Communicate Constructively. When people discover they have been betrayed, there can be societal pressure to kick a partner to the curb. People are often told that they have to stick it to their partner—otherwise they will come across as being weak and will be taken advantage of again. However, the Paradox of Intimacy—the realization that our relationships are full of competing demands, desires, and wishes—highlights the importance of dealing with the betrayal by adopting a constructive approach.

The only possible way you and your partner can repair the damage done is by discussing the issue without hostility and defensiveness. It’s only by creating a mutual understanding of what happened that you will be able to achieve reconciliation. We know it’s not easy to adopt a constructive approach when you’re hurting. In fact, acting in anger and ending a relationship is often the simple and easy way out. Trying to work through a betrayal with a partner in a constructive way actually takes a lot of strength and perseverance.

A constructive approach happens when couples realize that they are on the same side—that it’s “us versus the problem” not “you versus me.” Relationships are a team effort. At some point or another, couples experience hurt feelings, disappointment, anger, and resentment. When negative things happen in your relationship, if you can take a step back and approach your partner with a cooperative, constructive mind-set, you’ll discover that it’s a better way to deal with problems as they arise.

Imagine if Mike had been able to explain his concerns about Lauren spending time with her ex, rather than blowing up at her. And imagine if Lauren had been able to explain where she was coming from—she didn’t ever want to hurt Mike’s feelings, but she also valued her friendship with Ryan. By talking about the issue candidly, an agreed-upon understanding might have been reached. Perhaps they would have agreed that Lauren could spend time with Ryan as long as Mike was included.