Consideration and Respect
Be considerate: The deception associated with infidelity destroys trust. The unfaithful spouse can provide safety by determining (observing their mate, listening to what’s bothering their mate, asking their mate, etc.) what actions or situations are making their mate anxious and altering their behavior to help with their distress. In order to show they have nothing to worry about and that all third parties have been cut off, I recommend granting access to cell phones, e-mail accounts, social media, and any other methods of communication that might create fear or anxiety. If there are places or situations where acting out has occurred (such as bars, the gym, running groups, etc.), do everything possible to either eliminate this situation or develop a joint plan to minimize risk. These efforts provide tangible proof that the unfaithful spouse is making efforts to alleviate their mate’s distress after an affair.
Be respectful It’s tempting for both parties to bludgeon each other with words in an attempt to transmit the pain they’re feeling after an affair comes to light, but to make the relationship safe; both parties need to make a commitment to be respectful. Failure to do so creates instability and prolongs healing for all involved. This one can be difficult because the hurt spouse is already feeling disrespected and the tendency may be to treat their spouse the way that they feel. Two wrongs don’t make a right and the road to healing will be traveled more smoothly if restraint is used in this area. I realize this is a big request, but we’re talking about how to make the relationship safe. My recommendation is that you make that commitment. No verbal abuse. Name calling and degrading comments only continue to wound and cloud judgment. Having rational conversations is essential if a couple ever hopes to access their ability to go forward. I do recognize that the intensity of the pain may cause momentary slips, but if a couple is committed to being respectful, at least the one who was disrespectful can come back and make amends.
Don’t threaten: It’s not going to be helpful if threats are constantly made to move out or divorce. Both wife and husband need to take the “D” word (divorce) out of their vocabulary for a specified period of time. A couple either makes the commitment to explore whether there’s something worth salvaging in their relationship or they don’t. What I do know (having gone through this myself) is how someone feels about staying or leaving the relationship after an affair changes daily, maybe even hourly. To create safety, both husband and wife need to agree to a time period where no decisions will be made about terminating the relationship. This allows a season where emotions can settle and perspective can be gained as to the best course of action for the future.
Discovery and questions
Due to the dynamics of recovery, there is going to be a need for answers and clarification. This means there will be questions. The hurt spouse needs to know what happened in order to move forward. At the same time, the unfaithful spouse needs to know that their mate is committed to the process, regardless of the information. This is not always easy for the hurt spouse, creating a system where questions can be dealt with in real time creates safety for the relationship. However, a few guidelines need to be established to keep things safe for both parties.
No marathoning This is a concept I picked up from Peggy Vaughan. Any question ought to be answerable in 10 to 15 minutes. After that, the agenda has usually switched to lecture and/or commentary about what their mate has done. Making it safe enough to answer questions when they come up requires a commitment to refrain from marathoning. Attempts to get your mate to understand how you’re feeling or what this has done to you are best kept separate from the question and answer interactions
No deal breakers: This is another of Peggy Vaughan’s suggestions. It’s unreasonable to ask someone to answer questions if you’re holding a gun at their head telling them if they give an answer you don’t like you’re going to shoot them. To create safety there needs to be an understanding that no matter how bad the news, there won’t be any deal breakers during the agreed upon time.
The 24-hour rule: When it comes to information, some is helpful and some is not. For safety’s sake, after an affair people need to know what happened in terms of types of behaviors, how long it happened, the frequency of what happened, how their mate was able to deceive, how it started, if there was protection, and possibly with whom it happened and where it happened.
No comparison questions. These are questions which compare the other party with themselves. These would be questions such as ‘what positions did you use when having sex’, ‘what did you like about their body’, etc. These questions create visual images that later become intrusive thoughts and make recovery more difficult. This is the main situation where I recommend postponing answers. To help protect from unnecessary intrusive thoughts, I suggest the hurt spouse, if they have comparison questions, write them out and take 24 hours to think about whether this is information they really need to heal. For the unfaithful spouse, I suggest that if their mate asks a comparison question, call for the 24-hour rule and ask them to think about it for 24 hours, and if they still feel they need that information, give it to them at that time.
Finally, remember that the purpose of discovery is just that. It is the stage where both husband and wife explore what happened in order to get their head around it and move on.
About Affair Recovery
Affair Recovery specializes in helping people heal after infidelity. After recovering from his own affair 25 years ago and helping 2,000+ other couples do the same, founder Rick Reynolds and his team have developed research-validated, groundbreaking online and in-person programs for redeeming the losses created by infidelity, betrayal, and sexual addiction. Take the free Affair Analyzer online assessment, to learn more, visit www.AffairRecovery.com