Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

Discovery: Part 4 - Goals for the Betrayed

Discovery: A Four Part Series

Part 1: How to Handle Discovery?
Part 2: Advice for the Wayward Spouse
Part 3: Guidelines for Discovery
Part 4: Goals for the Betrayed

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"I've been having an affair with Sandra," he told her.

Shock and disbelief flashed across her face.

"I knew it," she said, "For how long?"

"Six months," he told her. From there the questions began.

How do you navigate the process of discovery after this kind of nuclear bomb is dropped on you?

Infidelity creates a pain like no other and a disorientation that leaves the injured spouse unsure of their past, their identity and their future.

If you are the one who has been betrayed, why wouldn't you want answers? Without the answers to your questions as to what's happened, how do you get your feet back on the ground?

To make matters worse, you're probably experiencing an intensity of emotions unlike anything you've ever imagined, which makes objectivity and healing after an affair seem impossible. Please don't think I'm minimizing the situation with these suggestions, but experience has shown that there are, in fact, practical ways to move through this crisis and into a better life. I hope you will find this information helpful for your difficult journey ahead.

Four Goals for Discovery

Goals for the Betrayed

1. Making the Process Safe

Trying to understand what has happened after discovery of the affair is a highly emotional process. If the unfaithful spouse doesn't make it safe by disengaging from their affair partner (AP), then it will be impossible for the betrayed to feel safe with them. While that complicates matters, it doesn't mean you can't get help for your situation even if the unfaithful refuses to end the affair. Also, if you — the betrayed — can't control your potentially damaging reactions, you may not be safe enough for the unfaithful to share the information you need in order to process it all. I'm not talking about you being emotional; I'm talking about you harming your mate, the affair partner, yourself or even your children.

To begin the process of discovery, you both need to establish the necessary boundaries to make it possible to discuss what has happened in a healthy, constructive way. So, please attempt to get the right information instead of aiming to inflict pain on each other.

2. Understanding What Happened

Until you are able to get your mind around what happened, there is a part of you that may continue searching for information to understand your new reality. It's completely normal. Until the betrayed spouse has those answers, it's difficult, at best, to even know how to move forward. In fact, these answers play a vital role in healing after discovery. Without answers, your mind can run wild imagining situations that may have actually never happened. But, one very telling question always arises: How much do you really want to know? To begin, you need to know the basic details of what happened. Below are a few helpful guidelines to provide insight for you both:

    Questions for a Physical or Emotional Affair:

    • Is this your first affair?
    • How many others have you had?
    • When did it begin?
    • Was it a physical or emotional affair?
    • How long were you attracted to this person before either one of you expressed feelings for the other person?
    • Was the affair with someone you knew?
    • Who was responsible for initiating the affair?
    • What did the two of you have in common?
    • How did the two of you connect?
    • Was an effort made to stop?
    • If so, how? Why do you think it didn't work?
    • Is the other person married or in a committed relationship?
    • Does the affair partner's mate know, and how did they respond?
    • When and where did you get together and how frequently?
    • If it's a sexual addiction, when did you act out and how frequently?
    • Is this person someone you've known for a while? How long had you been feeling attracted to the other person prior to the affair?
    • When did the relationship first become flirtatious?
    • When did it become sexual (if it was sexual)?
    • How long did the affair last?
    • If you were sexual how many times did the two of you have sex?
    • From your perspective, was the relationship more emotional or sexual?
    • How did the two of you communicate, and what was the frequency?
    • Was there any unprotected sex?
    • Have you been tested for STDs?
    • How much money do you think you spent on the affair?
    • Did you buy your AP any gifts?
    • Did your AP ever buy you any gifts?
    • If they bought you gifts, what have you done with them?
    • Has the affair ended?
    • How did it end?
    • When was the last time the two of you had contact?
    • How is this time different than other times when you've tried to end the affair?
    • Have you contacted your AP since you ended it to see how they are doing?
    • Did you decide to end the affair, or was it a joint decision between you and your AP?
    • What makes you think this time will be different?
    • What measures have you taken to make sure there will be no more contact?
    • Who else knows about your affair?
    • What does your AP want?
    • How do you plan on responding if your AP initiates contact?
    • If others know, how did they find out, and what did they do? Have you been giving the AP any financial support?
    • If so, what do you intend to do as you go forward?

