Advice for the Betrayer

When your partner is describing how the betrayal made him or her feel, do your best to validate your partner’s feelings. Your partner’s feelings are genuine and need to be acknowledged. Be explicit. Tell your partner you understand how he or she feels. “You’re angry, mad, and disappointed. You have every right to be.” This is not the time to get into discussions about the facts and details of what happened or try to explain your side of the story (that comes later). Right now, your partner needs to know that you get what they’re going through.

After weeks of giving George the silent treatment, Maria decided she needed to have an honest discussion about what happened, if there was even a slight chance of saving their marriage. This time around, Maria was able to tell George exactly how she felt—hurt, sad, and confused. Although George struggled to listen to Maria, given his cool style of attachment, he knew he had too much at stake not to. He wanted to save his family, marriage, and business. Though he fumbled at first, he was ultimately able to acknowledge his wife’s pain by saying, “I’ve hurt you beyond belief.” That simple acknowledgment brought much needed relief to Maria. Everyone has a fundamental need to be understood. It’s the cornerstone of reestablishing a sense of trust between partners.