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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Not confront them

Its hard to do when the AP is the down stairs neighbor and you have to see them multiple times a day and money doesn't allow you to move for 2 more months.

Mine lives on our Street. Not

Mine lives on our Street. Not as bad as you, but I do fell your pain. Hold on for two months. I have to wait for a half year. The are so arrogant when they had the affair. So so arrogant. I hope you get by.

confronting affair partner

What if you should meet up with her by chance? I have fantasized about that, but what is the best thing to say to her, if anything? (The affair is over.)

Contacting the AP

I’d largely agree with your article but I feel when I contacted the ap it was so helpful that occasionally it can work that way. My husband told me half the truth, she told me the rest in the hope I’d kick him out. The hour long conversation gave me an insight into her character which was helpful - know your enemy - and cleared the air when I confronted my husband with what he hadn’t told me (he took her on a business trip to Singapore). It taught him there wasn’t a limit to what I could cope with - but yes she did turn to him for comfort and played the guilt card. I said to her, he was playing one of us off against the other so we should talk. It didn’t seem to bother her that he was lying to her - she just said what fun he must be having sleeping with us both. Yes I know she would lie to me if it helped her cause - I can’t trust her - and phoning her is the only way I know to find out if the affair is over, but I can’t as if it is over it would start it up again, and if it isn’t I know the truth will find me in God’s perfect time. It always does. But I’m glad I know what attracted him to her - the light heartedness and fun and ultimately the emptiness

Thank you rick!

Just what I needed to hear. I ghosted her and have always felt like I missed the opportunity to let her have it! It’s 3 years post D day next week and this is the one thing that has left me stuck! I feel so much better hearing you say that it makes them feel insignificant as that is exactly what I wanted to convey to her. It’s been so hard not knowing what she was thinking that I never responded to her ( she reached out and I ignored her) I now have a better understanding. At first I thought she must have thought I was weak by not responding, but now I realize I must have made her feel invisible and totally on the outside while my husband and I were in the inside... the switching of those roles must’ve been unbearable to her… After all she felt like she was in the inside until she was most definitely out and I didn’t let her in!!! Thank you!! 🙏🏻

Thank you Carolann!

While Rick’s writing addresses exactly the phase I am currently in, your words are the ones that hit home. Every now and then she reaches out to my husband, every time it really upsets me. I have asked my husband to repeat to her to stop any contact but he refused, insisting that it is better to ignore her completely instead. He is so right and thank you for helping me to accept that. I’m often thinking of her and what I would say to her or even her husband, and I hope that reading your reply and Rick’s post will help me to gently stop these thoughts as well. It would be a relief and would give me tonnes of extra energy for our relationship.

I understand and agree with

I understand and agree with all of the 8 listed, however, my UW AP lives a couple miles down the road and we will inevitably run into each other. I plan to confront him when this happens, for me. I need nothing from him. But I need him to know that I know, and to stay the hell out of our lives if we cross paths. That's for myself. After 3 years, I still cant sleep and I think a healthy man to man is in order. I expect no apologies, no truth, no remorse. I need him to know for me.

I wish that for your sake he

I wish that for your sake he won't want to say anything in reply to what you say, but knowing APs, he will and it will be unpredictable and probably extremely painful what he says in reply, even if it isn't founded on truth. Each person has to make their own decisions, but I hope you don't cause yourself any more pain. I would like to think I'd be strong enough to walk past my UH AP one day without giving her any expression of emotion or time of day.

Contacting affair partner

I'm hoping to be able to see the AP one day with no reaction. Not there yet. I did confront her. I'm not sorry I did, but it probably wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done. She used our meeting to gain sympathy from her husband. Probably convinced her to keep working on mine. Oh well. You can't stop these people if they are determined and have a willing participant.

Thank you

Rick, thank you for this article. It gave me even more strength and let me feel better about myself. I did exactly that....ignored the AP. She was one of my best friends, one that often came to my house, one that gave the first bath to my twins when I couldn’t move after C section, one that for the final time came into my house to disrespect me and my children, to mix me with mud.
I showed her pure ignorance. She wanted to meet, to talk..... I thought to myself - how on earth can I be sued she will be telling me the truth and not manipulating the situation. She had been deceiving me for 2 years whilst having an affair with my husband, manipulating situations, even sending anon letters to give me hints he is over the side in the hope I will kick him out do they can be together without me ever realising...why all of the sudden she would be telling me the truth. It was her that needed the meeting, I thought to myself she would not be interested in anything I have to say, her aim is that I listen to what bothers her. I never responded to her message.....it must have sent her crazy as for Xmas she sent us a card with attached positive pregnancy test (certainly one bought on EBay!) only to destroy our Xmas. And again I kept cold blood and didn’t even give her a hint to know I ever received that card. In a way, I was happy....it opened my husband’s eyes to whom she really is, and it was my opportunity to show to him that I’m the better, proud, string and wise woman.
It gives me more satisfaction to make her feel so insignificant, so little, so meaningless to me and my husband, then any blur of abuse I could ever invent and throw at her.
There are times it doesn’t come easy...., the situation is complex, my sister in low is best friends with her, and knew all along..., it feels as if I have been betrayed by my husband, best mate, brother and sister in low all at the same time. As a result we don’t talk, perhaps this is for the better....why do I need two faced people around me and my children. Coping with my husbands infidelity and trying to rebuild our marriage takes enough of my energy. I made my vowels to him, not them, don’t owe them anything. I owe to my family and children though and will stand in my head to make things work. He is committed, I thank God he had awakening from this terrible mistake.
I wish you all strength. And go by Ricky’s advice, I agree 100% it is effective.

