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After discovering the infidelity, betrayed partners are deeply traumatized and reactive. They turn into detectives; you experience severe mood swings; they are unable to trust a single thing you say or do. It’s not fun for you, especially if you’ve stopped cheating and are being honest now. That is, if you want to repair your damaged relationship, you must allow your spouse to process whatever they are feeling and needing to process.
As you work to regain trust in your relationship and heal your intimate connection, there are seven behaviors to avoid at all costs because engaging in them is likely to make your situation worse.
- Proceed with Cheat. If you want to save your relationship, you have to stop being unfaithful. Period. End of the story. If you’re still cheating—even after seeing the pain it causes your partner—you’ll almost certainly get caught (because your spouse is now watching you like a hawk), and rediscovering it will cause your partner even more pain than the first detection of fraud.
- Keep lying, telling partial truths, and keeping secrets. Some scammers stop cheating but continue their pattern of lies, cover-ups, partial confessions, and open secrets about past and current behavior, including behavior unrelated to sex or romance. Aside from continuing to cheat, persistent lies and secrets are the easiest (and most effective) way to ruin your relationship. In fact, cheating partners often state that lies and secrets are more painful and damaging to the relationship than the behaviors they are meant to cover up.
- Blame someone or something other than yourself for your actions. Shifting blame by making your behavior someone else’s fault is one of the most common tactics scammers use to rationalize and justify their actions (both to themselves and those around them). Unfortunately, this tendency often continues after the cheating is discovered, especially when the cheating spouse seems extremely angry. If you want to heal your relationship, you need to take responsibility for your behavior and not back down.
- Apologize and expect or demand immediate forgiveness. Many scammers get upset that their partners don’t appreciate their efforts to restore trust. From your spouse’s perspective, however, the fact that you’re finally acting as you promised when you committed to your relationship is hardly cause for celebration. When you need positive validation, take it as high praise that your partner is willing to talk to you and/or stay with you after everything you’ve done. If you want something a little more tangible, it’s best to go to his “Attaboy!” somewhere else, perhaps from a supportive friend or your therapist.
- Try to buy forgiveness. A common mistake scammers make is trying to buy their way out of the kennel with flowers, dinner, travel, jewelry, and other gifts. That does not work. Sure, your spouse will likely accept the gift and maybe even say thank you. But don’t expect forgiveness. Gifts, no matter how expensive, don’t undo the trauma of infidelity. In fact, they are often viewed as lame attempts to circumvent the problem.
- Use aggression and threats. Sometimes scammers get fed up with their partner being so angry or ashamed of what they did that they become aggressive and threaten divorce, financial consequences, or more. If you try this approach, it’s possible that you’ll temporarily force your partner into submission. However, you are more likely to drive your partner further away. And if your partner gives in to your bullying, is that the kind of relationship you want?
- Try to calm your spouse down. If you want to watch your cheating partner lose their nerve, wait until they’re really upset and then try to calm them down. Then crouch and cover because a tornado is coming your way. Cheating partners don’t like it when you try to diminish (i.e., defuse) their emotions. So don’t do it. Instead, try listening to what they’re saying (rather than how they’re saying it) and empathizing with the pain they’re expressing.
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