We’ve certainly discussed the fact that surviving an affair requires communication – effective communication, that is, So today we wanted to give you some additional Do’s and Don’ts for improving communication, as well as introduce you to the ACTION formula.
Marriage and Family Therapist, Jeff Murrah LPC, LMFT, LCDC delivered these nuggets during a webinar we had about four years ago. What you’ll read below is an excerpt from the transcript of that webinar.
Please check it out and then add any of your own Do’s and Don’ts in the comment section below.
First the Don’ts…
Don’t…Be too persistent in bringing up the affair. When you repeat a message over and over, that’s a sure way to be ignored. The way that our brain operates, we tend to ignore things that are repeated. In fact, a fellow by the name of Jack Payton coined the term “MEGO”, which stands for “My eyes glaze over”. And if you’re talking to your spouse and bringing it up and all of a sudden their eyes glaze over, they’re not all there.
Don’t…Be too insistent on all the details of the affair. The danger with knowing all the details is that they produce very vivid word pictures. When you know all of the details about what the other person looks like, what they were wearing, where they met, what they did, it begins to sound more like letters to the editor in a men’s magazine than a couple talking about what they need to talk about. When you have all those details it’s going to make it that much more difficult to forgive and to get that word picture out of your mind.
Don’t…Make demands. When you’re in that fragile period after you find out about the affair, you want to get the two of you committed to one another before you start making demands of the other person. Now, I draw a distinction between demands and between boundaries. People will need to have boundaries but the demands tend to lead to problems.
Don’t…Be closed-minded. If you want your spouse to sit down and talk with you, one way to make sure that they don’t is to be closed-minded. And that includes the whole idea that it’s got to be my way and my version of the events is the only one that counts and my understanding as to what motivated you is the only thing that counts. That whole my way or the highway will get you in trouble.
Don’t…Be self righteous. Now I know for those who are people of faith, this is a tough one, but this is one that is important because you want to be their spouse. You’re not trying to be their pastor. You’re not trying to be their holy spirit. That’s going to change the dynamics of the relationship. If they’re going to make changes, you want them to do it because of their own conscience, not because you guilt-tripped them into doing it.
Don’t…Infringe on your spouse’s time and space. You will need to allow them some time and space to get their thoughts together but many times the hurt spouse wants things to happen now. They want things to happen real fast. Making changes takes time. Be patient.
I like to use the picture of one of those giant super tankers. They can turn but it’s a slow process and when you’re talking about completely turning a marriage around, it’s going to take a little bit of time. They don’t turn on a dime.
Don’t..Blow things out of proportion. If you have teenagers, one sure way to make sure your teenager quits listening to you is to freak out and blow things out of proportion. The same thing works with spouses.
Now the Do’s…
Ok, here is where the ACTION formula begins.
A is for ACTIVITY. Sitting back and being passive is what you want to avoid. By being proactive and taking initiative you may have to learn some ways to start communication. You may have to be the one to pick up the phone and call. You may have to be the one to reach out.
C is for communication. Since communication should be two way, you’re going to need to talk and you’re going to need to let them talk. When one person is doing all the talking, it’s nothing more than lecturing, and this is why I mentioned that listening is a key to removing distance.
T stands for time. You’re going to have to be patient and allow for sufficient time for communication improvement to take place. As mentioned earlier, these changes don’t happen overnight.
I stands for intimacy. Intimacy isn’t just about being able to do things in the bedroom with each other. This deals more with rebuilding the emotional oneness and the relationship. A lot of times what happens, people confuse intensity for intimacy. Those are two separate entities and many times with affairs there is a lot of excitement and a lot of intensity, and the people who are caught up in that, they think, “Oh, that means we’re intimate.” No, it doesn’t. It just means that you had an intense time.
In terms of improving the communication as a couple, it’s going to be important that you be able to share emotions with one another, not just the anger but also when you’re scared, when you’re lonely, when you’re happy, etc.
O stands for objectivity. This is one that’s hard for a lot of people because when cheating happens we take it personally, and it’s hard to get out of that personal mindset. But in overcoming it, objectivity is going to be important. It’s almost like learning how to look at the events from different perspectives. Once again, it doesn’t mean you agree with those perspectives, but being able to develop the flexibility where you can be objective.
N stands for “No museum trips.” Many times when cheating happens, it’s almost like it opens the door for couples to dig through every past wrong doing that they have done to each other. They start bringing up how they raised the kids, what happened in their families of origin and people that they dated even before they were married. They can bring up everything under the sun and you need to avoid that. If you’re going to heal the marriage, you need to look at what’s going on now and what you need to do in the future. Those museum trips get you in trouble.
If you’d like to listen to the full audio recording of this webinar or download the transcript to read, click here.
Don’t forget to add any of your own thoughts or comments in the comment section below. It’s important to do so!