Affair healing Blog
First Step: Have a Total Truth Talk.
I frequently encounter unfaithful partners, and sometimes even other therapists, who believe that recovery can be achieved apart from an honest conversation about affair details. Refusing to talk openly and honestly about the affair leaves the wound infected; confession is a cleansing ritual that allows the injury to heal.
Most affair partners are reluctant to talk about the affair, even if their only motive is a desire to guard against further pain. If you have been betrayed, you need to be clear about why it is important to know the truth. Give assurance that you do not want to use the information to accuse or shame your partner, but help him/her understand that before you can start to trust, they must be willing to risk being honest. And before you can forgive, you need to a clear understanding of the offense.
One of the best expressions of this need is found in a letter one man wrote to his wife explaining why he needs her to tell him about her affair. He starts the letter this way:
“I know you are feeling the pain of guilt and confusion. I understand that you wish all this never happened and that you wish it would just go away. I can even believe that you truly love me and that your indiscretion hurts you emotionally much the same way it hurts me. I understand your apprehension to me discovering little by little, everything that led up to your indiscretion, everything that happened that night, and everything that happened afterwards…
“I can actually see that through your eyes you are viewing this whole thing as something that just needs to go away, something that is over, that he/she doesn't mean anything to you, so why is it such a big issue? I can understand you wondering why I torture myself with this continuously, and thinking, doesn't he/she know by now that I love him/her? I can see how you can feel this way and how frustrating it must be. But for the remainder of this letter I'm going to ask you to view my reality through my eyes…”
Is there a limit to how much detail should be shared? Absolutely. Anything that comes out of this conversation cannot be unheard, so care should be given in regard to what questions are asked. Spouses who ask detailed questions about sexual experiences, or places, or specific dates and times usually regret knowing these things later on, although they seemed desperate to know them in the moment. (Chapter 8 of my book, Affair Healing: A Recovery Manual for Betrayed Spouses, gives specific instruction on working asking these questions.)
Great consideration should be given to whether each question will help or hinder ongoing recovery. In the end, however, the betrayed partner should be the one who finally decides what questions should be asked. If the affair partner has concerns, then you both should agree to only discuss these things with the help of a qualified counselor, religious leader, or someone you both agree to be trustworthy and fair.
Second Step: Intentionally limit ongoing conversations.
Once questions have been answered, the betrayed partner should begin limiting the number of times they talk about the affair. Some infidelity counselors insist that affair questions stop completely once the "Truth Talk" is done, but this seems too abrupt for most clients. Instead, I encourage injured spouses to begin self-regulating their conversations. If they were previously talking about the affair every day, I challenge them to commit to only 3 conversations a week for two weeks. I also recommend defining a limit to the length of each talk (15 minutes to an hour) and never starting a conversation just prior to bedtime.
Between conversations, any question or thought about the affair should be written down. Prior to a planned conversation, the written questions can be reviewed to determine which issues still need to be discussed. After two weeks, move to 2 conversations per week, then down to one, then “as needed” but no more than once per week.
Third Step: Announce your final affair conversation.
At some point, after a period in which there has been open dialogue, ongoing questions about the past need to stop.
For the betrayed partner, talking about the same things again and again may bring some momentary relief, but without long-term comfort. If the pattern does not change, the one who had the affair will eventually become increasingly resentful or avoid conversations altogether. When no new significant information is being discussed, make the choice to stop talking about affair details. Announce this decision and commit to following through.
You can continue to be honest about the feelings you experience as a result of the affair (fear, sadness, hurt, anger), and the triggers that are likely to come for years, but keep the focus of your conversation on the present pain, not past details. Only talk about past affair details again is if new information arises, or if both of partners are in agreement concerning the desire to discuss these things.
