I Just Discovered My Spouses Affair – Now What?

There are few human experiences more gut wrenching than discovering your spouse is cheating on you. It’s hard to even know where to begin picking up the pieces of your world or even what to do next.

Nothing will make it easy and there is no perfect guide for every situation. We hope this 6 part series, the Affair Recovery Guide, will give you some direction. It is born out of thousands of hours walking this difficult road with people just like yourself.

The Affair Recovery Guide Part 1

It could be your worst nightmare to wake up one day and discover the love of your life had or is having an affair. Your spouse having an affair could be something you saw coming. For others it [...]

Self Care | Affair Recovery Guide Part 3

What is self care? It’s taking care of yourself so you can show up well in your life.  This includes caring for your spirit, your body, and your mind.  Surviving an affair will be one of the most [...]

Infidelity | Part 3: Things Betraying Spouses Can Do To Help

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Infidelity: Things Betraying Spouses Can Do to Help

As a betraying spouse in an infidelity situation, you are likely looking for ways you can be helpful to your spouse. While you can’t and should not try to take away their pain, you can take steps to show up with compassion and empathy.

Full and Complete Honesty about everything all the time.

This includes living your day to day life with transparency.

Answering questions with gentleness and patience.

Take time to find the answers if you do not know, even if this requires significant reflection and self-examination. A good response if your spouse asks you a question you do not know the answer to is, “That is a good question. I don’t have the answer right now, but I will work over the next 24 hours to remember and then get back with you.”

Understanding that you are working to become the man or woman God has for you to be, not working to keep your spouse from leaving you.

If your focus is simply to keep your spouse from leaving, this will not work. Both you and your spouse can only rest in the changes you are making if they are about living for God. In other words, changing simply to keep them from leaving will create a marriage commitment based on fear, not love. Once the fear is removed, what is left? Also, no couple wants to be together out of fear.

Getting involved in a church that submits to and teaches the authority of Scripture.

Allow the authority of God’s word into your life will create a firm foundation, guarding you from being deceived.

Stop trusting yourself so much.

Own the reality that you are coming out of a season of extraordinary self-deception and denial. You cannot transition instantly from this to clarity. You need other people’s thoughts and perspective. It is understandably confusing when we admit to our spouse that we were fundamentally untrustworthy, and then try to convince them we have a handle on what is going on by ourselves. Working through your own justification, minimization, and rationalization requires the assistance of others, including counselors, pastors, and mentors. “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives.” – Jeremiah 17:9-10 (NLT)

  • Love your spouse from a distance. Your betrayed spouse will not be easy to love or open to love many times, but you must love them faithfully, even from a distance. If they need distance, remain available, but respect their space. Manage your fears with support from your counselors, pastors and mentors. Empathize with them, do not simply endure.

Be clear on what you want — a great marriage– but don’t use your spouse as your thermostat for the future.

This means, avoid constantly looking to them on whether or not the marriage can work or continue. Don’t ask them, “Do you think we can make it?” Know who it is God has called you to be, and out of that, what you are to do.

Be willing to get rid of items and reminders of the affair partner/infidelity.

Not only be willing, but actively work to rid your life of reminders of the affair partner/infidelity if these are painful for your spouse. It is a way of aligning with them. If you resist, this will be experienced by them as choosing the affair partner/infidelity over them. These items might include: vehicles the other person rode in, computers used to view porn, spending time away from spouse in compromising situations (local bars).

Take time to create new memories with your spouse and family.

You are not running away from the past. An important part of not running away is to invest in your marriage and family in the present. Take time to play with your children, spend time with your spouse (being sensitive to what your spouse is ready for), and enjoy what you have. These moments are a way we can heal and bond.

Work towards forgiving yourself (you do yourself, your spouse, and your marriage no favors by punishing yourself).

Just like your spouse will have to work through forgiveness, so will you.

If you are the betraying spouse, doing the things on this list can help you care for your spouse well. The fact you are reading articles like these is a good indication you desire to recover well. Healing is possible, and we are here to help. Contact MCO to set up an appointment with an experienced infidelity counselor today.

Infidelity | Part 2: Strategies for Dealing with Triggers

Infidelity | Part 2: Strategies for Dealing with Triggers

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Strategies for Dealing with Infidelity-Related Triggers

Now that we have defined what emotional triggers are, and specifically within the context of infidelity, let’s talk more about how to navigate them. The following are steps couples can take to manage these moments effectively.

1 – Recognize what is going on

Betrayed spouse

It is important you can notice when you are beginning to experience a flood of painful emotions associated with the infidelity. This can be brought on by a host of things: an intrusive thought, a song on the radio, or driving through a certain part of town, just to name a few. When you recognize the flood, be compassionate with yourself. Often, our first response is to get frustrated with our heart and what we are feeling. Instead, being gentle with yourself and accepting what you feel is the way forward.

