Saturday, March 1, 2014

The 180 for Unfaithful Spouse

The 180 is a list of behaviors from Michelle Wiener Davis, the author of Divorce Busting, a book about how to save a marriage headed toward divorce. I’ve not read the book, but it does have four stars out of 74 reviews on Amazon as I write this.

The 180 was originally written for spouses dealing with an uncooperative spouse who is headed for the divorce door. It has become popular among infidelity support groups in helping hurt spouses deal effectively with their uncooperative, unfaithful spouse. Follow this link if you are looking for The 180 for Hurt Spouses.

The goal of the 180 is to project confidence, self-esteem, non-reliance upon the other person, and that the spouse is ready to move on without them if necessary.

Recently on the support forum I frequent, an unfaithful spouse asked if the 180 was for cheating spouses or betrayed spouses? It dawned upon me that with some tweaks, these could be used to help unfaithful spouses establish and maintain no contact with their affair partner.

First, let’s define what no contact means. There are two levels of no contact with an affair partner: external and internal.

External no contact means that the unfaithful spouse does not initiate contact with the affair partner and avoids responding to their contact attempts as much as possible. If they text you, you ignore them. If they call, you don’t answer. If you answer not knowing it is them or bump into them publicly, politely say, “Sorry, I can’t talk with you,” and hang up or walk away. Ignore and avoid any attempts to communicate with you.

Establishing internal contact will take much longer than external. Effectively establishing external no contact is necessary before you can ever hope to establish internal no contact.

Internal no contact means the unfaithful spouse reduces and minimizes points of indirect contact that keeps love and feelings for the affair partner from dying and fading into the past. This involves getting rid of any reminders of the affair partner including pictures, gifts, mementos, old messages, letters, or the like. Even deeper it involves not dwelling on them nor in any way continuing to care about them which can include feelings of guilt for hurting them through the affair and/or no contact.

The 180 for unfaithful spouses is a list of behaviors that the unfaithful spouse can focus on to establish and maintain external no contact.

It is emotionally hard enough to break up a relationship when one or both of you decided to end it. Even harder when neither of you were ready to end it. The path to successful no contact in these cases is to focus not on what you feel, which is often not easy to change, but to focus on actions and behaviors despite how you feel.

An unfaithful spouse who developed feelings of love for the affair partner will not feel like doing these behaviors. It is understood, especially for affairs stopped by the hurt spouse discovering the extra-marital relationship, that going no contact with your affair partner will seem counter to what you want emotionally and be one of the hardest things you’ll do in your life.

That said, most unfaithful spouses agree to this to preserve their marriage. It becomes a matter of priorities and knowing the two relationships cannot exist side-by-side. No matter which way you chose to go, you’ll hurt someone. If you love your spouse too, you’d have the same issues going no contact with them as you would with your affair partner. It is one of the consequences created by having an affair.

Following these behaviors, even if you don’t feel like doing them, will help you to not only show your commitment to rebuild your marriage with your spouse, but over time the sense of independence, empowerment, and self-respect it develops will aid in establishing internal no contact and having the self-control to not go there again.

Some of these behaviors will feel radical. That’s because often the unfaithful spouse feels bad about a sudden and abrupt break with the affair partner. They want to slowly break off the relationship. Problem is, this rarely works. It is a delay tactic by the addicted brain to keep a foot in the door because it doesn’t want the relationship to end. Likewise, such a tactic creates more pain over the long haul with not only the spouse, but with yourself and the affair partner.

A clean break is the least painful and most effective way to establish no contact. It is like pulling a bandage off a hairy arm. It hurts much less when removed as quickly as possible. Likewise, in any past breakups with former girlfriends or boyfriends, were any ever done slowly? Rarely.

Following is the 180, tweaked for the purposes of the unfaithful spouse establishing and maintaining no contact with the affair partner. If you slip, don’t despair. Pick yourself up and get back on track. It may take some patience with yourself to fully implement all of these. Not all will apply to everyone. If the shoe fits, put it on.

