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).

 

The Bridge

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.

OR

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.

Safe Place Graphic

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.

 

For a more in-depth on how you can keep being that safe place and standing for your marriage, consider our Save My Marriage online course designed specifically for you. Click the image below and get on the path towards saving your marriage today.

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21 thoughts on “How to be a Safe Place During an Affair

  • March 10, 2016 at 7:03 pm
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    My spouse and I donthink even talk. I have never asked him about his ungodly soul tie. He denied even being in a “relationship” until he couldn’t deny it anymore.

    He only calls me to discuss divorce. He called the other day, left a vm saying he’d sent the revised papers and did I get them. I could call or text him back. He looked forward to hearing from me. Peace….what is that about? I haven’t called him back b/c I don’t even know how to respond. He sent the papers certified mail…I did not pick them up. So I dont even even know what to say to him.

    We don’t even talk, like I said. He is living in adultery with another woman. Should I ask him if he loves her just to get the conversation started? I don’t know. I do know I want my husband home and have been praying for the Holy Spirit to change his heart.

    Reply
    • March 10, 2016 at 11:00 pm
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      That is so sad.
      A little about my story. My wife and I had separated and my wife would only talk about divorce to. At around ten months of separation I decided to stall things, not maliciously, and determined to be her best friend, not so much her husband or lover. Then another guy got involved. I maintained my determination to be her besty, even though it was ripping my heart out.
      Eventually the feelings for the other guy faded – sort of- and 7 months later we are rebuilding the marriage and all talk of divorce is gone. We’re still separated, but now working on how to get back under one roof….

      I hope that helps….

      Reply
      • March 11, 2016 at 3:46 pm
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        That is amazing! Way to stand strong for your marriage!

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    • March 10, 2016 at 11:58 pm
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      Do not give up, with the stripes of Jesus your marriage is healed. Ask God for wisdom, guidance and direction. I am and will continue to pray for you, that every choice, decision, emotions and feelings be in agreement with what the word say. May God give you guidance, strength and spiritual energy to stand in Him.

      God can not lie, trust Him.

      He love you

      Reply
      • March 11, 2016 at 3:45 pm
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        Thank you for sharing with us!

        Reply
  • March 11, 2016 at 1:01 am
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    My wife has been in limerence for a year now and is involved with a man in an emotional affair that she met over the internet. Joe says that it can take anywhere from 3 months to 3 years (or more) for limerence to end. I for one am patiently waiting for it to die a natural death.

    I have to admit that it has been one of the hardest things for me to do. I am powerless to do anything about it except to work on myself and follow the PIES. It’s very unfortunate. Your spouse knows that deep down what they are doing is wrong, but due to the addictive nature of limerence, they are not willing to give it up. They know it’s hurting you.

    In my wife’s case, she wants me to hurt because I have hurt her in the past. She feels taken for granted and now believes that it’s her time to be selfish and that she deserves to be happy. These are a few of the reasons why someone would be tempted into an emotional affair. Most don’t go looking for one.

    I belive you can hasten the end of limerence by doing what Joe and Kimberly have advise and making it a safe place for them during the affair.

    Furthermore, you have to accept their feelings are real but you don’t have to accept their actions. You can’t control their actions so no amount of making them feel bad, shaming them, manipulating them, spying on them, threatening them, and dare I say it multiple suicide attempts is going to make them stop. For the past year, I have tried all of this and it has only made her more distant from me and more determined to keep the affair (love drug) going.

    For most of us, our emotions will make us do all the wrong things I listed above before we stumple upon sites like this 🙂

    Up to this point in time, my wife still denies that anything is going on between them and that they’re “just friends”. But I’ve learnt through my own research that Attraction + Intimacy + Effort + Secrecy = Emotional Affair. PLUS what person in their right mind spends every Sunday night after work from 8pm-11pm on the phone with another man/woman when they are married. I tell her that she should be readying the kids for school the next day but her reply is “Why? I’ve got you. If I can’t rely on your to take care of the kids when I’m not around then what sort of a Father are you?”. She has an answer for everything. She should have been an attorney 🙂

    Thank you to Kimberly for the wonderful analogy of the island with a bridge separating the two worlds that my wife is currently in. I love the anaology.