    Questions for a Sexual Addiction:

    If it is a sexual addiction, you would want to know when the acting out behavior began after marriage.

    • Was this a problem for you prior to our marriage?
    • Did you ever consider telling me?
    • If so, what stopped you from letting me know?
    • If you were acting out with other people, did I know any of them or was it anonymous sex?
    • How did you hook up with those people?
    • What types of acting out behaviors have you participated in?
    • What is the frequency?
    • How did you keep it a secret?
    • Was there any unprotected sex?
    • Have you ever tried to stop?
    • What did you do?
    • How did those efforts turn out?
    • Do you feel you have a problem?
    • What do you plan on doing now?
    • Who else knows about your acting out behavior?
    • How did they find out? What did they know?
    • How did they respond?
    • Have you been tested for STDs?
    • How much money did you spend?
    • When was the last time you acted out?
    • When and where did you typically act out?
    • Are you willing to get help?
    • Are there other potential complications, such as pregnancies?

    Questions for One-Night Stands:

    • If it was a one-night stand, when did it occur?
    • Who was it with?
    • Where did you meet them?
    • Where did you act out?
    • Did you know the person before that night?
    • If so, had there been any flirting before that evening?
    • What happened when you were done?
    • Were plans made to meet again?
    • Are they married?
    • Does their partner know?
    • Are there any possible complications at work as a result of what you did?
    • Did you have unprotected sex?
    • Have you been tested for STDs?
    • Does anyone else know?
    • How did they find out?
    • Have you had any further contact with that person?
    • When was the last time the two of you communicated?
    • If there has been communication, what were the means of communication?
    • What's the frequency of communication?

3. Keeping Questioning Healthy and Productive

I know it may sound crazy, but one thing you'll want to refrain from is asking comparison questions, such as specific questions about how they acted out sexually with the affair partner. These questions only add to the already established difficulty with reminders, triggers and intrusive thoughts. Also, it's best to avoid asking about physical attributes, which could cause you to continually compare yourself to the affair partner. Remember, it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. These questions don't provide relevant information and will add to the intrusive thoughts well after the affair has ended. The urge to ask these types of questions will be strong. Please hear me when I say that this information has the potential to cause unnecessary difficulty in the healing process and ultimately in surviving this process altogether.

Without some understanding as to why it happened, it's difficult to determine whether there's hope to prevent this from happening again. However, there's a strong likelihood that your mate doesn't fully understand why it happened yet, so try not to get stuck on this question. In fact, their "why" may not even be based on reality or truth at the timing of disclosure. It will take some time and the right help before they can answer this with any large degree of truth and accuracy. As difficult as it might be to believe, most likely your mate wasn't thinking about anything other than the fact that they wouldn't get caught. If they do share their alleged interpretation and understanding of why, probably all they can share are their justifications for what they did.

4. Avoiding Making Disclosure More Difficult

Making hasty decisions. You can never tell the end of the story by the beginning, which is certainly true of couples dealing with betrayal. To get the needed information, both you and your partner need to feel safe. This presents a challenge if ensuing chaos created by the discovery leaves the two of you unable to interact. It's tempting to try and stop the pain by trying to decide what to do about the marriage, but now isn't the time to make decisions. Your best decision won't be made in an emotional state. Give yourself permission not to decide. Decide rather to commit to getting proper help, then you can make an informed and educated decision. Leaving your marriage may be your best course of action, but if your mate is humble and committed to change, you wouldn't be a fool to stay and be a part of the healing process. Hopefully, after the dust settles a bit, your goal may really be to find a better life in light of your new reality. You may find your best opportunity for that life is in your current relationship.

Transmitting your pain. You'll find it tempting to try and make your partner hurt as badly as they hurt you during the process of discovery. Unfortunately, it won't help you feel better in the long run. In fact, you'll only end up hurting yourself. As you learn what they've done, you may be tempted to retaliate by doing the same thing so they can discover how it feels, but you'll only continue to hurt yourself and others. Pain that's not transformed will be transmitted, and the last thing you want is to transmit this pain to other innocent parties. It's not fair, and you did nothing to deserve what they've done but, hopefully, you can be the one who begins to respond in a way to heal the pain by grieving what has happened. Try not to attack them for answering the questions you ask. This is critical in the discovery process and can pave the way to true and genuine healing.

