Once trust begins to weaken, it typically sets off a chain reaction of accusations followed by more lies, deceptions, and betrayals, which increasingly erode what little trust remains. Because betrayals catch most people off guard, many individuals confront their partners in emotionally charged ways. Consider Maria and George, who had been married for fifteen years, were busy raising three young children, and owned one of the most popular restaurants in town. Like any other married couple, they had their share of ups and downs, but nothing serious presented itself until the day Maria learned that George had been having an affair with Teresa, one of their longtime employees. George had promised Teresa he would leave Maria when “the time was right.” Teresa eventually realized the “right time” would never come and decided to tell Maria the truth about their affair. Of course, Maria reacted as most people would; she yelled and screamed at George in a fit of anger.

When confronted by a hostile partner, people tend to instinctively adopt a defensive position, which often causes them to cover their tracks by telling more lies. This is exactly what George did. Rather than come clean, he adamantly denied his affair, only digging himself deeper and doing more damage to his relationship. These counterproductive conversations, while common, ultimately make it more difficult for couples to work through a very difficult situation.

When a major betrayal occurs, the only way to prevent your relationship from deteriorating past the point of no return is by learning how to break out of counterproductive conversations, adopting new ways to address the issue, and taking steps to candidly discuss what happened.