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How to Speak to Your Partner When You’ve Been Betrayed

coupleinconflict_300The first step in dealing with disloyalty in a relationship is communicating your pain. Learn easy ways to express yourself and salvage your union from authors John Gottman, Ph.D., and Nan Silver of What Makes Love Last? How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal: Secrets from the Love Lab.

A relationship is a commitment, but it shouldn’t be a pair of handcuffs or a muzzle. At times, expressing disapproval of your partner’s deeds can be the most loving and supportive action you can take. Blind acceptance is never a healthy strategy. Alexander Hamilton once said that to mistrust the government to regulate itself is an obligation of the citizenry.

Likewise, sometimes it’s necessary to hold up a mirror for your partner. No one is immune to bouts of narcissism, selfishness, and poor judgment. Calling your partner on such behavior is healthy. In doing so, you are focused on your partner’s payoffs, not your own. We need to rely on each other’s honesty to challenge our values, even if that means hearing the sting of “What were you thinking?” or “How could you do that?” If you are the recipient of such “corrections,” realize that your partner’s love is motivating the confrontation. Instead of being defensive, try to focus on what your partner is saying and discuss the issue with openness.

Too often, however, a partner’s withdrawal of support is not a form of whistle-blowing but a selfish betrayal. When a relationship begins to collapse under the weight of any type of disloyalty, it takes more than apologies, promises, and romantic nights out to strengthen the bond. The couple must first recognize that a form of infidelity is at the heart of the breach. To find their way back to each other, the couple will need to work together on attuning. Only by newly exploring each other’s inner world can they succeed at reconnecting.

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