I hear it all the time from a hurting spouse: “My husband was the one who cheated, so why isn’t he fighting for me? Why do I have to convince him that what he did was wrong?” Or “My wife is the one who caused this mess…so why am I the only one who seems to care about our marriage?”
It’s a common situation: The spouse who was unfaithful, or who has in some way broken trust or created conflict, is the same spouse who shows resistance, indifference or even hostility toward any efforts to repair the damage they have done and rebuild the marriage.
Instead of begging their spouse’s forgiveness, it’s almost like they couldn’t care less whether their wounded spouse stays or goes. In fact, they may even act as if they have a foot out the door and are ready to leave the marriage if their wounded spouse doesn’t stop putting “demands” on them.
It’s the exact opposite of what a betrayed or hurt spouse expects.
Why does this imbalance happen? And if it’s happening to you, what can you do about it? As a practitioner who specializes in these particularly challenging cases, I have a few initial suggestions.
For starters, you can get focused by asking yourself a question: “Based solely on my spouse’s actions (not his or her words), is my spouse as motivated as I am to save our marriage?”
This distinction between words and actions is an important one to make, since many unmotivated spouses will either fake it or buy time by pretending to be motivated.
An example is a husband who has had an emotional or sexual affair with a female co-worker. He may constantly tell his wife that he’s going to request a transfer; however, he never quite gets around to it. Why not? Because he’s buying time. The longer he put his wife on delay, the longer he can continue to flirt with his co-worker. His wife is so desperate and powerless that she has little recourse but to keep “reminding” him.
“Did you ask for a transfer today?” she asks.
“No, I didn’t have an opportunity today. I’ll do it tomorrow,” he replies.
But as they say in Mexico, mañana never comes.
That’s why you need to focus on what your partner does, not what he or she says.
If, based only your spouse’s actions, you decide that he or she is not motivated, you need to turn the tables, fast. You need to shift momentum so that your spouse is the one who is working – hard – to keep you in his or her life.
Unless and until you can create that shift, your spouse will continue to treat you like you come second to whatever or whomever he or she finds more appealing at the moment.
And here’s the worst part of all:
The longer your spouse treats you like an option instead of a priority, the more he or she may begin to actually feel that way about you.
You might think, “I’d love for that to happen, but based on my partner’s behavior, it seems impossible. There’s nothing I can do.”
Of course there’s something you can do. There are always options. You can start by taking these three little steps.
Three Steps to “Turn the Tables”
1. Step one is to gain pro-level insight into the marriage problem you’re having. I’m not talking about doing a Google search and reading a few free blogs on why people cheat. I’m talking about diving into the issue and becoming a mini-expert in it. Once you understand what you’re dealing with, once you can see the situation clearly and from all angles, you will be able to decode your partner’s behavior (or manipulations, as the case may be).
And once you can do that, you will be able to use that knowledge to your advantage – to trigger a sense of urgency in your partner, where he or she feels compelled to “act” and save the marriage. This is an absolutely essential step.
2. Step two is to get more self-control. A lot of this comes from having the type of knowledge that I just mentioned. Once you have clarity, you will have more control over your own emotions and reactions. You will be able to conduct yourself with dignity and purpose, instead of just begging, crying, making empty threats, etc.
3. Step three is to start acting strategically instead of emotionally or impulsively. This can only happen after you’ve acquired the knowledge that I spoke of and after you’ve gained better self-control. That’s why strategy comes third. You need a plan of action – practical do’s and don’ts, and ways of responding – that can help you turn things around.
Of course, this is all easier said than done. Nonetheless, you can turn the tables so that your spouse is fighting “for you” instead of “against you.”
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Debra Macleod, BA, JD, offers a professional and proven alternative to marriage counseling and has served as an expert resource for major media around the world, from The New York Times to Women’s Health Magazine.
Visit the HOMEPAGE or READ REVIEWS of her Marriage SOS™ resources and save your marriage, starting today.
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