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

Discovery: Part 2 - Advice For The Wayward Spouse

Surviving Infidelity Discovery

Discovery 4 Part Series:

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

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 never 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 are others during the process. This process is highly emotional, but 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 for 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 injured 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 that’s information they really want.

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 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 let others know who you are conditionally.

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.

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 discovery process, I’d like to ask you to consider enrolling in our EMS Online course. The last thing you need is a program or curriculum which doesn’t address the deception, infidelity or the pain you’re both in right now. Our 13 week course will not only support both of you in your recovery, but provide 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.

 

 

Sections: 

RL_Category: 

RL_Media Type: 

Add New Comment:

Comments

infidelty of spouse

In my case the problem started with our marriage:spouse 'eying' other women, going skiing with a club when we had a new baby at home,finding condom in his suit coat and lipstick on his collar. When confronted he said it was my lipstick(lied) found condom in his old bedroom when he was visiting mother and didn't want her to find it, He assured me he had never cheated on me(I guess no intercourse but playing a game I think that was leading up to it)Then full blown affair with a bartender at hotel he owned. I wanted DETAILS(which would llhave sickened me I know). He has never given a reason of WHY he did this. Counselor inferred that he might be a sex addict and 'forbidden sex' excited him. At age 40 he stopped the affairs and we are now 86 and 88. Recent illness for me brought all of the bad memories back and I had a mini nervous breakdown. He doesn't really understand what his actions did to me. A one nighter I could forget..hopefully..but this deception went on for about 10 years from that first 'leer at other women' to full blown affair and I suspect there were other incidents too. The woman was married so I guess that is safer for the guy as she doesn't demand him leave me and marry her. Now he is ill..on oxygen 24-7 and so apologetic for all that he did to me. a little late for him to finally say what he should have said 40 years ago. he weeps and says he is so sorry. He is a loner, his first goal was to MAKE MONEY..he had several business failures...all of this was t o 'show his stern dad that he could do it'. but that doesn't excuse what he did to me and our 2 children who saw very little of him. They are wonderful girls in all ways thank God.
His expectation is that we end our lives in a close wonderful way. I'm trying and take very good care of him...end of my bio marge

Affair

My husband never told me all the details but after talking every day for 3 months , I had no more energy to ask. We are moving on but the trust on my part is not there. Not sure we will make it so I encourage all spouses to be as honest as possible. It is the least you can do after such a betrayal.

Disclosure by the unfaithful spouse

It’s been 4 years since discovery and my husband still refuses to talk about it or seek help. Two years after I discovered his affair I discovered he was still “friends” with the woman (work). He has also since then made “new friends” with women (always younger women) at work. I have found that I will never trust him again, whether he is innocent or not. I do not feel safe in our relationship, I continuously wait for the next affair and trust no one he is friends with. We stay together (have been married 30 yr.) but I will never understand why he does this and therefore will never trust or respect him. Disclosure and talking is so important, stop robbing your spouse of peace of mind.

reply to ' disclosure by the unfaithful spouse '

Hi Becki
i am in a similar situation. My husband does not regret his affair or talk or tell me anything because he says I donot accept my mistakes in the marriage and donot do anything about them. He does not realise that an affair has to be ended for us to move on. Wanted to ask you, in your situation do you have any physical relationship with him ? Life is so hard like this. I feel so much hostility from his side and we have our younger son ,12 years old in the house. Its a horrible atmosphere.

Letting go

A year on, he just doesn't get my distress and I can't let it go

Questions for spouse

Please can you tell me how long one asks questions? My d day was in September 2016, my husband answers my questions and my questions are now few and far between. The affair partner is still working in the same place. He tells me if he has to have contact with her through emails etc. He only speaks to her on a business basis, but very seldom. He is honest with me. I know this because I check constantly. I still feel like I need to ask questions about the past after all this time? I seem to ask the same questions because I feel like I don't believe him about the past. When will I feel the need to stop asking questions?

When to stop questioning

I had the same dilemma, dday was Aug 2017, but right now, I am trying not to ask questions about the past anymore:
1. I kept asking the same questions and I keep getting the same answers.
2. I can see his efforts in making things right with me. And I want to focus on that, acknowledging him for his actions of loving me right this time.
3. If forgiving and forgetting is not possible, I chose to forgive again everytime I remember, everytime I hurt, everytime.
4. I would rather focus on making myself better and our relationship than focus on the past that I can never change
5. It is what it is. It happened. And I refuse to be bitter about it, I have no intention of staying married with him and punish us both by rehashing over and over again what happened.
6. This was the hardest for me: accepting that I will never know what truly happened between the two of them, no matter how much I question him, not even if I question the other woman, I will never know the full story. It is even possible even the two of them have different perception about what happened.
7. If I will never know completely what happened, I chose to hold on to what I know: whatever he might have felt towards the other person, it was not enough for him to choose her. I did not make him choose, he chose me voluntarily and I accepted him back.
8. Even if the affair was choice alone and I was not to blame, I accepted the fact that I contributed to the sorry state our relationship was back then. It takes two to tango as they say.
9. Affairs is just a symptom of a core problem. And I chose to identify that core problem and now we are working on that as a couple. We are now more honest about how we feel and rearranged our priorities.
10. Before I ask another question again, I ask myself: will knowing the answer change anything? Will it change my decision of staying with my husband? Will it change the past? Will it make me feel better? Will the answer accomplish anything?
11. Honestly, I have run out of questions to ask, and most often they are the same questions reworded differently. And the questions and answers don't contribute anything but pain of being stuck in the past.
12. I dont want to give the other woman the power to still hurt me and us. The sweetest revenge? Is her finding out that she no longer plays a part in our story and we are stronger than ever despite any evil intentions she may had when she started an affair wd a committed man. I dont want us to be her laughingstock.
13. The affair was just an event; I refuse to define my husband and our relationship by that. He is so much more than his indiscretions and we are worth more than that. And we still have a lifetime together, and we dont want a lifetime of punishment and resentments

