You will learn in the next few minutes how to effectively use THE most powerful strategy for quickly diminishing your emotional pain, changing the ground rules for the affair, discerning the emotional investment of your spouse and even, perhaps, bringing the affair to a halt.
I remember as a kid on the playground a bully, or at least a young man with a mean streak, who would invite someone to teeter totter. All seemed well and fun with the rhythmic up and down of the teeter totter.
Both were balanced perfectly and created a rhythm to the up and down of the teeter totter.
However, at some point, when the other was at the up point, the bully would quickly bail off the teeter totter from the bottom and the other came crashing down.
Don’t you feel like that other sometimes?
Your world came crashing down!
Plop! Suddenly there you are. Flat on the ground. Not sure what happened. Never expecting the fall.
Life was moving along, maybe seemingly very well, and all of a sudden you are on your **s.
The impact of an affair is debilitating, devastating and forever your life will be changed.
And, then, what do you do? How do you act? What do you need? What do you want? What is triggered deep within you? How do you cope with this crisis? What IS your next move?
I’ve worked with literally thousands since 1981 who were blasted with infidelity.
You Fall Back to the Familiar and REACT
Here’s what most do: they revert to their default mechanism.
It’s not a time for a clear head. It’s not a time to stand back and rationally plan your next strategy.
You react. You go back to what you learned was most productive or seemingly got the best results before.
You intuitively scan your emotional memory bank and, beyond your awareness, choose THAT strategy that helped you emotionally survive prior emotional crises.
Here are the common possibilities others have shared with me:
1 You plead, beg reason and argue. You try to talk your way out of this mess. Worked before. Hey, why won’t it work now?
2 You attack. You rage. Your anger seeps out and you hope to intimidate with your raging.
3 You withdraw. You pout. You crawl away, perhaps hoping your spouse will try to pull you back.
4 Closely related, your become depressed. You become ill. You hope somehow, this will gain the attention that might pull you back to what was.
5 You apologize. You try to explain yourself. You defend yourself. You make excuses for yourself assuming you had a part in your spouse’s decision.
6 You suggest a myriad of ways to fix the problem and make it better.
And as you engage in these knee-jerk, formed-by-unconscious-habit behaviors, you feel just terrible.
You Don’t Like You
You feel terrible about yourself. You don’t like doing what you do. Yet there seems, some moments, some days to be little control over yourself. You know, in the deepest recesses of your heart, that this is NOT who you truly are.
You feel out of control and helpless. All that seemed familiar, all that you counted on before, all that you could create to make your life tolerable or better before, no longer applies. Your spouse is in control. Plain and simple. And what you do, seems to make little if no difference. You are adrift.
You feel stupid. You feel like you have been duped. You feel humiliated, embarrassed and ashamed. You don’t really know why some of these feelings are so powerful, or where they came from, but you know they are real. And you hate it.
And to alleviate your life of this terrible nightmare, you revert back to one of the 6 default mechanisms noted above.
Your Spouse Plans on (and Needs) Your REACTION
But there’s a problem with these default mechanisms: your spouse is planning and counting on your to do exactly that; to slide back into your default behavior.
Each of these default mechanisms, in your spouse’s mind at least, tends to justify his affair and infidelity actions. (Because you are a rageaholic, forever arguing, depressed and sick, etc. your spouse now has a reason or excuse to seek out a “better relationship.”)
Your behavior, in a sense, gives your spouse permission to continue the crazy behaviors.
Your spouse is counting on you to be predictable. Your spouse is counting on you to REACT and not ACT.
And so, the game continues.
What is Charging Neutral?
A powerful tool I teach is called charging neutral. Charging neutral is a basic concept I teach in “Break Free From the Affair.”
Of all the concepts I introduce, this one concept of Charging Neutral has proven, beyond a doubt, to be highly effective as a catalyst for change. I’ve lost count of the testimonials I’ve received over the years from those who say that charging neutral saved their lives and relationships.
Note that charging neutral is an oxymoron. Is it possible to be charge or be aggressive and neutral or more passive at the same time? Yes it is. That seeming incongruence makes it powerful.