2/7/2018 09:12:41 am
I found out about my husband‘s affair 10 months ago. My husband has never been one to share a lot of information so getting any information from him is like pulling teeth. I discovered that he was having affair he did not come to me with that information. I truly believe he never would have if I hadn’t found out on my own! We have decided to work on our marriage and to try to make it better than it was before. Sometimes I just feel like there’s more that I don’t know so I keep pulling for more information. I know he is trying...he has not had any contact with the woman since the reveal. Sometimes I just wish I could see this woman… I find myself being very unsure of myself, wondering how pretty she was,how small she was, how “sexy” she was it just drives me crazy!! Sometimes I just feel like I have a right to know who the woman was that decided it was OK to sleep with my husband!
2/7/2018 03:37:18 pm
10 months is not a long time ago. My boyfriend of 7 years cheated a year ago and it still hurts me. I still bring it up and we still argue about it, at least twice a week. I'm aware we have alot of healing to do before our relationship can recover, but I am here to say that how you're feeling now is completely normal and most women in our shoes feel that way too.
2/7/2018 11:17:08 pm
There is no time limit for asking questions. You ask until you don't feel the need to ask anymore. At 10 months I was a wreck. Now it's been 2 1/2 years and I have days when the shock of it all comes rushing back. My husband is acutely aware of these days and understands the need I have to talk or cry. By him answering my questions and listening made a big difference. This process takes years if not a lifetime. It gets better but for me I don't think this will ever fully go away. What we feel is grief. There has been a loss. A death. The person we loved chose to betray us. How we need to heal is on our terms.
2/8/2018 12:32:30 am
I believe there is no limit to having conversations about an affair. Years afterwards, there will be reasr ns to talk about it. But putting no boundaries on asking about the past details can keep people stuck. At some point, the reality is there is nothing more to discover. The conversations should begin to shift and questions come to an end.
2/9/2018 06:16:25 pm
It doesn’t go away. It’s indescribable, just by using words isn’t enough.
2/7/2018 05:46:43 pm
I notice that most of your readers are very much younger than my partner and myself (I am 68 and my partner is 73)and because of that I cannot see much of a future without this man who cheated on me. We both came from abusive marriages (mine was physical as well as emotional) and that was 28 years ago. Within 2 years of us getting together I came home unexpectedly from work to find my partner sat in the dark with a much younger woman draped around him (This was at 5:30am) I was devastated but he had an answer for it all as usual). Eventually I forgave him because I was so in love with him and I still am despite the fact that I caught him out "emotionally" cheating on me 5 months ago with a woman he had trained up to be a Tai Chi instructor like himself. My problem is that at first, when I found his emails declaring his love for this woman, he still denied there was anything going on! Can you believe that?! I have since discovered his 'secret mobile phone' and bills for it for 6 months in which he was in contact with her almost every hour of the day. He knows that he has broken me completely but even after telling me he loves me on D-day(6 months ago he told me he no longer did but I wasn't sure if anything was going on then) I have since found out that he had told her he loved HER at least 4 times that morning . I have questioned him since but he just minimises everything that he's done.Everything I know I have found out about myself and even though he has now admitted in the face of all my evidence that he HAS had an emotional affair and called himself a b......, he will give me no more details and I really NEED to know what his feelings were for this woman. I am willing to do whatever it takes to get us back on track again but I fear he won't. I truly love him but I cannot move forward without knowing the full story; I need to be able to trust him again. The truth is ,at my age , I feel that I have no options left. He never married me, I have nowhere else to live and I am without money. But most of all I love him. What can I do?
2/8/2018 09:14:27 am
A proper response would be beyond the scope of a blog post, but I would encourage you to listen to podcast #214 (http://www.affairhealing.com/podcast214.html) and if it would help to get some specific help in your situation, consider phone coaching (http://www.affairhealing.com/phone-coaching.html).
2/8/2018 08:53:19 am
2/8/2018 09:10:42 am
But, unfortunately, many do not experience an end to the questions. Sometimes this fixation on more information about the facts of the affair continues for years. No real healing is happening there.
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Unless otherwise noted, articles are written by Tim Tedder, a licensed counselor and creator of this site and its resources.