I am not saying that I am already 100% okay or that we are already healed. What I am saying is that I am just diverting my attention to things that would help us move forward. I asked the questions, he answered. I said my piece, he said his. He made his choice of being with me, and I made my decision of staying with him. I told him what I need from him to be safe again, and he is trying. And I too reflected and working towards loving him harder and better than before.

Hope this long reply helps you. I am not saying this will work for you but I am just sharing what IS working for me. :)

Feeling safe

Hi,
The part about feeling safe resonates with me. My now ex wanted to stay together after taking some months to decide. I was still in love and agreed as long as he stopped seeing his AP. They worked together so I knew they would see each other at work and that was hard enough. He agreed, but then I saw the AP’s car at his place (yes, I spied) and called it off. Then a few months later we tried again and he again said he would not see her. Again I spied and saw her car at his place and told him that I could not feel safe and reconnect with him knowing she was hanging around. He told me he “had a process” that he needed to adhere to and that eventually he would stop seeing her. I really wanted to stay but could not wrap my head around his process. I needed to feel safe and stood my ground. Well, in the end I lost. I was very sad but I think I made the right decision because it was clear he wanted her in his life. I still wonder if he would have eventually stopped seeing her. I just know that I did not wan to live a life always wondering what they were doing together. He kept insisting that his AP was not the problem. Maybe she wasn’t the core problem but it sure was a problem for me to have her hanging around! Was I wrong to issue an ultimatum like that?

Rick you say: "Rigorous

Rick you say: "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. ...........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........ 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."
If the betrayed discovers that, in addition to the deceptions that were required to continue the affair, that there have been ANY deceptions in making disclosures after DDay (lies, trickle truth etc), then the betrayed has more than enough reasons to know that even an unfaithful who purports to be willing to re-commit to the primary relationship is capable of continuing the deception(s) and will willingly continue the deception(s) and of putting themselves (and the affair partner) ahead of the betrayed and the primary relationship. That reinforcement of doubt and continuation of uncertainty can be catastrophic to any rebuild of trust. In such a situation, at what point, and of what things, can the betrayed begin to believe that the truth is being told? That any expressed commitment of positive emotion of the unfaithful is truly genuine? Emotional self protection for the betrayed will result in necessary scepticism and disregard of the betrayed's words and actions. Without the certainty of belief, that self protection will continue and that, in turn, will maintain the instinctive actions of the betrayed to maintain an emotional (and, in all likelihood, physical) distance the betrayed and the unfaithful. Attempts then to overcome the enormity of that gulf between the parties (unnecessarily created by the additional deceptions) then takes enormous quantities of regular and demonstrative reassurance and commitment to longer term persistence by the unfaithful and requires a monumental "leap of faith" by the betrayed who, in the absence of such a response by the unfaithful, will continue to seek comfort in any reason not to make that leap of faith. The very simple solution to this? Absolutely zero lies about anything from the outset, open and regular voluntary disclosure and answering any questions raised by the betrayed, continual and genuine reassurance of the betrayed by the unfaithful, repeated willingness by the unfaithful to tell the betrayed that they understand the issues facing the betrayed and reinforcement of that understanding with meaningful practical measures especially of things that the betrayed has requested. If the unfaithful cannot manage the foregoing.................little or no reason for the betrayed to open up their heart and emotional insecurity to the unfaithful and for trust to be restored and a continued insecurity, at some level, be it shallow or deep, for the betrayed spouse who wants to seek to continue the primary relationship. If only more of the unfaithful were prepared truly to understand their betrayed partners' despair and attend to their real needs and to do what is necessary rather than simply doing what they are willing to think is required and necessary whilst secretly hoping that the past can be set aside ..............

