Discovering that your partner has had an affair is a traumatic event. Feelings of anger, betrayal, and loss can overwhelm you, and it can be extremely difficult to keep your emotions in check. In this state of post-traumatic stress, your head is spinning with thousands of questions, and you may find yourself demanding answers from your partner as you struggle to make sense of the situation.
It is important to communicate with your partner, and it may seem fair to expect honest answers. However, in such an emotionally charged state, a conversation can quickly escalate into a confrontation that does more harm than good.
Here are a few tips for navigating difficult conversations after the discovery of an affair.
- Avoid name-calling. It’s natural to feel angry, but expressing contempt for your partner can further damage your relationship.
- Withhold judgment. You’ve been wronged, and it’s okay to show your emotions. Your partner needs to see that you are frustrated, angry, and hurt. But avoid blaming or condemning your partner for causing these feelings, no matter how tempting. Once you become accusatory, your partner may shut down and stop listening.
- Don’t play detective. Your partner has been dishonest with you, but this is not the time for interrogation. Your goal should not be to uncover more lies or to prove that your partner is a liar. Only ask questions when you really need to know the answers. Make sure your partner knows you feel betrayed, but tell them some concrete things they can do to regain your trust.
- Don’t ask about sexual details. In my practice, I’ve found that betrayed spouses have a fierce desire to know the sexual details of their partner’s affair, and they often believe they have a right to know. But actually hearing the details only adds fuels to the betrayed partner’s raging emotions, aggravating the symptoms of post-traumatic stress. It’s best to postpone questions about sex until you are in a better place emotionally. As time goes by, you will likely feel less urgency about these questions.
- Think ahead. Limit the potential for emotional outbursts by planning your conversations ahead of time. Make a list of your questions, and take time to reflect on your feelings about each question before you open up to your partner. Make sure you will be able to explain to your partner why answering each question is so important to you. Also, think about what you need from your partner in the future, and how you will express those needs to your partner.
If you think you need marriage counseling Lutherville MD, please call Darina Alban MSW LCSW-C at 443-977-9463