Talking About the Affair

Hey everybody. We are taking this week off for a family vacation.  We will be white water rafting, kayaking, camping and whatever other outdoor pursuits strike our fancy.   While we are away, we will post a combination of guest posts and some older posts that we hope you will find helpful.

Today we have a post from Dr. Robert Huizenga.  Actually, we are on his mailing list and this was from his most recent newsletter and touches on the importance of talking about the affair.

Talking to Your Spouse About the Affair – Especially After the Affair

By Dr. Robert Huizenga

talking about the affair

Talking about the affair or infidelity can be a beginning point for a deeper connection to the reformed cheating spouse.

Here’s a very common scenario: one wants to talk about the affair, the other doesn’t.

One wants to prod and probe, the other wants to back away from the topic.

This may be true while the affair is in progress, but is often the case after the affair has ended, or is thought to have ended.

It is common in working with couples, post affair, for the wounded spouse to desire more information or talk about the affair.

The spouse who has stopped the affair often says or implies, “let’s not live in the past, let’s move ahead and not bring up the affair.” (Sometimes the wayward spouse even has a difficult time saying the words “affair” or “infidelity.”)

It is crucial that this issue be addressed. If not addressed properly, if the dynamics are not understood and acknowledged, growth and progress for the relationship is at a huge risk.

The ability to break through this dynamic for a couple in which the affair is still active is also important but more difficult since secrets muddy the process.

I will list reasons why a spouse wants to talk about the affair or what happened in the affair relationship.

If this dynamic is familiar to you, if you’ve been-there-done-that or are in the process, please reflect on your situation.

So, why would one (usually the wounded spouse) have a need to talk about the affair or the past?

1. The wounded spouse may have serious questions as to whether the affair, in reality, is ended. If you’ve read Break Free From the Affair, you know that particular types of affair frequently fade away and decrease in intensity and frequency of contact rather than a stopping cold turkey.

The cheating spouse may make intermittent contact (phone calls, emails text messages, etc) and withhold information for his/her spouse even though the cheating spouse has (in his/her own mind) “committed to the marriage.”

The wounded spouse, feeling vulnerable, picks up on the non verbal communication which indicates contact, although perhaps denied by the cheating spouse.

These mixed and hidden messages make for craziness. The wounded spouse longs for clarification and the truth, to maintain his/her sanity.

2. The wounded spouse may have a need to go over the history of the affair, often in detail. This has implications for the wounded spouse as s/he relearns to trust his/her intuition and inklings.

Questions such as, “Where were you on such and such a date?” confirm his/her memory of an uneasy feeling at that particular time. Back then that uneasy feeling was most likely dismissed as irrelevant or a little “weird.”

But, now, knowing that that feeling or intuition was spot on target, gives faith, once again in the wounded spouses capacity to read reality accurately.

There is not greater power in this universe than the capacity to trust one’s inner guidance system.

3. The wounded spouse may have a need to talk about the spouse’s sexual relationship with the other person.

This is especially important if the wounded spouse has doubts about his/her own sexual adequacy or ability to respond.

(Note: This, I believe, is true of most of us. Our culture doesn’t do a very good job of teaching us what responsible, healthy, responsive sex looks or feels like.)

Knowledge about their sexual preferences and behaviors is like a comparison game and perhaps an opportunity to learn.

What does s/he like? What can I do differently? And, if I do that now, will s/he be comparing me to the OP? Or, what if start comparing myself to the OP?

4. The wounded spouse still carries the wounds. The hurt is but a trigger away. The wounded spouse is always close to the hurt, the tear, the outrage.

The hurt does not magically evaporate. The underlying self doubts are not swept away by a return home or to the marriage bed.

The wounded spouse needs the hurt acknowledged. The hurt, for most, needs to be expressed.

And in the expression and in the acknowledgment comes gradual healing and hope.

5. The wounded spouse has recurring images, often of his/her spouse with the other person.

These images may not be grounded in the reality of the affair relationship.

What does the wounded spouse do with these images? Does s/he internalize and not say a word about these images?

In that case, the wounded spouse’s images are easily triggered by words or actions of the spouse and will set off a series of negative feelings and thoughts.