Confronting the AP

My initial contact with my wife's AP was to let him know the gig was up. I attempted to make him feel guilty for treating my wife like a cheap tramp and explained to him that, unlike him, I loved her and would take care of her., etc., etc., etc. Of course he forwarded my email to her, and to my utter shock she let him know that she didn't feel the same as I did (she was still DEEP in the fog of the affair and hadn't confronted her illusions and rationalizations yet) and that her 'friendship' with him (old boyfriend from 30 years earlier) always had and always would be special to her.

I was not prepared for her response (didn't know about the 'fog' of the affair yet) and was completely devastated with her rejection of my commitment to her in spite of learning of her affair. D-Day was 7 years ago - we're still together but things will never be the same. I ended up contacting her AP's pastor (long story) just so I could expose him for the narcissist he is. This also backfired. He denied it at first but when faced with the undeniable evidence I presented to the pastor he confessed, said he was sorry (to the pastor - never to me or my wife) for what he had done, and that was that. Just a few months later that same pastor performed the marriage ceremony for him and his fiancé - whom he was cheating on with my wife.

People never cease to amaze me, both the evil and the naive. Turns out my wife is co-dependent and her AP is a malignant narcissist; she was drawn to him like a moth to a flame. I still feel like I did the right thing by exposing him to his family and his church, but the real issue was my wife; he was just a symptom. I wanted so much to see her as a victim because facing the truth – that she chose of her own free will to betray me and risked the loss of our marriage to be with a 'man' who had abandoned her for 30 years – was just too painful for me to admit.

Thank you for stating that

Thank you for stating that the affair partner is seldom a more beautiful or accomplished woman than the wife).

My husband had a long term, intense emotional affair with a woman at work. He denies that it became physical but he lied about everything and kept the relationship completely secret for at least three years so I’ll never be completely sure. The other woman is also married. I want to stay married. I want vengeance but everytime I seriously think about confronting her, I remember that I need her to stay with her poor cuckold of a husband so she won’t be completely available. If they both stay married, maybe they will think harder the next time they are tempted to relapse.

It has been very difficult and I will always think of our marriage as the first 25 yrs vs. the rest of it. It was helpful to me that I went into the marriage all those years ago with the attitude that I would not unnecessarily squander our marriage if he failed to live up to the commitment. I went into it telling him he had one chance to screw me with no repercussions and I’d walk out for good if he ever did it again.

So he knows he’s had what I call his fling. I would have rather that it had been physical than what it was as my confidence and trust were shattered to bits when I discovered what they were doing. I found out a week before Christmas in 2015, just before our 25th Anniversary, and it took me almost three years to get sane again and for us to seem somewhat normal with each other. Most men would give up in that amount of time or relapse. He didn’t but I keep a close eye on him.

We treat each other differently now. We verbalize happy and unhappy and we talk more. We don’t take each other for granted as we now know what boundaries are non-negotiable.

If you are going through it, I wish you faith, hope, and persistence. You are entitled to answers and to decide for yourself what to do with the information you secure. You deserve never to have to go through it again and the assurance that it will never happen again. If they can’t give you that promise, you really don’t have much to work with. If they can, then at least give it another chance.

Talk with AP was actually helpful

I actually did end up confronting both of my fiances AP's and I'm glad I did as it was very helpful. The first AP was my fiance's best friend's wife and my main reason for confronting her was just to let her know that I knew the truth. They had both lied to me and denied that they had done anything other than text each other. I ended up buying a data recovery software program and was able to do a backup on his phone and recovered all of his deleted text messages between him and her, which clearly showed more had gone on than just texting. I took screen shots of a few of the really racy texts and sent them to the AP with a message that I knew the truth and she better not contact my fiance ever again and that it might be a good idea to tell her husband the truth as well. I honestly felt like I was taking my power back. It felt so good to let her know that I had uncovered the truth and they weren't getting away with anything.
The 2nd AP was actually an innocent victim. He lied and told her we weren't together anymore and had completely led her to believe that they would have a future together. She was just as shocked and hurt as I was. I ended up talking to her on the phone and was very glad that I had. She answered so many questions I had that my fiance was unwilling to answer for me. So, it helped give me some closure and to understand what I was really dealing with. I understand how in many situations this could do more harm than good, but in my situation, I am glad I contacted the AP's. It definitely helped me immensely.

What software?

What software?

What type of affair was it?

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