Betraying Spouse 

Don’t point out that your spouse is triggered or flooding. Instead, take all your energy and focus it on accepting that you feel shame, anger and other emotions as a result of the decisions you have made. Don’t try avoiding feeling these emotions by managing your spouse’s pain (trying to get your spouse to not feel difficult emotions); this is not true compassion. Instead, let your spouse know you are here and want to hear anything they want to tell you. This will be hard, but them feeling that you truly care and are willing to be with them in their hurt is an important part in this journey.

2 – Determine What You Are Reacting To

Betrayed Spouse 

Try to determine if you are reacting to something that is a current threat (spouse is hiding their cell phone, becoming hostile, attempting to make you feel guilty for hurting) or if you are responding to a memory of what has been done to hurt you (seeing someone with the same name as the affair partner or hearing about the spouse of a friend struggling with porn).

  •  Am I reacting because the information disclosed has left “holes” leading to an inability to make sense of things, or am I reacting to the loss of connection with my spouse. Again, you are trying to make sense of what has happened. There may be times additional information is needed to fill in the gaps of your understanding. You will also be very sensitive to the level of connection you feel with your spouse. You are needing to feel cared for and understood.

Betraying Spouse 

How is your spouse’s pain tapping into yours? Your spouse’s hurting will touch on your hurt, as it is your actions which did the damage. Accept this reality; don’t try to avoid it.

  •  Am I feeling shame or guilt? If you are getting angry, there is a good chance shame and guilt are underneath the surface.
  •  Am I being unsafe or deceptive in any way? In other words, am I getting defensive, combative or manipulative in an effort to avoid my own shame and guilt?

3 – Ask for what you need

Betrayed Spouse 

Determine what would be helpful. Do you need to talk to your spouse, do you need time by yourself, do you need to take a walk, call a friend? Give yourself permission to say what you need and then act on it.

Betraying Spouse 

Listen and respond to what your spouse needs with compassion. This includes answering questions which you have previously discussed or walking back through important moments of the infidelity. Understand this is not your spouse being unforgiving or vengeful, it is necessary and normal for healing from significant emotional hurts.

4 – If you choose to talk

Betrayed Spouse

Resist the urge to try to get your spouse to understand your pain by threatening to leave, end the marriage, or by saying you should go be unfaithful. While these provided temporary relief, they do great damage to you and your mate. In the end, you will have to go back again and again to this type of rage, and it will never be enough.

Saying “I am hurting so badly,” is much more powerful than, “I should go out and have an affair so you can know what it feels like.”

Betraying Spouse  

If they begin talking about their pain, don’t respond with “I’m sorry” or “I wish I had not done that.” When we focus on our sorrow by making those statements, we are handing our spouse a responsibility. “Hey, I know you are hurting, but could you acknowledge that I am sorry.” This may not be what you mean, but it is often what is heard. Instead, reflecting back to your spouse the emotions they are sharing with you in your own words is helpful. You can also let them know they did not deserve how you hurt them and you care about their pain.

Finally – Be grateful for the blow-ups. – No, I am not kidding!

  •  The blow-ups cause us to look at what is happening in ourselves and in the relationship. They make us face what is really going in our lives and do something about it.
  •  They are a cleansing process, one in which you can expect to find more junk to clear out than you expected, but don’t get discouraged. You are cleaning out the wounds, allowing complete healing to occur.
  •  The alternative is to live with ongoing pain, and distance, always reminded of the past.
  •  When we move from a mindset of asking, “Why do I have to?” to “What do I need to do?” we can begin to do what is needed to move into the next level in our healing journey.
When you experience triggers caused by an affair, it may seem like the pain will never end, but it will, and out of that, something new and exciting can be created.

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Infidelity | Part 1: Understanding Triggers

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Infidelity | Part 1: Understanding Triggers

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Understanding Affair Triggers

Infidelity is a traumatic experience.  Whether the betrayal was a physical or emotional affair, pornography use, or even a one-night stand, the result is the same: Infidelity rips away the sense of security and safety in our most important earthly relationship. As a result, our world is turned upside down.

For the betrayed spouse, you start to question your reality. All the things you thought you knew about your life now feel unsure:

  • Was anything real between me and my spouse?
  • How did I not see this coming?
  • Do they still have feelings for the affair partner?
  • Is my marriage over?
  • Can I ever recover?

The one person you most want reassurance from is the one whose word has proven to be false. You are hurting, with seemingly nowhere to go.

If you are the betraying spouse, your world has also been shattered. While engaged in the infidelity, deceit provided an artificial separation between your actions and reality. Until now, you did not have to deal with the impact of the decisions you were making. Now that the truth has come out, you are dealing with the impact of your actions for the first time. Betraying spouses have questions too:

  • Why did I do this?
  • Can my marriage be saved?
  • Do I want to stay in my marriage?
  • How am I supposed to reassure my spouse when they have good reason not to trust me?

