“Everybody is looking for validation, no matter who you are, and I think that’s a need of the human condition – to look for affection or recognition or validation.” – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Being The Safe Place For Your Marriage
Being the “safe place” seems to be one of the newer buzzwords for close relationships. We want to be the safe place for our kids to share their challenges, for our friends to look for support, or for our spouse to seek haven from the struggles of the workaday world. I get that. I embrace that.
So, when should you focus on being the safe place for your spouse, and when should you focus on being the safe place for your marriage?
Being The “Safe Place” For Your Spouse
We should all have safe places to open our hearts and bare our souls. Places where it is safe to be truly and authentically ourselves as we ponder and process why we’re here and what it all means. Or to just relax and restore after a long day.
Being the safe place is all about courage, compassion, and patience. We need the courage to relinquish the illusion of control and to let life unfold as we witness the wonder of another’s process. We need the compassion to observe both the frailty and divinity in another and to know both are a mirror of our own inner spark. We need the patience to allow another person the time and space to come to their own awakenings and realizations.
Being the safe place means being the calm in the midst of chaos. The rock. The anchor. The safe harbor in the storm.
I think most of us really want to be that safe place for our mates. It is a lofty and valid goal for any relationship, especially in marriage. But I was completely taken aback a few weeks ago when I heard someone say she wanted to be the safe place for her spouse during his affair.
Being The “Safe Place” For Your Marriage
The betrayal of infidelity affects every part of the marital relationship and turns it on its head. For years I’ve thought I should write a musing titled, “If It Feels Wrong Do It” because almost every action we need to take while our partner is having an affair is completely counter-intuitive, counter to what we think a good partner would do, and counter-emotional. That includes being the safe place.
As a couple we create a team. We work together, make decisions together, consult each other, and create the vehicle for a shared vision. Team Marriage. When one partner is having an affair, Team Marriage disappears. The co-creation of a stable and secure life together – where we stand shoulder to shoulder – is no longer a reality. There is no team.
While the straying partner may not admit it upfront, by the time the affair is outed the pattern of acting contrary to the team is already well established. Emotional intimacy is directed away from the spouse and family to an outsider. Financial resources are routed elsewhere. Time is stolen. And the shared vision is transferred to someone else.
One of the hardest things for the betrayed partner to comprehend is the loss of the team.
If we’re like most couples, we’ve forged our partnership through dating, planning a wedding, adjusting to living together, possibly a pregnancy or pregnancies, the birth and early days of children, grown children, family drama, teenagers, job changes…through it all, the sleepless nights, laugh ‘til your sides hurt silly times, planning and executing of large and small events, we’ve been a team. Some of those times more successfully than others – but the team survives.
Until there is an affair. There is no Team Marriage when one partner is involved in betraying the marital bond.
When that happens, the betrayed spouse is faced with significant and painful cognitive dissonance. The inherent trust within the marital bond is at war with information that our most trusted companion has acted in ways that are unfathomable. We want to do the things we’ve always done when the marriage is under stress – talk, offer support, understand, brainstorm, in short – be the safe place. Sadly, those tactics will rarely, if ever, work when the issue facing the marriage is infidelity.
Instead, your focus needs to shift to being the safe place for your marriage.
You Must Act Alone To Save The Marital Team
Instead, the faithful partner must come to terms with taking unilateral actions which the straying spouse is certain to find objectionable. The likely reaction is more distance, anger, threats, and even separation until the affair comes to an end. The pain of the affair and the confusion of the cognitive dissonance make it exceptionally challenging for the partner who wants to save the marriage to take necessary actions to protect it. Attempting to be the safe place will almost certainly result in more suffering for the betrayed partner and more damage to the marriage; it offers the straying spouse a seemingly free pass to continue their infidelity. Or, as it’s been called, having their cake and eating it too.
Keeping the team alive means doing things that look an awful lot like additional damage to the marriage. When two people marry they create an entity, the marriage, that is larger than the sum of its parts. Each person is fully responsible for safeguarding the marriage. Choices we are faced with when our spouse is unfaithful include things such as confronting the straying partner, exposing the affair, protecting finances, and even separation. As heartbreaking as these measures may be, they are actions of integrity that honor and protect the marital vows and the bond of matrimony. Be the safe place for your marriage.
Penny R Tupy © July 2016
My situation it not unique but I am dealing with both alcohol addiction and an affair. My spouse has been gone over a year now and has no contact with me. She filed for divorce last November but has taken no further action towards it. She is a chronic alcoholic in denial and the man she has run off with to live in another state is an alcoholic also. She blames me for the split and I admit I was not the best husband, I lost myself in the 5 years she sit at home and drink all day since losing job in 2011. She had a well paying job and at this time I do earn what she earned back then. All I wanted and want is for her to get sober and come home. I have my step daughter and her 4 month baby living with me at this time. My spouse has limited contact with her daughter by phone. I am moving on as best I can with my life and have expressed to my wayward spouse I would walk with her through recovery but at this time I don’t know what in the world she is thinking. Any suggestions anyone?
A mother abandoning a 4-month old baby, that takes the cake. I’m truly heartbroken at your situation.
I think although it’s inevitable, trying to puzzle out what she is thinking is truly a waste of time. Perhaps she’s not thinking anything at all, or might as well not be. Concentrate just on what you can do for the best and don’t worry about the thoughts of someone so deranged as that.
You need to decide on a course of action. With such a young baby, things are really desperate. No one would fault you for giving up on her, but if the cupboard is not bare then I suggest you get back in contact with her. Not to find out how things are going (probably bad but she probably won’t admit it) but just to start showing her you are the man you are today.
It’s then not your problem what she does, really — you just do your best for the marriage, and what she does is what she does. Do what you can do and leave it in God’s hands. If she then fails to make an effort, that only unfortunately shows that she just doesn’t cut it as a wife…
For you it’s hard to do much, as she’s trying to cut you off — but ask yourself why she is doing that. Why can she not bear to have contact. Have contact. 30 seconds interaction with her when she’s calling the daughter / baby. That grows into 1 minute interaction … as positive as possible, no reflection on her bizarre actions.