There is often a misconception with a victim of infidelity that “If I love them enough, they will come back to me.” This often leads to clingy behavior from the betrayed spouse, which in turn can cause the cheater to move further away. There can be a distance that nothing seems to be able to bridge. What’s often needed instead is “tough love.”
The other day I came across the following statement that was made by a poster on a popular forum:
“I think ‘tough love’ is also at the basis for every good method of dealing with all of this. You have to be tough – to hold your spouse accountable and maintain the line of self respect. However, you also have to be loving: anything you do that is mean, vindictive, or out of anger and lashing out is counter-productive. Finding the balance is HARD at times! Someone once called it being a ‘quiet warrior.’ I like that term. If you follow the plan and get good advice, it helps you find that balance.
If you are dealing with infidelity, you simply CANNOT save your marriage with the other person in it! You must get rid of that person in order to begin recovery of any sorts. Thus, you may have to let go, set your spouse free, and by all means, expose the affair if it will do any good in your situation to end it. (I say the ‘if’ part in that last sentence because this HAS to be done in the right way.) I was very fortunate to have someone lead me through this process step by step and others holding my hand while I did so.”
Tough love often means separating the cheating from the cheater. You have no tolerance for the behavior, yet love the cheater enough to set firm limits and do what is needed. By giving the cheater the opposite response from what they are expecting is counter-intuitive, yet it works, when done in love.
The attitude behind which you do things is critical. “Tough love” has both the toughness and the love. It seeks what is best for the person and the relationship rather than being some new form of punishment.
Tough love is not about leaving your spouse. It’s about letting go of your expectations of what you want your spouse to do. Show them that you can go on without them. That is the compass. Keep them informed. You are telling them you won’t be a doormat for their behavior anymore. They need to get on board as the train is leaving the station.
Looking back, I can see how I actually did offer Doug tough love, but took way too long to do so. Once I told Doug that he was free to go, I noticed that his apparent desire to be in his emotional affair with Tanya started to reverse.
Our discussion topics for today are…
If you are the betrayed…have you implemented a plan for “tough love” with your spouse?
If so, how did it work for you? How did your spouse respond? (Please provide as much detail as possible.)
If not, was there any particular reason for not doing so?
If you are the cheater…If your spouse dished out some “tough love” to you, how did you respond? What did you do? How did it affect your relationship and the status of your affair?
If your spouse did not give you “tough love,” do you feel that if he/she would have it would have made a difference? Please explain why.
Please respond to one another in the comment section below.
Note: There is an excellent book on the subject by James C. Dobson that you might want to check out called “Love Must be Tough.”
Linda & Doug