When an affair is first found out, tension is high and it’s all about damage control. During this time the betrayed partner wants to know the details and will often naturally fall into a detective role. In fact, the betrayed partner may have even done detective work to uncover the affair. While this is normal behavior, there must eventually be a shift in roles.
Asking the right questions
Once the initial crisis phase of the affair discovery has passed, one of the things our therapist will do is help the couple discuss the affair in a way that is productive and promotes healing. For the betrayed partner, this means shifting away from the role of detective and into more of an investigator role. We do this is by having the couple leverage questions that encourage much broader conversation and explore all the various components of the affair.
Here are some examples of questions drawn from the work of Esther Perel and others.
Questions to explore the motives and meaning of the affair:
Why did it happen?
What did you discover about yourself in that relationship?
How important was the sexual aspect of that relationship?
Questions that explore the secrecy and disclosure of the affair:
What do you want me to know about your affair?
What if I’d never found out?
What was it like for you when you would come home after being with the affair partner?
Questions focused on the pain for the betrayed partner:
Can you understand my hurt and anger?
What would it be like if I had an affair?
Questions both partners can ask each other):
Do you think the affair caused us permanent damage or can something positive come of it?
What are some things we can do together to make our relationship stronger?
Questions the partner who had the affair can ask:
Can you forgive me?
Why are you staying?
Staying the Course
Affair recovery is not for the faint of heart. It takes an exorbitant amount of time, energy and effort. In fact, research shows it can take as much as two or more years for a couple to truly recover from an affair. Two years!
Recovery is much like interval training. You’ll need to learn to manage the ups and downs that come with the waves of grief, anger, hope, and forgiveness. It is a process that requires commitment, patience and a plan.
If your marriage has been rocked by the revelation of infidelity, I encourage you to engage help from an experienced marriage counselor or coach trained in the art of affair recovery. They can help you both sort through the raw emotions and decide on a plan of action.
To work with a counselor or coach at The Marriage Place: