"It might be worth forgiving your partner the first time they stray, depending on the circumstances and how you feel you can deal with it. However if they become a repeat offender then they are unlikely to change their ways, so WALK AWAY" you are worthy of much more. I had to chuckle at the 'Bill Board' idea, nice one." - Susan
GET OUT OF THE DOGHOUSE
Follow our advice and break ups need not be done by billboard
Everyone makes mistakes. But informing your wronged inamorata of this truism isn’t likely to win you an express pass back to her boudoir – particularly if delivered in a sulky murmur while analysing your cuticles. When you’ve messed up – or even if you haven’t – act quickly and decisively to tackle the problem head on before it spirals out of control. Your initial response can set the tenor for all the fallout that follows. Here, MH’s finest relationship experts show you how to deal with some of the most seismic relationship ructions.
1. Her friends can’t stand you
It doesn’t make any sense. You were charming. You were friendly. You bought the drinks. But still her closest friends have formed a cabal of dagger-eyed propagandists intent upon your downfall…
Don’t underestimate the power of her pals. “A girlfriend’s friends are extremely influential, and many women see the world – and especially their guy – through their mates’ eyes,” says sex and relationships counsellor Ian Kerner. Fail to meet the lofty criteria of her clique and they may convince her she’s mistaken Captain Jack Sparrow for Johnny Depp.
You can’t rant
It’d be very easy – and very therapeutic – to unleash a diatribe about how whatsername has a grating laugh and that other one is dangerously low on self esteem, but avoid this at all costs. Don’t criticise anyone. “Be smart. Ask questions of your girlfriend, listen, and learn. Approach the problem like you’re Sherlock Holmes,” says Kerner. Pre-Downey Jr Sherlock, that is. Forensically examine their complaints. Don’t initiate bare-knuckle punch-ups.
You might be wrong
A particularly entrenched animus may be a sign you aren’t as compatible as you thought. “After all, they've probably known her for years. Be cool, calm and collected and take it in,” says Kerner. Then spend some time with them (friends close, enemies closer, remember). Get the full story and, if you’re still sure their objections are groundless, try to win them round.
Send her away
“It's possible her friends are pissed off that they're losing a friend because of all the time she's spending with you,” says Kerner. “Encourage her to spend more time with her friends, not less.” Don’t be the guy who stole her away. Be the guy enjoying a pint and a Pro Evo marathon while her mates change their minds.
2. You went AWOL for a night (or two)
Perhaps your phone was out of battery and the train didn’t arrive until the early hours. Perhaps you simply had a few drinks too many and don’t have a clue where the hell the weekend went. The current facts, though, are clear. You were missing. She was terrified. And now she’s angry. And suspicious…
Bring in a buddy
This doesn’t look good. “Ideally you need an alibi – a mate who can vouch that you were with him all evening,” says Paula Hall, author of Improving Your Relationship for Dummies. However, don’t be tempted to concoct a fake one, no matter how angry she gets. When Barry contradicts himself – and he will – it could finish the relationship.
Go on the offensive
If you haven’t any proof of your whereabouts, honesty combined with a healthy smattering of righteous indignation is the way to go, says Hall: “Put all the emphasis on her insecurity and how it upsets you, rather than your faux pas,” says Hall. Milk that disappointment for everything it’s worth.
Hug it out
Actions speak louder than words – and once things have calmed down she’ll need physical reassurance to buffer the verbal. Researchers at the University of California found sympathetic contact with anxious women activates their vagus nerve, releasing the hormone oxytocin and providing an immediate calming effect. “Give her a big warm hug and ask her what you need to do to make her feel okay again,” says Hall. Tell her you’ll do anything. Anything at all. And if you can pull off a wink, now would be the time to deploy.
3. She’s found out you cheated on her
It’s pretty irrelevant how it happened. Especially to her. What matters now is how you deal with it, and whether you’re prepared to fight to stop her leaving for good…
Before you steam in, desperately trying to salvage something from the wreckage, be positive you know what you want. “Cheating typically happens because of some flaw in you or your partnership,” says relationship psychologist Susan Quilliam. “You need to fix that flaw or, when the dust has settled, it’ll happen all over again.” Research at the University of Montreal revealed wanting to distance oneself from commitment was the most commonly cited reason for being unfaithful. Sure you want in?
She meant nothing to you
Don’t use those exact words, of course. But though the phrase is clichéd, the sentiment should be your apology’s defining theme. A study in the journal Psychological Science found women in securely attached relationships found the emotional betrayal of infidelity more upsetting than the sexual betrayal.
Go all in
Earning back her trust will require a hitherto unprecedented level of commitment, but persevere through the (justified) sniping and the relationship may well be salvageable. “While she won't simply take your word on future fidelity, she will – or at least may – take seriously a genuine attempt to analyse whatever problem made you stray,” says Quilliam.
“Professional aid will not only help the relationship survive and keep you faithful, but will also stop your beloved making your cheating a constant reason for future blame,” says Quilliam. Relate reports most couples who come to them after an affair end up with a stronger relationship.
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