First Steps to Healing the Affair - Marriage Counseling Tulsa
Knowing the true story behind a trauma is the only way the victim can stop obsessing and begin to heal.
Because affairs are secret, betrayed partners can’t resolve their grief over their loss of innocence until they know what really happened. Unfaithful partners who lie about the details cause more harm than good because the only way to restore a betrayed partner’s sanity is to be honest about what has, up to now, been concealed.
A key question that must be answered for the betrayed partner is, “How do I know you won’t betray me again?” They can answer this by knowing what led to the infidelity and what kept it going.
Although involved partners might resist sharing the story of the affair, it’s important to realize that anything that is good for the relationship will ultimately be good for them personally. Also, involved partners need to tell the story for their own recovery; to understand how and why they crossed the line into the affair. Letting the secrets out of the bag helps them detach from the affair partner and dissolve the romantic fantasy.
Research has shown that couples who thoroughly discussed the affair are more likely to stay married. Open discussion and honest communication leads to restored trust and an improved relationship that could be better than before the affair.
Missing pieces need to be filled in for the betrayed partner’s emotional healing. Telling the truth rebuilds trust. Part of filling in missing pieces is helping the betrayed partner get information that helps he/she let go of obsessive thoughts. Another part is clearing up misconceptions, and exposing the betraying partner’s modus operandi.
Willingness to expose the way of operating in the affair goes a long way toward reestablishing the credibility of involved partners. They need to reveal what the cover-ups were and how they managed to find the time and place for the liaison. Exposing the secret maneuverings limits the possibility that the affair will continue and gives the betrayed spouse the inside scoop.
HOW TO TELL?
How couples talk together about the infidelity is even more important than what they talk about. A constructive process creates hope and healing, whereas a destructive one creates hopelessness and despair. You will need to draw on all of the compassionate communication skills you learned. Your goal is to shift from an adversarial process to an empathic process for discussing the details of the affair.
Instructions for Betrayed Partners:
1. Control destructive outbursts: If you want openness and honesty, you must show that telling the truth will make things better – not worse, as feared. Explosive reactions create more walls in your relationship. Although it is normal for the hurt partner to be angry, you will have use empathy and self-control. If you don’t your partner will have little incentive for doing the hard work of healing the relationship.
2. Silence is golden: If you will close your mouth and open your ears you will learn more. Don’t interrupt or contradict. When your partner’s story triggers a question or a retort, write it down your comments for later. If you step in too quickly and pull your partner off track, you’ll never know what else you would have heard.
3. Curtail your interpretations: Diagnosis your partner is not relationshipenhancing. They might make you feel good but won’t make your partner feel better as a result.
Instructions for Involved Partners:
If you respond in any of the following ways, you are demonstrating limited commitment to rebuilding your marriage.
- Avoidance. Perhaps your usual pattern is to avoid anything that creates conflict. If that is the case, you can use this crisis to become more assertive by telling the whole story and facing up to your partner’s negative reactions.
- Denial. Denial will only perpetuate mistrust.
- Stonewalling. If you will like refusing to talk let your partner know you don’t appreciate the tongue lashings.
- Discounting. Refusing to accept the seriousness of the problem is a way to deny responsibility. Using the words, “yes, but” may indicate the absence of genuine remorse. Admitting the hurts you have inflicted makes you a better person.
Rememberit is natural to feel frustrated, but your partner can not relax until you have unturned every stone. Persistent unwillingness to discuss or deal with problems that stem from the infidelity will inflame wounds, intensify distrust, and increase the probability of divorce. Although addressing the same questions over and over again is irritating, each time gives you an opportunity to shed more light on the topic. It’s not helpful to say, “It’s been 3 months; when are you going to get over it?” It is helpful to show empathy by saying something like, “If you had done this to me, I’d be even more of a basket case than you are.”
What to Tell?
The betrayed spouse’s need to know is the determining factor for how much detail and discussion is necessary. The betrayed partner may want to know everything; or only the basic facts.
Remember information that quells the obsessive need to know is healing, but information that seems to fuel obsessiveness is re-traumatizing and should be avoided.
For most people, pressing to hear about graphic sexual details or to see love letters is a mistake because the vivid images can become intrusive and interfere with intimacy. The desire to know often recedes as the relationship becomes more comforting.
Questions to Answer:
- What did you tell yourself that gave you permission to get involved?
- After the first time you had sex, did you feel guilty?
- How could it go on so long if you knew it was wrong?
- Did you think about me at all?
- What did you share about us?
- Did you talk about love or about a future together?
- What did you see in the affair partner?
- What did you like about yourself in the affair? How were you different?
- Were there previous infidelities or opportunities, and how was the time similar or different?
- Did you have unprotected sex?
Remember marriage counseling can help you avoid divorcing and help you rebuild your marriage.
Couples who come to marriage counseling because of an affair do better than other couples over a 6 month period. Your relationship isn't necessarily over because of infidelity! There is hope!