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 After an Affair?
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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 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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