My inbox has been filled with enquiries from men and women and the common theme goes like this.
“I discovered my partner’s affair over the school holidays and I am devastated”.
“I knew things weren’t right in our marriage but I never for one moment thought my partner was cheating on me. I am all over the place, we have two small children.”
“Please help, I’ve no one to talk to, my partner discovered messages on my phone and thinks I’ve been having an affair. I haven’t but I was tempted.”
The discovery of our partner’s infidelity can send us in to a rollercoast of shock, anger, and denial, as intense emotions take over and steal our certainty (and sanity). The desire to want to know every sordid detail is real and can in fact cause further pain and suffering.
“Once you know something, you can’t ‘unknow’ it. You have to face the consequences” – Esther Perel
Despite your hurt impulses, you don’t have to know everything about what happened. Esther Perel, author of Mating In Captivity and The State of Affairs says;
“It’s okay if you don’t want all the details. Let them carry the burden of that knowledge and take responsibility for figuring out who he wants to be as a man, as a person”.
The way we question a partner about an affair can have a huge impact on our ability to heal and/or can create further suffering that can be irreparable. Perel describes two types of inquiry following the discovery of an affair.
The first is the DETECTIVE style of inquiry, this is interrogative and in my mind quite primitive and egotistical – there’s nothing wrong with it, but it is more damaging to the betrayed as it stems from the part of us, that is hurt, defensive, wants to attack and is rooted in a part of us, who wants to apportion blame.
These types of questions sound like this:
- Did you have sex more than once?
- Is she prettier than me?
- Did you sleep in our bed?
- Did you have anal sex?
Detective questions tend to add further shame, and trauma-inducing a sense of comparison and victimisation.
If you want to heal and transform after the discovery of an affair – you have to be willing to take 100% responsibility for your SELF, your thoughts, feelings and actions. This is how you reclaim your power and emotional freedom.
The second is the INVESTIGATIVE style of enquiry where you are looking beyond the facts of what happened so you can understand the underlying reasons for the behaviour. This is where you want to understand what the affair has meant for your partner (or yourself). This form of enquiry might sound like this:-
- Were you looking for the affair or did it just happen?
- What was it like for you when you came home afterwards?
- Did you want me to find out?
- Do you think you should be forgiven?
- What did it wake up in you?
- What was different about the sex?
Knowledge can bring clarity in helping you to heal and move forward, either as a couple or as an individual.
Make sure you take the time to see the right support so you can understand why the affair happened and if you can rebuild trust and move forward or if you can gain an understanding of the patterns within both of you that led to the breakdown of the relationship.
Seeking professional support as soon as possible can make a huge difference when an affair has been discovered, there is a six-month golden window immediately after discovery where a couple is more likely to reconcile and rebuild…. and your relationship could thrive.