1. CRISIS MANAGEMENT
COMMUNICATION WITH OTHERS
By the time many couples make it into a Affair Recovery process, they have hit bottom and may have spilled their guts to several people. This type of sharing can happen reflexively as a response to the feeling of acute crisis.
Unfortunately, partners often share with others so without letting their spouse know who or what was told. As a result, the other partner finds out inadvertently and feels surprised, embarrassed, and betrayed. This painful experience can layer additional hard feelings on top of what already exists.
CATCH UP ON PAST SHARING
The first step that we recommend is for each partner to tell:
Who they have told, and
What they have shared. This could range from:
We are having marital struggles.
Our marriage is in a crisis and we are seeking help (counseling...).
There has been infidelity but we are share any details.
As you and your partner try to figure out who to tell and how much to share, consider the following:
DO NOT GO THROUGH THIS ALONE
It’s absolutely critical to tell someone. Carrying this amount of pain alone is not bearable. It’s wise to tell a limited number of trustworthy people, so you have someone who can listen to you, hug you, support you, and encourage you. This person(s) should be wise enough to avoid making judgment, not telling you what you should and should not do. You need love from this person far more than advice.
MONITOR YOUR MOTIVES FOR SHARING
As you experience the roller-coaster of Affair Recovery, especially in the early phases, check yourself for negative motives.
Negative Sharing Motive
It is easy for a betrayed partner to lash out at the other by broadcasting all the wrongs that have been done. This type of sharing acts as a form of punishment. The thinking is: "I have suffered so why shouldn't he/she feel the same pain?" Unfortunately, this type of behavior just creates more distance in the relationship and often makes a partner feel worse for having taken a low blow.
Positive Sharing Motive - Support
The most obvious positive sharing motives is to provide support for you. In an infidelity crisis, both partners need to have a listening non-judgmental ear to vent to.
Positive Motives - Accountability
A second positive sharing motive is to create accountability for your unfaithful spouse. In some cases sharing with others, may result in a constructive form of embarrassment on the offending spouse. By facing one's peers, it may cause the unfaithful partner to snap out of a state of denial, thus allowing him/her to recognize how wrong his/her actions were. Friends and family may remind the unfaithful partner of a higher set of values or a higher calling. They may also call attention to the destructive ripple effect that a destroyed marriage has on a family and community.
Positive Sharing Motive - Breaking Secrecy
A third positive sharing motive is to break destructive patterns of secrecy that may have existed for decades, and sometimes for generations. Opening up about what has occurred may release family and friends to finally be honest with each other. There may have been betrayals in your parents' and grandparents' generation that you find about, or within your friends' marriages. You may be able to learn from others once you know that they had similar experiences. Confronting the truth head may feel terrifying at first but often is helpful for getting on the right path.
TELLING THE SPOUSE OF THE AFFAIR PARTNER
Should the spouse of the affair partner be told? Will this serve as a disincentive for the affair to continue or be repeated? Would you want to know if you were the spouse? If you decide that the affair partner's spouse should be told, who should tell? The betrayed partner or the unfaithful partner? Will this cause other consequences in the community that may be harmful to you or your children? Due to the complexity of this situation , we suggest that these issues be discussed in the presence of your therapist so that full agreement is achieved prior to taking any action.
DOES THIS PERSON KNOW HOW TO FORGIVE?
It can feel good to share with someone who may be quick to condemn your spouse for their horrible wrongdoing. But this may be a big mistake. Ask yourself, "Will this person be able to forgive my spouse if I decide to do so?" You really want to share with someone who can view a situation in a balanced way and is capable of understanding healing and forgiveness. This is hard for some individuals who are wired to see black and white so please be careful as you decide who you will share your story with.
Some counselors will guide you to NOT share the story of the affair with anyone. The main rationale is to avoid damaging or embarrassing the unfaithful partner.
We take a different view. As discussed above, our belief is that:
the value of gaining support usually outweighs the risk of harmful fallout,
the natural consequences resulting from his actions will help him/her realize the magnitude of pain from his/her actions, and
the act of sharing reduces feelings of shame; thus, allowing the unfaithful partner will be freed to act with more integrity going forward.
You have to make your own decision as a couple and will support whatever decision that you make.
RISK OF OVERSHARING
Sharing with a limited number of supportive and trustworthy people can provide both partners with critical support to survive the crisis and eventually heal. However, be careful of oversharing as it could create negative consequences for everyone, often this can include your children. People often can't resist the temptation to gossip which can be destructive to your recovery efforts and your marriage.
Jointly create a list with the following:
who you have already told,
who you would like to tell going forward, and
how much you have or will tell each person, ranging from "having marital struggles" to sharing everything.