Step 2 of the 7-Step Infidelity Recovery Program, is the moment when the cheating partner tells the story of the affair.
It is very crucial that the cheating partner answers the question of “What happened?”. Once an affair has been revealed, the most important element in rebuilding a marriage is establishing trust. Trust is built on complete honesty.
When possible, revealing an affair should take place in a home, not a park, restaurant or other public place. It’s more than likely that you will unfurl a litany of emotions; your spouse should not feel constrained to control emotions by the environment.
Should I tell him/her?
It is natural instinct that after the affair you try to conceal as much as possible. You delete every chats, texts and emails that might incriminate you. You tell lies to make sure it is never found. You feel that your partner does not deserve to be further hurt than currently. So you work at erasing all traces of the affair.
Though your intentions are good in these concealment actions, yet this is not the best approach towards handling the matter. No matter how meticulous you try to be, bits and bits of the affair, has the habit of resurfacing every now and then, till it becomes an unbearable embarrassment. Don’t further destroy the already damaged trust you are trying to rebuild.
It is important that you tell your partner the truth. Though it will hurt, but concealing it for later will even hurt worse. Your partner will also understand that you respect your relationship that much to tell her in order to gain back his/her trust. It will even help to solidify the relationship the more.
Ok, how much detail should I reveal?
The answer to this question depends on many factors, such as:
- Possibility for violence
- Mental health
- Situational/Social Environment
- Personality type
This requires you to be sensitive, understanding and honest, most importantly. As you are working towards building up your injured relationship, care should be taken at this step.
For some people, telling too much is dangerous and might prove to be more hurtful than informative. Too much detail not advice. The affair story should be told with a remorseful attitude. Be considerate, understanding and remorseful. You don’t talk about the fun you had, the ecstasies and hurtful good times. The detail level should be exactly the level that the betrayed partner needs and accepts. No less, no more.
You should be direct; knowing that no matter how you phrase it, it’s going to hurt. That is a given fact. Let your spouse decide what he or she wants to hear and be prepared to answer as many questions as might arise. The success of the process is the way and attitude of the cheating partner.
Why did he/she cheat on me?
The cheated on should do the best to listen, understand, and be as strong as can be possible. Talk it through. Just know that at some point the dust will settle, and then you will need to be there to help pick up the pieces.
This understanding is the important fact that should be deduced from the affair story by the spouse. This helps to guard against its reoccurrence. Even as he/she has done his part by confessing, you have to find ways to checkmate it from happening again. It might be something you need to change or pay attention to, or improve. This will create more satisfaction in the relationship and will keep infidelity out of its boundaries.
…and I am very sorry for all these..
This session should end with an apology from the infidel – for the behavior. Here, he/she shows remorse for the actions. The apology and remorse should be genuine, as genuine as possible if forgiveness is to be gotten. Don’t at this stage ask for forgiveness. A heartfelt apology is of the best interest here.
Telling the story of the affair is a necessary second practical step toward moving the marriage back on track. The next step is Personal Healing.
Why TELL the Story of the Affair?
The simple truth is this: the more a couple talks about the affair, the more likely that they stay together. Why?
- It stops the spouse from becoming a private investigator. WHEN THEY HAVE the details of the affair they can grieve the story. They can be angry over the details. They can start to make sense of what happened.
- This is the only way for the betrayed partner to heal.
- This is the solid foundation that they need in order to save the marriage
- Discussing the affair provides clarity for the unfaithful partner (increased self-understanding).
- The relationship cannot be rebuilt on a foundation of secrecy. The ongoing lies will compound overtime and effect the quality of the relationship in the future.
- Ultimately, it is all about Respect.
Advice for Therapists: Proof that telling the story of the affair, is best
For a productive discussion of affair details, the hurt partner must be able to listen and respond calmly to answers given. Emotional safety is vital for both partners. The vulnerability the unfaithful partner feels when answering intimate questions contributes to trust building. Questions can be written down and answered a few at a time or in big batches when it is psychologically safe to do so. The guiding principle is whether additional information will enhance healing.
Therapists can help hurt partners understand that becoming enraged by information they have requested negatively reinforces the unfaithful partner’s willingness to be open. On the other hand, if the unfaithful partner withholds or skimps on the truth, or changes the story in the slightest way, the hurt partner will pick up on it almost immediately and the couple may go back to square one. Any lie discovered after the basic story has been described pushes recovery even further back, because the hurt partner feels betrayed all over again. Therefore, the sooner that accurate details are given, the better. (Unfaithful partners do not need to fill in details beyond what is asked for.)
Time for a Heartfelt Apology
The “Apology” is simply that…an apology. We are not asking the betrayed partner for forgiveness at this stage and in fact we discourage it. Often, the betrayed partner will say the infidel has not apologized as yet for what they have done. So a formal apology is required.
The apology is better accepted at this stage, after a week or two of communication exercises and monologues, so the couple has a chance to build empathy and listening skills.
The 7 Step Infidelity Recovery Model has a 6-Step Apology process to ensure the apology is genuine.