One of the most emotionally-loaded conversations you could ever have is about an affair that you or your spouse has had. Many affair victims think that it’s critical to their recovery that they talk about the affair.
That isn’t necessarily so.
In this blog, we’ll look at whether or not it’s necessary to talk about the affair in the first place, and I’ll offer some guidelines if you decide it’s right for you. Please keep reading…
Talk about the Affair, or Not?
You may be absolutely convinced that you have to talk about the affair before healing can take place.
Not so fast.
For some, talking about the affair is very important for their post-affair healing process. But for others, it’s not so critical. It all depends on what information the injured person feels he or she needs in order to heal. If you feel that talking about the affair will help you move on, then you should talk about it. If you don’t, then talking about the affair may not be necessary.
And be careful about being swayed by others’ opinions about what you “should” do to heal. Sure, there are plenty of daytime talk shows where people go on and hash out the most intimate details of their affairs – and in front of an audience, yet. But even doing this in the privacy of your home leaves you with the same result: details you may not really want – or need – to know.
Before you ask a detailed question, you should consider the possible answers (particularly the worst possible scenarios), the possible implications, and then decide if you want to know the answer.
Think of it as a Pandora’s box from mythology: once the box is opened, you can’t shut what comes out back in the box again.
Most people want to have enough information about the affair to feel that they can reconstruct the past to fill in what was happening outside of their awareness. In this way, they are prepared to watch for similar signs in the future – not that they necessarily will ever again have to go through this, but so they can sharpen their own ability to know truth from lies. (Something that even trained law enforcement people struggle with, but constantly work to hone their ability and instinct.)
For some, hearing too many details about the affair can do more harm than good.
It’s a personal decision for you to determine what you need to rebuild your marriage and move on with your life. That may mean discussing the affair in some detail, it may mean getting a basic idea of what happened in the affair, or it may mean not discussing the affair at all. What you do is entirely up to your needs.
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If you do wish to talk about the affair, or want to have a better idea of how you can manage the information before you make the decision, read on for guidelines to support this emotional talk.
Guidelines for Affair Talk
In the event that you, the injured person, chooses to discuss the affair, the following are some guidelines that should help make this process a little smoother. It won’t make the subject matter any easier, but it should help keep the conversation from getting too far out of hand.
Guideline #1: You, the Injured, Controls the Information Flow
When you discuss the affair, you as the victim of the affair should be the one who controls the flow of information. That means you get to initiate the conversation, when and if you are ready and willing. Also, before beginning the conversation, you should decide what level of detail, if any, is important.
It’s healthier to avoid comparative questions, such as “Who was better,” etc. These serve no true purpose, and can actually be damaging if your spouse is in full honesty mode and possibly confuses ‘new’ with ‘better’ – and shares that fact with you.
The idea here is to get the information you require to move on, while avoiding unnecessary pain. You’ve already been through enough. Make sure you stop at any point you feel overwhelmed. You can always pick up the conversation again at a later time.
Guideline #2: The Cheater MUST Be Honest
The cheater’s job is to freely reveal whatever is asked, and to sensitively inquire before offering information that is going to be particularly hurtful. (This is why you don’t want those comparative questions.)
It is absolutely critical that the cheater is completely honest with the information he or she gives their spouse at this stage. If they aren’t, all it will do is contribute to the overall atmosphere of distrust in the marriage.
If there is an answer that you are particularly reluctant to give, because it will be so terribly hurtful, it is better for your relationship to refuse an answer rather than give a less than truthful response. Don’t burden your partner with unnecessary, hurtful information unless your injured spouse asks for it.
Guideline #3: Take Your Time
Take your time to get the information you need. You can spread your conversations about the affair out over a period of time, digesting it in pieces rather than in one grand slam.
Most couples repeat questions, repeat telling parts of the story, and rehash some of their conversations about the affair, particularly during the first few weeks and even the first few months after the affair is revealed.
It’s best if you take it slowly. Don’t rush through this process. If you do, you’ll only get emotionally overloaded, frustrated, and angry.
My best to you as you recover from post-affair trauma and make the decision on whether or not to discuss affair details.
Have you and your spouse discussed details of the affair?
Did you consider the consequences of knowing too much, or only discover after the affair talk that you maybe didn’t want all of those details?
Do you feel discussing the affair is important for healing yourself and your marriage?
Please share your thoughts and personal experiences on this topic with other members of the community.
Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,