Answering the “Why?” of an Affair

Every week, I sit with couples trying to find their way through the devastation of infidelity in search of safety and stability in their marriage. The choice to stay in a relationship even with all the pain of the recovery process is courageous. Fleeing to solitude or another relationship seems so enticing. The wounded partner, caught in the confusion of the trauma, desperately wants clarity. Usually the the basic question is Why? Why did you need this? Why didn’t you turn to me? Why was I not enough?  Usually it is uncovered that an affair has less to do about the hurt partner then about the frailties of the offender who feels entitled, wants attention, a thrill or another who can commiserate with the difficulties a married life.

Then there is the question of how much you want to know about the details. Many hurt spouses want to know exact dates to get perspective on how unknowing they were. These are healthy questions to ask and are part of integrating the betrayal. But when it comes to sexual details proceed with caution. This information can be more destructive than healthy.

Each partner has a part to play if they want to have conversations that lead to healing. The betrayed partner deserves thoughtful honest answers to the why questions. A therapist can help to keep the focus on self reflection instead of partner/marriage blame.  Personal responsibility and self reflection has to come before reflecting on the relationship.

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