“Why do we have to talk about this again? I made a mistake. Let’s just move on.”
If you’ve thought or said these words, keep reading.
As a licensed counselor and Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, I’ve heard this many times in sessions with my clients who have acted out in their relationship and gotten caught.
Whether it be porn or strip clubs, sexting or an emotional or physical affair, your actions have damaged the love and trust in your relationship
And I have to tell you, the “Let’s just move on” mindset will keep you stuck in the predicament you’ve found yourself in.
You see, your partner’s world has just been flipped upside down. Because trust has been violated, everything they once believed was true about you and about your relationship, becomes a question that must now be answered. From a therapeutic standpoint, the discovery of a betrayal is a traumatic event for the betrayed partner. It creates a painful, emotional wound that must heal in order to be able to ‘move on’.
Knowing your actions have caused pain for your partner, is also a huge burden for you. It can overwhelm you and overshadow your spouse’s pain.
Your Shame & Guilt.
If you’re the offending partner, I want you to hear this: Your shame and guilt can get in the way of you showing up the way you need to for your partner. It will delay – and can even prevent – true healing from taking place.
Your shame and guilt may encourage you to:
- Minimize: “It was just sex. It didn’t mean anything to me. It barely qualifies as cheating.”
- Move on too quickly: “Why do we have to continue talking about this? This isn’t good for us. We need to focus on moving forward.”
- Shift Blame: “If we had more sex at home, I wouldn’t have done this.”
- Gaslight: “If you think I’m checking out that woman, you’re being paranoid.”
- Offer empty promises: “You can have access to anything of mine.”
- Avoid: “I’m tired. It’s been a long week at work. Let’s talk about this later.”
- Defend: “I’m not saying I’m cheating but who could blame me if I was?”
Any of these sound familiar?
Despite how it may feel, what your partner needs most right now is YOU!
But wait. Why would my partner need me when I’m the one who hurt her/him?!?!
As true as that may be, you also play a major role in the healing process. In order to do so, you’ll need to deal with your own shame and guilt so that you show up strong enough to provide your partner with what they need most…empathy & safety.
Putting Feelings Into Words.
Your partner needs to feel as though you get it and understand the pain you’ve caused. I’m not talking about an intellectual or moralistic understanding of what you’ve done. I’m talking about true empathy, an emotional understanding of what your partner is going through because of the choice(s) you made.
In order to do this, you need to walk in your partner’s shoes.
What feelings do you think they are feeling and why? This will require you to put actual feelings into words like sad, disappointed, betrayed, angry, confused, traumatized, embarrassed, insecure, etc., Pick a word and answer “Why would my partner feel that one feeling?” before moving on to the next feeling word and repeating the process.
Doing this helps connect your mind and heart. Empathy gives much more depth and color to an intellectual understanding of pain.
Providing a Safe Space.
Safety is also paramount in the healing process. Your partner needs to know they’re secure with you. Though intellectually you may realize this does not happen overnight, you may feel a sense of urgency to speed through this process as a way to deal with your own pain. I’ll tell you now, you’ll need to get comfortable in that pain. This takes months to do and it will be a challenge, so set proper expectations for yourself.
Remember, your choices got you into this situation. Your good choices can help get you out of it…in time. Consistency goes hand-in-hand with safety. Without it, safety is nearly impossible.
Here are four immediate needs that will help your spouse to feel safe:
- Your inappropriate behavior(s) has stopped
- Your commitment to establishing healthy boundaries to keep everyone safe
- Your willingness to change and commit to behaving differently
- Your willingness to repair the relationship via therapy
Each one of these requires thoughtful and structured conversation and none of them are things you can do on your own. Many have tried and failed without the proper support.
Finding Your Support Network.
If you are ready to get started on this journey of being a part of the healing process, we’re here to help both you and your partner. Don’t let the weight of the shame and guilt of what you’ve done keep you stuck. There is a way out and we can show it to you. It’s never too early to start.