How do we know if our spouse is taking responsibility for their infidelity? How do we know if we are really moving forward or just doing the same things we have always done? How long do we wait for something to happen before we make something happen ourselves?
These are questions I hear a lot, and ones that are important to answer. Part of re-building trust after infidelity is knowing that our partner is not only being transparent with the facts, but also holding themselves accountable for the choices they made.
Another big piece in moving forward is understanding where we are taking too much responsibility upon ourselves for the actions of others, and where we are not holding ourselves accountable for our own growth.
In this episode, you’ll learn the difference between taking responsibility and passing it off to someone else, and specific markers to look for in evaluating the progress of your partner. You’ll also be able to see in yourself where you are passing off responsibility to someone else, waiting for them to change so you can feel better.
I am Andrea Giles and you’re listening to the Heal from Infidelity podcast
episode number 67, Accountability and Responsibility.
Hello, and welcome to the Heal from Infidelity podcast where courageous
women learn not only to heal from their spouse’s betrayal, but to come the
boldest, truest, most decisive, and confident versions of themselves ever.
If you know there’s more freedom than the life you’re currently living but
don’t quite know how to get there, you are in the right place. Stick around
to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks off. Is that
possible? It is and I’m here to show you how. I’m your host, Andrea Giles.
Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Hello, hello everybody. I hope you’re all doing well. I am going to be
talking about accountability and responsibility today. Does that sound
super fun? I hope that you learn some things. I hope it is interesting, and
engaging, and that you learn some stuff, okay? This is a topic I’ve been
thinking about. It’s a question that I get a lot from my clients like, “How
do I know if he is taking accountability? How do I know if he’s taking
responsibility for his stuff? How do I know if I’m taking responsibility
for my stuff?” And so I thought, “Let’s do a podcast and dive into this.”
Okay? So, what does it mean to be accountable? How do you know if your
spouse is being accountable? How do you know what you’re accountable for?
Where is the line? How do we hold our spouses accountable? Okay?
I’m going to cover all of this. So, I’m going to use some different
examples so that you can hopefully understand it at a deeper level. My hope
is that you can come away from this podcast seeing areas where you can
grow, whether it be in handing over accountability and responsibility to
the rightful owners of what they need to be responsible for without trying
to fix it for them, or by seeing ways that you are taking on too much
responsibility and accountability or not taking on enough responsibility or
accountability, and moving forward, making some changes. Okay? So, what
does it mean to be accountable? Being accountable means an obligation or
willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions, okay?
So many times when I’m coaching my clients, they tell me that their spouse
has admitted what they did and they don’t want to talk about it ever again.
They don’t want to be asked questions, they don’t want to go talk to a
third party about it. They say, “I just want to move on. Can’t we just move
on?” But for most of my clients, this is not enough. So to be clear, full
admission is not the same as being accountable. It’s not the same thing. It
is a very necessary part, right, admitting to it saying it, it is a really
important part. But it is not the same as taking full responsibility for
the actions taken, okay? So first of all, I want to talk about some
telltale signs of not being responsible for your actions and what it looks
like, what it looks like in real life, okay?
Several years ago I read this talk that was by somebody named Lynn Robbins
and it’s called 100 Percent Responsible. It’s a great talk. And in this
talk, he gave a list that he calls the Anti-Responsible List. Meaning, if
you are doing these things, you are not taking responsibility. So, I want
you to look at areas in your relationship with your partner and even with
yourself that you might be engaging in some of these activities, okay? Now,
I did not copy, I really made this my own. I used some of his ideas but
really made it my own for you, for my audience. So, here we go. Number one,
first of all, I’m going to go through these number by number. I’m going to
say what it is and give an example, okay?
Number one, blaming others. “If you were more affectionate, I would’ve
never done this. If you were kinder, if you were more understanding, I
wouldn’t have done this. So, it’s your fault.” Number two, rationalizing or
justifying. “I was manipulated and taken advantage of. I couldn’t help it.
I just was really weak, and vulnerable, and felt unwanted and this person
lured me in,” or, “I was drunk, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just
drunk so I don’t know. I’m not accountable for something for when I was
drinking and don’t remember any of it.” Number three, making excuses. “You
are never around and you didn’t seem interested in me.” I want to clarify
that making excuses is not the same as giving a reason, okay?
Making an excuse is like, “Don’t look at me. Point that finger around, go
look somewhere else, okay? This is not my fault.” Giving a reason is a very
different thing. When I have my teenage son whose go-to answer for anything
that we ask is, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know,” we’ve said to
him, “That is not valid. I want to hear your reason.” And then he might say
something and it’s an excuse, “Well, no one told me about this.” Let’s say
it’s a homework assignment, “Nobody told me.” “Whose job is it to find
out?” “I guess it’s mine.” Okay, and down and down we go until sometimes,
it gets to, “The reason why I didn’t do this is because I didn’t want to.”
