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A safe environment for WS to open up and talk

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ShockedErica11 posted 10/23/2013 10:25 AM

I read somewhere a long time ago that when trying to discuss the A with a WS, the BS has to create a “safe” environment for the WS to be able to discuss it. I realize that I have an overbearing personality, a touch forceful and straight to point. Blunt, when I talk to people (I’ve repeatedly told people that I hate small talk if I know there’s more serious matters that need to be discussed).

Alright, so, one of the items on my list of things that I gave WH to make me feel “safe”, “like he wants to be here” in this relationship was to talk about the A. You can say I’ve been a “nag” in regards to this because he just won’t open up and talk about it himself. He doesn’t share anything about it unless I ask him a direct question; he won’t bring up a topic about it unless I start it; he just won’t talk about it. Probably rugsweeping, but I know if I don’t say anything about it (and trust me, I have done so on numerous occasions (just not said anything) in the hopes that he would breach the subject and speak up), he won’t open up and talk about any aspect of it. I have at least five pages of questions that I still – to this day – have not really gotten discussions on or conversations about; maybe short texting conversations on, but nothing long, drawn out or insightful. Nothing that lets me know that he’s truly thinking about it (or even thinking about my A; I’ve respected his wishes in not bringing it up or really discussing it with him, but IMHO, he used what I did back in 2011 as an excuse and justification to continue his A with OW so I don’t think his tactic is effective, but that’s just my opinion).

So, I guess my question is this: how do I create a safe environment for him to feel like he can talk about it? TBH, I tried this at the very beginning when I first found out, but he TT’d me and after finding aout more and having multiple Ddays, my patience, my empathy and my emotions have taken a hit. Intellectually, when I’m rational, I’m good. I can listen to him, allow him to speak, etc, etc. But when my emotions flare up (sometimes, hours or days later), I am a mess. I try not to show him all the time when I’ve lost control of my emotions, but the anger is still there, and the incredible hurt.

So, what do I do? Is this a problem that I should even be concerning myself with? Is this something that he needs to do regardless of whether I get emotional or not? Is he rugsweeping?

Please help.

Faithful w/Love posted 10/23/2013 10:37 AM

Personally I tried that but to be honest the more I thought about it, I thought:

Why the fuck am I creating a safe place for him when he didn't keep me safe. Why pussy foot around all this, and get TT.


Deeply Scared posted 10/23/2013 11:10 AM

As a was incredibly difficult to open up when met with "I can't believe you did that!!" type reactions.

It can feel like you're being punished for being honest and if that happens, that last thing a WS is going to do is be vulnerable all over again.

If you're asking your H to open up he needs to be met with patience. I know that seems incredibly unfair given how deeply he's hurt you, but I promise that getting mad or yelling at him won't produce the results you're wanting.

WoundedOpus posted 10/23/2013 11:40 AM

I could have written this post (and Faithful w/Love's as well!)

6 years out I just have ZERO ability to keep myself under control, and trust me, I've tried! For me, it's not so much the truth's themselves that put me over the edge, it's when he (for even the slightest second), turns to any of his crappy defense mechanisms or coping. I rationally realize that he's not yet figured out how to discuss things without adding this crap in there, but in the moment I am anything but rational...and he shuts down COMPLETELY, and then blames me for the whole fiasco.

But dammit, I've stuck around and put up with this for 6 YEARS. No matter how many lies and shit he's thrown at me, I've been more than committed to staying and working this out, and it is DEVASTATING to realize how quickly he gives up. I KNOW it's hard to handle my melt downs and anger and whatever else it is that I'm doing, but seriously, it's about a thousand times more mild than what I'm actually thinking inside. He gets mad when I cut him off, but honestly, I'm WAY past the point of allowing him any room for bull shit. I just want to an HONEST, from beginning to end conversation. I'm not talking about lies, I just need him to be REAL with me.

