Dr. Shirley Glass remains one of the world’s leading expert on what happens in marriage when an affair is disclosed or discovered. She has been called the “godmother of infidelity research.” She began researching infidelity in 1975. It was her primary clinical and research focus until her death in 2003.
One of her essential findings was that healing from an affair was not possible until the full story of the affair could be openly discussed and shared. Her research was incredibly valuable because it was concrete and specific, and became the scientific foundation for new therapeutic methods in working with couples struggling to recover from an affair.
Both partners have a role in co-creating a constructive dialogue to heal and repair. The problem is that the more the hurt partner pushes for information, the more the involved partner retreats. The more the involved partner retreats, the more the hurt partner applies pressure, and what should be a heartfelt dialogue quickly becomes an escalating power struggle.
Couples can struggle when an affair is disclosed
How Do You Talk About The Affair If You Are The Hurt Partner?
- Control Your Explosive Outbursts. Sure you’re furious. But sometimes it is better to be curious instead of furious. If you get upset every time your involved partner tries to answer your questions, you will quickly train them that sharing with you only makes things worse. Emotional abuse will never lead to mutual understanding or healing. It sure feels good at first, but over the long run, it doesn’t help.
- Silence is Power. This is difficult in the aftermath of affair disclosure, but it is an essential skill for hurt partners to acquire. But you will learn a lot more about what is going on if you can just calm yourself down enough to listen. Dr. Glass says that when your involved partner starts to open up, imagine you are sitting behind a one-way mirror. You can see and hear everything, but you can’t be seen or heard. When you feel an overwhelming trigger, and just need to say something, take a deep breath and write it down for a future conversation. If you chronically interrupt in an intensely emotional way, you’ll make affair recovery much more difficult. You will also miss hearing important information, and your partner will learn that speaking to you about the affair is less than safe.
- Try Not Be Contemptuous and Pass Judgement. You might feel better diagnosing your partner’s moral failings, but after that feeling passes, what good did it actually do you? Talking about your pain is appropriate. Diagnosing your partner is best left to your couples therapist.
In my next post, I will talk about the role that involved partners have in affair recovery.