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

Discovery: Why Do I Want to Know?

Handling the Details: A Two-Part Series

Part 1: Discovery: Processing the Details of the Affair
Part 2: Discovery: Why Do I Want to Know?

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Last week, we kicked off our discussion on discovery and the processing of the numerous and overwhelming details. Today, I'd like to continue the conversation by presenting an important fact: During disclosure of the infidelity, there comes a point where more details actually hurt more than they heal. There's such a thing as knowing too much.

Yes, knowing what happened during the affair is critical for the betrayed mate to heal, but there comes a time when it's enough information to move forward. So why do betrayed partners continue to ask questions after they've gotten the details they need, figured out what happened, and wrapped their mind around the betrayal? Often, it's because of fear.

Why the Betrayed Mate Keeps Asking Questions

Betrayed spouses want more answers because they want to know the last date and time they we were made a fool. They wonder: Is it even worse than I thought? Do I have a false sense of safety? As long as their mate continues to answer their questions, it somehow makes them feel a little more safe and secure. There comes a point, however, when getting more information and detail becomes quite destructive. It's very difficult in the midst of this emotional crisis to recognize this moment.

Often, betrayed mates continue asking questions after they've already gotten enough information. They believe that more answers will help them make sense of everything; that if they just get a little more detail, they'll be able to wrap their minds around the betrayal. But, in reality, they'll never be able to fully understand what's happened. At some point, the betrayed partner will have to accept that they might only understand about 80 percent of it. There will never be a good enough answer to justify what the wayward mate has done, and that's what you'll ultimately have to accept.

In her book* "Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken: Finding Forgiveness and Restoration," Cindy Beall gives an interesting example that she and her husband went through:

One day, she had another question. She asked it and her husband looked at her, held her hand and said: "I'll answer any question you ask for the rest of my life, but will my answer make you feel any better?"

That one thought really caught her. She realized that he was right: The answer wouldn't make her feel any better; the only thing it would do is tell her the day and time that she was last made a fool. It wasn't going to help her move forward; it would keep her stuck. And once you begin to get the view of what happened, 70 percent to 80 percent of the time, additional answers will make you feel worse.

Why Too Many Details Can Hinder Recovery

Betrayed spouses, there comes a point in recovery, honestly, when you need to stop asking questions and accept that you have enough answers to begin moving forward. You have to accept that you'll never be able to fully understand why your mate did what they did. You have to accept that they're trying, with all their heart, to give the answers that'll help you heal. And, eventually, you have to accept that enough is enough.

If your mate isn't answering your questions and you're still trying to understand what happened, that's one thing. But if your mate is answering your questions, then I believe after about six weeks, if curiosity begins to knock on the door and you want more details, you need to stop and ask yourself two things:

  1. Do I need to know this? Often, the answer to this is, "No." Likely, it's your pride convincing you that you need more details. Or perhaps you think it will hammer home how much pain your spouse brought to your heart and to your family. If the answer will only make you feel worse and keep you stuck, then your question is probably better left unasked.
  2. Will it help me heal? Far too often, the answer to this question is also, "No." Once you've gotten enough information to see the picture of the affair, new details can just add to your hurt. It's difficult, but you need to resist the urge to look for more and more details when they're prone to cause you pain.

Remember, at a certain point, more information becomes destructive to your healing and happiness. It can keep you stuck rotating in the first stage of recovery: Realizing and Understanding. So, when you're craving more information, I urge you to pause and use the questions above as a litmus test. If both answers are, "Yes,"" then you can confidently ask new questions knowing they'll help you move forward. If both answers are, "No," then I urge you to table your new question. This way, you can begin moving into the next stage of recovery: Releasing your pain.

Why Comparison Questions Are Especially Damaging

As you begin to move forward and release your pain, there's one behavior that can sabotage your efforts: Asking comparison questions. You don't want to ask a question that allows you to paint a picture in your head. Comparison questions aren't helpful in any way, shape, form, or fashion. Not only that, they're probably the most difficult questions to discuss out loud.

