In my previous post, I introduced the idea that betrayed partners often find it helpful to stop talking and start observing. Simply stated, when you stop talking and start observing, you can change your behavior patterns and grow in emotional and relational health, and with that change, you can participate in your relationship in a much healthier way. That was certainly my experience.
Before I stopped talking and started observing, I did not realize how sick my spouse was. I understood he was sexually addicted, but I was still getting my head around what that meant. It wasn’t until I stopped agitating the waters of the relationship with my unhealthy behaviors that I clearly saw that my spouse was drowning.
During this time, as I stopped talking and started observing, I took what I learned to my therapist and support group so I could reality-check my observations and process my feelings. I needed these supportive others to help me sort through and understand the truth of my relationship and my experience within it. As I did this, I started to get clarity, and I was able to step out of the pattern of reactivity I had been stuck in.
It was during this time that I realized that I could either drown alongside my spouse or I could save myself. I had been trying to get him to swim for the edge for a long time, thinking that if he would do that, then I too could be saved. Now, however, with the clarity that came from being quiet and allowing myself to see the true state of my relationship, I understood that it was up to my spouse to save himself, and it was up to me to save myself.
If you are in the post-discovery stage of dealing with sexual betrayal and you find yourself talking, arguing, fighting, cajoling, reasoning, agitating, encouraging, nagging, and maybe even threatening in an attempt to get your partner to enter recovery and take steps to get well, I encourage you to try a six-week period where you stop talking and start observing.
As I said in last week’s post, this takes some serious discipline. So get your therapist and support peeps on board to help you.
As you move into this process of not talking and instead observing, you are going to experience some painful realities and some wonderful realities. It’s possible you will see that your partner is not taking the actions needed to repair the damage. You may see that your partner is gaslighting you. Or still acting out. Or that your partner is withdrawn or emotionally absent. On the other hand, you may find that when you stop filling the space, your partner is right there, actively working on recovery and pursuing emotional connection with you.
My hope, of course, is that your significant other joins you in a process of healing and recovery and that you find, when you quiet yourself, that your partner is showing up in ways that you were missing and are glad and relieved to see. But even if what you find when you stop talking and start observing is similar to what I found – absence, disconnection, and loneliness – this process will still benefit you in transformative ways.
First and foremost, you will learn about where your partner is (and is not) in your relationship. You will also learn a lot about yourself. You will find out why you were talking in the first place. If you are open to it, you will learn what all those words were helping you to avoid. You will discover that you can handle knowing and seeing the things you were trying to avoid knowing and seeing. You will learn that you are strong, resilient, creative, and resourceful. You will see the unhealthy coping patterns that the trauma of sexual betrayal has triggered, and you will trade these out for healthy relational behaviors. You will find out what you were afraid of, and you will choose to walk into and face your fear so you can heal it. You will begin the process of saving yourself regardless of whether your significant other joins you in a process of healing.