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In the last section, we discussed how understanding the ‘flip flop factor’ can help couples working through an infidelity crisis address the disenchantment process. We also discussed a specific technique to help couples analyze how the flip flop factor may be affecting their feelings of disenchantment towards their partner.
In this section, we will discuss beginning the process of low cost behavioral change in order to restore trust between partners who have chosen to work towards reconciliation following an infidelity crisis. We will specifically discuss constructing wish lists for low-cost behavioral change, and 7 guidelines for increasing the effectiveness of the wish list technique.
Keith and Natalie sought counseling to receive help in preserving their marriage. Natalie had recently slept with a friend she had met in her Spanish night class. Natalie, the unfaithful partner, stated that she was not trying to replace Keith, but that she had been feeling lonely and neglected due to Keith’s reserved mannerisms. Keith stated, "we’ve both realized how much we’ve let our relationship deteriorate. I need to feel like I can trust that Natalie won’t cheat again. I also need to feel more accepted for who I am. I’m not a demonstrative person, I need some room for that. But Natalie says she needs to feel more loved."
I explained to Keith and Natalie that making low cost behavioral changes as part of cognitive behavioral therapy can be a good place to begin restoring trust. I stated, "low-cost behavioral changes generally require a relatively small emotional investment. For example, a hurt partner may ask for his or her partner to limit overnight travel. An unfaithful partner may ask to be told when his or her partner is feeling more optimistic about their future as a couple."
♦ Trust-Enhancing Chart Technique
For example, Natalie listed, "speak to me in a warmer, more loving tone of voice. Tell my why you love me, and take my hand while we’re walking together." Keith listed behaviors that responded to his need to feel accepted for himself. For example, Keith wrote, "if I’m quiet ask me what’s on my mind, don’t assume I’m withdrawing or being critical. Realize that I talk more slowly than you, and don’t interrupt me. Show an understanding of my need to work a few hours at the office on weekends."
♦ 7 Guidelines to Enhance the Trust-Enhancing Chart
-- Guideline # 1 - Be Positive & Specific
-- Guideline # 2 - Respect Partner's Requests
-- Guideline # 3 - Respond on Different Days
-- Guideline # 4 - Visible Location
-- Guideline # 5 - Record the Date
I stated to Keith and Natalie, "this visual record will let your partner know that you acknowledge his or her continuing efforts to please you. This will reinforce the behavior and increase the chances that your partner will keep making the effort. Recording the date your partner fulfills your request may also help you avoid selective negative focus, in which you can begin to focus on the negative and screen out anything that contradicts the negative."
-- Guideline # 6 - Do What is Requested
-- Guideline # 7 - Revise Your List as Needed
For example, during a recent party that Keith and Natalie attended, Keith spent the entire evening talking business with a colleague. Feeling neglected, Natalie added to her list. Natalie’s new request read "when we go out together, touch base with me frequently, and put your arm around me. Let me know you’re proud of me by introducing me to all of your friends." Clearly, by working with this technique, both Keith and Natalie were becoming more conscious of behaviors that upset them, and were beginning to be able to communicate more openly. Would your Keith and Natalie benefit from the Trust Enhancing Chart technique?
In this section, we have discussed beginning the process of low cost behavioral change in order to restore trust between partners who have chosen to work towards reconciliation following an infidelity crisis. We discussed constructing wish lists for low-cost behavioral change, and 7 guidelines for increasing the effectiveness of the wish list technique. These seven guidelines for increasing the effectiveness of the wish list technique are be as positive and specific as possible, respect your partner’s requests as being important, respond to different requests on different days, put your lists in a visible place, record the date on the chart when your partner responds to a request, do what your partner requests whether or not you feel hopeful about the future, and revise your list as you learn more about yourself and your relationship.
In the next section, we will discuss guiding couples through high cost behavioral change to help a relationship survive an infidelity crisis.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References: