BEFORE YOU START
UNFAITHFUL PARTNER PREVIEW
If you have been unfaithful to your partner, you have a decision to make. If you choose the path of repair, we want you to give you a PREVIEW of what you are signing up for. If you decide to move forward, please know that we are committed to supporting you at every step.
Just be mentally prepared to be challenged to grow in ways that you never have been before. There will be very lonely and deep valleys. And the healing work with your partner will take time. No matter what the outcome, the vast majority of those who stick with the process to the end describe their journey as completely worth it.
We will go into these topics in detail later but, for now, here is a preview of the recovery work that lies ahead.
YOUR PARTNER AND PTSD
For most betrayed spouses, life as they thought they knew it has ended. The world has been turned upside down. The one person she or he thought could be trusted with the most important things in life has been transformed into enemy #1.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is when someone has experienced a life threatening event, causing the body and mind to go into fight, flight or freeze mode. Your partner will either have PTSD or display most of the symptoms. He or she will be mentally replaying events, sensing danger around every corner, and experiencing feelings of worthlessness.
We will help you recognize these symptoms and respond in constructive ways. The reactions will lessen in intensity and become less frequent. The better you are at responding, the more your partner will find safety and be able to handle her/his emotions.
In the midst of this craziness, most spouses (but not all) will demand the truth, the complete truth, with all the important details. Your natural instinct will be protect your spouse. Who would possibly want to hurt your spouse any more than you already have? Thus, the natural instinct will be to tell some of the basics but hold back the worst parts.
Unfortunately, your partner will sense this and will then trust you even less (assuming that is possible). Waiting to until you are ready to tell the "full" truth at the right time in a safe setting is an absolute necessity for allowing your spouse to stop wondering about what she/he doesn't know. We will help you do this in a process called "Formal Therapeutic Disclosure" as part of Step 2. This will bring safety and start the process of re-establishing trust begin.
Like it or not, the details matter. Your spouse will constantly review what happened in her/his mind to gauge the magnitude of the betrayal and deception. Your honesty can help him/her not feel that less crazy when wondering about what was going on. For example, the betrayed partner may have felt suspicious about that sudden weekend business trip that invented to spend a weekend with the affair partner. There may great relief for the betrayed spouse in confirming that her/his fears were grounded in truth.
PROCESS FOR SHARING THE TRUTH
Your spouse must make sense of what has happened to move forward. Knowing that all the important facts have been shared is a must-have to wrap one's mind around what has happened. As mentioned above, we have a process called the "Formal Therapeutic Disclosure" (FTD) to guide you through this process.
You may prepare this disclosure with the help of either your individual or couples counselor. We will help you find a way to say what you need to say without minimizing the truth but also not adding details that do more harm than good. For example, the intimate details of a sexual encounter do not need to be disclosed. Once the FTD is shared in a constructive way, the obsessing about the past begins to decrease and the forward-looking work begins.
END ALL CONTACT WITH THE AFFAIR PARTNER
Many unfaithful spouses have built an emotional bond with the affair partner. You may feel the a powerful urge to comfort or be comforted by that person. However, you will need to process those feelings and bring closure to that relationship so you can focus on rebuilding your marriage. Your therapist will support you in this extremely difficult process of gaining closure with the affair partner. This may be difficult, especially if you will not communicate directly with this person. Yet, it must be done. We encourage you to make it a priority because you will be stuck in recovery until it happens.
Once this has happened, there can be no future interactions with the affair partner at all. This includes lunches, walks, emails, phone calls, texts, IM’s, or Facebook interactions. You will need to be prepared with a plan of what to do if any of these interactions happen that were outside of your control (for example, if you run into the affair partner in the grocery store) or if you lapse in your recovery and text the affair partner.
It is common to receive pressure from the affair partner. There may be tremendous temptation to go back to the affair. That is why we recommend having your own individual therapist (in addition to your couples therapist) to give you a place to talk about your feelings for the affair partner without your spouse present. Remember, closing the door on the affair partner will not be easy and should not be taken lightly.
But, to be clear, your partner will not begin to heal until she/he believes the affair is 100% over. You need to send an unequivocal message that makes your full committed to the marriage crystal clear.
Although it can be uncomfortable, you will be giving your partner a huge gift by being accountable and transparent about your actions. This includes sharing where you go and what you do. This also includes your electronic communications.
We encourage you to voluntarily share all of your user names and passwords for all of your electronic devices. Place your electronics in a shared space in the evening and invite your spouse to take a look at any device at any time. Don't make her/him ask you. You should consider volunteering to be tracked. This may provide great comfort to your suffering spouse. The more open you are, the less the betrayed spouse will feel the need to check.
Learn to go beyond yes and no answers to questions. Suppose your spouse asks you if the affair partner was at the company golf outing. If she wasn't there, you could say "no" and be truthful. Another level of honest would be to tell her that you did run into her the parking lot before you left for the golf outing but that you didn't talk to her. Going beyond the basics will send the message that you have ended your life of deception.
LISTEN TO YOUR PARTNER'S PAIN
We will teach you how to become an empathic listener. You will be trained how to listen without defending yourself, and to understand and connect with your partner’s underlying emotions. Most people have not refined the skills to respond this way. It is a rare skill but one that we can help you master.
You will also learn how to emotionally connect beyond words; through body language, acts of service, and, if your spouse permits it, non-sexual touch like a touch on the shoulder.
LONG TERM MINDSET
Healing takes time. An affair usually is years in the making. Even though you want the pain to go away now, unwinding the tangled mess doesn't happen overnight.
Research shows that most couples report full recovery two years after the affair ends and full disclosure is made.
Another way to think about it is as if the damage from the infidelity was a physical injury. If your partner broke a leg, there would be the immediate surgery but there may be years of rehab before full strength is recovered. The leg may be even stronger than before after the physical therapy. But you can't rush the process. The leg (and you and your spouse) needs to go through the daily work of rehab.
Having a long term mindset will help your state of mind. This will make it easier (not easy!) to be kind and patient when your partner's emotions go up and down, or when an upsetting flashback occurs and, in the moment, you feel like you are starting over in your recovery or you question whether any progress has been made. In those moments, you will need to be there for her and accept her raw emotions just as they are. With our help, these moments will become precious opportunities for bonding that draw you closer together and contribute to your long term healing.