What to do after the affair…
We deal with affairs everyday at our offices.
People are lonely. People are disconnected. People make choices that hurt people that they love.
Most of us know couples who have managed to stay together after affairs. But the real work is the work of healing after an affair.
It is typical that the hurt-partner wants to know everything that the affair-partner did with the other person:
- Did you have sex?
- Did you use protection?
- When and where did you have sex?
- When did it start?
- When did you end it?
The list is, quite literally, endless.
Here is what we often tell the hurt-partner: be mindful about what you ask.
You can always ask more questions but you cannot have less information. I'm going to say it again because this is very important:
You can always ask more questions but you cannot have less information.
Once you ask the question and get the answer, that answer will live in your thoughts for a long time to come. Your mind will start to do all kinds of interesting things with the information that you have received and it could torment you for years ahead...so please, proceed with caution.
Guidelines for Asking Questions After an Affair
1) Get grounded.
Some of what you are going to learn will likely be the most painful and excruciating information that you can imagine. Take care of yourself so that you are prepared for this information. Breath, pray, meditate, whatever is in your practice to resource yourself so that what you learn doesn’t level you entirely.
2) Take it slow
You are going to want to know everything RIGHT NOW. This makes sense because with information comes a sense of power and control and right now you probably feel totally out of control. However, by asking more and more information (it’s like a 3 hour binge on toxic information) you are setting yourself up for some serious emotional damage — and your relationship too.
I know I know. Your partner already damaged the relationship, however, if there is any wisp of a thought that you might stay in the relationship (or if you have children and will be co-parenting), it is wise to temper the desire to go all out with multiple hour discussions daily for weeks or months.
We commonly hear about couples who pull all nighters night after night rehashing every last factoid that can be dislodged from memory, text messages and emails. Of course this makes sense and is normal. However, it does seriously destabilize your already fragile relationship even further due to the 1) flood of information and 2) lack of sleep/food which would make anyone feel *crazy*.
3) Have a plan
When the world feels like it is falling apart around you, it is vital to have a plan. You need to know what is next. Even if it is just what is next for this afternoon or for tomorrow.
Most often, we see couples who are trying to make decisions about divorce, selling homes, and divvying up resources very early on after an affair has been revealed. Most often, it is way to soon to hatch these kinds of plans.
One of the reasons why couples do this is because you want to have a sense of control again in your life — so you decide to sell the house, get a divorce, move out, etc. This may be the best decision for you ultimately but it also may be a reactionary decision made from a place of chaos and fear rather than a place of rootedness and clarity.
4) Get support
It is the most normal thing in the world to go to our friends and family after an affair has been revealed to look for support, compassion and understanding. This is exactly what you need!
However, this can create a difficult situation for you as well.
Your well-meaning friend will likely support you in saying that she cannot believe that he did that to you, etc. But, down the road…in 3 or 6 months, when you are considering staying with him…this friend may not have the ability to walk with you in this new place. Even though YOU have done your healing work with the affair-partner through conversation or therapy…your friend (or mother, father, sister, brother) has not.
It is wise to be discerning in whom you share the details about the affair with. Again, the rule of thumb is that you can always share more but you can never share less.
Some of the best support can be a third party (like a therapist) who is not in your inner circle and does not have an agenda to make the affair-partner bad or wrong.
5) Ask real questions
When you are ready, there are some very important and real questions for the affair-partner to ask herself (and for the hurt-partner to ask the affair-partner when the time is right).
Note: these are tough questions — for both partners to consider so proceed mindfully and with support.
Real questions for after the affair:
- What did the affair mean to you?
- What was going on for you that made having an affair an option?
- What did the affair wake up or uncover in you -- what did you learn about yourself?
- Outside of the physical connection (if it was physical) what part of you did the affair ignite? What came alive for you?
- How did you feel about the part/s of yourself that were being expressed in the affair?
- Are these parts that you would want to bring into our relationship?
- What did you tell yourself to make the affair "okay" in your mind or heart?
Affair recovery can be some of the most painful and rewarding work that a couple can do. Like with most things that are tough, it makes sense to have a plan. If you don’t have a plan or need someone to help you with a plan, call us.
Our licensed therapists specialize in couples and relationship counseling and we help couples everyday create plans for moving forward from challenging situations.
You do not need to do this alone.
Call now (720) 457-3342 and we will get you in asap to start the road to healing today. If it's after hours, just click on one of the red links at the top of the page and schedule online 24/7. We are looking forward to working with you!