Wednesday night I had the privilege of attending a talk by Dan Rather about his most recent book, What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism.
After a storied career spanning more than six decades, interviewing every president since Eisenhower, and anchoring the CBS Evening News for 24 years, it was encouraging to hear him say:
If we stand firm in our better values, do not shy away from challenging injustice, and can talk to one another rather than past one another, I am confident we can find the common ground that unites us.
Rather’s talk, and his latest book’s title—What Unites Us—reminded me that even through the pain, heartache, and disappointment of infidelity, betrayed partners and unfaithful spouses alike usually want the same things in their relationship.
Unfortunately, most couples miss the “hidden” areas of agreement lying just underneath the surface of countless tense and frustrating exchanges. Unfaithful spouses—or sex addicts—sometimes say to their partner:
- Why don’t you trust me?
- I did a disclosure. Aren’t we done with this?
- How long are we going to have to talk about what happened in the past?
The sentiments behind these questions, and the way they are often received by the betrayed partner, are one and the same. Pain, frustration, shame, and anger.
Neither person wants distrust to permeate their relationship, and neither of them wants to continue having endless conversations about infidelity or addiction. Both of them want a relationship where trust is not an issue, and where they can spend their time focusing on connecting, planning, dreaming, and creating their future together.
Here are 4 truths most couples impacted by infidelity or addiction agree on:
You both want to restore trust in your relationship
As a betrayed partner you’ve probably experienced at least one conversation where your spouse expressed his frustration to you about your not trusting him. “How long is it going to take? Why can’t you trust me after ___ (days, weeks, months, or even years)?”
The reality is that you want to trust him too. You just don’t—quite yet. Why not acknowledge the agreement, and join together in your shared desire to restore trust? Have a conversation about what is working now to restore trust, and what is missing—but could be added.
You want your time together to be free of dwelling on infidelity or addiction
Most couples impacted by infidelity experience a period of time in the first 12-18 months post-discovery where the majority of their time together is spent talking about or focused on past sexual betrayal or addiction.
Both members of the couple can get “recovery fatigue” and feel as though they’re not getting anywhere, even though they spend an inordinate amount of time focused on the problem. The good news is that this period of time doesn’t last forever. And in the meantime, you both need—and likely want—occasional breaks from talking about the past.
If this is the case for your relationship, consider designating certain times (dinner or other meals together are a good choice) as controversy-free. At these times, you may need to limit your conversations to news, weather, and sports until you’re able to introduce other non-controversial topics into your time together.
You both want to heal and restore your sexual connection
I’ve never met a couple impacted by infidelity who didn’t want to restore their sexual connection. It’s not easy—or simple—but it is possible.
You and your unfaithful spouse may not agree about the timing of sexual reintegration work, and you may experience many triggers when you think of reintroducing sexual contact back into your relationship, but you can notice and appreciate the fact that you both share this hope for your future.
You don’t want your relationship to be further damaged by sexual indiscretions, slips, or relapses
This one goes without saying, but is worth mentioning. No couple goes through the arduous and courageous journey of navigating through sexual betrayal with the intention of repeating the process in the future.
You both want your relationship to be free of future trust-destroying actions, discoveries, or disclosures. Acknowledge this wish as another area of agreement, and commit to doing everything in your power to create a relationship that is connected, faithful, and continues to improve and deepen over time.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2017)
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