In his book, Out of the Doghouse: A Relationship-Saving Guide for Men Caught Cheating, Dr. Rob Weiss lists seven things that cheating men can do to help mend their damaged relationship and re-establish an intimate bond with their betrayed partner. These seven tasks include:
- Develop empathy for your partner.
- Learn to disagree in healthy and productive ways.
- Instead of telling your partner you care, show it.
- Always keep the need to rebuild relationship trust in mind.
- Anticipate and deal with potential hazards before they happen.
- Don’t forget about self-care.
- Express gratitude to your partner.
In this post, we will examine task #7 on this list: Express gratitude to your betrayed partner.
In a general way, gratitude is helpful to recovery and leads to a happier, healthier life. The best research on this has been conducted by Dr. Brené Brown. Over the course of several years, she conducted thousands of in-depth interviews examining the factors that underlie happiness. And she found one (and only one) significant difference between those who are happy and those who are not. Happy people are grateful for what they have, and unhappy people aren’t. Her work also tells us that grateful people are less stressed out, more hopeful, and more likely to heal after serious life issues (such as addiction).
So, for addicts, gratitude is powerful medicine. It can also help to heal damaged relationships. If you created a list of ten things you are grateful for and share this list with your partner, it can be an incredibly vulnerable act that helps to rebuild intimacy. If you’ve listed the fact that your partner is willing to stay with you as you work to overcome your addiction and rebuild relationship trust, your partner will appreciate that (as long as your sentiment is sincere).
Warning: Do not ever put anything on a gratitude list simply to manipulate your partner or to speed the process of rebuilding trust and intimacy. Your partner will see through that, and your misguided attempt and manipulation is likely to do more damage than good. Betrayed partners can smell an attempt to manipulate their thoughts and feelings from a mile away, and that’s exactly the sort of thing that can undermine all of the other trust-building and relationship repair work you’ve been doing.
That said, if your gratitude is sincere, you can (and should) let your partner know about it. Generally, as you do this, it is best to use we and our statements rather than I and my statements. Consider the following examples.
- I’m grateful that I have a good job and a great house for my spouse and kids to live in.
- I’m grateful that we have a nice house to live in
- I’m grateful that my kids are healthy and happy.
- I’m grateful that our kids are healthy and seem to enjoy life.
If you were a betrayed partner, which statements would you rather see on your cheating partner’s gratitude list?
This small change in language may seem like a subtle difference, and in some ways it is. But when it comes to rebuilding intimacy, little things mean a lot. The shift from I and my to we and our is something that your partner is certain to pick up on both consciously and subconsciously. More importantly, when you start reframing things in this way, your own thinking will change to reflect it – a shift that bodes well for your individual recovery as well as the long-term health of your relationship.
If you and your partner are struggling to communicate and heal your relationship, you may want to read Out of the Doghouse. You might also consider participating in one of our weekend healing from betrayal workshops for couples.