healing after an affairIt takes time to recover and move back together again, intimately and emotionally, after infidelity – but it CAN be done. Every time your partner opens up to you about something difficult, healing happens. Every time one of you reaches out to the other and you re-connect in some way, healing happens.

This path to healing and to trust rebuilding requires patience and both of you on board and consistently making conscious decisions. This can be a sensitive and vulnerable period in your relationship, but it can also be positive and transformative.

In our coaching practice, we’ve seen many couples take a relationship-threatening thing like an affair and use it to create a stronger, closer and healthier bond than they’d ever had before.

But none this can happen if there’s a particular game being played. It may be going on in your mind and in conversations between the two of you too…and you might not even realize the added damage that’s being done to your relationship because of it.

We’re talking about the Blame Game.

It’s one of those not-very-fun games that countless couples play as they interact with one another. It’s especially damaging if you’re already disconnected because of an emotional affair. The Blame Game will squash the healing after an affair that’s trying to emerge and it will prevent the re-connection that could otherwise be occurring.

Here’s how the Blame Game goes…

Jennifer greets her husband, Tom with a tentative hug and they talk about the day they each had at work. She distractedly listens to Tom share about his meeting with a new client as well as the tense talk he and his boss had. All the while Tom talks, Jennifer has one question run through her mind: “Did he spend any time with his co-worker Angie today?” Angie is the woman with whom Tom had an emotional affair and every day what Jennifer wants most of all to know is the answer to this question.

When she finally speaks the weighty question out loud, Tom gets angry. He accuses Jennifer of ignoring everything he just said when he was trying to be open and share. He tells her how tired he is of having to prove that the affair is over. Jennifer replies, “If you hadn’t cheated in the first place, I wouldn’t have to ask that question every day. This is on you!”

It’s the same no-win argument that Jennifer and Tom have just about every day. What begins as a benign conversation descends into a hurtful exchange filled with accusations from both of them.

The Blame Game may sound different in your relationship.

It could be that either you or your partner seems to lob more blaming words than the other one does. The effects are very much the same– more tension, hurt and distance. When blame is running through the thoughts you think and the words you say on a regular basis, there is not much (or any) room for healing and for moving closer together again.

Remember these 5 tips to stop the blame game and repair your relationship:

1. Pause to ask yourself, “Is that really true?” when an accusation comes to mind or out of your mouth.

Even a momentary breath and pause in the conversation provides you with the space to phrase your words differently.

2. Review the current facts FIRST and then speak or respond.

When you speak from the facts of what’s going on now, you’re less likely to inadvertently push your partner away.

3. Remember that taking responsibility is different than blame.

You can acknowledge your actions or your role in a dynamic without getting into blame. Your partner can choose to do the same. In virtually every situation, you both played a role.

4. Meet your partner’s blame with an honest reply like, “I feel sad/mad/hurt when I hear you say that.”

It’s okay to share how you feel when he or she accuses or blames you. It’s also okay to ask your partner to communicate differently.

5. Come up with no-blame communication agreements you BOTH will keep.

Agreements are only effective when they’re created consciously and don’t come in the form of a demand or ultimatum. Ask your partner to talk about new and non-blaming ways to speak differently about how you feel and what you each want as you move forward.


 susieandottocolinsAre you looking for more help communicating without playing the Blame Game? Relationship coaches and authors, Susie and Otto Collins can help. Click here to get their free 7 Day Communication Magic eCourse.

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    12 replies to "Are You Playing the Game that Squashes Healing After an Affair?"

    • exercisegrace

      In my humble opinion, the example above is NOT playing the blame game. Tom cheated and he continues to work with his AP. Big surprise that it is causing insecurity, fear and anxiety for his wife. This is NORMAL. What is NOT NORMAL is Tom continuing to work with Angie. But while he is, this could be solved by Tom stepping up and taking responsibility for what HE DID, and what it has CAUSED in his wife. Perhaps checking in a couple of times during the day. Perhaps Tom and Jennifer could agree that while Tom looks for work elsewhere, he needs to address her fears head on. From my own experience, I can say that if Tom were to come home and directly address if, where, when, why, and what was said of his contact (if any) with Angie that day, they could put that behind them, allay his wife’s fears, and go on to productively discuss other things. OF COURSE she is burning to know if her husband talked to his AP. She knows that particularly on such a stressful day, he would have in the past turned to Angie for advice, consolation, whatever.