Sometimes, you may feel so overwhelmed with it all you think the best solution is simply to walk away, thinking maybe that would save both you and your spouse from more pain. However, this is not the truth.

Infidelity results in a betrayed spouse experiencing emotional triggers.

Emotional triggers are essentially intrusive emotions and thoughts resulting from the trauma of the infidelity. Similar to PTSD, experiences in your day to day life will quickly remind you of the betrayal, leaving you swept up in a flood of painful thoughts and emotions. Your nervous system kicks into high gear, responding to the situation as a threat to you. Additionally, you feel a surge of adrenaline; your whole body is on high alert. Only after this intense initial response, can the prefrontal cortex kick in, the part of your brain used for reasoning and higher-level thought. It’s the part of the brain that makes sense of situations, and in this case, whether or not you are actually in danger.

The reality of the situation: Significant emotional trauma creates triggers. For the betrayed spouse this means the devastation of the infidelity. Betraying spouses have triggers as well. Often they experience overwhelm when they come come face to face with the shame and guilt of their actions. Recovery from these is not optional and will not be mitigated by ending the marriage. Instead, we must learn to navigate these triggers effectively.

The first thing to understand for both of you is what triggers are not:

  • Triggers are not an attempt by the betrayed spouse to punish the betraying spouse.
  • They are not an effort to “rub it in.”
  • They are not a sign of unforgiveness.
  • Triggers should not be confused with insight (ie: believing you are suddenly seeing your spouse or situation clearly, as strong emotions can leave us convinced what we feel is the truth).
  • They are not a set-back.

So, what are triggers? 

Triggers are an opportunity.

Yes, you read that correctly. As hard as that might be to believe at first, it’s true. Indeed, they are an opportunity for a little bit of healing and connection to occur in your marriage.

Betraying spouse:

As you have likely said or thought in this process, “I cannot go back in time and undo what I did.” This is correct. However, healing is not about you going back in time, it is about showing up with compassion and empathy in the present, able to care for your spouse’s wounds. You must:

  • Have a mindset of gentle, compassionate curiosity. Your goal is to care for and understand your spouse’s pain. This will require you to acknowledge your own shame and guilt over your actions, which will most often present as anger.
  • Step into and not away from your spouse’s pain. Our natural reflex is often to move away from someone who is hurting, especially someone who is hurting as a result of our actions. However, your spouse will experience this as abandonment. Therefore be willing to move towards them in those moments, or wait patiently if they need time.
  • Look past your spouse’s anger and see their hurt and fear. While it is true that on the outside this may not be easy to spot, it is absolutely there.

Use responses like:

  • I really want to understand how I hurt you.
  • You didn’t get to decide whether or not I put you through this, but I am not going anywhere now.
  • I am committed to figuring out why I did this.
  • I want to answer any question you have, even if it is one I have already answered.
  • It is okay if you need to talk about . . . again.
  • What are you feeling?

Don’t Say:

  • I said I was sorry. What else do you want from me?
  • I can’t go back and change what I did.
  • We should just move on.
  • I have already answered that.
  • Finally, you must process your own shame and gain understanding about why you did what you did.  Superficial answers, such as “I was selfish,” are completely inadequate for both you and your spouse.

 

Betrayed spouses 

Triggers are important, as they are moments for you to be able to process your pain. You don’t want to feel pain; no one does. But our decision is not whether or not we feel pain, but what we will do with it. Betrayed spouses are often fearful they will hurt indefinitely, that if they start crying they will never stop. However, find encouragement in this good news: If you process your pain, you will not stay stuck in it. You certainly can move to a place of healing.

  • When you are triggered you need to talk about it, to process your thoughts and emotions.  In order to heal, you are working to put together a clear and coherent picture of what has happened and why.
  • You will also need to experience genuine compassion and care from your betraying spouse. You need to have a strong sense they care about and understand the impact of their actions. They need to stand with you in the pain, so you can be “not okay” and they are able to handle it.
  • Finally, you will need to see them working diligently to figure out why they acted as they did. It’s a commitment to you and the marriage for them to be willing to face their own shame and understand themselves.

Understanding what emotional triggers are and how to navigate them is essential in successful infidelity recovery. The fact you are reading articles like these is a good indication you desire to recover well. Healing is possible, and we are here to help. Contact MCO to set up an appointment with an experienced infidelity counselor today.

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Who To Talk To And When | Affair Recovery Guide Part 4

Affair Recovery Who to talk to and when | MyCounselor.Online

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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?

Safe people:

  • 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. 

Unsafe people:

  • 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.

Affair Partners

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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How to Relate To Your Spouse After The Affair | Affair Recovery Guide Part 6

After the Affair How to relate | MyCounselor Online

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How To Relate To My Partner

It can be hard to know how exactly to relate to your spouse after discovering an affair or betrayal. While there isn’t a single “right way” to proceed, some are more helpful than others. Here are a few common questions asked by couples following discovery.

Should we separate?

The short answer is maybe. Is it safe?

Can you be under the same roof and not destroy each other verbally or physically?

Can you handle seeing your spouse or interacting with them on a day-to-day basis given your raw feelings?

The important thing is giving ourselves the space needed to work through the challenges we are facing in a healthy way and figure out what to do going forward.

When considering separation you should ask whether or not your safety goals can be met with an in-home separation or an out-of-home separation.

In-Home Separation

Sleeping in a different area of the house than your spouse and intentionally staying out of each other’s space.

May be the best option for:

  • Creating opportunity to work on issues.
  • Minimizing disruption for kids.
  • Reduce financial stress

Out-of-Home Separation

Temporarily living at different residences.

May be the best option for:

  • When physical or emotional safety cannot be maintained.
  • When the betrayed spouse does not want to be under the same roof with the betraying spouse.
  • When the betraying spouse is not repentant or unwilling to seek help.

Should we talk?

Couples tend to struggle between two extremes after the discovery of infidelity. At one end of the spectrum, long, intense, ugly fights dominate all hours of the night and day. On the other extreme end, we go about life as though nothing has happened and totally avoid the subject. It is normal for it to be very difficult to have productive dialogue. For that reason we strongly recommend, as soon as possible, you connect with an experienced affair recovery counselor to help facilitate the necessary conversations.

Do’s & Don’ts

  • Do not have conversations about the infidelity between the hours of 9pm and 7am.
  • Do not have conversations about the infidelity via text, email, instant messenger, social media, or any other digital means.
  • Do have conversations away from your children.
  • Do have conversations about getting in to see a counselor together.
  • Do have conversations with other supportive, safe people in your life (pastors, mentors, friends, etc).
  • Do respect your spouse by pausing the conversation if either feels unsafe.
  • Do not have conversations while intoxicated.

Should we be having sex?

The question is not really whether or not we should but if it is helpful or unhelpful.   In all circumstances whether or not we connect sexually should be the decision of the betrayed spouse. If the relationship is going to reconcile, at some point, normal, healthy sexual relations will need to commence. When, how, and why should be discussed with an experienced affair recovery counselor.

There are two fairly normal responses for betrayed spouses as it pertains to sex.

The first is to not want to have anything to do with your spouse sexually.

The second is to feel a desire to connect sexually with your spouse to bridge the emotional distance with sexual closeness. If you find yourself in the second camp, there is nothing wrong with it. It is normal, however, for that to change through the course of the process. Just because you want to be sexually close at one junction does not mean it will not change.

Do I need to get tested for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)?

Yes. We would all like to believe it wouldn’t/couldn’t happen to us. The facts are STDs are extremely wide spread. They can be contracted with or without intercourse. STDs can be lethal even when they have no visible symptoms. They can be spread to your children accidentally. The significant consequences associated with STDs warrant you and your spouse getting STD tested. Be tested not only for HIV, but request a full panel.

Is it bad to “spy” on my spouse?

It is not a matter of good or bad. Let’s think about it in terms of helpful or not helpful. Healthy relationships have transparency. Relationships that lack transparency are at high risk for infidelity. The wise person sees that risk and takes action. You may need to gather information to verify what you are being told aligns with reality.

Hopefully, it does. Nobody wants to find out they are being lied to or betrayed. We “check up” on our spouse because we want to trust.

Computers & Phones

Spouses should have full access to each other’s computers and phones.

Forgiveness/Reconciliation/Trust

There is much to say about forgiveness/reconciliation/trust. In this article, we are not going to try to exhaustively cover the subjects. Instead, we are going to provide you with some highlights that are pertinent to beginning recovery.

Forgiveness

There are two common ditches when it comes to forgiveness. The one ditch is to entrench around your hurts, never letting them go. Refusing to forgive. The other ditch is to “forgive” so quickly that it is superficial. Forgiveness is important and needs to happen, eventually. First, you really need to assess and process what must be forgiven and how to go about it. An experienced affair recovery counselor can help you walk through this process in a healthy way.

Reconciliation

Reconciliation has to do with relationship. It may not happen even after you forgive. It requires repentance on the part of the betraying spouse. Repentance is ongoing, verifiable change over time. Therefore, reconciliation, if it is going to occur, is going to take time.

Trust

Trust is something earned over time by trustworthy behavior as observable by transparency in the relationship. It is also going to take time and is independent of forgiveness.

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Confessing The Affair: Do’s & Don’ts | Affair Recovery Guide Part 5

Confessing The Affair: Do’s & Don’ts | MyCounselor.Online

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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.

Why Disclose?

  • 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.

False Urgency

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.

Dribble

“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.

Controlling Information

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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Self Care | Affair Recovery Guide Part 3

How To Survive An Affair | MyCounselor.Online

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Self Care: How to Survive an Affair

What is self care?

It’s taking care of yourself so you can show up well in your life.  This includes caring for your spirit, your body, and your mind.  Surviving an affair will be one of the most difficult experiences of your life.   If you do not take care of you everything else gets harder.  It is harder to make good decisions.  It is harder to stave off depression and anxiety.  You won’t be able to adequately care for those who depend on you.  

Caring For Your Spirit

Even though you may feel frustrated/ confused/ disappointed/ angry with God you are going to need His help to get through this.  If you are isolated from the body of Christ (i.e. The Church) you are cut off from one of the primary sources of support God has for you.  This leaves you vulnerable to attacks from the enemy.  We would encourage you to: 
  1. Ask for God’s help and figuring our how to get through this.
  2. Connect in some way with support from a local church.

Caring For Your Body 

Eat

Your body needs fuel in order to function well.  You probably won’t feel like eating or you will want to eat a ton of junk, neither of which is helpful to you.  Do your best to feed your body regular, healthy meals.  

Exercise

You probably won’t feel like exercising.  However, regular, mild, cardiovascular exercise is one of the few homeopathic things you can do to fend off depression that is actually supported by A LOT of medical research.  

Sleep

You may not feel like sleeping or you may struggle to get out of bed. Having a regular sleep schedule, getting 8-9 hours of sleep, is very important to your brain function.  If your brain is not functioning well even small things feel overwhelming.  Big things make you want to die.  If you are having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep it is very important that you address this quickly.  You may want to talk to your doctor to get some help.  Your counselor can also help you troubleshoot this.  

Taking Care Of Your Mind

Create Space

You are going to need space in your life to process.  You won’t be able to think through all the questions, sort through all the feelings, or address all the issues if you don’t make space in your life to do so.  

Identify Safe Friends

You are going to need people.  You cannot get through this on your own.   While it is not helpful for everyone in the world (I.e. Facebook) to know what is going on, some people do need to know.   It is important to identify the right kind of people to “bring into the circle with you.”  You need people who love you and who have the kind of relationship with their spouse you wish you had with your own.  People who are good listeners and will not be quick to tell you want you “should do.”  

Connect With A Helper

Whether it is a trusted pastor, a professional counselor, or an affair recovery intensive workshop do connect with someone experienced in helping others get through these difficult situations.  
 

Giving Yourself Permission to Be…

Finding out that your spouse has been unfaithful is one of the hardest things any human being has to deal with.  It is normal to feel an array of intense emotions.  It is important at this stage that you avoid judging your emotions, “Should I be feeling this?” “Is it okay for me to be feeling this?”  Instead, accept that you are feeling what you are feeling, good, bad, or ugly.  Not wanting to feel something doesn’t make you not feel it.  
There will be time down the road to sort through all the different things you are feeling.  Right now you need to try to be aware what you are feeling, acknowledge what you are feeling, and try to take care of your heart.  

Angry 

It is normal to be really, really, really angry.  Like enraged. It is normal to think about ending your spouse’s life or the affair partner’s life.  We strongly encourage you don’t.  However, you are not crazy if the thought crosses your mind.  From a Christian perspective, God gets really angry about sin, so for you to feel really angry about your spouse’s sinful choices is consistent with the heart of God.  

Scared

A few things are more world rocking than the betrayal of a spouse.  It is normal to be terrified about the unknowns and doubt the past.  

Confused

Give yourself permission not to answer all the questions right now.  

Panicky

Fear and confusion can lead us to doing some odd things.  For example, sometimes people feel the need to be really close to their spouse after they discover what has happened. They feel the need to “fix it” by doing whatever it takes to “save the marriage.”  This is normal and may or may not be something you feel.

Relieved

Sometimes there is a sense of relief.  You may have suspected something was going on, but could never quite put your finger on it.  Maybe you felt crazy, but now you understand.  

Sad/Depressed

It is impossible to go through betrayal by a spouse without experiencing some level of depression.  The severity and duration of depression you experience depends largely on how well you take care of yourself through this process.  
It is normal to feel all the emotions above and more.  Feeling them intensely does not necessarily mean you have to act on them.  When you feel like killing your spouse or harming yourself you do not have to act on that impulse.  
Sometimes we get caught trying to figure out what is right, what we have the right to do, or what is justified.  A better question is: What is going to be helpful?  While attacking your spouse verbally or punching the affair partner in the face may be what they deserve, will it really help the situation?  A good counselor will help you answer the question: What is going to help me reach my goals? 
 