    Another analogy I’ve heard that you can use when relating to a person in limerene is the following. Pretend your spouse is a smoker. They know it’s bad to smoke. In fact they could probably give you all the statistics on why you shouldn’t smoke. You aren’t going to convince them to stop smoking though. That applies to a person in limerence as well. They know it’s wrong, but they aren’t going to stop. You can’t make them stop until they are ready to give it up.

    If you really want the best chance to save your marriage then be a safe place for them, work on yourself with the PIES, don’t do what I’ve been doing for the past year because it won’t work.

    Good luck to all of us who are going through this difficulty times.

    Reply
    • March 11, 2016 at 3:44 pm
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      Thank you for sharing with us!

      Reply
  • March 11, 2016 at 5:27 pm
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    Thank you for this article. My husband is deeply depressed and moved in with his girlfriend 5 months ago. He tells me constantly that he wants to end things with her and come back home now but is having a lot of trouble taking the leap. I have been so frustrated with his hesitation that I had been ignoring his text messages all day so that I did not slip into the angry texts that never helped anything. Not responding to any of his texts I found myself staring at my phone constantly, just hoping he would send another text that I could ignore. After reading this article I immediately sent him a text filled with love support and understanding before saying goodnight. He instantly responded with bewildered appreciation of my loving support and made an excuse to come over that night. It was 11:30 pm and he came over, hugged and kissed me. He told me that I deserved so much better and was going to be the husband that I deserved, then tackled some 2 of the things I had asked him to do around the house previously before leaving again for the night. I feel so much more hopeful with this reaction.

    Reply
    • March 14, 2016 at 3:46 pm
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      That is wonderful, Kim!!!

      Reply
  • March 16, 2016 at 12:34 am
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    I wish I had this article to read years ago. My husband’s 5 year on and off affair with a former employee finally ended about 2 months ago. He is carrying around so much guilt and hatred for himself, it is hard to build any kind of relationship. Our children are easily angered with him because they have been hurt by his lies. This makes him even more depressed. I keep trying to tell him that I love him and believe in him, but when he starts berating himself, it makes me sad and angry. I thought things would get better when “she” was finally out of the picture. What should l do when he gets like this?

    Reply
  • March 18, 2016 at 12:44 am
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    I found out 3 wks ago my husband is having an affair. It’s been going on for a year. He is,a truck driver and she is his teammate in the truck. That said they are together 24/7. I asked him to come home and he won’t because he’s embarrassed and filled with guilt that he hurt me so deeply. We are going on our 25th wedding anniversary in May and been together for 27 years. He is my best friend and this betrayal is killing me. He calls me every day 2 or 3 times always telling me he wants the marriage to last, that I haven’t lost home and that he,wants to grow old with me. But he is,still with her and when I asked him to end it with her listening he wouldn’t. But when she confronted him and told him to make a choice, he chose her. I was devastated he told me not to contact him or her again and that he needed to be left alone. Well about 1 hour and 1/2 after he destroyed my world again he sent me a text pleading for me to call him. I did and again he is begging for forgiveness and he wants to safe the marriage but he’s not ready to come home. He says he doesn’t want to feel cold towards me and that he loves me but right know he is not in love with me. We have 3 adult children and 3 grandchildren. My kids are so angry with him that they stopped all communication with him. Again we talk every day, I forgive him and I want to make our marriage last for ever. I try to talk to him without judgment and do what ever is can not to loose my temper when he says something that reminds me of the affair. Hown can the marriage be saved if he is here and the phone calls are limited and he doesn’t know when he’ll be coming home because he needs time. What should I do, when is it time to throw in the towel. My husband is a good man and until know he was a good husband and father. This is not in his character because family always came first to him.