Okay, that’s owning it. Fair enough. There’s still consequences, but at
least you’re owning it instead of trying to shift the blame, okay?
Number four, minimizing or trivializing. “I don’t know why you’re so upset.
It could have been so much worse. We just sent some pictures and messages.
Nothing else happened. What are you so mad about? It was just a kiss,
okay?” That’s a big one. Number five, hiding. “Why do you need to know?
Don’t you know enough? When is it going to be enough? I said I was sorry.”
Number six, fleeing from responsibility. “I didn’t come home because I
didn’t want to upset you. I thought it would be easier on you if I just
stayed away.” Doesn’t that sound noble? Just kidding. But yeah, it’s like,
“I don’t want it to be hard for you so I’m just going to leave for the
weekend so that you can feel better.”
Number seven, denying or lying. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Of
course, you would think that I did that. You always think the worst of me.
I said I didn’t do it. Why do you keep asking?” Number eight, rebelling.
“You think I’m so awful, anyway. I’ll show you what awful is. I’ll show you
what mean is.” Number nine, complaining and murmuring. “I don’t know why
you have to keep bringing this up. Can’t you just get over it? You’re
making my life so hard. Can’t you just move on?” Number 10, making demands
and entitlement. “It is your job as my wife to be intimate with me whenever
I want. It’s your job, it’s your duty.” Number 11, indulging in self-pity
and a victim mentality. “I may as well stop trying. You’re never going to
believe me anyway. I’m just a loser, I know. I know I just suck.”
Number 12, being indecisive. “I just can’t decide if I want to stay with
her or you. Can you just give more time to figure it out? I love you both.
I love you both. I love you and I love her. Can’t you just give me more
time to figure this out?” Okay, that’s a long list. Do any of those sound
familiar? One more that I would add is enabling. We’ll give it a number 13,
enabling. Enabling is another way of shirking our own responsibility and
giving it away to somebody else saying, “Well, I don’t want them to
whatever, fall apart or get mad so I’m just going to let them do this thing
that goes against what I want and what I value.” And that’s another form of
shirking our own responsibility, okay? So, what do we do with this list?
How can we help our spouses be more accountable? How can we be more
Guess what? The answer is in taking responsibility for ourselves. It looks
like this, we don’t blame them for our unwillingness to say hard things or
ask the hard questions, okay? We’re not blaming them. We’re saying, “I am
afraid.” We’re taking responsibility. Instead of saying, “Well, they’re
going to get mad. They might leave, they might storm out,” right? We are
owning it and going, “I’m scared. I’m afraid. I’m afraid. But when it comes
down to it, I want more, I want this relationship to move forward or I want
to get more information here so I can make a sound decision, so I’m willing
to be afraid and lean in and do and say the hard thing.” Here are some
points about how we can be more responsible, more accountable, and move
things along for ourselves, okay?
One huge thing we can do is to allow our spouse to feel their own
discomfort without swooping in and trying to fix it for them. I know that
it’s hard, my friends, I know, but we are letting them feel it. We are
owning how we feel and we’re handing back what’s not ours. Another thing we
can do is we can learn to tolerate our own discomfort as we point out areas
where our spouses or partners are abdicating responsibility. So, going to
that list, if you see things that you know don’t belong to you where you’re
like, “No, Nope, uh-uh, I’m not taking that one. I’m not taking that one.”
You don’t get to use that as an excuse and you hand it back. It might feel
really uncomfortable and you’re just allowing yourself to be uncomfortable.
You’re growing in your tolerance to allow others to be responsible, okay?
We can also own our own truth. We can stop trying to minimize our own
feelings and desires. We can stop waiting for them to change and to do
something different so we can feel better. We can take action ourselves and
move things forward whether they decide to come with us or not. Okay, this
is one I see so often is the space that we go to where we are giving away
the responsibility like, “I’m just waiting for this. I’m just waiting for
that.” And this is very much outside of you. It’s this thing outside of
you. So, are you going to wait forever for something that may or may not
happen? Or are you going to decide to be accountable and responsible for
the things that you want and take the actions needed to move forward? We
can also, we can hide behind excuses, like we don’t want them to get mad,
we don’t want them to leave.
