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

Discovery: Part 2 - Advice For The Wayward Spouse

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 didn't know what to do. My wife kept asking for my affair partner's name. Initially I lied, telling her it was nobody she knew. I could only imagine the uncontrollable chain reaction if she discovered after the affair that it was actually a close friend at our church. I believed Lorena Bobbitt's slicing routine would be mild compared to my wife's reaction.

"I don't believe you," she said accusingly.
"Why would I lie to you?"
"Great question," she answered sarcastically.
"I'm not lying!" I yelled in exasperation.
"If you don't tell me who it is right now, we're done!"

Do I tell? All she wanted was to talk about the affair and all I wanted was to forget it. I was willing to try to salvage the marriage, but we needed to deal with our future and she was stuck in the past. I cared, but I couldn't see how talking about it was helping. All talking seemed to accomplish was to get her upset. I felt all I could do was avoid these conversations and protect her from things that would hurt her. But here we were once again: Do I dare tell her? How could telling affect healing after an affair?

Few things in life are more difficult than the initial stage of dealing with infidelity. The discovery stage is critical when it comes to recovery and surviving infidelity. Until your mate understands what happened after the affair, they can't move on and redevelop trust. Without this understanding, your relationship may survive, but there will never be a meaningful connection and trust.

So, what do you do?

I hope you find these tips helpful as you try to navigate the process.

Make the process safe.

Discovery is a highly emotional process and requires the two of you doing what is necessary to keep the process safe. Your partner will never be able to find the safety they need for this process if you don't first break off the relationship with your affair partner. Let your spouse know that you're willing to explore why you've done this and you also want to understand their perspective.

Ask if they will agree not to harm themselves or others during the process. This process is highly emotional, and if it becomes harmful to self or others, then boundaries need to be established to keep the process safe.

Don't just answer the questions. Instead, go to them with information you know they want. Your willingness to voluntarily share information reveals your commitment to the process. Let them know you're not trying to hold anything back.

Answer their questions.

It's impossible for your mate to redevelop trust with you if you don't first trust them with information. Let them know you will answer all their questions, but ask them to be careful about the questions they ask. Suggest that they read the article Advice for Hurt Spouses. Bottom line: research supports answering your mate's questions. When you trust them with the information, they can begin understanding what happened and move on to grieving the loss.

Our advice for the betrayed spouse is that they avoid asking questions that compare your marriage to what you did with your affair partner, or compare themselves against the affair partner. If they ask these types of questions, tell them you will give them the answer, but you'd like them to think about it for 24 hours to decide if they truly want that information.

Don't be defensive.

Seek first to understand before seeking to be understood. Defensiveness is nothing more than pride. It is manipulating and controlling how others see you. Even if you are thinking about others, your primary concern is how others view you, so it is still 100% totally self-centered. Rather than being concerned about how others see you, try to understand their perspective. If they feel you're interested in their perspective rather than in defending your own, they will be far more likely to return the favor. In the long run, all defensiveness accomplishes is creating more distance between you and your mate. Healing after an affair means walking in their shoes.

Be rigorously honest.

Rigorous honesty is sharing the details you don't want to share. It's bringing to light the pieces you swore you'd take to the grave. You can never be loved unconditionally if you only conditionally let others know who you are.

To begin, be rigorously honest with yourself. If you can't accept where you're at, you'll never get to where you want to go. Review the patterns of your life. You may find you've been singing the same song over and over again. If good intentions haven't created change in the past, they won't work as you go forward. Accept the fact that you may need something new to change direction. Bad marriages don't cause infidelity, bad choices do. What is it about you that caused you to make those choices? How did you justify your actions? Discovery isn't just for your mate, it's also for you.

After this, be rigorously honest with your mate. Any deception will destroy their ability to trust. According to the late Peggy Vaughan, 72% of people recuperate from what their mate did sexually before they are able to recover from the deception. It's the deception which destroys their ability to trust after the affair. Don't extend the journey by continuing to lie.

Surviving Infidelity Discovery

Remember: you're only as sick as your secrets. The parts of the story that remain untold are the places where darkness and deception have a stronghold. If you've spent your life trying not to disappoint others it will be difficult to let others know who you really are, but this is your best shot at being known. Be honest. Regardless of how they respond, you can at least know you're no longer robbing them of the right to make their own decision.

Try to understand what it's like to live on the other side of you.