Charging neutral means you:
Are non reactive. You refuse to fight. You refuse to defend yourself. You refuse to explain your behaviors. You refuse to walk away and sulk. You refuse to back down and be a doormat.
Charging neutral means you have no buttons to be pushed. You refuse to take the bait and respond to the trigger that sets off your unpleasant emotional reaction. You refuse to do what you usually do that enables your spouse to perhaps justify his/her craziness.
Charging neutral means you are calm. You do not exude tension or anxiety. You stand firm, unshakeable without internally or externally quivering.
Charging neutral means you eyeball without blinking.
Now, when you shift to neutral I want you to be aware of possible consequences, since you will no longer be playing the “game.”
Your partner may amplify what s/he does to get you “going” so that the predictable outcome of distance results. You may experience the withdrawal intensify, the anger intensify the arguing intensify, the passive aggressive behavior intensify, the sniping intensify or whatever his/ her pattern may be.
Your partner may express curiosity, ask questions or raise eyebrows at your behavior.
Your partner may attempt (usually unconsciously) to set up situations that reboot and kick into gear the “game.”
Your partner may express shock and surprise. You may truly grab your spouse’s attention. You no long play the game your spouse is counting on.
Just be aware and notice. Your goal is to be neutral and continue that position.
How You Benefit From Charging Neutral
You receive a number of benefits when charging neutral:
1. Your regain your personal confidence. You fears diminish. Your feelings no long rage out of control. Your mind quiets.
2. You overcome your sense of helplessness and victimization. You take control of yourself which enables you to have more positive and constructive influence in your marriage or relationship.
3. You experience the power of ACTING rather than REACTING.
4. You receive a more accurate reading on the emotional investment of your spouse for the marriage. Your spouse possesses a commitment and tie to you if they are disturbed by your charging neutral. However, an exception may exist if your spouse is tied to the initial emotional intensity of an affair.
5. You are now freer and more able to move toward being who you truly want to be. You are in charge of you and no longer a leaf blown according to the prevailing status of your relationship with your spouse.
How you Charge Neutral
The first step in charging neutral is to shift to neutral.
1. The first step is a matter of your will. Tell yourself to be neutral. Tell yourself that you will refuse to react. Tell yourself to act calmly and convey calm. Take a number of deep breathes to calm the tension and enable your muscles and body language to relax.
2. Tell yourself, that for a period of time ( an hour, a day or when you have the most intense interaction with your spouse) you will “make” yourself be neutral.
3. Refuse to employ the old and typical patterns and habits when confronted by the emotional intensity of your marriage crisis. Refuse to plead, beg, argue, reason, become a victim or pout.
4. Stop pursuing. Do not suggest counseling. Do not suggest working on the relationship. Do not tell your spouse that you have changed or will change. Do not tell your spouse you love them.
5. Train your body language to convey strength and calm.
6. Use few words. And, make sure the words you do use, do not reflect on the impact the relationship is presently having upon you.
Key Points for Charging Neutral
1. You can “fake it til you make it.” Of course it is impossible for anyone facing the trauma of a marital crisis not to have feelings or be upset. However, you don’t want those feelings or thoughts (since many of them are distorted and are illusions) to control who you are and offer the possibility of doing further damage to the marriage or relationship. But you can try to calm yourself and maybe have the capacity to first, fake it.
2. “Faking it til you make it” is easier for some than others. You may not have the capacity to fake it. Or, you may have taken along with you the ability to detach or remove yourself from emotionally intense situations. “Faking” it will be easier for you.
3. Experiment. Do not expect perfection. Be kind to yourself when you find it impossible to be neutral.
4. The ability to Charge Neutral is a life long learning process. A part of us always wants to scream or react in one form or another. No one “Charges Neutral” all the time.
5. Initially Charging Neutral is similar to what some call the “180,” where you do the opposite of what you typically do in the relationship. The purpose of the initial charging neutral is to upset the balance in the relationship. And, often it leads to abrupt and radical change. However, this is only temporary. Much more work is needed after the initial change.
6. Shifting to neutral is the first step. The charging part of the charging neutral comes later when you begin to use messaging and other forms of self disclosure and confrontation. Self disclosure and confrontation becomes much more powerful when grounded by emotional neutrality and action rather than reactivity.