Rules of Engagement

Marriage is not easy. When you add infidelity to the mix it’s even harder. Then you try to add effective communication and it can feel like a disaster waiting to happen. If you're like me, the art of communication can feel more like a wrecking ball than an art. This wrecking ball is on a mission to destroy everything in sight: relationships, personal growth, or even a joy-filled life.

Early after D-day, there were a ton of unanswered questions and thoughts that would plague my inner world. Time and time again when I would approach my husband to seek information, it was more of a destructive hit to our recovery than a helpful conversation. The wrecking ball would come crashing in through screaming, crying, or straight anger. Clearly NOT helpful.

I started asking myself, is this fair for me to want to know more information? Of course it's fair!!! But the way I was engaging was not fair.   I had to lay down some rules to engage with my husband, especially about the infidelity.

Rule 1: Only ask questions that will be helpful in healing.

Before I implemented this rule.... I started asking my husband ALL the details of the affairs. WHERE? WHEN? HOW? ECT.....ECT... I got so caught up in details; they swirled around in my head haunting me. My anger would then burst out in forms of tears or yelling and the wrecking ball would continue to knock us down. I realized it wasn't helpful to know ALL the details, just the ones that would be beneficial for me to move forward without a blackened, scorned heart. Rick offers guidance through this step in this article. You can also find a lot of great free resources in the “Handling Discovery” section in the recovery library.


Rule 2: I always had to check my 3 T's

  • Timing
  • Tact
  • Tone


Is he just getting home from a long or stressful day of work? Have I been traumatized by triggers all day? Are the kids running around like maniacs? Probably NOT good timing.  Checking that the timing is right not only for me, but also my spouse, is a small but crucial step.


This is where I do my heart check. Do I have a sarcastic undertone? Am I speaking from such a place of bitterness that I can't articulate my true pain? To spare your spouse from your own ugly heart issues, do a heart check and make sure you are speaking from a heart of understanding and kindness.


Truth be told, I can be kind of sassy with a disrespectful tone. I know.... I sound so nice! It's actually pretty embarrassing how unkind I can be. I have to check my tone of rudeness and sass at the door before I can truly engage in a productive conversation with my husband.

Rule 3: Be a safe place for my spouse to speak truth

If I want my husband to be truthful, I have to make sure my emotions are in check. I can’t let my emotions rule my interactions with him, my rationale to make good responses, ormy overall general disposition. The reality is..... He had told me some of the hardest things I've ever heard in my life and I wanted to explode with reaction time and time again; I probably even had good reason to do so, but I had to harness my immediate response. If I couldn't, I would see signs of the wrecking ball coming in for destruction. At that point, I would ask my spouse if I could walk away and collect myself. Once I had my emotions under control, I could re -engage.

The truth is: Why would he ever consider telling me the truth if he knew every time I would end up a crazy woman...... I don't blame him. I WAS acting crazy. I had to reel in the crazy and check my emotions.

Rule 4: Pray

This is more than a rule for me.... It's my air I need to breathe. I need it, and can't navigate life effectively without it. In this scenario, I would pray in two ways:

  1. Ask if whatever was on my mind was truly something God wanted me to approach with my spouse.
  2. If the answer above was yes, I would then pray before I interacted with my spouse about the issue. I would pray that my heart would be right, my words would be non-judgmental and my attitude would be to seek understanding.

Following these rules of engagement has been instrumental in our growth process.  Although I'm definitely not perfect and can sometimes fall short and break my own rules, we are still able to move forward. Through our training at Affair Recovery, we learned we can not control our spouse, but only ourselves. These rules are a great first step to creating a safe environment that can lead to reconciliation.

If you are struggling through the early stages of recovery while trying to figure out what questions to ask or what questions to answer, I suggest trying the free 7 Day First Steps Bootcamp for Surviving Infidelity it goes into great detail to help you travel this stormy waters.

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Thank you

Thank you for your post. I struggle with the not over reacting when given new information. You post was a very helpful reminder.

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