Am I adequate? Am I inadequate? These comparison questions are practically guaranteed to cause pain. Additionally, questions that deal with what was said to the affair partner, sexual positions, physical attributes, or anything else that helps you paint a picture of the events are going to be harmful to infidelity recovery. Answers to these questions can trigger intrusive thoughts.

Comparison questions tend to draw us in because we want to know how we measure up. But if you resist asking comparison questions, it can significantly help your recovery. Before seeking new information or drawing comparisons, ask yourself: "Do I need to know this?" and, "Will it help me heal?" Again, if these answers are, "No," then you may not want to ask the new question.

How to Accept That Less Really Is More

When it comes to disclosure, I urge you to consider the possibility that less really is more. You may already understand the betrayal as well as you're able to, and continuing to ask questions over months and months — or longer — can keep you stuck in a period of pain. And at a certain point, new details won't facilitate your healing help you move forward — whether or not you decide to stay in the relationship. Eventually, I hope you'll reach a place where you feel you have enough answers to truly begin to heal.

With that being said, it's challenging to get to this place. That's why I encourage betrayed mates to enroll in our Harboring Hope online course. This restorative course will give you the tools you need to break the cycle of questioning, rebuild your confidence and begin moving forward. It's a course specifically designed for betrayed mates by betrayed mates, and it's helped thousands of participants over the years. For more information and to register, please visit our Harboring Hope course page. I hope you'll use this life-changing course as a resource during your healing journey.

*As an Amazon Associate, Affair Recovery earns from qualifying purchases.

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Looking for answers to lessen the pain

I think the reason that I continue to ask questions now at 9 weeks is in the (vain) hope that the next answer will be better, smaller, somehow lessen the pain that I feel. It reminds me of a small child who asks after an injury, "Is there blood?" as though if told "No, it isn't bleeding" they can look, relax a bit, and know that they will be okay/handle the pain. I suspect that at this time I need to let go of the asking. My spouse is genuinely trying to make things right, not hiding things deliberately any longer - but I am still told "I don't remember" and "I don't know" in reply to most of my questions. Ten years of EA deception in a 20 year marriage, and an additional simultaneous text and phone relationship with another AP for the past 3.5 years. How do we know when we really have enough information to trust again - rationally? I hope this helps someone else to recognize and let go of questioning if they're hoping to find "soothing" in the answers, it doesn't seem very likely or productive, still we keep hoping.

Full therapeutic disclosure

Full therapeutic disclosure (one that the cheater has taken time yo ensure it IS complete) followed by a polygraph that corroborates the FTD was in fact true and complete, might put all the questions to bed, and allow you to move forward…if that’s what you want after everything is divulged.

Questions about the affair

The cheaters of the world will appreciate this article. The last thing they want to do is answer questions. I believe the betrayed spouse gets to decide what information they need and should continue asking questions as long as it takes to get answers. I need to know there are no more secrets to even begin to heal. If my husband provided complete and accurate answers instead of withholding what he decides I don't need to know (which of course means withholding the worst of it), then I would be able to stop asking. It's a continuation of the lies, betrayal, and manipulation of the affair.

How much information is too much?

I think it is the betrayed partner’s prerogative to decide how much information they need from the cheating spouse. All other “rights” to fairness, equity, & equilibrium in the relationship have already been usurped. It is simply more arrogance & entitlement on the part of a deceptive spouse to be in charge of what information is withheld or dispensed to the betrayed partner. It is the betrayed partner’s decision as to what they feel they want or need in order to move their life forward.

"Last Made a Fool Of" ..no no no

We must change the language here. The faithful partner was not made a fool of -- noooo It's the last time the unfaithful was a liar and a cheat. Period. Please stop any negative verbiage pertaining to the faithful partner.

Slanted view, secrecy and lies

I agree with all the above! However it only serves to be reasonable NOT to keep asking if your wayward partner has fully disclosed. I went through almost 18 months and was lied to about the answers I asked or go the, now constant, ‘I can’t remember’.

I found out the truth of some key responses where he lied to me. Not little lies but big ones.

