In their book, Out of the Doghouse for Christian Men: A Redemptive Guide for Men Caught Cheating, authors Robert Weiss and Marnie Ferree list eight specific things that men (or women) who’ve engaged in sexual infidelity (with or without the presence of sex addiction/compulsivity) can do to help mend their damaged relationship. Although this advice comes from a book written for a Christian audience, we believe that the advice given is useful regardless of your spiritual belief system.
According to Weiss and Ferree, the eight actions you can take to repair your connection with your significant other 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.
- View love as a verb.
In this post, we will examine the third item on this list: instead of telling your partner you care, show it.
When you’re making amends and seeking forgiveness after infidelity, actions speak much louder than words. You can tell your partner a thousand times that you’re sorry and that you really do love him or her. But after dealing with all your lies and secrets, your partner will find it hard to believe your words. Your actions need to back you up. The following suggestions can help:
- Listen to what your 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 or she is feeling. More importantly, do this without becoming defensive or reacting with any other form of negativity. This response takes a lot of practice, and you won’t always do it perfectly (especially at first). However, your partner will appreciate the effort you’re making, and in time you’ll get much better at it. If you’re struggling, it’s best to repeat back to your partner what you think you’ve 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 or her calendar, you should put it on yours as well. This also goes for his or her mother’s birthday, your child’s school play, the neighborhood picnic, and any other event that he or she values. Be sure to also notice dates like your partner’s medical exams and anything else that may be stressful to him or her.
- Spend time with your partner, preferably doing things he or she enjoys or helping with tasks that he or she doesn’t enjoy. For instance, get up early and do the household chores 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 his or her favorite. When you do this, it’s wise to tell your partner that you know this activity isn’t at the top of his or her enjoyment list, but if he or she wants to come along anyway, you would be happy about it. If your partner chooses to join you, great. If not, at least you asked. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as your partner understands that you want to spend time together.
Even if you implement the above suggestions imperfectly, your partner will notice the effort you’re making. Listening to your partner, making what’s important to your partner important to you, and wanting to spend time together all tell your partner that you really do value your relationship.
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If you or someone you care about is struggling with pornography, help is available. Seeking Integrity offers inpatient treatment for sex and porn addicts, as well as low-cost online workgroups. At the same time, SexandRelationshipHealing.com offers a variety of free webinars and drop-in discussion groups, podcasts, and more.