The definition of passive-aggressive behavior ‘is a way to express feelings of anger or annoyance but in a non-forthcoming way. Instead of communicating openly, people who engage in this type of behavior share their negative feelings through actions.’
What might passive aggression look like? Snide comments about the affair, unkind asides about the integrity of their partner, slamming doors, damaging property, being unkind and unsupportive, etc.
Passive-aggressive behaviors only serve to prolong the anger and slow the healing. Instead of practicing passive-aggressive behaviors, I encourage spouses to speak their anger out loud. Of course, they can yell (which can be good as it releases pent up energy) but the best way to do so is to express your anger in a tempered way so that your partner truly understands how you feel.
4. Keep what happened private.
For a client of mine, after she confronted her husband about his cheating, he right away deleted the emails that she had discovered. Why did he do that? Because he was worried that his wife was going to share the emails with all of her friends so that they could analyze them together. He didn’t want the embarrassment and wanted to keep it between them so he deleting the emails.
He was right – his wife would definitely have shared those email with her friends. And it wouldn’t have helped anything.
For many women, the need to discuss what happened with a close friend or confident is compelling. I am not saying that they shouldn’t do that but I do think that it’s important that they do so with only one person and that the affair not be shared with the wider social group. Having people discuss a couple’s private life, to get themselves involved where they shouldn’t and perhaps breed a taking of sides, will only serve to magnify what happened and stop the healing from happening.
Instead of sharing the affair with people outside of the partnership, I would encourage people to consult professionals to process what has happened, either individually or as a couple. A professional can help you work through the infidelity without an agenda, using learned skills to help you heal.
Looking to know more about how you can move on from infidelity? Read Surviving Infidelity Together: 5 Ways Couples Can Move On From The Pain
5. Agree to seek help.
The last of the 5 essential boundaries that can help a marriage survive infidelity is the agreement to seek help.
When there is infidelity, a couple trying to save their marriage is in uncharted waters. Because they have never been through this before they have no idea what to do and none of the necessary skills. It is important that they are willing to seek help to process what has happened and gain skills to work through it.
Often times, after infidelity, one partner is willing to get therapy but the other partner wants to work through it alone, or ignore it all together. “Why can’t we just move on?” they say. But, if your partner isn’t willing to agree to seek help then the chances of surviving infidelity, and truly find yourself back to each other as a couple, could be less than none.
So, as soon as you can, before bad habits set in, I would encourage couples to seek help. I believe that couples therapy is essential but that individual therapy is an excellent idea as well. The cheater will need to process what happened and their guilt around it. The partner will need to work through their feelings of worthlessness and betrayal. If they do their individual work, the more successful their work together will be.
Now that you know the 5 essential boundaries that can help a marriage survive infidelity you can start working together towards saving your marriage.