Remember: discovery isn't just for your mate, it's also for you. Until you can communicate to your mate that you "get" what you've done to him or her, it's impossible for them to feel that they matter to you. Use this time to listen to your mate. If what they say is false then discard it. If it's true then let yourself feel the weight of it. If you don't know then at least agree to ponder it and consider whether it may be true. At the very least try to understand what your actions cost your mate.

Do what you can to help them heal.

If you created this mess, why wouldn't you do what you can to help them heal? Part of their healing after an affair is simply answering their questions. Let them know, daily, that you appreciate that they are still with you and working through this process. A big piece of surviving infidelity is selflessly helping your mate.

The trauma created by your betrayal may create emotional flooding. Try to get your mate to agree to a ‘time out' protocol where either of you can ask for a 30-minute time out to let things cool down. It's impossible to be rational when we flood emotionally. Rather than letting emotions and actions get out of control and make things worse, agree to take a break to protect your relationship.

Take responsibility for your own healing.

Your mate seeing you taking responsibility for your own healing after the affair will facilitate discovery. It is difficult for your mate to ask you questions if they fear pushing you back to an old lifestyle. On the other hand, if they see you getting help apart from them, it will make it safe enough for them to risk asking the hard questions. It will also provide you with support as you walk through the emotional instability created by discovery.

One goal of recovery is to learn to how to have rational conversations rather than just emotional conversations. When the two of you learn how to rationally process what happened you can begin coming up with ways to keep it from reoccurring.

If you're having trouble navigating the recovery process, I'd like to ask you to consider enrolling in our course for unfaithful spouses, Hope for Healing. This 13-week course will not only provide you with critical support in your recovery, but also with infidelity-specific insight into what the future can look like for you. I hope you'll give the course a shot. It just may change your life.

In the following video, Samuel and MJ Denis, an expert in the field of trauma and infidelity discuss how disclosure impacts us both physically and emotionally.

Some of the main topics they will cover include:

  • How we experience grief
  • How we can get stuck in grief
  • How we can get unstuck
  • How the emotional pain can manifest as physical symptoms
  • How to get back on your feet and regain stability

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Click here to see Rick and Wayne's videos as they share more about this virtual experience.

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Comments

Thanks!

Thank you Wayne for another insightful series.

My favorite part is the importance of intentional/rational conversation vs emotional conversation.
For too long of a time my UH would only talk when I forced it and by then I was ALWAYS flooding and emotional.
This led him to have to guard what he said because he wanted to keep was trying to keep from causing me more pain. When we took the time to talk about things at a time before I was emotional, taking your advice to check in daily, then the talks were more meaningful and he felt more comfortable sharing his truths. It is SO hard after discovery to find a time when you aren't emotional, but if I took some time for prayer, purposeful breathing and meditation for myself before talking then I was able to go a longer time period before I would begin to feel overloaded with emotion. Then, the more open he was able to be because he didn't fear basically having to witness my flooding, the more I felt safety in his replies.
I would encourage every betrayed spouse to do their own work as well. Harboring Hope was my first step to healing.
Then I found a site that offered me the Self-Care that I had neglected doing for far too long because I was trying to help my husband and my marriage. thebetrayedwife.com offered so much care for me. The only person that I could control in all of this was myself.
Thanks to Affair Recovery for ALL that they do to help us all grow through the trauma of infidelity into something so much more meaningful and beautiful. We are 2 1/2 years out from our first Dday and 2 years from the last Dday. My UH biggest regret now was his trickle disclosure. We can't undo that but if I could say what helped me heal the most it would be that after 2 1/2 years he did a Full Disclosure with me. Even though I knew most of the facts through my own discovery this allowed me to put things in order in my head and allowed me to finally wrap my head around all the little details and times. An EMS virtual weekend was the beginning of his seeing the light to the depth of my pain. Take the course either in virtual weekend format or EMSO format. It was a game changer for our healing journey.
Blessing and gratitude to you all

Thank you

Thank you Cynde for your above information; I’m 1 year from the event but only 6 months from my second DDay. My husband thinks he has forgotten all the bits that I need and I still feel second place to his relationship with his AP as if they still have secrets; It nice to read a successful story even though it took so long. Time moves slowly when your traumatised.
It gives me faith in my own future; I am halfway through the Harbouring hope course and my husband is doing the Hope for healing course and also seeing a psychologist; we are both planning to do the EMSO course to.
Bless you for taking the time to put this up.
Caroline.

