I didn’t know it at the time, but when my wife told me about the affair my response was instrumental in helping her to change. Since that time I have read some online counseling stuff from people like Dr. Huizenga, also known as “The Marriage Sherpa”. In one of his free reports he talks about how to talk to your unfaithful spouse in a way that lowers their defenses.
When my wife told me what happened, I was devastated to say the least. I immediately started crying and unleashing emotions that I never even realized I was capable of giving in to. I was hurt beyond belief and it showed. I don’t remember everything that I said to her. But I do remember what I didn’t say.
I didn’t call her names. I didn’t tell her how much “she” had hurt me. I didn’t accuse her of being anything. I just cried and wailed. I didn’t say things like “how could you do this to me”. I was focused on my pain and somehow I realized that attacking her verbally wouldn’t help my situation.
As it turns out, this is what it took for her to realize how destructive her actions had been. I think too that this helped her to focus on her need to change things without me putting her in a position where she naturally felt like she needed to blame me for what she did.
Words are very powerful and most people don’t realize how the way that we choose our words when talking, can solicit the right or wrong response from the one we are talking to.
I found out in later discussions with her that my response took her by surprise. She thought that I would be extremely angry with her. Initially the pain was so overwhelming that there was no emotional “room” for anger.
I have read since then, some articles by Dr. Frank Gunzburg stating that choosing your words carefully can make all the difference in whether or not your spouse displays true remorse for their actions. Avoid words that put the offending spouse on the defensive. Instead use words that describe how you feel and how hurt you are.
In my case, I didn’t really say much. I just cried…hysterically….at first.
In relationships that have been impacted by infidelity, many couples cannot communicate effectively with each other because of the high emotion level. Words go in one ear and out the other and each spouse tries to talk over the other.
BUT, if you are able to get your spouse to understand the earth-shattering pain you are in you can increase your odds at saving the marriage.
This happens because your spouse’s hard heart can literally melt when he or she hears you express your feelings openly and directly without any words or phrases that makes them defensive, angry and cornered.
Here are some examples Dr. Gunzburg gives:
When you speak to your partner and say…
“You betrayed me!”
“You’ve destroyed us!”
How do you think your spouse will react?
Speak instead using “I” language:
“What hurts me most is not understanding how this happened.”
“This is so painful, because I thought our marriage was built on trust.”
Putting this kind of talk into practice is easier said than done that’s for sure. But with the help of a licensed professional you can learn how to express your feelings without sounding like you are quoting something that you learned from a book.
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to find some helpful resources through counseling services or online marriage coaching programs. Some of these are worth their weight in gold when it comes to learning how to save your marriage.