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

Affair Partners: Eight Reasons Not to Confront Them

Last week, while I was at the credit union, I ran into one of our Group Leaders; we were discussing one of my recent articles. I'm sure the tellers had their antennas tuned all the way up since we were discussing infidelity and different ways to respond.

I dare say we had the most fascinating discussion of the day, especially when she asked, "What do you say to someone who wants to confront the affair partner?"

Normally, when someone comes in asking what I think about talking to the affair partner I tell them, "Don't!" Rarely have I seen any benefit; in fact, I've witnessed a great deal of harm.

What's the driving force when we feel a compulsion to speak to the affair partner? Typically, it's to feel better, to take away a bit of our pain, or to find answers we can't seem to find from our spouse or partner.

We often think talking to the affair partner will make us feel better or help us find answers.

Here are 8 reasons to NOT confront the affair partner:

  1. Affair partners can lie. It is interesting how often a hurting mate believes the affair partner will tell them the truth and sorrowfully see the error of their ways once they realize the pain they have caused. It is not uncommon for the affair partner to lie and manipulate the situation.
  2. How much information do you really want? If you think you might be able to get more information from the affair partner – you're right – but it might not be the information you want to hear. If you're married, then you've probably already experienced that you and your mate have different subjective realities. You might have vastly different recollections of any event. For that reason alone, you can certainly gain a different perspective by talking to the affair partner. At the same time, if all you are gaining is details about a specific event, you're not gaining anything substantial. It's already difficult enough to process the information from the perspective of your mate, much less the information from the perspective of the affair partner too.
  3. Talking to the affair partner is comparing apples and oranges. One of the most difficult pieces of an affair to discern is motive. Frequently, there is a compulsion to discover why this has happened. One thing is for certain – the answer does not lie with the affair partner. All too often, I've worked with people who have talked with the affair partner and made the mistake of assuming their motives must have been the same as those of their mate, or they assume the affair partner somehow understands their mate's motive. In reality, the affair partner has created an illusion of what your mate's motives are. So please, don't think the causes and motives of the affair partner match those of your mate.
  4. Vengeance doesn't work. When you're really hurting, it's tempting to think about making the other party experience the same pain that you're experiencing. The only problem is that this course of action lowers you to their level and results in self-inflicted injuries. Don't compromise your personal integrity by acting in ways you normally would find inappropriate. Injuring another will never bring the peace you seek and it will only lengthen the amount of time it's going to take to heal.
  5. Don't gratify their hostility. You don't want to act in ways that allow the other person to believe your mate was justified in coming to them. If you act like a crazy person in confronting them, you will only give them justification for their actions.
  6. Trying to get them to "get it" is futile. One of the most common motivations for confronting the other person is to try to get them to see that you're a real person and that their actions are destroying real lives. Personally, I don't think you're going to have any more luck getting them to understand than you've had at getting your mate to realize it. The defense mechanisms put into place to justify the affair in the first place are most likely still in place after the affair. You alone are not going to be the person capable of breaking through their denial.
  7. It tends to perpetuate the problem. If your mate is trying to break off the relationship with their affair partner, then talking with them doesn't help the process. In fact, it is almost guaranteed to create more contact. They'll either contact your mate telling them to have you back off, or they'll use your contact as a way to try and guilt your mate into trying to gain comfort. The goal is to break off the relationship not to perpetuate the fight.
  8. You are not lacking anything. At times, curiosity drives the desire for contact. You may be asking, "What does the other person have that I don't?" or, "Why would my mate choose them over me?" I seriously doubt you'll ever find the answer to those questions by contacting the other person. Motivations for affairs are complex; meeting the "other person" will normally not answer your question(s). In reality, it's far more likely to confuse the issues. In my work, I've found that people always affair down; they never have an affair with someone better than the person with whom they're married. I'd suggest not lowering yourself to their level by interacting with them. Have more respect for yourself.

After all is said and done, some of you will still feel an overwhelming need to confront the affair partner. For some, it will be driven by a need to get the crazy compulsion out of their head. For others, it may be a need to face their fears. There can be any number of reasons, but I do suggest you try to get your mind off the affair partner and onto your own recovery – that is much more productive. The last thing you want to do is let another person have the power to control your peace of mind. I hope you'll consider our EMS Online course for couples. It'll help the two of you communicate in effective ways and find answers as to why the affair happened – in a much healthier way than contacting the affair partner.



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Reason Not to confront the other partner

I wholly agree with you on this issue, I wish someone had told me not to do it when I was betrayed because the other partner who was a married woman actually upped her game to my horror.  At one stage I almost divulged the knowledge of this affair to her husband who was oblivious to this whole thing, but the spirit of God urged me to let it go, otherwise I might have destroyed her already unstable shakey marriage.

So glad I divorced him

I found out almost 4 years ago that my ex had been unfaithful from the very beginning of our 16 year marriage. He is likely a sex addict. After I found about all of them, and the ones he was both starting to and in the middle of grooming for an afffair, I still wanted to save our marriage. I suffered so much for so long trying to save our marriage. It was not an easy decision, but I am so glad I jettisoned that nightmare. His words said he wanted to recommit, but his actual work always left me stressed because it didn't feel like real work. Excuses for everything. I am so happy now. If they don't put in what feels like satisfying work to you and any real heavy lifting I give you permission to walk away. I also give you permission to put your mental and physical health above your cheating partner. I actually regret not walking away the minute I had proof of the one damaged female he had been meeting for 15 years in public parks, park and ride lots, and cheap hotels. I wish I had slammed the door then on the whole sordid lifestyle he had chosen. I got a lot of bad advice. I wish our therapists had put my mental and physical well-being above saving our marriage and not try to make me feel guilty for anything of what I was feeling. I realize now that I am free that I had been in an emotionally abusive marriage for years with him. Your therapist should talk with you alone and ask you if you feel safe. If you do not, then the cheating partner should move out and let you heal. You work with the therapist and focus on yourself and your health first. I was put in the position of being told the marriage and the cheaters needs came before me. I realize now I should have gone to a therapist whose job was tending to my well-being first and foremost. Good luck to you! Stand up for your mental and physical health and that of your children. The cheater needs to take responsibility for their own health regardless of what you do. You owe them no more suffereing - and actually if the really do love you and want you back then they will do whatever needs to be done to take care of you. If they make demands on you, then they are not ready to go back into a marriage with you. My counselor told me that serial cheaters rarely recover unless they have years of therapy and then it's probably a half-alive marriage. I want more and finally realize I deserve more than that. 5 years later I am so happy I ended that horrible existence and moved on. It was also a great example of strength and self-compassion to my daughter. I deserve better.

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