Answers

A year after my husbands affair supposedly ended ( I don’t consider it ended a year ago as he was still texting and phoning her for at least another 5 months ) and he still hasn’t given me any reason why.
Says he loves me, always has and had no reason to have an affair. He doesn’t love her (why would I think that - really??) but all I get is
“I don’t know why”. it wasn’t an accident, it was planned ( she lives in another country )
And he booked and paid for her to fly out.
Didn’t feel it necessary to talk to me everyday, but told her he missed their daily chats....
I’m still really angry and need answers. How do I get them if he won’t try and figure stuff out?? So frustrating

Surviving infidelity, discovery, advice for wayward spouse pt 2

Rick, I understand where you mention sometimes a need for a "time out" when there is emotional flooding. We also want to be reassured when we are having that emotional flooding and it would help so much, if our wayward spouse would step in and physically comfort us during that time, whether or not we ask for it. Just coming along side of us, with gentleness helps so much and shows us, at least outwardly, it appears they understand this is painful for us and that they are willing to help mend the brokenness. B/c my spouse has not been so forthcoming, actually blames me for his affair, and therefore distances himself quite often instead of comforting me, even after finally responding to my questions, though I've not been aggressive about this at all.

When to stop questioning

I had the same dilemma, dday was Aug 2017, but right now, I am trying not to ask questions about the past anymore:

1. I kept asking the same questions and I keep getting the same answers.
2. I can see his efforts in making things right with me. And I want to focus on that, acknowledging him for his actions of loving me right this time.
3. If forgiving and forgetting is not possible, I chose to forgive again everytime I remember, everytime I hurt, everytime.
4. I would rather focus on making myself better and our relationship than focus on the past that I can never change.
5. It is what it is. It happened. And I refuse to be bitter about it, I have no intention of staying married with him and punish us both by rehashing over and over again what happened.
6. This was the hardest for me: accepting that I will never know what truly happened between the two of them, no matter how much I question him, not even if I question the other woman, I will never know the full story. It is even possible even the two of them have different perception about what happened.
7. If I will never know completely what happened, I chose to hold on to what I know: whatever he might have felt towards the other person, it was not enough for him to choose her. I did not make him choose, he chose me voluntarily and I accepted him back.
8. Even if the affair was choice alone and I was not to blame, I accepted the fact that I contributed to the sorry state our relationship was back then. It takes two to tango as they say.
9. Affairs is just a symptom of a core problem. And I chose to identify that core problem and now we are working on that as a couple. We are now more honest about how we feel and rearranged our priorities.
10. Before I ask another question again, I ask myself: will knowing the answer change anything? Will it change my decision of staying with my husband? Will it change the past? Will it make me feel better? Will the answer accomplish anything?
11. Honestly, I have run out of questions to ask, and most often they are the same questions reworded differently. And the questions and answers don't contribute anything but pain of being stuck in the past.
12. I dont want to give the other woman the power to still hurt me and us. The sweetest revenge? Is her finding out that she no longer plays a part in our story and we are stronger than ever despite any evil intentions she may had when she started an affair wd a committed man. I dont want us to be her laughingstock.
13. The affair was just an event; I refuse to define my husband and our relationship by that. He is so much more than his indiscretions and we are worth more than that. And we still have a lifetime together, and we dont want a lifetime of punishment and resentments

I am not saying that I am already 100% okay or that we are already healed. What I am saying is that I am just diverting my attention to things that would help us move forward. I asked the questions, he answered. I said my piece, he said his. He made his choice of being with me, and I made my decision of staying with him. I told him what I need from him to be safe again, and he is trying. And I too reflected and working towards loving him harder and better than before.

God bless you!

I love this response! I have been on both ends of spectrum and your list is so healthy and helpful to me mostly because you put into words the desire of my heart. God bless you!

Divorce

Can anyone answer this question.

Is divorce easier?

I think divorce is easier

I wish every day that I had divorced, instead of agreeing to work on a marriage with a man I will never be able to trust again.

I married my husband because I thought he was a good guy and I would be safe from a marriage plagued by the doubts of an affair. I turned down, those types of men, even though some were far wealthier than my husband.

I never cared about money, I cared about trustworthiness and reliability.

I thought I had a husband who filled that bill, but now I know I do not.

It is all very depressing. I do not want to hurt him because I do love him, but my doubts about him are causing a living hell for me.

Needing help with Revenge Flooding

Recently I've discovered where my wife's affair partner not only works but also lives. I was floored to find out, with his NEWLYWED WIFE, whom I happen to know. I want so badly to ruin this person's life as they have destroyed every aspect of who I believed I was. My confidence in my self & everything I've become in life, teeters on the brink of destruction due to I thought I had made it thru the storm only to have everything brought back to the forefront. My spouse & I recently moved because I was offered a dream job that could absolutely be a life changer for my family but now thru this discovery and the avoidance of my spouse never answering any of my questions, I have placed my family, mere miles away from her AP. Being a prior Marine & a Gulf War Veteran you can probably imagine what has engulfed my mind, not to mention I want to spare the AP's spouse of EVER having to endure what I have endured mentally & physically over these excruciating 3 years. If it wasn't for my absolutely gifted 9yr old son & beautiful 8yr old daughter I would use all of my talents to just disappear & never be heard from again. On the other hand I seek Vengeance almost hourly in my mind & I feel it will consume me eventually if I can't find away to cope with all of this deception. I want peace to be back in my mind & my life, I want to lie down in green pastures & actually hear the still waters, what will restore my soul?