Or, perhaps the wounded spouse wants to share the content of those images with the spouse. The sharing may lead to a better understanding of the underlying fears and needs, create emotional relief and generate a deeper level of intimacy in the marriage.

6. The anger and rage may persist. It will not reluctantly fade.

The anger and rage is easily triggered and the wounded spouse wants to attack.

This attack may serve the purpose of regaining an semblance of personal power and influence on behalf of the wounded spouse. After all, it is personally healthy to move from depression (helplessness) to rage (I have some power) to frustration (focus on needs) to confusion (different needs pulling different directions.)

There is a progression of healing and the anger/rage stage is an early step in moving in the right direction.

It is helpful for the cheating spouse to acknowledge this progression, accept the anger and see it as a necessary step in the healing process.

7. The wounded spouse may want to talk about what they did, where they went, how they acted together and more behavioral details of their interaction.

This may aid in the self discovery process or serve as a baseline for comparison.

What did s/he do that was so appealing to my cheating spouse? (One often discovers that was truly happened in the affair relationship was almost identical to what happened in the initial stages of the marriage.)

This revelation, in light of the early stage of the marriage, may provide insight about the repeated patterns in relationships and as well, offer emotional release.

The comparison of what the OP did in comparison to what I did/do might also serve as a stimulus for personal growth and change, especially in terms of greater acceptance of one’s self.

8. The wounded spouse may long for a deeper connection to the reformed cheating spouse. The wounded spouse will not tolerate living in a marriage of superficiality and continual guessing what the other person is thinking.

Talking about the affair or infidelity is a beginning point of that connection.

It demands courage to disclose secrets. It demands courage to honestly look at self and say, “This is what I did and this is how I understand now, why I did what I did.”

If the wounded spouse can encourage such self disclosure and the cheating spouse possesses this courage, a much deeper connection emerges overnight.

9. The wounded spouse is determined to grow and to learn. The wounded spouse wants to use this marital crisis as an opportunity to redesign his/her life and the relationship. NEVER does s/he want to slide back.

Learning and growing begins with understanding the dynamics of the marriage, of the affair and of each individually.

Learning focuses on disclosing thoughts and feelings which are welcomed with a deep sense of curiosity and acceptance.

Learning means putting past powerful personal needs behind and begin living with purpose, integrity and a relationship based on richness and lightness – emerging from acceptance of the truth for each person.

To learn more about infidelity go to: Break Free From the Affair

 

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10 Responses to Talking About the Affair

  1. Recovering July 30, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    We hardly ever talk about the cheating anymore. Not that he was ever really talking about it before. He would curtly answer a question, most of the time, and others would just get mad and I would be left in tears. To me now, I don’t give a rats butt what they did together, or why they did what they did. No matter WHAT he says, what they did was WRONG, and I am not the one who needs to learn from it! HE is!! It wasn’t an “affair”, as that implies something special and romantic. What he did was sick and disgusting. Compare me to her? Yah right!! She is a liar and a cheater and a whore who was married (still is to her oblivious husband) with little ones of her own. I don’t care how good looking or thin or ‘smart’ or whatever any description could possibly be of it. It is a liar and a cheat and a whore. That is enough for me. Should have been enough for him, but his fragile ego… and being a sick person, didnt WANT to see that because then he would’ve had to see it in himself. I am hoping he is different now. That he is a better person, because THAT is what I deserve. Not someone who can do such disgusting things to the person that they married and vowed to “foresake all others” for. No matter what they did, or why they thought it was great, it doesn’t matter. The bottom line for me is that he did something so sick and disgusting, and on top of that, did so WITH someone so sick and disgusting. More than anything it just is insulting to me, as I am better than that. He says he realizes this now… that he was soooo stupid, and he now refers to it as “the selfish bitch” because it wouldn’t stay away from the workplace that he is leaving BECAUSE it came back. Sometimes I have the desire to rub his nose in it, though I squelch that desire, I just really want to reitterate that what he did was evil and sick, and that he had better change ’cause I am not doing that routine anymore. My biggest need to know was why… but there is no real reason he will ever be able to come up with other than that he was a totally selfish bastard… and sick and stupid. Yep. No arguments here! It wasn’t worth it, and the whore… well… that one isn’t even as good as the dog crap I scrape off my shoe…. He did this disgusting thing… He and I have to live with that. Maybe one day it won’t make me so angry every time I think about it… Maybe one day I won’t worry so much about whether he actually loves me or not… Who knows… but this is my life now and I don’t want to know another thing about the OW or why… doesn’t matter… only that HE is different and will never be that pig again matters now…. she will always be the whore… had cheated before and will most likely cheat again… never faced her consequences… he has and has taken it like he should… for the most part. THAT is why I am still with him. THAT is why I am giving our marriage a shot. I can learn nothing from lies and sickness…. The only things I have learned from the cheating is that I didn’t know HIM as well as I thought, I should’ve trusted myself more, and that my relationship with my husband has to come before ANYTHING else in my life. Hopefully knowing these things now will keep us cheat-proof in the future… hopefully…

