By Benjamin Deu, MA, LMHC, Seattle Christian Counseling
References “NOT ‘Just Friends’” by Shirley P. Glass, Ph.D with Jean Coppock Staeheli
You have told your spouse you had an affair. Now they want to know everything about it. But every mention of your infidelity seems like an invitation to drop an atomic bomb of emotions all over your home. So, what is the best way to handle disclosure of the details of your affair?
◦ Discuss the affair in a lot of detail at the beginning. You are both in such a tenuous place emotionally that it is best to keep your discussions brief. Glass suggests an approach similar to lifting a lid occasionally to keep the pressure from exploding it off.
◦ Establish guidelines for discussions. Don’t argue past a certain time at night, and take a break when it starts getting out of hand. Stop immediately if verbal or physical abuse seems likely.
◦ Answer the betrayed spouse’s questions honestly. “It’s important to share a reconstruction of events that allows the betrayed partner to establish the reality of the affair.” (112)
◦ Stick to questions related to who, what, when, and where.
◦ Try to withhold details. When the betrayed spouse has to pry information from you it reinforces their suspicion you are still hiding things from them, and that you cannot be trusted.
◦ Answer “why” questions. That kind of information is best revealed later (your motivations for the affair, whether your spouse was to blame).
◦ Discuss your extramarital sexual activities. This can complicate your marital sex life.
◦ Account for your whereabouts during the affair. Did you say you were heading into work an hour early when you were really meeting your former affair partner? Tell your spouse.
◦ Try to disclose as much as possible (following the suggestions based on what to disclose now, and what to keep until later). This prevents nasty surprises down the road.
Remember the lesson of Ecclesiastes 3– everything in its time, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (Eccl. 3:1 NIV) Just because you or your spouse want to get everything out there right now, or save it for later, doesn’t mean that is the right way to handle disclosure after an affair.
Christian Counseling for Talking about Infidelity
Discussing infidelity in a productive way that doesn’t leave you both screaming at once another or stomping off into another room is almost impossible without professional help. If it has come out that you or your spouse has been unfaithful, make an appointment with a professional Christian counselor. Their office provides a neutral, productive place for the two of you to discuss what has happened in your marriage. They will reel you back in when tension gets out of hand, and provide biblical principles to guide you through this valley in your relationship.
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