Are you afraid to reveal the affair to your spouse or partner? A lot of people struggle to be completely forthright and honest about everything surrounding the transgressions. It can be incredibly scary because you don’t know how they will react.
Will they leave? Will they hurt you somehow? Will you regret it? Are you better off never revealing what happened…or are you better off sharing all the details?
In our marriage counseling and coaching practices we’ve helped thousands of individuals from all over the world come clean to their partner about the affair…in the best way possible. It’s not easy…but our methods work.
The #1 Killer of Relationships After Infidelity
We’ll probably do an entire blog post on this right here. Most unfaithful spouses think that the affair itself is what will kill their relationship. That seems obvious, right?
But it’s not the nail in the coffin. Nope. The nail in the coffin after infidelity is discovered is the lying about the infidelity. The withholding of information after the discovery. That is what kills the relationship.
So we’ll focus on how to handle the information and details about the affair first. Then I give you some tips on staying safe…aka not getting physically mauled in the process.
Why Tell Your Spouse Everything?
Well hold on there partner….should you tell them EVERYTHING? There ARE some things better left unsaid.
DON’T TALK ABOUT:
- Sexual positions…unless they really want to know
- Love letters….unless your partner finds them or really wants to know
- Pet names….again unless your partner feels they need to know
- Things you said about your spouse to them….unless they just need to know
These are a few of the things you want to stay away from. The reason is because the long lasting damage is pretty big with these aspects of the affair.
What Should You Tell Your Spouse?
Tell your partner what they feel they need to know. Don’t hold back if they want to know something.
Here are a few things to make sure and tell them:
- Who the person was
- What happened
- How it happened
- When it first happened
- How you met
- How many affairs occurred
- How it started
- How it ended…or how it will end. Hint: let your spouse be a part of the conversations
- How you plan to cut off the affair partner
- Do you have any sexually transmitted diseases?
- Do you have any children they don’t know about?
Don’t make excuses. Take ownership of what is your fault.
How Should You Tell Them?
The very best scenarios are the ones where the unfaithful partner comes out with the information before their partner discovers it.
Often the betrayed partner discovers the love letters and text messages which are very traumatizing.
It’s much better if you can come out with the information BEFORE they discover it. So come clean. If they find out before you present it to them…then just make sure you give them everything before they discover more.
Does Sharing More Do More Damage?
Yes and no. More information doesn’t kill the relationship. But if you trickle the information out of over time thinking it will make things easier you are dead wrong.
Here’s a common scenario…
Your spouse confronts you with their suspicion of betrayal. If you take our advice you say, “yes, I am so sorry, but you’re right.” They begin to cry.
They tense up and pull away from you for a moment (or for some period of time). At some point out comes the barrage of questions. Who is it? How did you meet? When did you do it? Why them? Why did you do it to us?
You see how broken they are and how much pain they’re in. You feel a myriad of feelings. Guilt, shame, disgust, fear, self-loathing…you name it.
At this point you have two choices: you can answer them in short replies only giving them the information they ask for….or you anticipate the questions they may want to know the answers to and just come clean without them needing to ask you 100 questions.
What To Do When You Just Don’t Know
Your partner at some point will likely ask, “why did you do this?”
It sometimes helps to journal about how it all transpired so you will have thought about the big questions and then you’ll be able to share the details without the dreaded “I don’t know” response.
First of all, they won’t believe you when you say, “I don’t know”. But for many of you…you really don’t know. The reason is because you haven’t taken the time necessary to reflect on what led to the affair(s).
If you struggle with the idea of journaling about this then schedule an appointment with us and we can help you. Ideally your partner will come with you. But if you’re not ready then come alone at first.
Why Do People Cheat?
A lot of the unfaithful individuals we work with in our marriage counseling offices struggled with being deeply unhappy in the marriage or in life before they were unfaithful.
We explore this in our sessions because both people in the relationship deserve to be happy. BUT in the beginning of the healing process this is usually not the time to discuss how bad the relationship was before the affair.
We normally need to stop the emotional bleeding for the spouse who was betrayed first. This can be hard sometimes but we promise we will solve the problems that were there before the affair.
Sometimes the person who had the affair was depressed and the affair helped relieve symptoms of depression temporarily. We have to address the depression of course.
How Can We Fix This?
We start to fix the relationship by looking at how we talk about the affair. These aren’t “communication techniques”…instead we look at our patterns of dealing with various conflicts in our lives and marriage.
The same patterns of criticizing, demanding, withdrawing, and stonewalling that you got into before the affair happened are the same patterns you fall into after the affair is discovered…but so much worse because of the layer of trauma involved.
You’re going to use that when you try to heal from the affair and it's just not going to work, so you’ve got to change these patterns. The good news is, it only takes one person to make a huge change.
Once we get the negative cycles under control then you will have a chance to start the healing process and actually get somewhere.
Maybe There’s Still A Chance They Won’t Believe There Was An Affair?
Sometimes it’s tempting to try and keep up the facade. You may not feel ready to confront the reality of the situation. You may feel tempted to deny the truth.
You may even want to convince your partner that what they just saw or discovered was a figment of their imagination. Nothing was happening. You’re just friends. It may feel safer to deny the affair even with glaringly obvious evidence.
You may use grand gestures to try to reassure them of your innocence and love for them. You may use tears, sex, and gifts as a means to keep the affair hidden. It may work for a little bit.
But the end result is the same. It won’t end well. It’s even more damaging because the wounded party won’t be reassured by those actions later after the affair is later confessed.
If you go to great measures to deceive, you’re just making it harder on yourself later to reassure your mate of your love. They won’t believe you when you’re really telling the truth. It will go much better if you’re honest right from the beginning.
How To Stay Safe And Not Get Physically Mauled
It’s hard to say how a spouse will handle learning about the affair. Some people loose their bearings with the here and now when they hear such painful news. So it’s a good idea to take some precautions.
- Take responsibility for what’s yours. It’s very unattractive to blame everyone else for your problems. It’s also likely to make your spouse more angry if you shift blame and point fingers.
- Talk with your partner in a public place. It’s usually better to do it in person so you can express feelings and you can see them.
- Do disclose everything you know and can remember about the affair. Don’t hold information back. Answer their questions fully. Even offer additional information because that will build trust.
- Journal and really reflect on the affair and what led to it so you can be prepared to answer their questions fully.
Don’t Do This:
- Don’t bring the affair partner with you to reveal the news to your partner. This could be dangerous for everyone involved.
- Don't withhold important details (except sexual positions and exact wording from love letters or correspondence) because this often is perceived as lying.
- Don't withhold something because you feel like you’ve already screwed it up and can’t go back. Even if you did mess up already you can still fix things and start fresh.
- You may have to clean up a mess BUT it’s going to be okay.