And while those things can feel very threatening and real, change will not
happen while we sit and wait. It will not happen. We can stop being
over-responsible for their choices, okay? So many of my clients do, in
fact, see where they have had their own walls up. They’ve got up their
guard up, maybe their whole marriage. Maybe they came from homes where it
was not safe to let people see you. And so, they went into the marriage
being kind of distant, withholding, not really interested in intimacy. And
then their spouse makes the choices that they do and then my clients take
on the responsibility as if the spouse couldn’t help it. They had no other
choice. Or we may not fully take responsibility for their choice, but we
try to minimize any hurt they may feel. We might try to pad their
experience for them by being really, really careful with how we speak to
them. Like really careful, really guarded, how we have discussions.
We’re walking on eggshells as to not rock the boat. Because we might think
in our mind, “Well, if I were more this or this and this, then he probably
wouldn’t have done this in the first place.” So, we are owning what is ours
and saying, “Yeah, I may have had my walls up. Yeah, I probably could have
been,” whatever, “less critical.” But again, you’ll hear me say this over
and over, the choices made are the person who made them alone, okay? They
are theirs alone. So, what is the remedy? What does responsibility look
like here? Something that we like to do that’s very much human nature is to
negotiate on the consequences. We get to choose the choice but we don’t
always get to choose the consequences, right? I learned this very important
lesson when I was nine. I think I was nine years old. I think maybe I’ve
mentioned this before.
But for whatever reason, I decided I wanted candy and I went and stole it.
And I got caught. I had a pack of gum and a pack of Life Savers and I got
caught. I got driven in the back of a police car to the police station. I
had a record for a year, like on file. I had to write a six-page essay on
theft. I had to go to court and talk to a social worker about why I stole.
And they asked me if I wanted to go to a foster home. Don’t steal an organ,
they are serious there about stealing. And all of that was really, really
hard. I got in a lot of trouble at home as well, a lot of trouble. And I
learned a lot though, like at that young age, even though it was a very
difficult experience as a nine-year-old girl, I learned that there are
consequences to our choices. Do you think I’ve ever stolen again? Nope,
sure have not. I chose to steal the candy, right, I did not get to choose
Have you ever seen people try to negotiate the consequences? Like, “Well,
how about if you just lower that record to six months and I’ll do this and
this and this,” and I just, “Why is it not okay? I was really hungry.” But
I could have given all the excuses, everything I was too terrified to do,
any of that, right? But we do that in our relationships, we try to
negotiate the consequences. Cause and effect. If you’re going to make the
choice, you’re also choosing the consequence, whatever it may be, a good
one or a more painful one, okay? So, I want to give you some things to look
for in your spouses, in your partners, to see if they are being
accountable, okay? This is a question I get a lot. In preparing for this
episode, I found a great article, it was in Psychology Today, written by a
man named Guy Winch, PhD, and the article is called How to Take Full
Responsibility for an Affair.
Now, some of you listening aren’t dealing with a full on affair, but you
are dealing with some kind of breach of trust. This article is essentially
about eight steps you can take to rebuild trust through actions and not
words. Again, before I dive into this, I want to just say again that
admitting to the discretion is not the same thing as being accountable for
it, okay? It would be like me stealing and saying, “Look, I told you, we’re
good now. I told the truth, we’re good now.” No, we weren’t. I had to make
restitution. I had to prove that I was a trustworthy citizen and that I
wasn’t going to go steal again, right? Okay? The admission part is very
important, but there are other pieces that need to happen. They involve
actions, dealing with the consequences, putting in the work of rebuilding
the damaged relationship.
So, here are the eight things to look for. Number one, stop the affair. One
cannot repair a relationship with a partner while one has contact with the
other person. Taking full responsibility for one’s actions means stopping
the affair and ceasing all contact. Number two, figure out why you had an
affair including the reasons motivations, triggers, excuses,
justifications, opportunities, and circumstances that allowed it to happen.
Do the work. Understand why you did it. Number three, figure out what you
plan to do if and when each of the reasons, motivations, triggers, excuses,
justifications, opportunities, and circumstances appear again, because they
probably will. Number four, be ready to listen and talk when your partner
needs you to. Taking full responsibility means being ready to help your
partner recover when they need you to be there for them, whether you’re in
the mood to talk or not.
