Instead of Telling Your Partner You Care, Show It

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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:

  1. Develop empathy for your partner.
  2. Learn to disagree in healthy and productive ways.
  3. Instead of telling your partner you care, show it.
  4. Always keep the need to rebuild relationship trust in mind.
  5. Anticipate and deal with potential hazards before they happen.
  6. Don’t forget about self-care.
  7. Express gratitude to your partner.

In this post, we will examine task #3 on this list: Instead of telling your partner you care, show it.

After a relationship betrayal, when you are making amends and seeking forgiveness, actions speak much louder than words. You can tell your betrayed partner a thousand times that you’re sorry, it won’t happen again, and that you really do love him/her. But after dealing with all your lies and secrets, your partner will find it hard to believe your words. So your actions need to back you up.

The following suggestions can help with this process:

  • Listen to what your betrayed partner says and try to really hear it. Let it sink in. Try to see things from your partner’s perspective and to feel what he/she is feeling. More important, do this without becoming defensive or reacting with any other form of negativity. This takes a lot of practice, and you will not always do it perfectly (especially at first). However, your partner will appreciate the effort you are making, and in time you will get much better at it. If you are struggling, it is best to repeat back to your partner what you think you have heard, allowing your partner to guide and correct your interpretation to make sure you really do understand.
  • Remember the dates and events that are important to your partner. You may not be focused on the anniversary of your first date, but if your partner has it on his/her calendar, you should put it on yours as well. This also goes for his/her mom’s birthday, your child’s school play, the neighborhood picnic, and any other event your partner values.
  • Spend time with your partner, preferably doing things he/she enjoys or helping with tasks that he/she doesn’t enjoy. For instance, get up early and do the laundry while your partner is still sleeping. (And don’t expect a gold star for doing it.) You can also ask your partner to join you on activities that you find fun, even though they might not be your partner’s favorite. When you do this, it is wise to tell your partner that you know this activity is not at the top of his/her enjoyment list, but if he/she wants to come along anyway, you would happy about that. If your partner chooses to join you, great. If not, at least you asked. It doesn’t really matter what you do together, as long as your partner understands that you really do want to spend time together.

Even if you implement the above suggestions imperfectly, your betrayed partner will notice the effort you are making. Listening to your partner, making what’s important to your partner important to you, and wanting to spend time with your partner all tell your partner that you really do value him/her and your relationship.

If you and your partner are struggling to communicate and heal your relationship, you may want to read Out of the Doghouse and attend one of our weekend healing from betrayal workshops for couples.