Ugh, sorry to go on about myself, but man can I relate. The last time we tried to talk I had a panic attack! These feelings, rational or not, fair or not, are real and I just wish he could appreciate that my reaction IS the result of me working on it, it could be a lot worse. I had to get an anxiety prescription just to be able to talk to him (just filled yesterday, so haven't tested the effectiveness). I asked him to go to IC and I'm hoping to start soon as well. Hopefully we'll both get to a better place where we can come together with a third party, and talk this shit out, because right now, neither of us is providing a 'safe' environment!

rachelc posted 10/23/2013 11:54 AM

how do I create a safe environment for him to feel like he can talk about it

I have a different opinion than most on this...
he's an adult. If I have to create some sort of fluffy situation for him to stab me in the back or heck, even share uncomfortable feelings, I'm not interested.

I had an MC tell me that I'm training him to lie. Oh really? How bout telling the truth because it's the right thing to do? Why do we have to create safety to do that?

Tell the truth, let go of the outcome, that's integrity.

[This message edited by rachelc at 11:57 AM, October 23rd (Wednesday)]

Kierst13 posted 10/23/2013 12:02 PM

I agree with Rachel. I wasn't willing to buy my WS a fluffy, glitter farting unicorn to snuggle up with while he came clean (or lied). He is an adult and can take the heat and discomfort he brought into our lives.

Why should I make him comfortable? If it is so uncomfortable to TALK about he should not have DONE it!

Jrazz posted 10/23/2013 12:08 PM

I'm a huge proponent of creating that safe space for a conflict avoidant spouse to open up.

For us, it meant setting up a predetermined time to talk, so he wouldn't feel defensive or like he was being attacked. During these times it is agreed that I will not react to our talk with anger on any big emotion. It is very business, just an information exchange. Interestingly enough, instead of feeling shortchanged like I didn't get to have my "blowout" or something, I end up having more compassion and objectivity which leads to an even more productive talk.

Yep, big fan of the safe space.

StrongerOne posted 10/23/2013 12:08 PM

I told my H that I would listen and not say anything while he said his piece, and that I would either respond fairly calmly, or, if I could not, we would stop and then I would get back to him when I could handle it. Often that meant I wrote him a letter -- for me, very helpful, because I could think it through thoroughly and word it just how I wanted it to. Also, there was no question of what I had actually said

RyeBread posted 10/23/2013 12:13 PM

I am a BH so I get why others might say "F the guy, he cheated he can deal with the anger". I have those thoughts too.

I also think it is very admirable of you to take a step back and want to do that for you WS. Shows a level of compassion that's hard to muster at a time when you've been betrayed like that.

I think creating a safe environment means not attacking or belittling the person for giving answers you didn't want to hear. So going with that idea I wouldn't ask questions you aren't prepared to hear the answer to. If you ask for details and you lash out in anger then the person on the receiving end starts associating honesty = anger/judgement. Sucks but that's how it is, regardless of who did what to who. It's human nature. Should our WS's be the epitome of humility, compassion, and honesty at this point? Absolutely. Are they really, no. So you have to be honest about who you are really dealing with. A lot of wayward thinking is victim thinking. As a BS you are getting blamed (in their mind) for the A. The more negativity they can associate with you the more it entrenches the fog. And until they are willing to be honest with themselves about their "why's" you have to almost be calculating in how you address the A because of that.

It sucks, it's unfair but it's reality. Maybe that will work for you, maybe it won't. Thats just my perspective on trying to have a heart to heart with someone who is very self focused.

Deeply Scared posted 10/23/2013 12:16 PM

I think some of you are mis-understanding what a safe place is.

It's not coddling and stroking his's about listening without reacting with yelling or belittling your WS.

There is a time for anger, God knows I was on the receiving end of that for over 2 years. But there is also a time to show restraint while asking for the truth.

You have to remember, most WS's are conflict avoiders/people pleasers. If we weren't we never would have gotten ourselves in an affair in the first place. Good coping/communication skills aren't a strong point for most WS's. So screaming and yelling will not get you what you're asking for.

MissesJai posted 10/23/2013 12:22 PM

it's about listening without reacting with yelling or belittling your WS.
I'll add this - regardless of what side you are on, if the desired outcome is honesty, then restraint is necessary. What incentive would anyone have to tell the truth if they are constantly berated, belittled, and yelled at for doing so? Personally, if I don't feel safe, I don't say shit. Period. Why should I? To be condemned? Hell no.
Good coping/communication skills aren't a strong point for most WS's.
This doesn't apply only to waywards, IMO.

