Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Telling the Story of the Affair

Couples often ask us how much information needs to be revealed; and how can the hurt person find out the information without feeling like a detective with a prisoner. The person who had the affair usually does not want to talk about it, often out of embarrassment and guilt. They also are often sad or hurt by problems in the marriage and want to find a way for a quick healing process. On-going questioning might hurt any possibility that the couple may have for renewing the friendship that initially got them together and greased the way for them to fall in love with each other.

It is important to remember that one of the hardest parts of the affair is the secrecy. The secret provides distance and a wall between the couple that may seem hard to penetrate … and it is only with openness and sharing that true intimacy can occur. While it is often hard for the one who has had an affair to be open about it … opening up can also feel good since it is very hard to carry such a secret around and try to live two lives. For the one who has been hurt, there is no way to truly have trust again if secrets remain. How can someone be trusted if he or she continues to hold secrets?

Initially, it is important to just stick with basic facts: who was the affairee, when did it begin and end, where did they meet, is the affair over and what, if any, contact are they currently having. As time goes on and the couple develops deeper intimacy, it will be important to reveal more information about the affair, the motivation for the affair, the emotional connection and how the spouse opened him- or herself up to this event.

These difficult questions are truly best answered in a calm and neutral setting and with the help of a competent therapist. Developing trust after such a significant breach takes time, motivation, commitment and a lot of hard work. It is not a smooth path with clear guidelines and markers, rather it is more like a roller coaster with highs and lows and lots of scares. We strongly recommend that you get some professional help with this journey. If your spouse will not join you … explore it alone.

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