Recently my boyfriend and I have been going through a tough time. Well, I should say that we haven’t been the best of friends for a while now, but in light of recent events, we have been forced to face the issues. I found out on new years day that he had been cheating, and it wasn’t from him that I found. It was the boyfriend of the woman (not the term I want to use) who contacted me via facebook. To add some icing to the cake, she was someone with whom we both have been “friends” for the past 5 years. She used to be our neighbor, in two different cities. I invited her into my home, we hung out on occasion and had dinner, drinks, I even gave her my cat carrier. That betrayal I won’t talk about, as I have nothing to fix with her, she’s dead to me, out of my life. With my boyfriend, however, we have a more intimate and bonded history, and through the pain, betrayal and negative emotions, I do want to work things out.
It has been almost a month and more often than not I feel like we’re on the right track but it has taken a lot of tough conversations (an area in which I am not very skilled) and realizations, and we are nowhere near finished. Nothing excuses what he did, but both of us played a part in getting us to the point where he was thinking about making that choice in the first place. For me, the hardest part isn’t putting myself in his shoes to understand what he was thinking, it’s accepting what I did wrong, how I contributed and trying to fix myself, through all this hurt.
At first, it felt like I was minimizing my own feelings of betrayal, but now it’s starting to feel more like we’re working as a team. I don’t think if he hadn’t been so honest when I confronted him that it would be this way now. I feel like I can trust what he says because he answered any questions I had about the infidelity. Some therapists say you’re not supposed to ask details, some say you’re supposed to ask whatever you feel the need to. Personally, I feel the latter helped me more because he shared with me what he knew was going to hurt me, what he was embarrassed about, and I know, as a result, that he’s being honest, also, I’m not imagining ALL of the possible scenarios, only the one that actually happened, so I think that helped put my mind more at ease. It has helped me to put it behind and honestly, I don’t think about it as much as I thought I would anymore. I’m more focused on getting back on the right track.
I feel that I am able to focus on fixing us and myself, and understand where his mind was at because I wasn’t feeling very secure in our relationship either. We severely lacked in communication skills, something we are working on and seeing a therapist for. Lately, we’ve been talking better than we have in a long time. It sucks that he made that decision, and I haven’t forgiven him for it yet, but he’s working to fix his own patterns as a result, so at least there’s a silver lining (karma did get him too; he’s had some pretty serious consequences outside of our relationship from the entire ordeal). No one can change the past, so I’ve always felt there’s no use dwelling on it, I just try to learn from it.
Learning requires action, though, and communication is required for couples to learn and grow together. I’ve been reading books on how to achieve better communications and I think I’ll continue to do so, information is power and the more you read/do something the more automatic and comfortable it gets. Something that may seem awkward at first will become more natural.
The biggest thing that I have learned about myself so far was that when I don’t feel heard, I just shut down and everything gets bottled up, and as a result, I am no longer open to giving love because I am not receiving it. I know now that I just need him to actually listen and empathize with how I’m feeling rather than trying to tell me how I should feel because “I didn’t mean it that way” or “that’s not true”. That invalidates my feelings and tells me how I’m feeling is wrong when it’s not. We all need to listen and empathize rather than trying to fix, teach, or change the emotion behind what is being said. Unless someone actually asks for help all they really want is to be heard. I also learned that the fluctuation of my emotions, ups, and downs for no reason are normal, I thought I was supposed to be feeling happy and loving all the time, which isn’t realistic, and was putting too much pressure on myself. We need to be able to express how we’re feeling, and if we don’t, that’s when we start to act out.
When we do talk, we need to be using the right words, and tone too, so as not to be mean or blaming, or else nothing will ever get solved, and the partner won’t feel loved. This quote has stuck with me:
“if you talked to your friends the way you talked to your spouse, you wouldn’t have any friends”
Think about that for a minute. Some people are so mean to their spouse, sometimes without even realizing, due to their own feelings of resentment, or whatever. You would never expect someone to be your friend if they talked to you in a disrespectful way, and your spouse is supposed to be your best friend. Respect is very important if you want to be respected. It’s also important for effective communication which is essential to a healthy relationship. Trust and communication are really the foundations, and with communication, we can build trust.
So that’s where we are, working on our communication to build back the trust that was broken. I hope we can come out stronger as a result. Only time and hard work will tell, but I think we can do it.
Do you have any advice or stories to share?