1. Choose your time You’ve just found an incriminating text and someone might be more than a friend or colleague. You’re frightened, angry and devastated. This is the worst time to confront your partner because you’ll find it hard to listen and process what they are saying. Worse still, you could start crying and they will try and appease (rather than be honest) or you could lose your temper and they’ll walk away or shut down. So take a while to process everything, calm down and then pick a time when you can both talk.
2. Don’t lay down the law Your goal is for your partner to realise that they’ve overstepped a boundary and decide to end it for themselves. Banning them or shaming them into stopping all communication just drives the behaviour underground.
3. Ask questions Rather than describing the problems or your upset, ask open-ended questions. For example: ‘Why have you texted him/her so many times in the last week?’, ‘How many of your other friends have you texted that often?’ or ‘What effect is this having on our relationship?’ By contrast, closed questions (like ‘don’t you agree that it’s wrong?’) which are leading and can only be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will have them justifying their behaviour to you rather than thinking about the implications of it.
4. Listen It is going to be really hard but instead of debating with your partner or telling them they’re wrong, don’t interrupt, but nod and encourage them to say more. You need to assess the damage – otherwise you can’t find a way forward.
5. Talk about the underlying problems In most cases, if your partner is texting someone else, it is a cry for help. They are unhappy and don’t know how to solve it or they think they won’t get a fair hearing if they tell you about it. So find out what’s been going on – in the rest of their life – and what about your life together isn’t working. My guess is that you’ll have another take on things and after listening patiently and understanding, it’s your turn. With both of your opinions on the table, you can start to negotiate a way forward. Furthermore, by following these five steps, you will not only have improved your communication but laid the foundation for turning your whole relationship around.
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Andrew G Marshall is a marital therapist and author of My Husband Doesn’t Love Me And He’s Texting Someone Else (Marshall Method Publishing, £12.99)