Many people say the worst marital crime is having an affair. It breaks the bonds of trust that were assumed at the beginning of your relationship.
Imagine you are in a start up company that is struggling. Then it is discovered that your partner has been embezzling funds. You started your company together with optimism and hope. Of course you assumed you could trust each other, so you never dreamed of such a thing, let alone “planned” how you would handle it!
The aftershocks and consequences of the discovery ripple through the entire business and partnership.
I am reminded of Gandhi’s observation about trust: “The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything else he does becomes tainted.”
You don’t know what is truth or deception when you talk to the embezzler. You want to believe him (or her) but are terrified of the consequences if the deceptions continue.
Imagine how you would feel if the embezzler said, “Go ahead and take your well-deserved vacation. I’ll take care of things here.” Or, “Why don’t you go home and I’ll close up?”
Perhaps even more difficult to hear would be: “Can’t you just get over it, I said I wouldn’t embezzle again.”
And that, dear reader, is the dilemma of your partner after learning of your affair.
They want to know what happened, when and why.
And trust me on this: these conversations are no easier on your partner than they are for you. It is just that the pain is experienced differently.
In the previous blog I described a key task for your partner. If you want to see your partner’s task you can read it here.
Your task is slightly different. Here’s your current mission should you decide to accept it.
It is all about being honest. Painfully honest. And continue painful honesty.
Every discussion will be a temptation to shade the truth a bit – to spare your partner’s feelings, to avoid an attack, to avoid an excruciatingly cold shoulder.
And the reality is you could probably shade the truth in ways they would likely never discover. But that is a slippery slope.
The one area to avoid revelation is describing any picture that depicts sexual activity in the affair. Once your partner gets those images in their head, they become damn near impossible to erase. And those images compound the misery.
The rest is honesty and more candidness.
Honesty probably means prefacing some disclosures with something like:
“This is not going to be an easy thing to say. I also know it will not be easy to hear. It feels like I am hurting you all over again by describing these things. I have already brought more pain than you should have to endure. You deserve the whole truth even though I understand the distress it creates by your trying to understand what is real today, what was real yesterday and what to build on for tomorrow.
I know it will take many conversations to establish a new foundation of trust. Even though I violated your trust, I know that trust is the foundation for any relationship that endures and grows. I promise to be honest with you. Sometimes you will ask me questions and I will say I cannot remember. It would be understandable to think I am weaseling. Later I may recall the events more clearly when I don’t feel so anxious. When that happens I will get back to you. I don’t want you to think you have to keep using a crowbar to pry out the truth.”
In other words you have to be like Caesar’s wife – above reproach.
Not every affair is a deal breaker. A medical person once told me that sometimes when a bone breaks, it can heal stronger than it was before.
Start to heal the pain with “Rapid Relationship Repair”.
Getting through this crisis will take working as a team. It is not just enduring attacks and feeling like you are being dragged by a pick-up truck down a gravel road until the driver chooses to stop.
And it is more than fixing problems. Fixing just gets you back to the stage before the cracks showed up.
What is needed is rethinking your relationship.
Rethinking allows marriages to go beyond the fix.
Rethinking allows you to become better, stronger, and united as a team.
Nothing great was ever accomplished without teamwork – this could be your opportunity.
Tell me in the comments – are you ready to rethink your relationship to move forward?
We help couples struggling with marital affairs in Menlo Park, San Francisco, San Mateo, Redwood City, San Jose, Campbell and the surrounding areas.
Peter Pearson, Ph.D., Relationship & Teamwork Expert for Entrepreneur Couples
Pete has been training and coaching couples to become a strong team since 1984 when he co-founded The Couples Institute with his psychologist wife, Ellyn Bader. Their popular book, “Tell Me No Lies,” is about being honest with compassion and growing stronger as a couple.
Pete has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” and “CBS Early Morning News,” and quoted in major publications including “The New York Times,” “Oprah Magazine,” “Redbook,” “Cosmopolitan,” and “Business Insider.”