Affairs:  How Important Is It To Reveal The Details?

by John E. Turner, LMFT and Sally R. Connolly, LMFT

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 Affairs are destructive on many levels. One of the most important is the secrecy of the betrayal. So the question of how important is it to reveal the details of an affair... or affairs must be answered. 

When someone has had an affair, or multiple affairs, the last thing that they want to do is to talk about it and to tell the stories, and yet, that is an important part of healing and crucial for rebuilding trust.

Revelations of Details Should Happen In Stages

During the early stages of recovery from an affair, the only details of an affair that are important are the answers to who, what, when and where. Answers should be clear and specific about meetings, timetables, protected or unprotected sex, etc. The offending partner does not need to volunteer information at this point and the hurting partner should only ask questions that he or she truly wants answered.

Later in the process, and hopefully with the assistance of a competent and skilled couples’ therapist, a deeper understanding of the affair can be discovered. This process, understanding the details of an affair, will answer questions about both the person who had the affair and the problems and feelings in the marriage before the affair.
Details of an affair are important in building trust.

What Are The Questions To Answer About The Affair?

Some of the
details about the affair involve the thinking of the person who had the affair such as:
  • When did he/she recognize that there was a developing attraction or feeling for this other person?
  • What was their thinking about this person and how this relationship would affect the marriage?
  • How did they think that their spouse would feel about this friendship?
  • Did this affair develop with a co-worker or someone that they would normally see on a regular basis?
  • How did it move from a working relationship to something more?
  • What were some of the experiences, thoughts and or feelings that happened in the affair that would be helpful to cultivate in the marriage?

Some of the questions to answer about the context of the marriage before the affair developed are:
  • What was the status of connection (conversation and physical) in the relationship?
  • How do you resolve, or not resolve, conflict?
  • Do you have a healthy sex life?
  • What are the conversations that you need to have, but do not, in your marriage?
  • What are the guidelines that you have in your marriage about friendships with the opposite sex?
  • What do you both need to do to stay connected to each other, talk about difficult problems and work through them, and to also recognize and acknowledge normal observations of others while maintaining a clear boundary around the marriage.

The Affair: Do You Love Him Or Her?

One question that is often asked is “Were/Are you in love with this other person?” We fully understand the desire to have an honest and open answer to this question, but this is often much more complicated than a simple yes or no answer. 

When there is a secret affair occurring, those caught in the throes of passion, newness and excitement often believe that they are experiencing love, when, in fact, it may be more about a change in brain chemistry that is stimulated by something new and exciting. Fantasies, coupled with furtive meetings and new and stimulating conversation and contact, fuel the increased adrenaline and general feelings of pleasure, happiness and lust that can often be misinterpreted as “love”. While in this state, people often believe that they have found the one true person for them and their lives and it is not until some time later that the whole picture can provide a clearer perspective for them.

Thus comes the question that many want answered … “Are/Were you in love with this other person?” The answer in the moment may be a protective “no”, a serious “no” or a hurtful “yes” which may be true only for that moment. This may be a question that is better asked, and answered, at a much later time and after there has been a lot of conversation between the couple about their own relationship.

We have a lot of experience with helping couples survive an affair ... and, for many couples, even emerge stronger.  We are here to help, either online or in person.

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