 Don’ts of Self Care

  • Post on Social Media
  • Binge eat, drink, shop
  • Make major life decisions (divorce, change job, move)
  • Tell family prior to talking to a professional
  • Take responsibility for your spouse’s behavior or choices

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Types of Infidelity | The Affair Recovery Guide Part 2

Types Of Infidelity: The Affair Recovery Guide Part II

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Types of Infidelity

What is an affair / infidelity? No matter what you call it, infidelity, cheating, unfaithfulness, this type of behavior manifests itself as one or more of the following categories:

What does sex mean? A sexual affair may or may not include intercourse, but does involve physical contact with another individual. For example:

  • Intercourse
  •  Oral sex
  •  Sexual touching 
    • Any touch that you would not feel comfortable with your spouse doing in the room with another person 
    • Kissing, hugging, making out, holding

Same-Sex Infidelity:

Being sexual with someone other than your spouse is infidelity regardless of the gender of the other person.

Same-sex attraction or gender confusion does not mean a person is a pedophile. For example, if you find same-sex adult pornography on a spouse’s computer it does not necessarily mean your children are at risk.

Sometimes in sexual addiction situations, a person may have a sexual encounter with a person of the same sex, but that does not necessarily mean that they have same sex attraction or that they are homosexual.

Six Types of Affairs

Not all affairs are the same in nature. Depending on the kind of affair the way you go about treating it can be different.  As a result, the dynamics of your situation may differ from others you know of and the marriage counseling needs may be different.  Below are five examples of different types of affairs:

  1. Low rent rendezvous. This is your typical one night stand and may be a one-time betrayal. These often occur in conjunction with drinking and anonymity. The core of the betrayal is based upon bad choices, poor boundaries, lack of integrity, and the opportunity to act.
  2. An affair of convenience or opportunity. It is not something sought out, but rather occurs as the result of an opportunity that is presented. The betrayer does not want to leave the marriage. There is not an ongoing relationship. This does not necessarily indicate more severe problems in the marriage.
  3. Lonely hearts club. Characterized by two individuals who believe they are “in love”. The betrayer believes he or she has “fallen in love” and feels powerless against strong emotions. The betrayer may feel guilt, but feels they are unable to be happy in their marriage and therefore tell themselves “I  deserve to be happy and my spouse deserves to be in a relationship with someone who makes them happy.” Unlike low rent rendezvous this type often does indicate a deeper problem in the marriage. Betrayer wants out of the marriage. Betrayer seems incapable of making decisions as to what they are going to do.
  4. Looking for love in all the wrong places (sexual addiction). These affairs are committed by those with an ongoing pattern of sexual betrayals such as frequenting topless bars and/or adult bookstores, viewing pornography, compulsive masturbation, prostitution, repetitive encounters with sexual partners, and other behaviors that are destructive to both the individual and to the marriage relationship. Interestingly, this category of affairs is not about the marriage, and often the betrayer will state they do not want their marriage to fail. Betrayers often feel hopelessly trapped by their behaviors. This type of betrayal is especially difficult for the spouse because their suffering is not just from the betrayal, but also from their inability to understand their mate’s behavior. What the addict has done seems so foreign the spouse cannot comprehend it. Or they are in shock when they discover the sheer magnitude of the compulsive behavior (like the husband who visited more than 300 prostitutes). It is common for the betrayer to have made past efforts to stop the behavior and to have actually been successful for a season, only to relapse after they believed things were better. Typically, the betrayer wants to save their marriage but has a compelling drive to look elsewhere to meet their needs. Often these behaviors began before marriage, stopped after marriage, and then began again after the addict realized the marriage couldn’t meet the need met by the addictive behavior.
  5. Having your cake and eating it too. This is an affair where the betrayer is involved with a single person, but at the same time, he or she does not want to leave their marriage. To them, the affair partner is a “soul mate”. These affairs frequently spring from relationships where two individuals share something in common they don’t share in common with their mate. It is as if this person develops two lives. Individuals want to stay married. However, betrayers do not want to give up the affair partner. The betrayer’s life is divided into two very distinct parts; the relationship with the affair partner and their relationship with their spouse
  6. You’re not my lover; you’re my friend. This relationship is commonly referred to as the emotional affair. Although some would not consider an emotional entanglement an affair, this type of relationship can be just as devastating and destructive as a sexual affair. If a mate is closer to a friend than to their spouse, then it’s already an affair. Boundary issues are a factor. Betrayer keeps secrets with their friend instead of their spouse. Betrayer wants to stay married but does not want to choose between the friend and their spouse.

See this article by Rick Reynolds for more on the 6 Types of Affairs.

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The Affair Recovery Guide Part 1

Affair Recovery – Is there hope? | MyCounselor Online

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Is There Hope?

It could be your worst nightmare to wake up one day and discover the love of your life had or is having an affair. Your spouse having an affair could be something you saw coming. For others it could be a bomb was dropped out of the blue. Regardless of how you found out about the affair, it is PAINFUL. To know your husband or wife was potentially touching, kissing, holding hands with, saying I love you too, or having sex with another person is devastating.

