Dealing with Infidelity: How to Get You Mate to Cooperate (Without Being Controlling)

Love will always act in the best interest of another. It is not self-seeking; rather it is others centered. It’s been said Love is the benefit of another, at the expense of self. Lust is the benefit of self, at the expense of another. There are times in our lives when we lose our way. Love is the force that offers hope in those dark times. Self-destructive and self seeking patterns that harm others are bound to surface, but we don’t have to remain victims; we need to respond in love as we always have the opportunity to respond. We need to be willing to cry out, "I need help dealing with infidelity in my marriage!” and, at the very least, find an alternate path that will bring comfort, healing, and tangible hope for the betrayed spouse to hold on to.

Research suggests that four areas tend to be at the core of most every failed marriage; they include finances, sex, children, and family. The reason these four are at the top of the list is because they are the four topics we are passionate about and recognize as areas of great sensitivity. So if you and your spouse have a difference on one of the big four, you're completely normal. It's not unusual for couples to struggle with these things, but it is tragic when we are unable to address the true problems occurring within the marriage.

To be clear, I am not responsible for making my mate do the right thing, but out of love I do need to act in their best interest. What follows is a simple three step process we recommend when talking with your mate about choosing your marriage rather than divorce or choosing life rather than death. It may or may not have the desired outcome, but I believe it will be the right thing to do to maintain your own integrity and guard against future regret when dealing with infidelity.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. You can show a path to health for your mate, but you can't make them take it. However you can choose to act out of love (in their best interest) and that choice helps eliminate future regrets, despite how things turn out.

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I love horses. I find their responses to life to be amazingly similar to mine. They tend to know what they want; that's just like me. They find relationships to be frightening; that would be me. Actually, they want the relationship, but seem afraid of what it might cost them; that would be me. They even seem to need a lot of coaxing and training; yes, that also would be me. So if my responses are somewhat similar to those of a horse you would have to wonder if maybe some of the techniques that work with my horse might possibly work with people.

You may be wondering what this has to do with approaching or motivating your mate when dealing with infidelity, but you'll find it quite relevant. When working with a horse, there is a simple three step approach to helping them understand what you want them to do. Failure to understand these methods will result in frustration for you and your horse (likewise between you and your mate when dealing with infidelity or other difficult topics).

Step one is "Asking". You simply ask the horse what you would like it to do. With the horse, that would be a verbal request such as a kissing sound to "Go" or a "Whoa" to "Stop". If you and the horse are on the same page then that's all it takes. In fact, to start at any other place besides "asking" would be poor form and would not be honoring of the relationship. The same is true of our mate. To fail to ask and give your mate the opportunity to do what you want or need robs them of the opportunity to give you a gift. It doesn't mean they'll have the desired response, but it is respectful. Often we'll assume they won't do the right thing and based on our assumptions, we fail to love and to expect the best, and it’s precisely that course of action which reveals our own negative attitude. Give them a chance and "ask". If they don't want to respond to your request then you have two options: first, you can decide that it's just not that important, or second, you can go to the next step.

Step two is "Telling". Too much asking and not enough telling is one of the best ways to confuse a horse. When I "tell" the horse to do something, I will give them a nudge with my heels and be firm with my voice. If you simply ask, the horse may think that it's just a request and not something that has to be done as there is little urgency to the request. It's not fair to the horse if they are led to believe it's not that important. Continuing to "ask" may not communicate the importance and it will leave you both feeling frustrated, discouraged, and defeated. If you really feel something is important, then you need to be willing to “tell” them what you need in a direct, but caring manner. Never expect them to just read your mind. It is highly possible that they may just not "get it".

For many, telling our mate what we need and want feels like the wrong thing. We may feel it's not loving because if we really loved them, wouldn't we be willing to accept them just the way they are? The answer is "yes" if it's just about how they are; however, if it's about a hurtful or harmful behavior that affects you and quite possibly the rest of the family involved, then it's about a lot more than their personality. Now it's about what they do, and you most certainly have a right to fight for your relationship and for their life. Failure to do so is not love. We need to be able to speak the truth in love. The second reason we resist "telling" is our false belief that if they "loved us" they would know what we need. Trust me when I say that you and your mate are two separate people, which would tend to indicate that you may not think alike. I'm not sure where the myth originated that "being in love" somehow means you can mind read, but it's a lie. Give your mate a chance to do the right thing by speaking up and telling them what you need or want.

It's important when "Telling" your mate that the truth be spoken in love. It's not meant to be a personal attack, rather you need to be able to clearly state what you desire. For instance, if I’m dealing with infidelity in my marriage and it’s failing and I've asked my mate to get help with me, to no avail, then I need to tell my spouse what I need and want. Asking sounds like this, "Would you go to counseling with me?" or, "Would you be willing to join an online AR course with me?" If the answer is no, then you can turn up the volume. My wife is the consummate expert at this; she'll actually ask me in the middle of a discussion, "How loud am I going to have to get before you hear me?" At that point I am aware that we're moving from asking to telling. Telling sounds like this: "Because I love you and want this marriage to succeed and to remain in tact, I need or want you to go to this marital class with me." It's not a question, it's a statement. It's a good idea to begin with a positive statement, but it's imperative that you end with what you truly need. Ending with a need or a want is important if you want to provide space for your spouse to get the picture, clearly. If you end with a "wish" then your mate may still view it as an "Asking" rather than a "Telling".

"Telling" is in no way a personal attack. It's not about character assassination; instead it's speaking clearly about what's important to you as you are hurting and need them to understand what is going on inside of you even if you don’t truly understand it all yourself. Try to avoid the use of "you" statements when addressing your mate. I find it helpful for spouses to say "I" want and what "I'm" going to do and tell them that you want them to join you.

The third step is a "Demand". For the horse, there are now consequences for not responding, and for the marriage, it’s the same. You lay out the consequences the actions you are taking. This is the hard one. Some of you may believe you have no right to set a boundary but your boundary doesn’t rob them of their choice. I'm really just suggesting that you have a choice and it's more loving to inform them of your intention to use that choice rather than to allow them to continue in a self-destructive pattern or a pattern that's destructive to the marriage and family. This is not a step that is used when there is simply a difference of opinion. The demand is reserved as a last resort when their behavior has become harmful to self or others. This is where you state: "If you don't ___________, then I will_____________". A consequence absolutely has to be tied to the demand or it carries no weight, and will produce little to no response. At the same time, I'm not giving license to abuse your mate. If this type of intervention is done with any motive other than love (which is acting in their best interest), then it's the wrong motive and I can almost assure you it will fail more times than not. Telling someone what you're going to do if they don't respond or change is not controlling them, rather it's warning them. They still have a choice; it's just that they are now aware of the consequence their choice carries.

Some of you may be asking about when it is appropriate to utilize the "demand". In my opinion, it's used at a point where all else has failed. If you’re dealing with infidelity, then it's time to demand action. If there is abuse, then it's time to demand action. If there is addiction, then it's time to demand action. To fail to do so is tantamount to your failing the relationship and failing your mate. Love requires more and offers more. Especially when dealing with infidelity, we need to be willing to act in their best interest and point them back to life.

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