How should I act toward my cheating spouse now that I’ve discovered their affair?
I hear this question from hurt partners regularly. I am currently taking a new training with Michele Weiner Davis, but in this post, I want to dive into some of Michelle’s historical thinking about best practices for hurt partners.
Michelle has caught a little heat online from hurt partners who say her protocol may be too difficult. I am here to tell you that this method, the 180, works. But it helps to have a good therapist to help you over the initial hurdles.
Her particular strength is helping spouses in a one-down position recover a sense of self-respect and dignity when their world is turned upside down. She calls this new set of behaviors “doing a 180.”
1. Do not pursue, reason, chase, beg, plead or implore.
2. No frequent phone calls.
3. Do not point out good points in marriage.
4. Do not follow him/her around the house.
5. Do not encourage talk about the future.
6. Do not ask for help from family members.
7. Do not ask for reassurance.
8. Do not buy gifts.
9. Do not schedule dates together.
10. Do not spy on your spouse.
11. Do not say “I Love You”.
12. Act as if you are moving on with your life.
13. Be cheerful, strong, outgoing and attractive.
14. Don’t sit around waiting on your spouse – get busy, do things, go to church, go out with friends, etc.
15. When home with your spouse, (if you usually start the conversation) be scarce or short on words.
16. If you are in the habit of asking your spouse her whereabouts, ASK NOTHING.
17. You need to make your partner think that you have had an awakening and, as far as you are concerned, you are going to move on with your life, with or without your spouse.
18. Do not be nasty, angry or even cold – just pull back and wait to see if spouse notices and, more important, realize what she will be missing.
19. No matter what you are feeling TODAY, only show your spouse happiness and contentment. Show him/her someone he/she would want to be around.
20. All questions about marriage should be put on hold, until your spouse wants to talk about it (which may be a while).
21. Never lose your cool.
22. Don’t be overly enthusiastic.
23. Do not argue about how they feel (it only makes their feelings stronger).
24. Be patient.
25. Listen carefully to what your spouse is really saying to you.
26. Learn to back off, shut up and possibly walk away.
27. Take care of yourself (exercise, sleep, laugh & focus on all the other parts of your life that are not in turmoil).
28. Be strong and confident.
29. Know that if you can do 180, your smallest CONSISTENT actions will be noticed much more than any words you can say or write.
30. Do not be openly desperate or needy even when you are hurting more than ever, and really are desperate and needy.
31. Do not focus on yourself when communicating with your spouse.
32. Do not believe any of what you hear and less than 50% of what you see. Your spouse will speak in absolute negatives because they are hurting and scared.
33. Do not give up no matter how dark it is or how bad you feel.
34. Do not backslide from your hard-earned changes.
The “180” is a stance that holds a certain distance from the involved partner. How should I act toward my cheating spouse? The last thing you want to appear as is predictably overwrought.
The ball is in their court. Because nothing can happen to save the marriage until the involved partner ends the affair and seeks to repair.
You can send the message that you will be OK no matter which way it goes.
The 180 shows that you have awakened… and business, as usual, is over.
Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He currently sees couples at Couples Therapy Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts, three seasons in Cummington (at the foothills of the Berkshires...) and in Miami during joint retreats with his wife, Dr. Kathy McMahon. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.