Affair Disclosure Do’s & Don’ts
Disclosing Vs Discovering The Affair
You may have suspected something was not right. Discovery is the moment you realize your spouse has been unfaithful.
Disclosure is when your spouse shares with you the truth of what they have done. There are helpful and unhelpful ways for this to happen. We want to encourage you to approach disclosure in the least painful, most productive way. This article will tell you how.
- To the betrayed: What you don’t know will hurt you.
- To the betraying: Secrets keep you trapped and sabotage healing.
- The point of disclosure for the betrayed spouse is having the information you need to a) make wise decisions about the future, b) be able to heal, c) consider forgiveness
- For the betraying spouse, there really isn’t any way to build trust or to be free without truthfulness.
Common Lies About Disclosure
“I am protecting my spouse’s heart”
A common lie betraying spouses tell themselves is that they are protecting their spouse by not disclosing the truth, which in reality is just self-preservation. You are not helping your spouse by lying to them. You cannot rebuild relationship on lies.
“I don’t want to know”
Denial can be tempting, but it really won’t save you the pain. You will never feel safe and secure in a relationship that is not built on truth. Further, future infidelity, if there is not complete transparency, is highly probable.
Helpful vs. Unhelpful
There is not necessarily a right or wrong way to do disclosure in a moral sense. You may have the right to know certain things or to act in ways that are justifiable. However, just because something is justifiable does not mean it is helpful. The better questions are:
- “What are my goals?”
- “Will this (action, thought process, attitude, etc…) be helpful in reaching these goals?”
- “Is knowing this detail really going to help me heal or is it just going to torment me?”
Best Case Scenario
Best case scenario for getting through infidelity is for you to connect with a counselor immediately following discovery.
“Do I need to know this now?”
Sometimes we feel the need to have the answer to all our questions right now. In reality “now” may not be the best time to know the answer to your question even if, in fact, you do need the answer to that question. It will probably go better for you if you let an experienced helper walk you through those questions and what to do with the answers you get.
“I have to make a decision now!”
It’s scary to not know what the future holds or what you should do next. There is a real sense of urgency to make a decision. Decisions made when feeling overwhelmed often are not our best. Give yourself time to gather wise counsel and weigh options.
You may have noticed from the previous two paragraphs a theme. It is normal to feel an intense sense of urgency.
- Urgency to “know everything.”
- Urgency to take action.
- Urgency to figure out the future.
The sense of urgency comes from feeling out of control and insecure. In our attempt to regain control of our world, we desperately grasp for a solution. Hasty decisions often result in undesirable outcomes. You don’t want to make things worse attempting to make things better.
Appropriate Level of Detail
It is less about the right or wrong details to share as much as helpful or unhelpful. Details that draw a vivid mental picture do more damage than good. They will likely plague the hearer for years to come. When in doubt it is better to talk with a therapist first before sharing graphic details.
“Is that everything?” “Yes.” Two days later…”There is more…”
The dribble effect is detrimental. It leaves the hearer always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It is much better for there to be full and thorough disclosure facilitated by an experienced affair recovery counselor.
Lying is Normal
Not okay or good, but normal as in common in nearly 100% of cases either overtly or by omission. When a person is in panic and is afraid of losing the spouse, he or she will omit things or outright lie out of fear. It is common for lying to happen during unstructured disclosure or for facts to be left out.
The betraying spouse does not get to control what the betrayed spouse gets to know. It is normal for the betraying spouse to be afraid to share certain information for fear of how the betrayed spouse will react. This will sabotage reconciliation and the rebuilding of trust. It is true that certain information or at least level of detail may not be helpful. However, that determination is better made with the help of a counselor rather than being a unilateral decision by the betraying spouse. This would include:
- Identity of the affair partner(s)
- Location of affair(s) activity
- Nature of affair(s) activity
- Sharing of images, sites, or other graphic detail
Time and Place of Doing Disclosure
We have already said the best way to disclosure is with the aid of an experienced affair recovery counselor.
Ways that should be avoided:
- In front of the kids
- While intoxicated
- After 9 pm
- In public (at spouse’s place of work, social media, church, etc.)
- Via text, email, or over the phone
- In a car
The urgency to know the details of the affair can be felt very strongly by the betrayed spouse. We would encourage you to write down your questions and process with a counselor as opposed to stage an inquisition of your spouse.
Note to the betraying spouse:
You may feel the desire to spill your guts to your spouse. However, that may be more about your desire for relief than helping your spouse. It is best to process with an experienced affair recovery counselor how to go about disclosure in a way that can lead to healing.
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