You may obsess over the details of what might have happened and at the same time not want to know any of the details at all. It is possible you do not want to know what happened because knowing the details would make it even more painful. Or you could not stop thinking about what he or she did.

It is possible you have spent hours or even days checking phone records, Facebook messages, emails, credit card statements, text messages, etc. to find out what happened. It is common for someone who has just discovered their spouse has been unfaithful to experience a time of shock, disbelief and rage.

To be betrayed in this way is devastating, so devastating you may not know where to start to pick up the pieces of your marriage or if you should even try. When emotional and physical affairs are combined research shows that 45% of men and 25% of women have engaged in sexual infidelity.

Here are some of the common phrases heard from men and women who have discovered their partner had an affair:

  • How could this happen?
  • Was I not good enough sexually?
  • Am I not attractive enough?
  • Am I not romantic enough? Am I not skinny enough?
  • Am I not witty enough?
  • Am I just boring?
  • What do I do now?
  • Do I get a divorce? Separate? Work it out?
  • Who do I talk to about this?
  • If anyone knew would they judge me or us?
  • This will ruin our reputation of being the “it” couple everyone views us as.
  • What really happened?
  • Did they have sex?
  • How often did they have sex?
  • Where did they have sex?
  • What positions?
  • What was he or she wearing?
  • Did they have sex with them the same day they had sex with me?
  • Does my spouse have an STD?
  • Do I have an STD now?
  • What else has my spouse been lying about?
  • I need to find the person whom my spouse had the affair with and talk to them. Maybe it will help me.

All of these thoughts are very normal and the questions need answers. Many of the answers can be found in this article series. Some of them you’ll need to work with an experienced affair recovery counselor to figure out.

It is important to take the time to gain an understanding of what happened. When you learn your spouse has just had an affair you may feel as though everyone is looking at you to see what decision you will make next. You may believe you are on some sort of timer to make a decision about your relationship today or tomorrow. This is a false sense of urgency. You may have friends say to stick it out with your spouse or to leave him or her. You may have your kids in mind and thinking about what they would want you to do. All of these factors contribute to the difficulty of making a decision. Instead of being impulsive, take some time to think about the decision you want to make.

Allow yourself to hurt, feel the pain and process it. After that begin to decide what you want to do. Consult with people you trust who are not biased and seek professional help.

What if my spouse isn’t interested in getting help?

We often get the question “What if my spouse isn’t interested in saving our marriage, or getting help? Is there any hope?” The answer is a definite YES. While you can’t make your spouse want to save or work on a marriage you do have 100% control over 50% of the relationship.

Many times we start work with one spouse only to find the reluctant spouse later willing to engage the process after they start seeing a difference in their partner. It doesn’t always happen, but it certainly does happen often. Part of the mechanism at work here is that God is interested in repairing and reconciling relationships. When we get on board with what God wants to do, we find that He is able to accomplish things we never could.

Another component at work is that families and relationships are what we call “systems.” That is, like a mechanical watch, with all its gears and springs, the pieces of a relationship react with each other. Just like turning a gear in a watch a different direction is necessarily going to change the way the watch works, so changing one part of a relationship will necessarily change the way the relationship functions. It’s unavoidable. Now, that doesn’t mean it will be easy or your spouse will come around to your way of seeing things. It just means things will be different and can be better.

The more you grow personally and spiritually the more likely it is that you will act more lovingly in all your relationships. This will ensure that the 50% of the relationship under your control is the best it can be. In response, often times we see reluctant spouses become more interested in pursuing some changes of their own.

But I don’t have any feelings for my mate, why should I think my feelings would change?

Not having feelings at this point is normal. It’s common for either spouse to have lost all desire for their mate when a marriage is struggling. In fact, it maybe even worse than that, often it feels as if it’s less than zero and the thought of your mate touching you or you having to touch your mate is repulsive. Even so, there is a strong probability those feelings will come back, but not without some changes on both parties parts.

Now look, let’s get real. People can and do change. The very fact you have different feelings today than you did on the day you got married is proof that you can change. In fact, if on that day someone had told you that you would change and come to the point you couldn’t stand to be near your mate, you would have laughed and said it would never happen. So when I tell you that you can change and find a strong desire for your mate again, then you’ll laugh and say it couldn’t happen, but your wrong, it can happen.

The challenge, however, is that negative change can happen with little or no effort, but positive change takes effort on our part. If you’re not willing to do the work, then you’re right, change won’t happen. But if you’ll get the necessary help then it can.

Why bother, it sounds like too much work?

Imagine being able to have a marriage where there is mutual respect, mutual caring, mutual honesty, love, and passion. If you could have that type of marriage, why would you settle for an empty, lonely room?

Divorce is a nightmare, and while that may seem like the only path out of your dilemma, it’s not true. Research shows that it takes about five years to recover from divorce, but less than two years to move beyond even infidelity in marriage. And it will only take 90 days to get your marriage back on the right track. Why wouldn’t you spend 90 days to see if you could save yourself five years of your life?

