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 #1 on this list: Develop empathy for your partner.
Developing empathy for your betrayed partner is the single biggest step you can take toward repairing your damaged relationship. Empathy, in case you are unclear on the concept, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person.
As you read this post, you may be thinking, I have plenty of empathy, so don’t you dare lump me in with all the other cheaters you deal with. If so, we’ll simply state that if you really had empathy for your betrayed partner, you wouldn’t have cheated. Instead, you would have thought about how your infidelity might impact your partner, your relationship, and your partner’s ability to trust and become vulnerable with you.
Empathy does not come easily or automatically for most cheaters, but it can be developed with practice. That said, deciphering your wounded mate’s thoughts and feelings is not easy, and you won’t master this skill overnight. Initially, you’ll need to learn how your partner thinks and feels through trial and error coupled with open and honest communication. You will need to consciously put yourself in your betrayed partner’s shoes and say things like, “I sense you’re feeling some anxiety right now. Is that correct? If so, can you tell me what you’re anxious about so I can fully understand what you’re feeling? And if not, can you tell me what you are feeling. I really want to understand.”
If you find that your partner is behaving in a way that doesn’t make sense to you, he or she is likely feeling one or more of the following:
- Fear of further betrayals.
- Self-doubt about what to do next.
- Anxiety about consequences of the betrayal.
- Intrusive thoughts about your cheating.
- Shame about being cheated on.
- Shame about choosing to stay with you.
- Fear that he or she did something or has some shortcoming that caused you to cheat.
All of these things are very natural reactions to traumatic betrayal, and, as the cheating partner, you need to accept that fact and develop some empathy for what your partner is experiencing. The good news is that once you begin to develop empathy for your betrayed partner, the rest of the healing process can move forward.
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 attending one of our weekend healing from betrayal workshops for couples.