    • gizfield

      I agree, the Blame Game is going on and it’s directed at that Shrew Jennifer, as usual. If her husband wants to be “transparent” he could like, uh, VOLUNTEER the information. Blowing up is the affair continuing example in this story. I’m sure cheaters LOVE Susy and Otto as counselors, they always manage to defend all rights of the cheaters without offering any real solution to the problem. If Jennifer wants to know what went on between her husband and another chick, he should make that a priority. They could even make up a code or game like “Whore-date” ( short for update ) maybe numbers one to ten, one being no sightings or contact, to ten being getting a personal email or call. Or maybe red light, yellow light, green light. At any rate, he needs to let Jennifer know she is the priority, and she shouldn’t hsve to pry information out of him.

    • CeeCee

      You reap what you sow. Why should a betrayed spouse have to walk on egg shells so a cheating spouse feels respected?? Respect is not a given, it’s earned. Susie and Otto are the LAST people I would go to for marital advice.

    • Sadsomuch

      Tough one. I know from my own experience that in those first few weeks, when my H came home the first thing I wanted to know was if there had been any contact. But as the days went on I realized that I was on edge waiting for the answer and he was on edge waiting for the question and the inevitable blow up that even no contact brought. I finally just said hey if you have contact and I find out, we get divorced. End of story. I have to believe for my own sanity that they don’t communicate and if I find out differently then I have already made the decision that my marriage wouldn’t be worth saving at that point. Its still hard not to have anxious thoughts but the everyday asking “did you see her today” was not helping me in any way.

      • Strengthrequired

        That is exactly what I said ti my h. If I find out that he is still seeing the ow, we are over and done with….

    • Carol

      I don’t know much about Suzy and Otto, but I wholeheartedly agree with those who say a betrayed spouse heals faster when the spouse who had the affair volunteers information and isn’t afraid to talk about the affair. It’s extremely difficult, I know, as they want to just shove everything under the rug and forget and move on, and the betrayed spouse wants to dissect and analyze every second of the affair. My H had 3 workplace affairs – the first, I didnt even know about until 20 some years later, the second – he kept seeing her and I was too naive and dumb to question and not take his word that he wasn’t seeing her, and the third – well, that was almost the deal breaker. Lucky for my H she left the agency on her own, b/c if she hadn’t, I would have insisted my H did. The third time around, you don’t take the ^&** anymore. Why am I still married?? Because both I and my husband finally GOT IT. Some lessons are a long time in coming!

    • onmyway

      While I do think the 5 tips at the end of the article are good I have to agree with the others that the example was a very poor one. It kind of pissed me off, to be honest. I was glad to see that some of you had the same reaction when I read your posts as I wasn’t sure if I was being overly sensitive. I have not read anything by Suzy and Otto but I am guessing they come across as a bit too lenient on the CS than many feel is warranted? I do believe that there comes a time when the punishment, so to speak, of the CS needs to stop (if they are giving a 100% towards healing that is) . If you have any hope of being in a happy, loving relationship that kind of stuff just can’t continue forever. But in the example they used above he obviously isn’t giving his wife what she needs to move forward no matter what point they are in in their recovery process.

      I can see how “jennifer’ might be seen as being a participant in the blame game with her reply…to a small degree. But given the fact that her husband sounds like a self absorbed ass who has learned nothing about humility or what it takes to help your spouse heal I don’t see how her response was at all inappropriate. She told it like it is to a spouse that has yet to ‘get it’. The obvious answer should be for the CS to VOLUNTEER the info as gizfield said.

      Carol, I just wanted to say that your story is quite amazing. I wish you and your husband the best as you move forward.

    • Rachel

      When my neighbor found out we were divorcing, he said to my friend, ” oh, he finally got caught”?

