Affair Recovery: Disclosing the "WHAT"
When learning of a partner’s affair, the faithful partner often feels a strong need to know every detail what happened. They intuitively believe that getting more information and understanding of the situation will help. Without clear answers to their questions, they convince themselves of the worst-case scenario, thinking that otherwise they would have been told what they want to know.
IMPACT OF STONEWALLING
When a betraying partner stonewalls, often due to a mistaken attempt to protect their partner, the faithful spouse feels like they are being treated like a child, and they resent it. It’s doubtful if trust can ever be restored in a relationship where a lack of answers to questions after an affair persists. The faithful spouse believes that holding information back really means that there are hidden facts that may arise in the future and cause another affair. On the other hand, full disclosure signals full acknowledgement of the wrong action and a willingness to openly explore the damage in the interest of healing.
YOU CAN ASK -- YOU DON'T HAVE TO ASK
While it’s important for the betrayed partner to get answers to questions after an affair IF you ask questions, this does NOT mean you “should” ask questions unless/until you really want to know. It’s just that it’s essential to get answers if you DO ask.
While for most people, “getting answers to your questions after an affair” is a key ingredient in rebuilding the trust and building a strong marriage, no one should be forced to hear things they don’t want to hear. But if they DO want to hear details, they deserve to have their questions answered. It’s the WILLINGNESS of the partner to answer questions that is so critical, not whether or not you ASK for the answers.
So each person needs to decide for themselves the timing of when/what/how much they want to know. (It’s important to determine that you really want the truth, and are not just hoping for some kind of reassurance or disclaimers.) Each betrayed spouse should carefully consider whether they really need to know the answer to a question. Will it really promote healing?
TRYING TO ASSEMBLE THE PUZZLE
However, for some, “not knowing” is worst of all – because their imagination fills in the blanks and the wondering never ceases.
The affair has become a puzzle. It may feel like a 1000 piece puzzle and 400 random pieces are missing. The betrayed spouse attempts to assemble the puzzle without the benefit of looking at the picture on the box, trying to understand the affair with the same context as the unfaithful spouse.
HOW TO RESPOND TO DISCLOSURE
While it’s understandable that the focus is almost exclusively on “getting answers after an affair,” the key to whether or not there is a continuation of getting answers depends in large part on how you react to hearing the answers you do get.
While it may not seem “fair,” one who asks for details has a responsibility to hear them in a way that doesn’t punish the partner for doing what they’ve asked them to do. This is not a matter of it being “wrong” to punish the partner; it’s simply not “smart” to immediately punish someone for being honest, despite the potential pain from the honesty, because it means the honesty will be unlikely to continue.
TURNING THE CORNER
I believe a couple has turned the corner on healing when they can shift from "what" happened to "why" it happened. Nonetheless, this important step can not be taken dismissed as it is a critical step on the path to recovery.