I love this saying: your partner is like a plank of wood, and saying something mean is like hammering a nail into that plank of wood. You can apologize and remove that nail, but the hole in the plank is still there. And if you do that enough times, the plank will eventually break.
Dr. Gottman, who is widely known as the guru of relationships, has written extensively about the importance of conflict resolution in order to make a marriage work. Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment many still forget to avoid what he calls the “four dark horsemen” (1) criticism, including name-calling (2) contempt, (3) defensiveness and (4) stonewalling.
When calmer heads prevail, of course we are all capable of apologizing, but to me those are just empty words if the person keeps repeating the same offensive act. At some point, it becomes clear that actions speak louder than words, and all the flattery and/or gifts in the world cannot negate the pain inflicted by the person who has made a commitment to love, honor, respect and cherish you.
As people being to approach their breaking point, the question of couples counseling is often raised. For it to truly work, however, both parties need to have a vested interest in repairing the relationship. The two times I have tried it, I was either married or engaged, and we were living under one roof, so there was a definite incentive to try and make things work. And even then the outcome was that our different expectations and conflict resolution styles were simply incompatible.
When you are on the fence about couples counseling, there is obviously something holding you back. If that is the case, then going to individual counseling first will help give you clarity about your own goals and desires. And what you may learn is that some things cannot be repaired, like when someone has betrayed your trust.
Discovering infidelity– whether financial, physical or emotional, is a huge blow to the very foundation of a couple’s relationship. While some people do manage to rebuild trust, it is a long and hard road. Saying good-bye, however, also is not easy, especially the longer and more you’ve invested into building a life together. It takes courage either way, and you will need to build and rely extensively on a support network to get you through to the other side.
This past week, I interviewed the author of “Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life” who is also known as Chumplady on social media. She has an amazing following of people that truly believe she is their savior. Here’s our YouTube segment with her tips for moving on after discovering an affair:
Ultimately, the choice is yours on whether you should stay or go. But just remember, life is full of options (particularly once our shelter in place orders are lifted). Work through the cost/benefit analysis that best suits you, and when in doubt poll your family and friends, which I refer to as my life panel. These are people that love you and want what is best for you.
Clarity is what is key, hopefully you will discover it sooner rather than later.