Wayne

You continue to be the best speaker and conveyor of emotions and rationality on this hideous subject. I am trying to listen to less and move on, but will never stop listening to you as long as you’re available. I’m not really ready to stop listening and thinking anyway so you’re the best!

Give the Betrayed information to make an informed decision

"Don't just answer the questions. Instead, go to them with information you know they want."

This doesn't connect with the rigorously honest portion. The Wayward does not know the information I need as the Betrayed so that I may make an informed decision regarding what I want to do with my life.

This sentence provides the Wayward with an "out" to continue to not provide the entire truth, to minimize and/or lie by omission.

As a Betrayed, I've been put through enough trauma. At least provide me the entire truth to allow me to process reality, and not what the Wayward THINKS my reality should be.

Disclosure

The betrayed spouse should receive a FULL THERAPEUTIC DISCLOSURE, as close to discovery as possible, usually within no more than a few short weeks after discovery, which is something different than "discovery." The words, "discovery," and "disclosure," are being used interchangeably in this article, and they are very different things. "Discovery" is just that, when the betrayed discovered sexual acting out on the part of the unfaithful. The "disclosure," which should be a Full Therapuetic Disclosure is for the unfaithful to give a FULL and THOROUGH account of their entire sexual acting out history which is read to the spouse in a safe setting, ultimately with the unfaithful's AND betrayed's therapists or coaches present for support and safety, followed up with an individual session and safety plan for the betrayed spouse's safety and processing. The Full Disclosure should also have questions (every single one) the betrayed wants answered submitted ahead of time to the unfaithful be answered during the disclosure. They are also encouraged to keep a notebook handy to jot down further questions that will arise during this process that will need to be answered during this time. Highly recommended to do within 24 hours of this disclosure, as a follow-up to verify that everything the unfaithful has provided on the disclosure itself, and all questions asked and answered, and to also make sure that absolutely not a single thing has been withheld or omitted from the disclosure, and to encourage honesty, is a fidelity/relationship polygraph. The polygraph is an EXTREMELY valuable tool in reestablishing the trust that was broken in the relationship, and the betrayed has every right and reason to ask for it. Should the unfaithful be unwilling to provide one, for any reason, beware, a big red flag on where they are in their recovery and willingness to be fully honest, transparent, and to tell the whole truth! To all the betrayed spouses out there: ASK for what YOU NEED for safety!! It's YOUR WORLD that's been turned upside down and inside out! You deserve some peace and healing in your life as you navigate the challenges in recovery!! Blessings to all wherever you are in your healing journey!

AGREE AND AMEN

"As a Betrayed, I've been put through enough trauma. At least provide me the entire truth to allow me to process reality, and not what the Wayward THINKS my reality should be."

I agree with this comment that was made. My UH after 35 years of marriage, decided to take the truth and run. Left the state, left his children, and already on to another AP. We are still legally married.

He refused to talk about any of it, refused counseling, and my therapist says he abandoned me and my children and grandchildren.

Can you share with me how to get unstuck when the UH won't participate at all? I still want full disclosure, but I haven't even been dignified with partial disclosure. Like the comment above, my UH said I have a different reality than his and he will never see the reality the way I see it. So, that gave him license to abandon I guess.

I NEED to know how to move on with my life knowing that I will never receive disclosure, amends, or apologies. I understand now that he is not willing to give me anything, but I find it excruciating even after 2 1/2 years of separation, to not know the truth or even anything at all (Except the numerous text evidence found on his phone when he overdosed (I had no idea he was using).

Wayne, how do I move on from here? I find that this haunts me over and over even though I know he is not healthy, not willing, and has moved onto another woman himself. I feel I NEED disclosure, but know I will never get it. So, how do I go on with my life, always wondering and wanting to know? He has been incredibly deceptive before, during, and after Dday, and even now. We no longer communicate for the past year at his request to stop contacting him. Much of your advice centers around couples that are working on recovery. Which programs should I engage in when one partner has abandoned everything and the other is left standing with their hands in the air and their mouth gaping open, as well as their heart torn in shreds? I need to heal but obviously can't count on him participating in any of it.

We all talk about second

We all talk about second chances but what about the underlying feelings that the betrayer has for the affair partner and when we catch our spouses cheating ,then we force them to suppress those feelings. Will it be fair to the betrayed to not knowing for the rest of their lives whether or not the betrayer stayed on freely or was forced.
And what happens if you catch your spouse after years texting with the affair partner after promises were made that there will be no contact and if contact was ever made they will notify you. Do you still give another chance