After your spouse’s affair struck a violent blow to the very heart of your marriage, you know you need serious marriage help … immediately. You’re haunted by negative thoughts and images—sometimes before you even know any specific details.
Your marriage has no chance of surviving the infidelity until a very important issue is satisfactorily resolved: how to handle the details of the affair.
You and your spouse, with committed effort, can survive an affair. But your joint efforts may stall if you don’t decide whether you are going to discuss these painful details, and how to handle them if you do. Contrary to common assumptions, for some the best course may be to not discuss specific intimate details of the affair—you may come out stronger for not knowing them. For others, it may be essential to discuss the details before you can move forward.
In this post, I’ll provide you with 3 steps that will help you make this significant decision. Keep reading…
Transparency: Should It Include Affair Details?
In the last post, we looked at the critical need for transparency in a marriage—whether the marriage has been strained to the breaking-point by a spouse’s affair or if you just find your marriage bonds slackening.
Surviving an affair isn’t a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. There will be a lot of heated conversations, raw emotions, and tears shed.
Whether you have been broadsided by the revelation of a spouse’s affair or you are the one who cheated, there are a slew of thoughts and emotions that need to be confronted and coped with. In addition you need to learn skills that will save your marriage—skills like transparency. (See Marriage Help: Use a “No Closets” Rule for more on this critical topic.)
However, being transparent does not necessarily mean that all details of the affair must be shared for your marriage to survive.
In some cases, knowing the details may cause more harm than good. For example, if your spouse’s affair was long-term and went deeper than a one-night event, there would be a lot of details. It could be overwhelming, and feed images that not just haunt you—but torture you for some time to come.
This is why it’s important to learn the appropriate steps to take in making this critical decision, as it can affect the length of time and your ability to heal. .
Here are some steps that will help decide how to handle the details of the affair.
Step 1: Make a Decision on How to Handle Affair Details
The injured spouse should be the one to decide how much, if any, of the details they want to know about the affair. While the cheater may feel it is cathartic to unload it all on their spouse, their efforts to “come clean” could really muddy the waters of reconciliation—and their spouse’s ability to heal.
As the victim of an affair who wants to save the marriage and get past the affair, your decision rests on whether you feel the details will help you move past this terrible phase in your life, or if it will cripple your efforts to do so.
Most victims of an affair have at least a few questions that they feel must be answered to confirm suspicions they may have had, a feeling that “something isn’t right.” You may need confirmation regarding a particular event that occurred in the past, where you had a suspicion, but your spouse explained it away with a lie. In this instance, you may decide you want to know the truth so you can feel assured that when you get a gut feeling—it’s accurate.
Step 2: Gather and Write Down Your Affair Questions
Write down your questions and think them over for a couple of days to see if it is really information you must know in order to move forward and heal.
Remember that once you know an answer to a question—there is no going back. So decide if the answers you receive will further fuel negative images and thoughts that will haunt you, or if the answers are necessary to help you find peace once again.
Step 3: Set Affair Detail Parameters
If you decide, as the injured spouse, that you cannot achieve healing without knowing details concerning the affair, then set guidelines in advance for what you want your spouse to share.
Instead of broad-siding the cheater with questions, creating a conversational situation that can quickly get out of hand, you may want to give the cheater advance warning that you would like to sit down for a question and answer session.
You can also set the parameters for this sit-down talk: “I only want information that specifically answers this question I have. No elaboration or excuses, please.”
In “Survive an Affair,” there are extensive guidelines that can lead you as you navigate through this uncomfortable process.
I’d be interested to learn more about your experiences in handling affair details…
Do you, or did you, want to know the details? Why?
If you learned the details of the affair, how as that for you? Was it healing or do you now wish there were things you didn’t know?
How has learning the details helped or hindered your ability to heal?
If you’ve been through an affair, what would you recommend to others making this decision?
Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,
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