  2. Gizfield July 30, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    I agree, Recovering. I have no desire to know what any other woman “likes” in bed. Ughhhh. I went through that with my first husband, not cheating but he had been married before and was always telling me crap about his ex-wife. She liked this, she did that, etc., etc. one day I just had ENOUGH and told him to just never mention her to me or around me again. Can’t believe I was young and foolish enough to tolerate that, ever.

  3. Hopeful July 30, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    I have a somewhat different perspective than what has been expressed, and this might be partly due to the fact that G and R seemed to have experienced PAs and might be at different places in recovery.

    I have spent numerous hours and days and weeks and months loathing the OW, feeling jealous, feeling inept, wondering, comparing, fearing, hating, feeling murderous. In short, I have spent a lot of time obsessing about her and the nature of the EA. What did it mean? What really happen? What was said and when? How did he or she feel? Was there love? How long did the kiss last? Was it like in the movies? Was it awkward?How exciting were the conversations? Was she smarter than me? More compelling? Wittier? More clever and charming? And on and on. Bonkers.

    Anyway, generally, I really did initially need to talk a lot about the details to wrap my mind around everything and gain a full and coherent picture. He withheld detail, true to form, and things trickled out painfully through my persistence and finding of evidence.

    This was painful but important for the reasons listed: 1) it helped my confirm my longstanding intuitions that had been denied me by his stonewalling. it helped me reintegrate and trust my sense of reality. This was incredibly important. Basically I was right all along. 2) I needed to hear him and sense him fully accounting for, reflecting on, and learning from this experience in deep and profound ways which took a long of struggle, breaking down, counseling, and hard work on his part and mind. It was hell.

    But, the talking through was critical throughout.

    Now, I do not want details from him. We have made a plan for dealing with triggers that doesn’t involve me rehashing and hearing details. They just reinforce the negative neural firings and pathways. When triggered, he says, “I did X, I had an affair with a woman. I did this because… I learned X… I am here and present. You are safe. I will not answer your questions about X anymore because you know the answer.” Something like this. So, we try to focus on empathy on the trigger and getting past it together without revisiting the details. He never says, “get over it.” It is very painful for him to see me in pain as a result of his stupidity when I am triggered and we’ve had to work on his guilt and my letting go. The later is my job, and forgiving himself and learning from this and growing is his job. Well, growing is both our jobs now.

    BAsically, this is all to say that this article is useful to me because it suggests talking is very important, especially in the aftermath of the EA. Moving on too soon is disastrous in my opinion. WE would not have grown without talking and talking and struggling. But, the usefulness of talking about the affair is spent, except to get through triggers and reflect on how to protect our relationship NOW. I feel I no longer should be discussing the details at all. I can say, I am hurting today and feel vulnerable, though and ask for support. I cannot say, so did you like it better when she did X or why did you like her again or what really happened on that date? Or whatever. I know enough to know what happened. The rest is doing harm to me.

    So, for me, getting through this has meant staring straight at the evil it was and moving through it head on. The pain doesn’t not completely disappear but I can certainly gain control and perspective and increased trust and happiness.

  4. Surviving August 1, 2012 at 12:48 am #

    It’s been two years since DDay, I feel like i’ve wasted two years ….giving up too much of my life thinking about the OW and why did my H do this…
    Like Recovering said there really no answer to why..

