What to Do When Your Spouse Acts Hateful Towards You
You might have heard us say the phrase, “Be a safe place for your spouse, even though they’re not being a safe place for you”. But what does that really mean? How can you be a safe place when you fear that by being a safe place, you might be telling your spouse that their feelings are okay, that it is okay for them to continue in their affair when it isn’t? How can you be a safe place without allowing their feelings to grow and without falling deeper into depression while you wait?
Listening and Empathizing Vs. Accepting and Approving
First of all, there is a huge difference between listening and empathizing vs. accepting and approving of what is happening.
You might be thinking, “Whoa, empathizing?!” Bear with me.
The whole underlying goal in being a safe place is getting your spouse to open up to you and talk to you. If you are not a safe place, and if every communication that happens with your spouse is a fight or an opportunity you use to tell him how terrible they are for doing what they’re doing, then you are burning the only bridge you have for them to walk back across to your marriage.
Right now, your spouse is in the island of fantasy land. They honestly believe they’re in love with this other person. To them, it is real. In their eyes, their feelings are absolutely valid. And the hard thing to accept is that they are. As much as you disagree and as much as it hurts, it is all very real to your spouse (although this affair is very similar in brain processing to an addiction).
So there stands your spouse, over there on the island. And whenever you communicate, they temporarily cross the bridge back over to visit you where you are. Now, you have 2 options:
1.) You can use the opportunity to make your spouse feel bad in hopes that you can guilt them into staying in the marriage and leaving the affair partner. This would be similar in efficacy to trying to tell a teenage girl that she isn’t allowed to date the “bad boy”, to tell her that she is dating behind your back. It will only create division and propel her to do it even more. This kind of reaction will also burn that bridge and they won’t cross it anymore.
2.) You can listen to your spouse. You can allow them to talk about the other person. This takes A LOT of strength and confidence. Never respond saying anything that justifies their relationship because IT CANNOT be justified. Instead say something along the lines of, “I understand how you feel. I accept the fact that you feel that way. I pray someday you will feel that way about me again.” And then don’t say anything else. Simply listen. Don’t berate them. Do this knowing that you don’t accept the ACTION, rather you accept his FEELINGS. This keeps the bridge open and will serve as a continual crossing for your spouse.
End Goal in Mind
People fear that this will send the message that the affair is okay and the spouse will feel justified in continuing in it. It might, but here’s what is likely to happen:
Your spouse fell in love with you once before. Think back to that. What was it like when you were dating? You were friends. Your spouse would tell you things, and since you weren’t married yet, you didn’t try to change them. You would listen. You would give your insight and love them anyway. That’s the place we are going back to here.
And here is the crazy part, over time your spouse WILL start to fall in love with you again. As some straying spouses have said, “I’m so confused. The only two people that I want in my life is my lover and my wife. My wife has become my best friend.” THIS IS THE GOAL. Of course you want your spouse to end the affair, but the best way to do that is to win your spouse BACK instead of trying to get your spouse to feel guilty.
The goal is to get your spouse to fall back in love with you and realize that they WANT to be with you, just like when you first fell in love. Eventually, the affair will end. IT ALWAYS DOES. The question then becomes, “Will it end because you burned the bridge and they ended up being with the affair partner, marrying them, and once the limerence fades, they regret ever marrying? OR, will it end because your spouse is waffling between staying in the affair or saving the marriage?”
We help people fight to do the latter.
Is it hard? Absolutely. Is it frustrating? Everyday. Does it work? It’s the manifestation of true love––to give unconditional love without receiving unconditional love.
If anything works, this will.