, Jenny might say, “Because our marriage is so important to me, I want to make improvements in how we interact with one another. I have a habit of jumping to conclusions and becoming jealous when you talk to other women. Are you willing to talk with me about some ways that we could work together to bring some positive changes about this?”
Jenny could use her words to focus on making improvements in the future. She can let Todd know that she acknowledges her role in certain dynamics and that she’d like to work as a team.
#3: Keep in touch with what you want for yourself and your future.
Ultimately, you get to decide whether or not the steps toward proving trustability that your spouse is taking are enough for you. Stay tuned in to what you want for yourself and for your future. Know that you deserve to be loved and treated with respect.