    Reply
  • April 3, 2016 at 4:42 am
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    I found out a few months ago that my husband had been unhappy in our marriage and started an affair with his coworker. He lied to me about even though I told him I had audio proof. Joe was right about recording your spouse because he did lash out at me on trust because of that. I finally just confronted him and he confessed. He loves and respects her and at this time doesn’t know what he wants to do. It is our children (7 and 8) he doesn’t want to leave as he doesn’t think that my recent changes will last even though I have explained to him that I have a greater understanding of his need and am committed to meet them. We are a very physical couple which is one reason I did not see this coming. He feels mental/emotional connection and thinks he is more compatible with her. He admits to having sex with her but I believes he down plays the frequency. They go to lunch together almost everyday. I feel the need to pull myself out of the equation because I can’t trust if he has already been with her or not. My desire is still there, I just don’t know how to conduct myself now. Because he connect with her emotionally, should I hold off the sex and focus the other aspects of our relationship?

    Reply
  • July 15, 2016 at 8:47 am
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    My husband of 15yrs. Recently got got by our 10yo having innappropriate convo via text, and several hotel visits with this other woman. We are trying to rbuild but my self worth and stability in our marriage is a struggle to regain

    Reply
  • July 17, 2016 at 2:47 am
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    Me and my wife have been married for 10 years. 5 months ago I left because my feelings and emotions were all over the place I thought I loved her but wasn’t in love with her, I felt miserable so we took a break, for two months she begged and pleaded with me to come back but it just drove me away further, then for a couple of weeks I didn’t really hear from her and she said that if I didn’t know what I wanted yet she wanted to go ahead and get divorce papers signed. We met up with a lawyer and got everything drawn up even she was distraught the whole time and I didn’t even know if I wanted that. That same week I started thinking about her a lot and realized that I was the one that made my own life unhappy, she was perfect the whole time and realized how much in love I was with her. I couldn’t bring myself to say anything to her about it for two months because of pain I realized I caused her and my 4 beautiful children. When I finally did tell her a month ago she balled and cried and told me she was in a 6 week relationship with someone know and could be falling for him. She still wanted to sign the papers so about 10 days ago we did and started a 60 day countdown before it can be finalized. She’s torn apart every day doesn’t know what to do afraid of things going back to how it was with me or not taking the chance with this other person. She’ll even ask me what she should do I know she has started to get intimate with this other person when I come over to watch the kids so she can get away with her “friends” we did talk about it and she broke down again not knowing what to do, she even asked if I would just kidnap her and take her away haha, I do know that she I’d the most amazing person in my life and I will fight and do whatever it takes for her and my kids, I’m not mad at her at all but I am so hurt torn and lost about what to do or how I should even go about doing it

    Reply
  • January 20, 2017 at 1:18 am
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    I don’t know what to do, my husband of 13 years and I started having problem’s. I suspected him of infidelity in late October of 2016 I kicked him out Oct 29th & he came back Nov 1st, he claimed he was going to change so I wouldn’t doubt him. He wasn’t changing so on Nov 9th I asked him to leave again & came back Nov 12th that day he said he loved me and did not want to loose me or our family, he was more distant then & Dec 9th a day he didn’t text me at all he got home late & drunk we got into an argument & he left Dec 11th he didn’t try coming back or calling me at all. Point is I did track him & did find him with his girlfriend Jan 7th 2017 he has avoided even calling or texting to ask about our daughters. I took his phone away because I pay for it & he wasn’t trying to care about them or I. He one day says he loves me & misses me then he treats me like garbage. On his phone I did find out he had been talking to her since I suspected him of infidelity late Oct of 2016. He told me the day he left he hated me for kicking him out so he went straight to her. Now my girls, his family or I don’t know of his whereabouts. I had to change my number because his girlfriend started harassing me & well if he wanted to know about our kids he knows where they live. I miss him & pray for us everyday.

    Reply

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