To ask, or not to ask?
“Every time she asks me who I was talking to it puts me on the defense.”
“I can’t do anything without being questioned!”
“He has the password to everything, I am an open book.”
These are some of the things I hear in sessions with couples who are trying to rebuild trust in their relationships. They come to me after they’ve discovered their partner has been unfaithful, and they are devastated and wanted to know what the next steps are.
After I help them through their initial crisis phase, we talk about rebuilding trust, and what that’s going to look like going forward. I’ve heard many creative solutions to this from wary spouses who have been cheated on, and sometimes they are exhausted with the constant checking they are doing.
Checking the emails, checking the texts, checking the location of their phone and making sure it matches up to their story. How long should it take to get home from the grocery store? Is that story about having to stay later at work even true?
This can become the reality in the aftermath of an affair, and quite frankly I too become exhausted just listening to all the extra lengths people go to in order make sure their spouses are being truthful.
But the honest truth is, if your partner wants to cheat, they will cheat.
You can’t affair-proof your relationship.
I know that can be incredibly difficult to hear for some.
But it can also be relieving when you really break it down. The truth is, no amount of checking is going to keep them faithful, so you can stop driving yourself crazy doing so.
In the initial stages after an affair has occurred it is important to negotiate boundaries. No contact with the affair partner, checking in frequently, and giving up passwords for devices if that’s what makes you feel better at the time.
However, trust is truly built on the interactions you have with one another after you decide to stay together. Trust is built on faith, and faith must sometimes be blind.
I often tell partners who have strayed, if you place even a tenth of the energy you put into your affair into your marriage, imagine the happiness you can have in this relationship. There’s a good amount of reconfiguring, time stolen, and effort put into meeting an affair partner. Imagine if you did that with your partner?
It’s easy to get defensive as the questions are asked over and over, but if you’ve strayed then you need to understand it’s not necessarily about your partner wanting to get a different answer from you. It’s really about them having gone through trauma and wanting to regain some sense of normalcy.
The person they trusted most and likely didn’t think was capable of cheating broke their trust, and so they are trying to regain their bearings and in some ways, their sense of control.
If you are the partner asking the questions, I suggest you ask yourself this: Do you want to know the answer to that question, or do you want your partner to know that you have this question?
Those two things are very different. It may seem like you want the answers to all your questions, but if you take a step back and really think about it, are the answers really helpful to you? Once you receive the information you can’t go back, and you can’t “un-see” the images that will float through your mind.
I’ll ask you again – do you want to know the answer to your question? Or do you just want your partner to know that you have this question?
You may want your partner to know that you have questions about how they were able to sneak away and make time for their affair. This question is different then, “when did it happen?” or “did you do it in the car? In the office? In our home?”
Similarly you may want to have access – phone, computer, and email passwords. Having access doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be checking daily. It’s really about your partner’s willingness to give you the passwords and access that means all the difference.
If you’re having difficulty navigating your way through reestablishing trust with your partner in the aftermath of an affair, I’d love to help. You can click here and schedule a phone consultation that’s totally free and we can talk about how therapy might help one or both of you through the recovery process.