Who To Talk To And When After Discovering An Affair
You can’t do it alone. If you are going to make it through in a healthy way, you are going to need safe people “in the circle ” with you. But how do you know who to talk to and when?
- Accept and love me unconditionally
- Are comfortable with grief. They don’t try to lighten the mood or distract me or do something to stop the tears. They offer a shoulder and they cry with me.
- Don’t gossip about me or my spouse.
- Don’t try to fix my problem or offer solutions. They simply listen, encourage me, and pray.
- Don’t need my love or approval to be okay. They can handle my angry outbursts and stormy emotions.
- Are aware of their own brokenness. Humility and integrity are the hallmarks of their character.
- Are more concerned about relating to me and loving me than about giving me advice.
- Are sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s work in my life.
- Condemn me or blame me for my spouse’s problem.
- Deny or minimize the sin of my spouse.
- Try to “fix” me or “fix” my spouse by suggesting things I should or should not do.
- Give unwanted advice.
- Cannot keep confidences.
- Only stay in relationship with me when I am happy and hopeful. They are too uncomfortable with or embarrassed by fear and anger to allow me to feel negative emotions and to mourn.
- Are arrogant and self-righteous.
It is helpful to have people in your circle who have a good relationship with their own spouse and can care about both you and your spouse. This may or may not be someone who is a regular/active part of your life. It may be a co-worker, pastor, neighbor, family member who you have not been open with previously but who fits this criteria. It is important to bring this person into your circle.
How to invite support people into your circle?
You have identified two or three people as candidates to be in the circle with you. Now what?
Invite them . . .
- Ask them to go to lunch, coffee, etc.
- Tell them you have some stuff going on in your life and you respect them very much, so you would like to talk with them about it if they would be open to it.
- Respect if they are not available at this time but don’t assume they are not. Many people would be willing to be of support if only given the opportunity. We all need help at different times in our lives.
Tell them what you need
Many people are eager to help someone in need but often times don’t know how to be of help. Make expectations clear by telling them what you need and don’t need.
- “I need someone to be a sounding board.”
- “I don’t expect you to know how to fix my situation or know what I should do.”
- “I am not looking for advice necessarily.”
- “I am working with a counselor, I don’t expect you to be a counselor for me.”
- “I just need you to listen and care about what I am going through.”
- “I need a friend who I can talk openly and honestly with about the struggle I am facing.”
- “I don’t need you to take sides.”
- “I need to be able to be real with the intense feelings I am having without you feeling like you are supposed to make them better for me.”
- “I would like to be able to call or text you when I am triggered by my fear/hurts, but I do not expect you to be on call 24 hours a day.”
- “You are not the only one I am asking for support so I don’t want you to feel like it’s all on you.”
- “I would like to be able to meet with you occasionally to talk through things I am working on in counseling.”
Who needs to know?
Not everybody needs to know your business, but if you are going to make it through this healthy, some people do. You are going to need a counselor who knows how to help people through affair recovery. You are also going to need support people in your life with whom you can safely process all the thoughts, emotions, and questions that arise as part of this process.
You need to connect with support people whether your spouse is comfortable with that or not. It is unfair for the betraying spouse to try to control who you get support from.
Danger of premature promises to kids:
When facing affair situations, there are often times children involved. This can complicate the situation ten-fold. As parents we do our best to protect them and shield them from any harm that may come their way and we definitely do our best not to be the ones harming them.
Disclosing the affair situation to your kiddos is important, as difficult as it may be. Just as you have decided not to make any rash or quick decisions about staying together or leaving, it is vitally important that we use the same care with our kids. Be careful not to present your kids with absolutes.
For example, saying”Mom or Dad are not going anywhere” and three months down the road a spouse continues to participate in sexual behaviors outside of the bounds of marriage with no intent of reconciling and separation happens, kiddo will be angry and confused as to what is going on. By not giving kids premature promises you avoid the “but you said…” hurt from kiddo.
So what do you tell your kids? Kids are smart. You cannot just pretend like everything is fine. They will know you are not telling the truth and will fear the worst. It is best to be honest with them at a level of detail that is appropriate for their age.
Example:“Mommy and Daddy are having a hard time right now. We love you and you are going to be okay. You do not need to be afraid.”“Mommy and Daddy are both okay, but (mommy/daddy) are going to live somewhere else for a while.”“I don’t know” is a valid answer and not damaging to your child. It is better than making up an answer that may or may not be true.
What Not to Say
- Anything that is not true or speculative. Do not lie to your child or tell them things that you do not know are true.
- Don’t tell your child about the infidelity until you have discussed doing so with your counselor.
- Don’t say derogatory things to your child about your spouse.
It is normal to feel like confronting the affair partner. You might not want to also. It is hard to know which will be helpful. Let us encourage you to resist the sense of urgency to make a decision. Instead, you should process the reasons as to why or why not before you make a decision about this with your counselor. This is also true in regards to contacting an affair partner’s spouse.
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