This articles tackles some of the myths of infidelity regarding an unfaithful spouse after an affair has been exposed. These cultural myths leave some wondering:
- How does society view the offending partner?
- Is there space for the unfaithful spouse to grieve, too, after the affair?
- What is (s)he ‘allowed’ to feel?
- What about boundaries?
- How should the relationship with the illicit partner look after the affair?
- What about the details? How much is too much to tell the spouse that was cheated on?
The following points lean heavily on the book, NOT “Just Friends,” by Shirley Glass. The book offers great guidance for hurting couples who are looking to heal from the trauma of an affair and reconcile and rebuild their marriage.
This article aims particularly to give guidance to the unfaithful spouse who has committed themselves to restoring their marriage after the affair. Hopefully it will help them to avoid allowing these myths to sabotage attempts for recovery, and further, help them understand the responsibilities and responses intrinsic to the recovery process.
Myth #1: The Unfaithful Spouse Has No Right to Grieve the Affair’s End
So often after the affair is exposed, the unfaithful spouse encounters an environment hostile to healing. Social support is often unavailable and the offending spouse juggles a terrible loss together with social disapproval. “Because society at large disapproves of infidelity and frowns upon the self-centeredness associated with cheating, the involved partner does not receive much sympathy for his or her unhappiness.”
Whilst society should certainly not condone the cheating, the unfaithful’s need to grieve is also important and relevant to the healing of both spouses and the marriage. The offending spouse must be allowed to grieve both the affair partner and the innocence of their marriage.
Glass offers this to consider: Surely it may be painful for the faithful spouse to see the offending spouse saddened about the end of the affair. But in many ways, the grief is the evidence that the extramarital relationship is truly over. The unfaithful spouse is dealing with a wide range of heartrending issues that are complex to navigate and resolve. They may feel fear, loss, and shame; they may also feel like there is no hope in sight.
Though indisputably wrong, the offending spouse has suffered a great deal of loss in the wake of the affair being revealed. They must allow themselves a time to grieve, and commit the great deal of energy needed to restore the marriage.
Myth #2: The Unfaithful Spouse Should Keep the Details of the Affair a Secret
Many involved partners convince themselves that disclosing the specifics of the affair will only bring further trauma to their suffering spouse. However, the amount of detail disclosed is not up to the unfaithful spouse. It should be at the discretion of the betrayed spouse. Their “need to know is the determining factor for how much detail and discussion is necessary.”
The two spouses, together, must work together to decide the amount of disclosure that is needed to afford the betrayed spouse healing from the traumatic event. Glass remarks, “Knowing the true story behind a trauma is the only way a victim can stop obsessing and begin to heal.” She offers couples guidance on how much information to share: “Information that quells the obsessive need to know is healing, but information that fuels the obsessiveness is traumatizing and should be avoided.”
Honesty and openness send a clear and heartening message to the offended spouse that the affair has ended and the marriage takes priority over every other relationship. However, if the unfaithful spouse lies when asked difficult questions, it will in the end cause “more harm than good because the only way to restore a betrayed partner’s sanity is to be honest about what has, up to now, been concealed.”
Myth #3: It is Possible to Remain Friends with the Affair Partner
Common sense should caution any involved partner from maintaining a relationship of any kind with their former affair partner. Glass notes, “It is an unfortunate reality that someone who has crossed the line into a romantic sexual affair cannot go back to the previous state of platonic friendship.”
A relationship with your affair partner will always present a threat to your marriage, no matter how hard you work to protect it from the realm of romance. It may undermine your spouse’s sense of safety, rebuilding of trust, or may make them question your commitment to your marriage. It may seem incomprehensible to them why you would want to maintain a relationship with someone who caused such damage. Therefore, you should end all contact swiftly and promptly with the affair partner.
There are cases where it is unavoidable to have contact—such as coworkers, or fellow parishioners at the same church. In this situation, maintaining complete and total honesty with your spouse is essential for the protection of your marriage. It is important to report every interaction or encounter with your affair partner to your spouse.
“Honesty is the only way to undo the legacy of deception and lies.” You give your spouse a clear message that you are committed to your marriage above all else when you cut off the affair partner insofar as possible and then disclose any unavoidable interactions.
Christian Counseling For Infidelity and Affairs Can Offer Help for Your Marriage
Are you and your spouse looking to unravel the damage and pain that the affair caused? You do not have to do this alone. Working together with a professional Christian counselor in Spokane, you can reestablish your relationship and your marriage can, in fact, experience love again. The counselor offers tools, perspective, and guidance to safely work through the hurt and the aftermath.
Using therapeutic techniques and Biblical principles, the counselor can assist both partners in showing empathy and acting responsibly within their marriage. We would love to be the ones to walk that journey of reconciliation with you, helping you heal and grow in intimacy with one another.
Principles from NOT “Just Friends” by Shirley Glass, PhD.Photos
“Through the Window,” courtesy of Clem Onojeghuo, unsplash.com, Public Domain License; “The Talk,” courtesy of Morgan Sessions, unsplash.com, Public Domain License; “Walking through the Fog,” courtesy of Sebastian Pichler, unsplash.com, Public Domain License