      • Strengthrequired

        That would be right Rachel, he was enjoying the sneaking around behind your back, it was exciting until he did get caught and you both ended up paying for the consequences of his actions.
        Just like my h when he was sneaking behind my back. I wint ever forget my h telling our friends how wonderful and beautiful his ow was. They would say to him “gee you both look alike”. Making digs at him because they are cousins. Sometimes they would say to hum “she is your cousin”
        (they would tell me this, as it was the time when we had separated at the very beginning of his ea)
        Sometimes I give a little dig at him, like ohhh could you imagine if you stayed with cousin it? Then as her payback, her daughter started to crack onto you, and you left her for her daughter, ohhh poor little cousin it, she will either be very upset that her daughter has you, or she will enjoy sharing you with her daughter, as we all know how she likes keeping it in the family.
        I know Im bad. (he tells me, stop being disgusting lol, it makes him shudder ). It’s a wonderful sight seeing the fog all lifted. Lol

        • Strengthrequired

          Ok. Here is my take on the questions.
          “is this reallymtrue” – well if I knew it was reallly true, I wouldn’t be asking.
          Review the facts – well I would have review the facts, that’s why I would ask.
          Take responsibility is different to blame – haven’t us as bs taken responsibility in part of the marital problems, that’s why we tried to save our marriages. We. However are not to be blamed for our spouses part in the marriage troubles, we definitely didn’t bring in a third party to make matters worse. We were in it completely, where were our spouses, dipping their toes outside the marriage, that’s nit our fault for their behaviour. They had a choice and made matters worse all around.
          So no, I’m not taking the blame for what my h did, he needs to own that.
          Meet your partners blame – ok are we talking about infidelity here….. Infidelity isn’t just an argument, isnt just nirmal marital issues where one person says you did this and the other says you did that, that is just tit for tat. There is no excuse for being unfaithful. These people seem to be mainly focusing on normal marital issues, not something as damaging as an affair.
          Come up with no blame agreement, hmmm, now I am definately not about to say to my h, how about we agree to not blame each other. You do something that hurts me, I won’t blame you and ohh and you don’t blame me for making you feel like you can hurt me. Pfft. What are we two year olds.
          Why dont we just agree to disagree.

    • Carol

      Onmyway:
      Thanks for your kind comments – I never looked at our situation as “amazing” – but I guess in some cases it is – I haven’t really found anyone else who is still married whose husband has had as many affairs as mine (3 LT and 12 one night ‘flings’) – or maybe he has been more honest than a lot of husbands. In any case, I have had a great deal of experience and have the dubious honor of “infidelity survivor extraordinaire”. But have to give some of the credit to my H – although he knew this time I was NOT naive anymore and set very firm boundaries (duh, why didn’t I do this before??) he came forth and regurgitated 40 years of philandering. It couldn’t have been easy, and shows me his sincerity in finally coming clean. Very much like an addict are these husbands who stray like this. To anyone like the couple above (she listens to his day, and then asks about HER, and is chastised by her H), here are my thoughts: They have to work together? NO WAY. Either HE or SHE HAS to go. Period. End of story. Been there. Don’t let him say “But I am earning good money; I can’t find another job, I love my job, bla bla bla – how about “but I love my marriage – more than my job”? People get fired/leave jobs and survive all the time. So that’s the number one way he can show his wife he’s serious about the marriage. Until he can find another job (or the OW leaves), he needs to grow some empathy dendrites and understand that this is an EXCRUCIATING situation for his wife, and while he is searching for another job he needs to be 110% honest and forthcoming – maybe he could answer his phone whenever she calls or check in several times a day.
      Would he want his wife working every day with the arsenist who burned his house down? Or a man who stole his identity? Honestly, I don’t understand their lack of reflection. DO YOU LOVE YOUR WIFE OR NOT????!!!

    • CBB

      I’ve been struggling with this for quit some time now. My H even had a possibility of another job which is extremely rare at his age and in his job setting. It would mean disrupting our hole life to move with the kids from everything we have( friends/ family included) and I’m not sure it would solve everything . The OW is not interested in a life with my H, just his attention. She’s embedded in most of mine/kids social life so the triggers are numerous. For me it would feel like giving her everything by leaving. Now maybe I just might be a continuous reminder/ threat she got caught …

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