The Simplified 180
It's been a few years since I've read through the 180 bullet list, despite understanding the basic fundamental point to detach from a hurtful situation and focus on moving forward independently. Looking through the thirty-odd points in the list... I can see how it gets confusing and possibly even contradictory if taken out of context. The following is what I believe a distilled version of the 180 looks like with just a few simple guiding principles to keep in mind.
Principle #1 Don’t reward their behaviour.
A common game that the betrayed spouse will play is the “pick me” game where they try to win back the wayward spouse. When terrible things happen, it’s natural to want to feel a sense of control and if we can find fault with ourselves, then one could reasonably assume that you could fix things by just trying harder. The problem with this codependent thinking is that you didn’t cause your partner to cheat and you can’t control the choices that they make. Cheating is fuelled by a sense of entitlement and when you try to compete you just reinforce that entitlement. If you refuse to live with infidelity in your marriage, then don’t reward your partner for their cheating or try to manipulate them into staying with you. You deserve better.
Principle #2 Don’t shield them from consequences.
Don’t feel that you have to passively endure the mistreatment of your wayward partner’s infidelity. Doing nothing grants passive approval and gives up your own power to take charge and make your own choices. If a situation isn’t changing, then action is required to make it change. You have a right and a responsibility to protect what is important to you. Be clear with these boundaries and let your wayward spouse know if you would prefer to work on your relationship, but that without a doubt you will not accept staying in a relationship if their behaviour continues. Don’t sugar-coat it for them, call it as it is. If their behaviour is continuing, take the necessary steps to protect yourself such as consulting an attorney to educate yourself on options and separating resources and finances. It is not up to you to bear the burden for your wayward partner’s selfish choices. Take action and take charge.
Principle #3 Let go of the emotional strings.
Oftentimes, the wayward spouse will go on the offensive – arguing, blame-shifting, minimising or justifying their actions, projecting untruths, lying, making threats, and so forth. Engaging in these arguments serves to meet their negative emotional needs and further entrench their delusion. By changing how you behave or interact you can remove yourself from a manipulative situation and detach to preserve your emotional wellbeing. By practising control over your feelings, thoughts, and actions you can maintain a calm and steady centre of being and speak truthfully and directly with quiet assertiveness. If your wayward partner tries to pull your emotional strings, you simply let them go in order to avoid being dragged back down into the mire. You regain control of your life by refusing to be played for a puppet – you are the one who is in control of yourself.
Principle #4 Take care of yourself and get involved in your life.
Whatever happens and whatever path you walk, you need to be at your best. Pay attention to your mental, emotional, and physical health. Don’t deny yourself the right to feel your emotions, but at the same time create that picture of who you ultimately want to be and keep that end-goal in mind. Focus on your personal self improvement. Take some time to think about what your emotional needs are, how to simplify the clutter in your life, and how to surround yourself with healthy and enriching relationships and get involved in activities that you enjoy.
Principle #5 Stay true to yourself.
Above all, you need to keep faith in yourself and be authentic with yourself. You deserve your self-respect and you have to be willing to stand up for it. You put the focus on your choices and empowerment to nurture yourself to grow and evolve and live out your values to create a healthier and more balanced life for you and those you care about. You live your life understanding that you can navigate through change and adversity to create that brighter future for yourself.
The Spectrum of the 180
It's important to realise too, that the 180 isn't an all or nothing endeavour, but that it exists within a spectrum. It's important to understand the position that you are in, and to adapt the particulars to best meet the situation.
The Soft 180 creates some space to help you find clarity and perspective. It is a reminder to focus on yourself, your peace of mind, your choices, and letting go of things that are inhibiting your emotional health. You focus on reinforcing your independence over codependence through healthy, but not dismissive, detachment while still allowing your needs to be met by your partner. It’s about realising that it is okay to think about and identify what you need in and want from life, and to express those things to your partner. It is okay to allow others to be responsible for themselves (actually it's even in their best interest) and to let go of situations and outcomes that you can't control. In fact, it’s healthy because you let go of the unnecessary stress and allow yourself to move forward unencumbered by it. You make it clear that there are limits to what conduct you will accept in your relationship, but you don't have to feel guilty about things that aren't your issue. When someone violates your boundaries, you still have a responsibility to yourself to challenge it or else you are the one to compromise your own values. The soft 180 is still very productive if you’re both all in and working to reconcile, because you gain some objective distance to help reset and focus on behaviour in the relationship and decide what you are willing and not willing to accept. It’s about understanding the past, living in the present, and building for the future.
The Hard 180 is a cold dose of reality for everyone involved, but most especially for you, when you are in a situation in which you are continuing to be actively or passively hurt. In effect, you are saying "I am hurt by this behaviour and if/as it continues I will evaluate all of my options to take care of myself". You must be willing to uphold your boundaries and step away from the situation to move forward on your own when that is the only thing that you are able to change and control. Not only that, but you put up protective walls to cut off emotional ties to toxic relationships. You recognise that the healthiest choice, for everyone involved, is to leave others to be responsible for their actions and for the consequences of the choices they are making. It’s about standing up for yourself to make a decision. It doesn’t mean that you can’t change your mind in the future if the situation changes, but it does mean you refuse to be a part of the current situation and you refuse to live with it. You want to focus on the critical aspects of the situation to deal with reality, while letting go of the emotional ballast that weighs you down. You have to stay smart and think rationally without being controlled by anger or thoughts of revenge – it’s a focus on eliminating problems, not on creating them. The priority is protecting your emotional, mental, and physical health by protecting what is important to you and setting yourself free so that you can move forward unimpeded.
[This message edited by SerJR at 8:25 PM, January 18th (Wednesday)]