After so many hurtful lies you have not only lost your trust in your spouse, but you have grown distant from him or her. You’ve drifted apart. You no longer share how you used to, and you don’t trust anything your spouse shares with you. The intimacy is disappearing, and you don’t know how to reconnect.
One of the sad things about losing trust is that so many other beautiful aspects of your marriage go with it: Your feelings of connection and togetherness, your ability to open up and express your feelings with your spouse, and your hope and belief that he or she will do the same with you.
I once heard someone put it this way:
“We were like ships passing in the night. I didn’t try to connect with him anymore, because I couldn’t trust him. He seemed so far past trying to connect with me after the affair that I wondered if he still loved me .
I wanted us to be close again, but my heart was worn out. It was too hurtful and there was too much history-too many lies. I didn’t know how we would ever get back what we lost or how we could move on to something new. Our marriage seemed like it was dying .”
Part of what is so difficult about healing from an affair is that, at some point, the two of you have to begin sharing your thoughts and feelings again to repair the damage. But with so much hurt and so many betrayals, feeling close to your spouse-learning to open up your heart and express your feelings-can seem almost impossible.
However, it can be done – by rebuilding the trust by becoming transparent.
In my last article I discussed how important it is to be transparent about your life and your activities. I talked about how to “share everything without attaching yourself at the hip.”
But what a lot of couples don’t realize is that this doesn’t only go on for external activities, but for what is happening inside as well. To be truly transparent you have to open up and reveal what is in your heart and mind.
So in this article I will be continuing our discussion of the 5 Building Blocks for a Transparent Relationship by discussing the value of opening up and expressing your thoughts and feelings to each other again.
This is another critical step on your path to creating a marriage that is better than ever.
Transparency Building Block #2: Openly Express Your Thoughts and Feelings
Ultimately marriages are about much more than keeping up on each other’s day-to-day activities. As important as it is to share information about what you are doing in your life with your spouse, this only accounts for a small portion of what it means to be transparent.
To be close to your spouse you need to open up and share what is going on inside you as well. Without this you can’t have a fully intimate relationship and you won’t be able to repair the damage the affair caused.
But sharing your thoughts and feelings can be scary. It’s hard to open up to someone you aren’t sure you can trust. And for many who have cheated, sharing their feelings seems like it will make the problem worse-not better.
However, nothing could be further from the truth. It is only through being fully (almost radically) honest with your spouse that you can reestablish intimacy and heal the damage that has been done.
You need to overcome your fears and hesitations and learn how to be honest with your spouse about what is going on in your heart and mind.
Let’s look at three of the positive outcomes that come from this so you understand what being fully open and honest can engender in a relationship and what the consequences are if you don’t open your heart once more.
Positive Outcome #1: Stop Problems before They Start
Sharing your thoughts and feelings with your spouse diminishes the possibility that your spouse will be blind-sided by information he or she didn’t know. At the same time it keeps resentments at bay, because if something is wrong in the marriage you let your spouse know immediately.
If you cheated on your spouse, it’s possible that one of the reasons you did it is because you weren’t fully satisfied with your marriage. There may have been long standing resentments you held, or you may have felt your needs weren’t being adequately addressed.
By suggesting this I am NOT offering you an excuse to have cheated. When you go outside your marriage, it is an indication of a character flaw on your part. This is something you will have to come to terms with at some stage in the recovery process if you are going to restore your marriage.
If you are having problems in your marriage, you have a lot of options. Cheating is not one of them.
However, talking is.
Imagine what might have been different in your marriage if you were able to fully open up and express your thoughts and feelings to your spouse. Imagine how this might have shifted your perspective on your relationship. Imagine how your choices might have changed in these circumstances.
Sharing all of your feelings, both positive and negative gives you and your spouse an opportunity to talk through your problems and stop problems before they start. If you didn’t have long standing resentments in your marriage, it may be you wouldn’t have cheated.
By the same token, if you have kept these problems from your spouse until after the affair all you do is blind-side him or her with problems your spouse didn’t even know existed.
The key to avoiding this is simple: Transparency. Just open up and share what you think and feel with your spouse-the good and the bad.
It won’t always be easy, but it saves your marriage from unnecessary problems and in many cases offers you an opportunity to end problems before they begin.
Positive Outcome #2: Affirm the Positive in Your Relationship
If you are sharing all of your thoughts and feelings with your spouse then you are sharing the positive as well as the negative. You not only express problems or hurt feelings when they arise, but you affirm the positive in your marriage as well.
People need positive reinforcement. They need to hear what they are doing right. In fact, positive reinforcement is, in many cases, more powerful than negative reinforcement. Someone is more likely to keep doing the right things right if he or she hears some support for the efforts made.
I know talking about the positive aspects of your marriage is particularly hard in the face of an affair, and it is likely that in the early stages after the affair you won’t be able to talk about the positive parts of your marriage at all.
However, they are most likely still there under the surface. As time passes and the pain of the affair is less present in your mind, you will need to work on discussing and sharing about the positive aspects of your marriage and your spouse again.
In fact, you will ultimately need to do more than talk about the positive aspects of your marriage. You will need to go out and experience them by having fun together again. However, I will leave that topic for other articles.
The key point to note here is that sharing your thoughts and feelings creates a forum in which you not only work out problems as they arise, but offer positive reinforcement for the good things in your spouse and marriage as well.
This is a powerful way to keep your marriage healthy and happy for years to come. If you don’t do it, you are more likely to face further problems in the future.
Positive Outcome #3: Enhanced Intimacy
So what does all of this sharing get you in the long run? Why should you bother to share the positive and the negative, work out problems as they arise, and reinforce your spouse and your marriage when you can?
It is the key to a fully intimate relationship.
If you want to understand your spouse and you want your spouse to understand you, you have to learn to speak and listen to each other in a way that allows you to deepen your connection and continue to grow more intimate as a couple.
Put simply the way you do this is by openly expressing your thoughts and feelings. You set aside time to talk with your spouse and you engage in intimate conversation during these times.
If you do, you learn to understand you spouse in new and better ways over the years. You grow closer as you know each other better. You become more intimate and more connected.
This is a wonderful gift. In fact, it is so precious that anyone who has not been in a truly intimate long-term marriage cannot even begin to understand the wonderful feelings this can create. It fills your soul in ways nothing else can.
This is the ultimate outcome of the second building block for transparency. By opening up and sharing your thoughts and feelings you create the possibility for a marriage that is truly extraordinary.
What are the negative sides to sharing your thoughts and feelings so freely?
Well, you will have the occasional argument. Not all conversations will be easy. And as you work through the pain of the infidelity, you will hit spots that are very difficult-maybe the most difficult times you have ever experienced in your life.
But the rewards can be magnificent-a marriage that is better than ever with a spouse to whom you are deeply connected and committed. If you can simply open your heart and mind to your spouse and share your authentic feelings, you are more than half way there.
In the meantime, let me know how it goes with you. I’d love to hear about your marriage.
Do you have problems with communication in your marriage?
What techniques have you used to try and overcome the problem?
Have you worked on being transparent by opening your heart and mind?
What was the result?
Post your comment to this blog by clicking the comments link below.
As always, I wish you all the best on your road to a wonderful marriage.
Until next time,