Jrazz posted 10/23/2013 12:32 PM

You have to remember, most WS's are conflict avoiders/people pleasers. If we weren't we never would have gotten ourselves in an affair in the first place. Good coping/communication skills aren't a strong point for most WS's. So screaming and yelling will not get you what you're asking for.


ETA: I agree that conflict avoidance can apply to either spouse, MJ. I think the focus is on WS's here just for contextual sake, but I thought the same thing that you did when I gave my first response. The "safe space" is a healthy place for any couple to try and talk things through, IMO.

[This message edited by Jrazz at 12:34 PM, October 23rd (Wednesday)]

cissie posted 10/23/2013 12:33 PM

I agree that it does not seem fair to have to make allowances for the WS. There are repentant and unrepentant WSs, so as in everything in life “your case may vary”.

As DS says we feel punished for telling the truth. We forget that we have known this information a long time but to the BS it is all new. Their reactions are absolutely normal. They have been hurt, they don’t know who they are. They have been living a fake life.

I did not realize that all this was a dealbreaker for my BS, and so I wonder what the outcome would have been if I had just asked for a divorce. I would be accused of taking the “easy “way out. But you know, as has been said over and over again by those of us in the Wayward forum, we can’t change the past, we can only change the future.
For us the future is limbo. We are at a stalemate. In my worst moments, when I am really down, I feel as if I have given him so many sticks to beat me with.

Is it better for the BS to know absolutely everything, even if they have no intent to reconcile? Does it help them to get on with their lives with less ambiguity and regret?

NewWorldMan posted 10/23/2013 12:37 PM

How about writing your questions down on paper and having him write down the answers? Take away the possibility of a confrontation. The conflict avoidant part of us is what makes it difficult for us to communicate. We don't want to deal with the reaction we know we're going to get. So, when asked to my face, I lied and lied again.

OK now posted 10/23/2013 12:41 PM

Agree with the last three posts. If reasoned discussion turns into a shouting match then emotion takes center stage, at the expense of getting the truth, and creating a way forward.

Showing restraint during conversations is essential for meaningful reconciliation.

rachelc posted 10/23/2013 12:47 PM

I told my husband what I did and I knew it wouldn't be pretty. I was called every name in the book, expected divorce.
Yet it was still the right thing to do...

I get the repeated blows ups and anger and how that would affect recovery... but seriously, don't do that shit if you can't bring it to your spouse...

Unagie posted 10/23/2013 12:48 PM

I've been on both sides of this equation and you know what it was much easier to answer questions when he wasn't calling me every name in the book and belittling me everytime I answered a question. I went the route of confession, he knew something was wrong as I was always sad and nothing could cheer me up. I confessed, everything, he asked questions at first but I brougbt the A up so much that my IC and him asked me to stop. Now his A's he answered nothing, no remorse, nothing. I tried being calm anf patient but god knows I looked like a raging shrew. The day he told me he was in love with another woman for the past 8 years and he realized it while talking to me and he made me feel bad for not comforting him was the worst day ever. I actually held him as he cried about his lost love of this other woman when all i wanted to do was end it...end the pain... Patience is hard and allowing that safe place can be excrutiating but I think if your spouse is remorseful and truly trying it helps immensely.

rachelc posted 10/23/2013 12:50 PM

Is it better for the BS to know absolutely everything, even if they have no intent to reconcile? Does it help them to get on with their lives with less ambiguity and regret?

I think so, if the BS requests this. They deserve to know the truth about their life. They need to know that what their gut was saying was right. They need to know that moving forward, they can trust THEMSELVES.

heartache101 posted 10/23/2013 12:53 PM

I believe you should ask a question and get an honest answer. If your spouse can not be honest with you and open up in my book you dont have a true marriage. Atleast not one I want to be part of. Yes I lie I am not perfect but if my spouse ask me a question and wants the honest answer I expect myself to give him that answer I expect the same.
I dont like games....
I believe your environment should always be safe to talk within a marriage. Does not mean someone isnt going to get mad or yell my god what do they expect! Ok off my soap box....

Darkness Falls posted 10/23/2013 12:57 PM

t/j Cissie: my XH had no intention of reconciling and that's a big part of why he didn't want very many details. It meant nothing to the future (in his mind) so why cause himself additional pain & stress. But I do think it's the BS's call to make.

end t/j

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