Letting your emotions run unchecked. Anger is understandable, and you didn't deserve this. But failure to keep your anger under control leaves both you and your mate at risk. Take care of yourself by setting safe boundaries with your mate. Don't allow yourself to behave in ways that can get you in trouble with the law. Domestic violence is against the law, and even if your mate has had an affair, you need to keep your anger in check.

Refusing to get help. You didn't cause this, and it probably seems grossly unfair for you to have to do anything to fix it, much less get help. Moving beyond this injury may require outside help. So don't let pride keep you from getting the help you need to find healing and a better life, and don't let your desire to punish your mate keep you from the healing you desperately need. Surviving this nightmare called infidelity requires humility, rational behavior and a decision to get needed help.

Trying to get them to "get it." It's tempting, but at this stage, it will only drive a wedge. Lecturing puts you in a parent to child interaction, which will only inhibit further communication and frustrate both of you in the process.

Telling them what they are feeling or their motivation for what they've done. Telling them what they are feeling or why they did it won't allow for safe communication. If you want the information, listen to what they have to say, and try to make it safe enough for them to talk to you. Remember, they probably don't even know why they've done what they've done, and if they don't know, I can assure you that you won't know. You telling them won't help the process. It will take time. It will take strategy. Please try to be patient. Finding the right, expert help can minimize any further trauma and provide much-needed direction for you and your family.

Navigating disclosure is one of the most excruciating steps of healing from infidelity. It's vital that both spouses receive expert care to navigate what could make or break their recovery. If you're ready to take the next step in your repair work, I highly suggest our Virtual EMS Weekend Intensive. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we're continuing to do them via Zoom and they remain accessible to anyone in the world who has an internet connection. We continue to have heartfelt and raving reviews from our program attendees. Consider what this person said:

"I (Betrayed Husband) consumed a fair amount of information about EMSW prior to attending, so I had an idea what it was all about. However, I was apprehensive about the remote experience out of concern that my wife and me would not get all we could out of the weekend. I was completely wrong. The overall experience was awesome and no one made us feel uncomfortable, alone or embarrassed. Just the opposite! Amazing sessions that have helped us see things and ourselves differently. I'm optimistic that we have a solid foundation now to build our new life upon. Not to say the journey is over in any way, but we now have the tools and map we need to get to the other side." [Virtual EMS Weekend Participant]

Cover more ground faster with the life-changing experience of EMS Weekend for couples.

This isn't another light-and-fluffy program that only scratches the surface of your pain. The EMS Virtual Weekend Experience is a safe space for you and your partner to start putting the pieces of your life back together, transform your trauma and begin healing from infidelity. Skeptical about the effectiveness of this virtual experience? Don't be! Backed by a slew of previous participant testimonials, EMS Virtual Weekend delivers the same positive experience — if not better — to couples as our in-person format does.

During EMS Weekend, we won't shame the unfaithful spouse nor blame the betrayed spouse. What we will do is pair you with a small community of other couples and an expert therapist — all of whom have experienced infidelity firsthand — as well as provide comprehensive resources to help you kick-start your healing journey.

For more information, watch videos from Rick and Wayne as they discuss this exciting virtual experience. Plus, we're now offering a $1,000 discount for virtual months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Limited availability.

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This whole thing sucks! I’m thanking God for AR and all the work you do; without this I’d be lost & I’d have no hope. Thank you for reminding me it’s ok to take time to work on the marriage once my spouse is safe; to avoid asking those comparison questions & that a new relationship can be built. My spouse has an addiction & he has a lot of work to do on his own; but without AR I don’t think I’d have even considered the possibility of restoration. Thank you so much for this video! I really needed to hear this today. Thank you so much!

No Answers Matter

Wayne, you're both right and wrong;

I want all the answers and no answers.
I want the truth and the sky to be blue.
I want to know the smile on her face and the picket fence, white.
I want to understand where he touched her and what she did, and the peaceful swing hanging from the broad branch of the oak.
I want her to suffer the pain of never understanding love, and to raise my daughters well.
I want to be magnanimous and curse all life to hell and back.
I want to know. I want to know everything and I want to know nothing.
I am she who will never be free from the history my - ( the person who claims to be my) - husband dealt us, and is now free from all.
I am nothing.
I am nothing
I am not ever going to be anything, ever again.

Everything I was is a lie. Everything.
I have no past (that is true)
I have no future I want.
I seek only an end to this hell.

Please God, let this end.

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