    I hate that I can’t just stop the thoughts from popping up in my mind.
    I hate that tonight instead of enjoying the family sitting next to my husband watching the olympics I’m dealing with the thoughts in my head.
    Talking about it at this point with my H won’t help.

    • Anita August 1, 2012 at 9:29 am #

      Surviving,
      Those thoughts keep popping up because you haven’t made peace with them yet, a part of you still hurts from
      his betrayel, and when those thoughts pop up you need
      to deal with each one of them, and not shove them down,
      if you shove them down, they will only return again another
      day. When those thoughts come, let them out. If you can
      no longer talk to your husband about his affair, then at least
      journel them on paper, writing about them will help you to
      release all the posion your feeling.
      Those feelings need to come out, it does you no good to keep them bottled up inside. They are many methods you
      can use to get those feelings out so you can heal, and someday forgive.
      If you decide to journel, you can start with the line of “I feel
      anger and hurt because……and let whatever is in your mind
      come out, you may use many pages of paper the first time
      you do this, however overtime you will be able to look back
      and see how far you have come.
      Your journal is only for you and you can say anything you want in it, so let it out.

  5. Surviving August 1, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

    Thank you Anita I’ll try it

  6. ChangedForever August 2, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    Good advice from Anita….journaling does work. When i look back on the poems and writings i penned as ‘gifts’ to my H during the 1st month of discovery…those writings are really my best work. Obviously written from the bottom of my (broken) heart. I even printed some of them with a graphic or 2, some on beautiful paper…i might even get them published one day … Writings from the Wounded…’ so to speak. But my personal, private journaling helps me remember…how i felt, how i survived the discoveries, the triggers and where i got my strength. Things i thought i’d not yet done…felt…addressed…grieved…i can remember i’d done so….by reading back on my thoughts. As with a death suffered, as a survivor, there is no support as such for the ‘wounded’…other than what we have with this site, with books and counseling….but time has not yet healed (for me.) but i’ll keep trying. Wihout my journaling, i’m like the proverbial ‘hamster on its wheel.’ Still covering the same ground unless i find some time to read back on my thoughts…and realize … ‘…i’ve grieved that issue already.’
    Hope this helps.

  7. Cookiemomster August 3, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    I would so love to get more information to fill out the gaps that keep haunting me. My husband won’t even tolerate my bringing up the subject of his EA… and “affair” isn’t a word he will even apply to the fact that he was essentially dating a co-worker for several months. Yesterday we went golfing together. This is something I’m really trying to cultivate since it’s an activity he enjoys very much. However, he is really good and I’m still fairly new to the game and struggling. I was in tears yesterday when I couldn’t even perform to my fledgling potential and all because I couldn’t get out of my mind whether or not he had taken her golfing or to the range. If I could only have asked him and received an honest answer another day of me eating my own guts out could have been curtailed. Just a small example of why we need our questions answered.

  8. Disappointed September 23, 2012 at 1:35 am #

    My H is finally talking to me about the EA. He is tired of my questions and asked why I keep bringing her up. I told him it is a part of his life that I did not share. That I want to understand what was missing. I finally let him see my pain – me sobbing curled up in a fetal position three days ago. I think he finally understands how much he hurt me. Last night he told me that what he shared with her was not real, but he still says he was in love with her. He says if he had known how miserable we would be a year later he would never have done it, but in next breath says he still misses her and thinks of her sometimes. Today he told me with a bit of anger what it was that made it happen. I put on a lot of weight as he became more distant and critical. He once said I needed to lose weight to look like a woman again. So in giving his reasons, number one was she looked like a woman, smiled at him, and wanted to talk with him without judgment or him trying to fix things. That he had given up on us getting better and that he was tired of trying. Pathetically cliche. He even accepted 50% of blame for me gaining weight as a reaction to his constant rejection and criticism. I thought I would feel better when the day came that he admitted it was not real and that if he could go back he would not do it. But he has yet to recommit to me, to us… 10 months later…

  9. Ann December 29, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    Without The Talking, The Reality Can’t Be Processed And Dropped.You Can’t Drop What You Don’t Know You Are Dropping.

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