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 seventh item on this list: expressing gratitude to your betrayed partner.
Research shows that writing a list of things you’re grateful for is a great way to combat the negative emotions that tempt you toward infidelity. More importantly in terms of relationship repair, sharing your gratitude list with your partner can be a wonderfully intimate act. This is doubly true if one of the items on your list is something like, “I’m grateful for the chance to rebuild relationship trust with my spouse,” or, “I’m grateful that I have a chance to learn and grow and become a better person.” As long as you’re sincere and haven’t put a particular item on your gratitude list just to impress your significant other, this gesture will be appreciated.
Whatever you do, don’t share your gratitude list with your partner to manipulate his or her emotions. Betrayed partners can smell an attempt to manipulate their feelings from a mile away, and that’s exactly the sort of thing that can undermine all the other trust-building and relationship repair work you’ve been doing. That said, if and when your gratitude is sincere, you can let your partner know about it. Your partner may not pat you on the back for it the way you’d like, but he or she will certainly recognize that you’re trying, and every little bit helps when you’re rebuilding trust and intimacy.
Remember, the deepest gratitude comes from the heart. It’s not merely as an intellectual exercise, and heart change is exactly what your partner needs to experience from you.
When you express gratitude to your partner, try to use we and our statements that indicate you’re starting to view your life and relationship holistically, the way your partner sees it. He or she won’t be particularly impressed when you say, “I’m grateful that I have a good job and a great house for my spouse and kids to live in,” or, “I’m grateful that my kids are healthy and happy.” Your partner would much rather hear you say, “I’m grateful that we have a nice house to live in,” and, “I’m grateful that our kids are healthy and seem to enjoy life.”
This may seem like a subtle difference, and it is. But when it comes to rebuilding intimacy, little things mean a lot. The shift from “I” and “my” to “we” and “our” is something that your partner is certain to pick up on both consciously and subconsciously. More important, when you start reframing things in this way, your own thinking will change to reflect it. That’s a shift that bodes well for the long-term health of your relationship.