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
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