Therefore, I continue to ask while I know he hasn’t told the truth because I will not be the ‘little woman’ who needs to be quiet and accept his version of events - always totally sanitised by the way.

Lies are what got us to where we are. They keep us stalled because he doesn’t want to face what he did and fully admit his double life. That’s tough. Life is tough now for me and yet I did nothing to deserve this situation.

So when I have there truth and nothing but the truth, I will stop asking, until then I will bide my time and make my decision based on HIS actions and not his sanitised closure fairy tale.

Knowing too much

Nobody knows what is too much to learn about their cheating spouse until all of the betrayed’s questions are answered honestly. I find the betrayer’s question a form of gaslighting and another attempt at manipulating the betrayed and sweeping their cheating under the carpet AGAIN. Supposedly ALL of the betrayed’s questions are to be answered honestly by the betrayer.

Asking questions

Without asking more questions, his version of the “full truth” would have amounted to about 30% of what actually happened.

Details vs trickle truth

So what if your spouse has been minimizing everything and trickling truth over a period of years and months and these are the details that they choose to withhold from you instead of extending rigorous honesty? If they’ve lied about every other stupid detail, and you know it, it can be the only way that they can prove that they are willing to give FULL disclosure. Not holding back the last little bit because they are ashamed, but being completely transparent because that is the way to achieve true intimacy. I’m a huge fan of your program and your advice, but there are situations wherein those little details are the last little traces of trickle truth, and they “just don’t matter.” When you’ve been trickle truthed to the brink, those little traces mean everything.


JoIf the wayward spouse has done a thorough disclosure, they would have also included a thorough timeline of all acting out behaviors, therefore preventing the betrayed spouse from having to ask the particular question regarding dates and times. To not include this on the wayward's part is to hold back information, therefore not disclosing all information. The wayward spouse needs to be very thorough, and including the timeline with dates is a basic outline and should be expected. The betrayed should be clear regarding the level of detail they would like beyond that.


Does anyone else feel like the wayward spouse gets to keep their secret love all to themselves and we get the questions and intrusive thoughts. I feel that he values his affairs and the love he had for these two other women more than he values me or our love. The reason I keep asking questions is in the hope that he will actually open up and share what it was all about. I usually get defensive answers and stonewalling.


The betrayed would not have to ask the last date and time they were, "made a fool of," had a FULL Disclosure been done by the unfaithful. A FULL Disclosure would include ANY and ALL dates AND times of sexual acting out and related behavior. This timeline, along with much other information is basic to any formal disclosure and should never have to be asked for by the betrayed. The betrayed will choose what additional questions to ask following the reading of a carefully and thorough well-written Full Disclosure is given/read to them.

I get the basic warning about

I get the basic warning about not asking too many details (if there is even such a thing) but the betrayed should stop asking questions at 6 weeks? The deception lasted over a decade and it should be all covered in 6 weeks? Not even close. It took over a year to even begin to fathom all the ways in which I was deceived. These arbitrary time limits are so hurtful to those of us trying to figure this out and then feeling like a failure when we can't accomplish the task in the "appropriate" timeframe.

There is no time limit for questions. Period. If I have another question after 5 or 10 years I will ask it, and if he really cares about me he will answer it. He kept many secrets with the AP for years and years - there will be no more secrets with her. Anything he is not willing to disclose to me is just a continued secret with her. That is his choice but not one I am willing to tolerate.

In a more practical sense, I ask some of the same questions now that I asked in the beginning, but from a very different place. I have new perspective (about him and about us) so when I ask a question again I am looking at the situation with more understanding than I did in the beginning and I interpret the answer differently. I think that is healthy, and not problematic to our relationship or to my healing.

The only thing I can agree on

The only thing I can agree on is not asking comparison questions. If you have a question and want the answer, you should ask. They are the ones that did the damage, they should have to answer any and all questions you have. You have to decide from that information how bad it was and if you want to continue with this person. Knowing too much isnt a bad thing.

Very well said.

Very well said.

