The discovery of an affair can rock even the most stable of stable relationships. When the infidelity is first revealed, emotions are often raw and intense. But once the initial shock has worn off, it’s time for some serious talk. The conversations every couple should have after cheating has occurred may be difficult, and at times even painful, to get through, but they are a crucial part of the healing process.
And these talks will be tough on both sides of the table. The person who committed the cheating will have to own up to the behavior, share often-shameful details, and take responsibility for the pain that the affair has caused in the relationship. Meanwhile, the person who has been cheated on will have to come to terms with the reality of the cheating, as well as really examine the state of the relationship that incubated an affair. It’s going to be rough on everyone.
Overall, though, this kind of open and honest communication is crucial. If you’re still in the stages of deciding whether to salvage the relationship or move on, these talks can help you clarify your choices. And if you’re both committed to repairing your relationship, then it’s even more important to thoroughly talk this out. Hopefully, by engaging in these serious conversations, you can eventually move on from this moment in your relationship.
1. Ensure The Affair Is Over
Whenever the cheating spouse breaks off contact with the third party, it must be unwavering. "The goal of the final communication with the affair partner is to break the cycle of temptation and opportunity by demonstrating a shift in allegiance to the spouse, and dispelling hope that the affair will continue now or in the future," psychologist Lynn Margolles told PsychCentral. The healing can't begin until the affair is officially done, and this must be communicated clearly to the spouse who has been cheated on.
2. Address Past Instances Of Cheating
You and your partner should discuss whether the cheating was a one-time thing, or if it's been the default setting in previous relationships. "If someone has developed a pattern of cheating over and over, they will continue to do it again (and again) until someone – hopefully you – dumps them brutally and they realize they can’t get away with it," sex columnist Tracey Cox wrote in the Daily Mail. If this is something the cheating partner does in every relationship, then expecting monogamy from them may only lead to future heartbreak.
3. Discuss The Gritty Details
Chances are the partner who was cheated on has a lot of tough questions about the affair. As Norine Dworkin-McDaniel wrote in Today, questions such as "Where did you meet her? How long has this been going on? Did you do it in our bed? Did you use condoms?" are necessary for clearing up the affair. She advises against questions that pit the affair partner against the relationship partner, so asking "Was she better in bed than me?" will only produce responses that no one needs to hear.
4. Find Out What's Missing In The Relationship
Does the partner who cheated feel ignored? As noted in the Mayo Clinic, unaddressed marital problems that have been building for years are the types of things that can contribute to infidelity. Talking it out can help you figure out what parts of your relationship need some work.
5. Learn What Circumstances Enabled The Infidelity
Talking through the circumstances that led to the affair can also help clarify why it happened. "Was there too much time alone with someone at work? Too much talking about personal issues with someone other than the spouse? Agreement to meet in a private setting," psychologist Susan Heitler wrote on Psychology Today. "Behavioral issues like these need to be clarified." Maybe in the future the partner who cheated will know to limit alcohol consumption around coworkers, for instance.
6. Consider Therapy
Sometimes it's best to bring in the professionals to talk through your problems in a neutral setting. "You really need to find a counselor or therapist who is pro-marriage, and can help get your relationship back on track," marriage and family therapist Michele Weiner-Davis told WebMD. If you're both determined to make the relationship work, then some counseling may be the best way to address the fallout from the infidelity.
7. Determine What To Tell The Kids
If you and your SO have children, then coping with the aftermath of an affair can be even trickier. Psychiatrist Scott Haltzman recommended approaching the situation on a case-by-case basis depending on the age of the children and the details of the infidelity. If the affair is 100 percent over and you're dedicated to staying together, then "there is probably no reason to involve the children;" however, if you and your spouse are still clearly emotionally rattled, or a lot of people in the community already know about the affair, then telling them might be the better option. It all depends on your particular situation.
8. Discuss Who Else Should Know About The Affair
Should you tell your immediate family or best friends about the affair, or just keep it secret? "If everyone in one's family is apprised of the infidelity, even if the marriage improves, family members may not support the idea of staying in the marriage," Weiner-Davis said in the Huffington Post. It may be better to keep things under wraps if you hope to repair the relationship.
9. Figure Out How To Move On
Reaffirming the importance of your relationship to one another is also a crucial step. "Look your partner in the eye, take deep, long breaths and say these words . . . 'I love you. You are the one I want. We matter. I am so sorry for the pain I caused you and us. It feels scary right now, but we'll get through this,'" marriage and family therapist Sheri Meyers in the Huffington Post, adding that you should repeat as necessary. More communication and honesty can only help your cause.