If you have children, then for their sake at least explore whether you can work it out. The impact of divorce on children is staggering; not only does it complicate their lives, but research indicates it puts them at higher risk for all sorts of life problems, it impacts their future quality of life, and literally takes years off their life expectancy.

For your own sake, if you are the type of person who believes in the institution of marriage and never imagined yourself as part of the divorce statistics, then personal integrity would suggest you explore working through your marital problems, even if it’s infidelity.

Research on emotionally focused couples counseling shows that 3 out of 4 couples (~73%) who engage professional relationship counseling to reach a place of satisfaction with their relationship.

Approximately 70% of couples engaging in therapy report staying together after an affair and of these couples approximately 50% state their relationship is stronger than it was before the affair. (Getting Past the Affair).

The process of feeling better normally takes 18-24 month but in the scope of the next 20 years of marriage, it is a short investment of time. The choice is really up to you. In our experience as therapists, when both spouses engage in therapy and work hard that they have stayed together.

The Right Way To Heal

Similar to cleaning out a gunshot wound there is a process for healing when an affair occurs during a marriage. Putting duck tape over the wound may make the blood stop from oozing out of you for a few minutes, but will not heal the wound. In the same way there is a process for helping couples and individuals to navigate through after effects of an affair, so that they can move on and have healthy, functional, and fulfilling lives moving forward.

Millions of people have experienced affairs. Fortunately, because of this, there are materials and trained professionals out there to help couples to navigate through the pain of affairs. You may feel as though you can make it through by yourself, but there is a better and more effective way to move past the pain. Seeking professional help to assist you personally or to help you and spouse navigate through the pain may be essential in helping to heal.

A trained therapist will help you to recover from the affair and will help you to navigate through the trauma. It also will help you to understand what happened and why. Lastly, it will help you to make decisions where to go and what to do during each stage of recovery.

We have therapists who specialize in affair recovery and can to help you navigate through this tough time in your marriage.

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Adultery and “The Right to Happiness”

On 'Sexual' Morality by C.S. Lewis Doodle

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“I believe everyone has a right to happiness.”

A saying such as this seems good enough, on the surface, even altruistic.  After all, wishing happiness to others is a gesture of kindness and goodwill.  I desire you to delight in life and want you to wish the same for me.  To refrain from allowing the actions of others which bring them happiness might be viewed as cruel, even inhumane.   Especially, considering what is at stake, our lives.  Only good could come out of this kind of thinking, at least that is what we are led to believe.

Well, suppose this seemingly correct view was not held by God.  What then?  How is it possible God does not want happiness for those who follow Him?  And if He is not about my happiness is He good at all?  Christians are not immune from this line of thinking.  Those who place themselves in the act of adultery often have wrestled at length with this matter.  While initially they had clarity on what they were to refrain from and why, now they are quite uncertain.  How does this happen?

“How can Christians, knowing what we know about God, rebel and enter into blatant sin?  We know that He is watching.  We know that He is listening.  We know that He is deeply grieved.  In order to turn away from Him, we must first build our case against Him.  In addition to being deceived into believing He no longer sees or cares, we must also believe He has become the foe and stands in the way of happiness.”  (Holtz, p. 55).

Maybe, if I am not ready to blatantly turn from God, I can convince myself it is his other followers who have incorrectly deduced from the Bible His lack of prioritizing my desires.  There are, after all, so many special cases in the application of His word.  We see others who are walking according to their own desires and appear blessed and happy.  Shouldn’t the same outcome be waiting for us should we choose to do what leaves us feeling happy?

“The task we have to face is the same, whether we are married or single:  to live a fulfilled life in spite of many unfulfilled desires.  What is common today, even among Christians, is that most people are just not willing to live with it.  They have concluded that living in self-denial is too high a price to pay, especially when the see others opting for the easy way out.”– Walter Trobisch, Missionary & Counselor

A reworking of our theology is not the answer.

Even those who do not believe in God will adhere to some form of moderation of their desires.  Living purely for what you want is seen as shallow and materialistic.  Selfish behavior has never been admired by any people in any time period.  However, when it comes to sexual fulfillment, the rules are very different.  Moderation and restraint can be viewed as legalistic, the actions of those too prudish to be enlightened.  Why all this formality around sex?  The result is the sexual impulse is being treated as no other impulse is.  It is afforded freedoms we would not dream of giving to other desires.

It is absolutely critical we take a more in-depth look at the belief system we are creating to enable our infidelity.  And, if our spouse and others object to our actions, perhaps it is not love and happiness they object to but deceit, selfishness, and adultery.

Holtz, L. H. (2007). Confessions of an Adulterous Christian Woman. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.

C.S. Lewis (1963). We Have No Unlimited ‘Right to Happiness

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