I echo this comment. I

I echo this comment. I discovered in my wife's texts to a friend (the texts that resulted in my discovery of her affair) my wife's comparisons between her AP and me. These were devastating, and I demanded an accounting from her of what she said to her friend. I could not go forward without an explanation from her of why she compared me and a truthful accounting of her feelings about me.

I couldn't agree more

For me, many times I asked the same question for a couple of reasons. I might word it differently to see if the response I received from my husband had any missing details or any discrepancies from one disclosure to another. And sometimes there were additional details he had left out that help me understand. Afterall, in order to feel safe and that I'm not being deceived, I needed to judge the validity of his words. My husband has always been willing to give me the answers I need since D day, as he feels it's the least he can do to repair our relationship. Sometimes those conversations are uncomfortable, but as he said, we both learn from them. I do, however, make a point of asking myself if what I want to know will help me in the long run.

Concerned with your articles

I've been reading your articles for a very long time now and I must say it helped me much; until I realize that most of these articles now only show favor to the "betrayer" rather than the "betrayed." You even make it a fact that "life and marriage get better and stronger after an affair!" How insane can you be or get! Here in this article you now state that getting all information on an affair is not a good step. All your articles seem to point that the "betrayed" is to be blamed for an affair. You are very biased towards the "betrayer." You are right about one thing though; an affair is the most devastating, gut-wretching, hurtful thing one can experience against them.

Yep! I agree!

I have drifted away from AR because of this bias. I kept asking questions because SO kept lying, even after the formal disclosure (which occurred after discovery…there were never any disclosures—only me uncovering things that were worse than the previous discovery). It wasn’t about me wanting to know when I was last made a fool of at all. I was stunned, time and time again, to find out how BADLY he made a fool of me (like bringing a rando home and then letting me sleep in the same bed that he couldn’t even bothered enough to wash the sheets first. Or, having me take him to/from the airport to “visit his mother,” when he was really was really hooking up his girlfriends. Or, sending photos of interesting things (landscapes, etc) that I would send him, to his “friends” on Adult Friend Finders). It’s not the last time he made a fool out of me that I couldn’t/can’t wrap my head around…it was the depth and breadth of what he did to me. How little respect he had for me. How stupid he thought I was because he thought I would never be the wiser. 5 years after DDay, and I now realize that when you hurt someone so deeply, so badly, things will never be better than before. I mean, he has seemingly stopped acting out, but I think there was just too much damage. We’re merely “friends,” and sometimes I feel lije that’s too much. But he believes all the hype about it getting better than before because everyone at AR says so.


The article states that us betrayed should stop asking questions after 6 weeks. Where did this figure come from?! In the majority of cases, the betrayer is not able to automatically become truthful and there is usually more disclosure and trickle truths for months! 6 weeks is incredibly unrealistic!!! This needs to be substantiated with more research and statistics please. Don’t stifle the betrayed in a 6 week box when they can’t even get their bearings let alone formulate the questions to ask and not even know if they have all the truth. I’m wondering if a betrayer is giving this advice. Or a betrayed??

Stand in agreement with all!

6 weeks to get all your questions answered? Not in my case, not even close. Some betrayers are just not going to give it up, and hold on to lies and omit truths as long as possible out of fear, shame, guilt, being worried about the consequences, etc. If the betrayed cannot get a FULL disclosure, and all questions answered as they feel necessary, and as long as they feel needed, than the betrayer is not choosing to make them feel safe, nor are they ready to move forward in recovery personally, or as a couple. Questions can pop up any time, as new information is discovered or disclosed, or a new perspective on a question already answered one's up. The betrayer must show a willingness to fully disclose first of all, then be willing to help their partner as long as necessary when things come up. For the betrayed, if your spouse is unwilling to do this, they are not protecting your heart, and you must set firm boundaries and protect yourself. Detatch from your betrayer, join a support group, get a good betrayal trauma therapist who does not victim blame, do good self-care, decide what you absolutely will not choose to live with in your life, and go about making your own life as joyful and beautiful as possible. If your betrayer should eventually decide to come along side you in the recovery journey, great, but either way, you are taking care of yourself, and you are taking back the power of choice stolen from you; now YOU get to decide!

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