Disclose What Happened
Affairs are usually not disclosed but are instead uncovered. As a result, affair recovery can be especially difficult for the betrayed partner. The typical scenario is the partner who committed the affair either lies about what happened or answers questions as if they are on the witness stand in a courtroom (brief, literal, minimal disclosure, only answers the exact question asked). As a result, the betrayed partner needs to understand some things, or they can often develop complex PTSD (and still can anyway).
The partner who committed the affair often gets sick of answering questions. The Gottman’s comment that if you have been asked the same questions 1,000 times, answer them 1,000 more if your partner wants you to. Affair recovery depends on the partner understanding at least at a basic level what happened. Asking these questions is best done in couples counseling. If there was a sexual affair, the Gottman’s do not encourage asking questions about specific acts or positions, as that can lead to more PTSD. Questions such as “Was she prettier than me?” are more in line with the type of questions they find helpful. Asking these questions, and most importantly, receiving honest answers is essential to start to rebuild trust.
The partner who had an affair often just wants to be done and move on. This may be a sign that they are feeling intense guilt (which, to some degree, is healthy and a sign it may not happen again). On the other hand, they may say their partner just needs to choose to trust, be happy, and move on. Unfortunately, it is not that easy for the betrayed partner trying to go through an affair recovery. Often the answers to questions themselves are not as important as receiving honest answers. Many partners just want to know that they can trust their partner to tell the truth and take accountability.
While partners will ideally discuss what behavior is appropriate with the sex(s) they are attracted to, it is vital to realize what your partner finds inappropriate. It is important that you and your partner define infidelity. Usually, it involves some sort of attraction and secrecy. For example, if you are having lunch with an opposite-sex co-worker, would you care if the lunch were recorded for your partner (not actually suggesting this)? Would you talk to your partner about it? Where in your relationship is the line crossed? It is important that the affair partner answer questions about what happened if there will be the first step toward affair recovery. This is often best accomplished in counseling.
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