The “No Contact 180” for Unfaithful Spouses

Don’t initiate phone calls. If they call, tell them you can’t talk with them and politely hang up. Don’t entertain answering any questions or discuss how you feel.

Don’t initiate messages of any kind, and don’t respond to any of the affair partner’s attempts to contact you.

Don’t pursue “closure” or “resolution”. It is a myth that only brings about less closure and resolution if attempted.

Don't follow them around on social sites like Facebook.

Don't ask for help from the family members of your affair partner.

Don't say, "I Love You!" to them or within yourself, even if you still feel you do. Saying it creates an expectation of dependency instead of independence.

Do more than act as if you are moving on with your life; begin moving on with your life.

Be cheerful, strong, outgoing and independent.

Don't sit around waiting on your affair partner. Get busy. Do things. Go out with friends. Enjoy old hobbies. Find new ones. Stay busy.

Your affair partner needs to believe that you are moving on with your life without them.

Don’t give into acting like a moody, needy, pathetic individual but a self-assured individual, secure in the knowledge that you have value not based on their love and affection.

Do not entertain any questions about the relationship either in your mind or with the affair partner. Initiate no such conversation.

Be patient and learn to see the negatives in the affair partner. List them out, as it will help clear foggy thinking.

Listen and then listen some more to close friends, therapists, and support networks to help you maintain no contact.

Learn to back off, keep your mouth shut, and walk away when you want to contact them, no matter the provocation.

Take care of you. Exercise, sleep, laugh, and focus on all the other parts of your life that are not in turmoil.

Know that if you can do this 180, your smallest consistent action will change your feelings far more than sweeping issues under the rug and hoping for the best.

Do not be openly desperate or needy even when you are hurting and are feeling totally desperate and needy.

Do not give up no matter how dark it is or how bad you feel.

Do not backslide from your hard earned changes. Remain consistent. It is the consistency of action and attitude that delivers the message to your spouse that you are committed to them and to the affair partner that it is really over.

When expressing your dissatisfaction with the behaviors of the affair partner or spouse, never be judgmental, critical or express moral outrage. Focus on the pain that their acts caused you.

This is the kind of behavior that shows you are not afraid to move on with your life.

More important, given enough time and consistency of behavior, it will convince yourself that you can move on with your life and convince the affair partner that you’re serious about ending it.

In instances where the unfaithful spouse has contact—such as working together, sharing parental responsibilities of a child, accidental encounters, a persistent affair partner trying to make contact, or other similar situations—keep the following 180 behaviors in mind should contact happen:

Don't pursue, reason, chase, beg, plead or implore.

Only discuss required business issues and nothing else.

Don't point out "good points" in the relationship.

Don't encourage or initiate discussion about the future.

Don't ask for reassurances.

Don't buy or give gifts.

When the affair partner engages you in person, be short on words. Don't push any issue, no matter how much you want to. End the conversation as soon as possible, don’t encourage extended discussion. Interrupt if need be, gracefully bow out, and leave.

If you were in the habit of asking your affair partner how they are doing, ask nothing. Seem totally uninterested in their life.

Don't be overly negative, reactionary, or excited to see them—just pull yourself back. Don't be available for anything other than required business. Your affair partner will notice.

No matter what you are feeling today, only show your affair partner happiness and contentment.

Do not allow yourself to lose your temper. No yelling, screaming or name calling ever. Be cool, act cool; be in control of the only thing you can control: yourself.

Refuse to argue at all. It shows you care.

Be strong, confident, and learn to speak softly.

Do not focus on yourself. Don’t discuss how you feel.

Do not believe any of what you hear them say and less than 50% of what you see. Try to remember that they are also hurting and desperate to make contact, and so they will say anything to justify their behavior.

By focusing on doing the above behaviors to the best of your ability, it will send the right message to both your spouse and your affair partner: you are committed to rebuilding your marriage. As months pass, feelings will align with actions. You’ll gain more self-confidence and self-respect. You’ll realize you can do the right thing, even when it is hard and painful. That will go a long way to restoring the love and trust between your spouse and you.

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