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 #6 on this list: Don’t forget about self-care.
Sometimes people who’ve cheated on their intimate partners get so focused on repairing the relationship that they forget to take care of themselves. In the first few months of the healing process, this may be a reasonable response. Essentially, you feel so awful about your cheating that think you don’t deserve any sort of external support, enjoyment, or personal fulfillment. So you throw your entire self into repairing your relationship.
This is an admirable objective, but it is difficult to sustain. Over time, the shiny new adventure of rebuilding your relationship turns into a chore from which you never get a break. When that occurs, your motivation inevitably wanes.
If this happens to you, don’t fret. You are not alone. But you do need to expand your focus a bit by asking yourself, “What do I want from life beyond my primary relationship?” And it’s important that your answer to that question includes more than just going to work, being in recovery, and being a better spouse. You need to also have some fun, especially with your partner. Otherwise, what’s the point of doing all this work?
To escape the downward drift that so many recovering cheaters experience, you need to care for yourself in ways that cultivate not only your honesty and your relationship integrity but also your sense of fun and your enjoyment of life. Recognizing this, you may want to consider the following possibilities:
- Build solid friendships. Cheaters typically have very little going on in their personal lives beyond work and infidelity. However, few realize this until after they have stopped cheating for a few months. As part of the healing process, you may need to create and build platonic friendships.
- Spend time in nature. Many cheaters say they feel alone in the healing process. Some say they have felt alone for as long as they can remember. A powerful way to realize that you are not alone, that you are in fact part of a vast interwoven universe, is to spend time in nature. Best of all, nature provides all sorts of opportunities for enjoyable time with your partner and kids.
- Have a little fun. Taking time out for hobbies, game playing, exercise, sports, travel, quality time with family, and other enjoyable activities is an essential part of the long-term healing process. If you feel as if you don’t deserve to have fun after all the bad stuff you’ve done, it may help to think about enjoying life as part of the ‘daily medicine’ you must swallow. So regardless of whether fun is deserved, it is necessary, if for no other reason than it recharges your batteries in ways that make it easier for you to do the less enjoyable work of rebuilding trust and healing your relationship.
- Create a ‘home’ at home. Cheaters tend to ignore not only their emotional (inner) selves but also their outer selves and their environment. In the process of healing, when you take some time to paint your bedroom, plant a garden, clean the garage, build a deck, or remodel the kitchen, your outer world improves. That helps with your inner world, too, because your home becomes a source of pride as well as an enjoyable hobby.
- Adopt and care for a pet. Numerous studies have shown that people with pets are happier, healthier, and more connected than those without pets. Caring for the physical and emotional needs of an animal also helps to temporarily take the focus off of you, which is usually a relief. Plus, adopting and caring for a pet is something fun that you and your partner (and kids) can do together.
- Hang out with your kids. Many cheaters forget how much they love and enjoy their kids. They get so focused on cheating and keeping their infidelity secret that they withdraw from family altogether. That is a terrible shame and a gigantic missed opportunity. If you have kids around, don’t miss out on the emotional miracle that active interactions can bring.
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 want to attend one of our weekend healing from betrayal workshops for couples.