(RE)ENGAGING YOUR PARTNER CONSTRUCTIVELY
While it’s very easy to understand Brian’s perspective, it also helps to see the conversation from Ashley’s point of view. Although it can be hard to do in moments like this, viewing the confrontation from your partner’s perspective will make you less likely to communicate in ways that prevent you from achieving your goals. You’re going to need to gain your partner’s cooperation. But that’s virtually impossible when a pattern of accusations and defensiveness sets in.
Seasoned interrogators intuitively understand the relationship between asking pointed questions and deception. What is the first rule of interrogating a suspect? Never ask an accusatory question (despite the TV detectives who ask, “Why did you…?”). Asking direct questions puts the listener on the spot and makes getting the truth more difficult. Innocent or not, most people don’t like to be accused of anything, much less an intimate betrayal. When placed in a confrontational setting, many people shift into some combination of a fight/flight/freeze response; they attack back, conceal the truth or lie, or say nothing. People are wired to protect themselves.
If you want to get results, do what the experts do. Try to create empathy between you and your partner rather than be viewed as an opponent. And the best way to do that is to share your emotions. Notice we said share your emotions, not show your emotions. It’s important to honor your emotions, but you should not let them interfere with clear, direct communication. By articulating your thoughts and feelings to your partner—just like you did to yourself in the exercise from the last chapter—you allow them to understand what you’re going through. If you can get your partner to see the betrayal from your point of view, he or she will be more likely to work with you to make amends.