Number five, avoid promising it will never happen again until you have
figured out the why. Taking full responsibility means not promising things
you cannot guarantee. Unless you’ve dug deep and figured out why you
cheated, you do not have sufficient grounds to believe you won’t do it
again. Fear, regrets, and remorse are not sufficient deterrence. They fade
with time. Number six, contain your partner’s feelings. Your partner will
go through cycles of feeling close and distant, loving and hateful,
trusting and suspicious, as well as other emotional extremes. Taking full
responsibility means it is your job to be understanding, supportive, and
sympathetic as they go through these cycles. For example, they might feel
trusting and loving one moment, then feel stupid for feeling trusting and
loving, then feel rage at you for making them so unable to trust their own
Yes, it’s difficult to contain another person’s rapidly shifting emotional
states but since you caused them, it is your responsibility to do so. Now,
with that, I want to just poke a little bit at that. It says, “since you
caused them,” this is from this article, okay? “No one can make you feel
anything. But what you did do is you handed a circumstance to your spouse
that they are going to have thoughts and feelings about. And so, something
that you can do is help them while how they navigate those feelings.”
Number seven, provide transparency. If you want your partner to trust you
again, you have to demonstrate that you’re trustworthy. For example, if
they want to look at your phone, let them. Don’t roll your eyes and don’t
ask them why they need to check your phone.
By rolling your eyes, you’re minimizing the fact through your actions made
it difficult for them to trust you. Taking full responsibility means
understanding that building trust takes time and cannot be rushed. Instead,
try to welcome such requests as opportunities to soothe your partner’s
suspicions and prove yourself trustworthy. So, hand over your phone with a
simple, “Sure, here it is.” Number eight, when it comes time to examine
what aspects of the relationship were not working, what the betrayed
partner might have been doing wrong, it is crucial to do so with the clear
and expressed understanding that whatever was not working in the
relationship in no way excuses or justifies the affair. Taking full
responsibility means recognizing it was your job to discuss your
satisfactions with your partner and not act them out.
Can I say that one more time? Taking full responsibility means recognizing
it was your job to discuss your dissatisfactions with your partner and not
act them out. It says, “The bottom line is truly taking full responsibility
for an affair should always be followed by weeks and months of actions and
consequences. Otherwise, you’re not taking responsibility at all, you’re
just admitting you got caught.” I think that that last bit here is really,
really important. Because even if there are things that we might be
dissatisfied about in our marriages, things that we might feel hurt about,
right, it’s our responsibility to own those things and go talk about them,
say, “Hey, this is not working for me.” And instead, what happens often is
looking elsewhere, going outside the marriage and acting out those
dissatisfactions with something that feels better.
Okay, now, when I say feel better, it’s temporary too, okay? It’s like a
temporary hit. All right. Now, I want to add one quick thing. Don’t put a
time limit on it. There is no exact time when things will just be better.
It will ebb and flow. It will feel really good for a while. You’ll feel
like you’re making progress and then you’ll feel like you’re backtracking.
Normal. Ultimately, not being accountable is an act of self-betrayal. We
are essentially lying to ourselves. When we start taking responsibility for
what is ours and moving forward even if it is hard, we are becoming more
aligned with who we are, what we are capable of, and what is true for us
instead of giving up on ourselves and sometimes giving up on others.
Sometimes, our assessment of things can be true, okay?
For example, back in the Anti-Responsibility List, some of the things that
we feel unhappy about in our marriage is may be 100% true. A good question
to ask is, is it useful? Is us hanging out, spending our time in blame and
pointing fingers helping us move forward or is it holding us back? Can we
go talk about those things? Can we look for a solution? Okay, to wrap this
up, I want to give you a challenge and a reminder. First, the reminder. My
friends, we have one life, one shot, that’s it. All of us have a limited
time on this earth. What do you want your experience to be? Do you want to
squander your days waiting for something to happen, blaming others for your
unhappiness or doubting that you can never be happy again? Or do you want
to take your own one life into your own hands and actively create
happiness, peace, clarity?
I challenge you to find an area you are not being accountable for start
owning it. And I challenge you to find an area you are taking
responsibility for that is not yours to carry and hand it back. It’s okay.
Hand it back to the owner. It was never yours to carry despite what you may
have been told. Go live this one life. Show up for yourself, do the hard
thing, okay? Go have the courageous conversation. Do the hard thing. Now, I
want to say and just wrapping this up that some of you listening have had
the decision made for you, some of you listening have had your partner
leave. How are you still advocating responsibility? How are you doing those
anti-responsible things and blaming, and how is that helping you move
forward or is it keeping you stuck?
I know it’s tough to look at these things. I know that it’s tough. I know
that I say hard things sometimes. I promise you, it is from love, it is
from care, it is from wanting the best things for all of you. We are the
stewards of our own life. We get to create the life we want and it’s a
gift. Go create it, okay? I hope that you have learned from this today,
hope that you find it useful as you move forward, and I will see you next
Thank you for listening to the Heal from Infidelity podcast. If you would
like to be kept in the know about upcoming free classes, new podcast
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it’s andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. I will see you next time.