Get to the bottom of your emotions, and speak your truth about what really hurt. Then go underneath that. Then go deeper, what hurt about that? Peel off the layers of your pain like an onion, and talk with your partner about the very core of what is difficult about this for you. For example, if he started smoking cigarettes again after 9 years, say: “I married you believing you were a non-smoker. I loved that. You always smell nice, and I enjoy kissing. My last partner smoked, had a cough, stinky breath, dark teeth, and I didn’t ever want to experience that fear and disgust again. Now I feel betrayed; you’ve become a smoker, and I don’t know what to do.” State facts, and feelings, without name-calling.
Be truthful, without blaming or judging your partner. If you’re yelling, they’ll remember the shouting & their own fear or desire to run, not what you are saying. If you’re mean, they’ll remember your accusatory words, not what you’re hoping to express. Get in touch with what is deep within you, at the bottom of this heep, and convey that. Even if it’s irrational, share that. You want your partner to hear you, right? Open up a channel for them to talk as well, as you speak with integrity.
Create an atmosphere of safety to mess up. We all make mistakes. You do too. There must be standards in relationships, yet prior to and during disappointments, we can purposefully plant a garden of safety to be imperfect, for both our partner and ourselves. Within that, we grow who we are amidst the weeds of mistakes. Make it safe for your loved one to tell you the truth now. People lie because they are afraid of the consequences.
Validate them and their experience. You don’t have to agree with your partner, you simply acknowledge what they’re saying. Don’t mock. One smirk or smile, and you may wound them further, shut them down, thereby not getting your own needs met either. Breathe into your pain, and become truly open to their feelings without any pressure to agree with them. Try saying, “I hear that you feltâ€¦..” (summarizing in your own words what they said). They’ll more likely validate you in return. Do it anyway, no matter what you get back. It’s very freeing.
Communicate with empathy, from a place of deep compassion within yourself. Yes, start with compassion for you. If your partner lied to you, you’ll need huge empathy for yourself. Perhaps this betrayal hurt you more than they can imagine. You feel immobilized, & forgiveness will be difficult. Comfort yourself in your pain. Stay with the hurt for awhile, without threats of ending the relationship. Eventually, imagine them, and their experience. Flip your roles, seeing yourself having done the same thing to them, lying about something yourself. Have compassion for the partner you love, and depict how they must have been clouded or stressed-out to take such a step.
Get some assistance. A good therapist will guide you in practicing validation, proactive communication, showing empathy, sharing feelings, creating an atmosphere for safety in the therapy session which can then transfer to the haven at home. Haven? Yes, your home should be safe, where you can feel and express your feelings, and be all of who you are. Most of us need help recreating this from time to time. Don’t wait until it’s a crisis, or you may have reached a point of no return. Prevention is easier than crisis work. Take on the hurt now, and move toward healing.
~Pamela W. Brinker, LCSW