Using “I” statements for conflict resolution can be an effective way for individuals to express their feelings, needs, and concerns in situations where someone has been unfaithful.

"I" statements for conflict resolution

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By Linda & Doug

** Please note that this article may be more appropriate for those of you who haven’t just recently discovered the affair and are further along in the recovery process.

When it comes to resolving conflict in a relationship – especially after an affair – there’s one key ingredient that’s often missing: effective communication.

All too often, couples get caught up in the heat of the moment and start saying things they don’t really mean. This typically makes the situation worse, and often leads to further arguments down the road.

One way to avoid this is by using “I” statements.

When you make an “I” statement, you are expressing how you feel without attacking or blaming your partner.

This keeps the focus on your own feelings and experiences, rather than on their behavior. It also conveys a message of respect and understanding, which can help de-escalate a situation quickly.

If you’re not used to using “I” statements, it may feel awkward at first. But with practice, it will become second nature. 

Featured Download: “The 24 Most Common Mistakes Made by the Unfaithful Spouse After Infidelity”

If you’re the unfaithful, get it, read it and carefully consider the advice. If you’re the betrayed, give it to your unfaithful spouse.

What Are “I” Statements and Why Are They Important for Conflict Resolution?

“I” statements are a type of conflict resolution strategy that puts emphasis on interpersonal responsibility and understanding, rather than blame and accusation.

“I” statements are important because they are effective in resolving conflicts by allowing both people to express their feelings without feeling attacked or judged. This allows people to better understand each other’s point of view, leading to more constructive conversations and ultimately a better resolution.

An “I” statement typically begins with “I feel” or “I think” and focuses on the individual’s feelings or thoughts instead of placing blame on someone else. For example, rather than saying “you make me angry,” someone might say “I feel frustrated when you do that.” By expressing their emotion in this way, it allows for more open communication between two parties and helps them come to an agreement that is mutually beneficial.

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Furthermore, “I” statements can be used to strengthen relationships since they promote respect and understanding between individuals. When people feel like they have been heard and validated, they can build stronger bonds with each other which is especially important in relationships affected by infidelity. 

Examples of Effective “I” Statements

As mentioned above, when it comes to navigating through conflict, using “I” statements can be a very effective tool. It is important to frame your thoughts and feelings in terms of your own personal experience.  For example, instead of saying “you’re so lazy!,” when attempting to express how “I feel overwhelmed when tasks don’t get done the way I expect them to.”

Additionally, using words such as “I think” or “I believe” rather than pushing for what you want by using phrases like “you must” or “you should.” By expressing yourself in this way, not only are you less likely to incite anger and defensiveness in the other person – otherwise know as their “fight or flight” instincts – but you are also ensuring that your point is heard and taken seriously.  This aids in fostering a productive conversation rather than an argument.

The bottom line is that utilizing “I” statements allows us to speak our minds while also taking into account the competing needs of everyone involved.

Here are some examples of effective “I” statements that a  betrayed partner can use when talking to their unfaithful spouse:

1) “I feel betrayed”

2) “I’m worried about our future”

3) “I don’t understand why this happened”

4) “I need to process my thoughts and feelings first”

5) “I want us both to heal and work through this together”

6) “I feel so hurt by what has happened”

7) “I’m struggling to trust you again”

8) “I want my relationship with you to work out”

As you may note, using “I” statements will express how the situation has affected you directly without placing blame on either of you. It can help ensure both parties engage in an open dialogue which could hopefully result in understanding between both partners and ultimately working things out. Additionally, it can be an important step towards rebuilding the trust needed for any healthy marriage.

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Comparing “I” Statements vs “You” Statements 

Here are a few more examples of “I” statements and their “you” statement alternatives:

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“I” statement 1: “I can understand why you feel betrayed and hurt by my affair, and I accept that it is a valid emotion for you to feel,” is much more constructive than “You are overreacting; this isn’t as big of a deal as you’re making it out to be.” This statement is better because it acknowledges the other person’s feelings instead of putting them down. It also shows respect and understanding, which often goes a long way in any conversation.

“I” statement 2: “I can see how this situation has caused mistrust between us, and I am willing to work together to rebuild our relationship,” is much more beneficial than “You need to learn to trust me again; this happened once, so stop doubting me.” This statement avoids placing blame on the other person while showing an attempt at reconciliation. It conveys a willingness to take responsibility and rebuild the relationship on mutual terms.

“I” statement 3: “I am committed to being honest with you in the future so that we can move past this,” is far more effective than saying “You should believe what I’m telling you without question.” This statement affirms one’s commitment to truthful communication going forward, instead of implying that the other person should blindly accept whatever they say without asking questions. 

“I” statement 4: “I accept responsibility for my actions,” is so much better than what seems like the typical statement, “You should just forgive me and move on.” The “you” statement minimizes the significance of this person’s actions and how much pain they caused. It also implies that there is no need to make an effort to fix things – that it will all just magically happen on its own. This is not only unrealistic, but it sends a message that the wrong doings are not worth addressing or even discussing further.

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As you can probably agree, the “I” statements are the better options because they show a commitment to working through problems together in a meaningful way. By taking ownership of one’s actions, they demonstrate respect for the other person by recognizing the gravity of what has occurred. It shows that they are ready to engage in honest conversation and take steps towards healing the relationship.

On the other hand, the “you” statements send an implicit message that this issue is something to be swept under the rug without needing to really address it or put any real effort into fixing what was broken in the first place. Taking responsibility for mistakes allows each person space and permission to talk openly so they can find common ground and make progress towards a stronger connection despite what has happened.

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Summary – Using “I” Statements for Conflict Resolution

When talking about the affair, using “I” statements can create an environment of open communication and respect, helping to ensure constructive conversations. It can be helpful to express your feelings as opposed to blaming or attacking the other person.  When used effectively, “I” statements can help de-escalate a tense situation and pave the way towards a resolution that works for everyone involved.

Be sure to make these statements clear and simple. Take time to listen carefully to the other person’s response so that you can best respond accordingly.

Ultimately, talking about the affair with “I” statements may not solve all difficulties between two people but it will hopefully encourage honest dialogue and promote understanding, which is essential in improving a relationship affected by someone being unfaithful.

Do you have any suggestions or examples of effective “I” statements for conflict resolution?  If so, please share them with us in the comments section below!

    3 replies to "Using “I” Statements for Conflict Resolution"

    • Shifting Impressions

      I absolutely agree that using I statements when problem solving etc, is the way to go. But I doubt that many BS’s in the early days of discovery have that capability. Upon discovery that the person you trusted so completely has betrayed you…..well I compare it to being shot. You are wounded on the floor. I doubt the first thought that comes to mind is…..I better be careful about bleeding out!! After all it might upset the shooter.

      I wouldn’t want someone in those very early stages of discovery to set an impossibly high standard for themselves. In my own experience I was basically a puddle on the floor for several months.

      • Doug

        Yes SI, this article is certainly more for those who are further along in their recovery. We should have stated that at the beginning. In fact, I will add a sentence to that effect.

        • Shifting Impressions

          Thanks Doug

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