I recently heard from a husband who sincerely wanted to know how much he should disclose about his cheating to his wife. At some point in this conversation, it became very apparent that the husband was truly remorseful and was willing to do whatever needed to be done to help his wife move past this in the way that was the most healthy for her, not for him. He told me that ultimately, he would understand if she wanted to divorce him but that his main concern was that she not feel badly about herself. His main hope was that she would one day be happy again, even if this meant that she was happy without him.
He had a very specific question though. His wife was very insistent on knowing “each and every detail” about his cheating. He wanted to do the right thing, but he had concerns. He told me that as more and more details came out, the wife became more and more angry and the marriage deteriorated more and more. The wife told him that his being willing to tell the truth would mean a lot to her and might make her react better to him and the cheating. The husband doubted this and asked “would my telling her all of the details of the affair mean that she would have an easier time moving on?”
There’s no easy answer to this question. I feel that there is information that a wife in this situation is entitled to and needs to know. However, there are some details that only cause more pain. In short, knowing some things can very much help and knowing other things can very much hurt. I will discuss this more in the following article.
Honesty After An Affair Is Vitally Important, But Some Topics Are More Vital Than Others: Wives will often insist that they don’t want to hear any more lies after their husband has been caught in an affair. You absolutely can not blame them for this. It’s completely understandable and they have the right to the information that will allow them to know exactly what and who they are dealing with.
The types of things that they will often most want to know is if the affair is completely over and if you are willing to be honest and conduct yourself with integrity from this point on. They often want to know how you feel about them today and where your commitment is. They also want to know what went wrong. They often want your reassurance that you’ve completely removed yourself from this situation and will not repeat it.
It can help both of you to know and understand where things went wrong. This is important because if you can’t undercover the underlying factors, then you’re vulnerable to repeat them. And, often your wife will really want to know what your plan is from here. She wants to know if you really believe that the two of you can make it after this and why or why not this might be true. In short, she probably really does not understand why she is in the situation that she is in. She wants to know why she’s here, where she goes from here, and how (or if) you’re going to help her recover and be happy again.
Sometimes, Admitting “Absolutely Everything About The Affair” Can Hurt More Than It Helps: I’m all for transparency and honesty. And this wife was demanding that her husband tell her “absolutely everything about the affair.” I understand why she wanted these answers. But, I can also tell you from experience that sometimes the tiny details that your wife may swear she wants might be the details that hurt her the most.
Believe me when I say that she might believe that she really wants to know where you went and what you did. But, sometimes the answers to these questions are absolutely devastating. If she personalizes the other woman and gets very detailed and troublesome images in her head, this can be very hurtful to her and difficult to overcome. When you’re tempted to tell everything, ask yourself if your answers are going to empower your wife or hurt her.
Now, some of this information is going to hurt her simply because of the nature of your actions. However, she doesn’t need to know what kind of perfume the other woman wore because every time she smells it, she is going to feel pain. She doesn’t need to know about the other person’s underclothing because this might make her feel badly about herself. Yes, she absolutely needs and is entitled to answers. And, she needs to know that she can count on you to tell her the truth from this moment forward. But, don’t put her in a situation where you point out her flaws or allow her to think the worst of herself.
In my experience, you can help her to “get over” your affair by walking with her with patience, reassurance, and love. You can give her the information that she needs to help her understand why her world has turned upside down. You can take responsibility for your actions and get her the tools that she needs to heal. You can encourage her to rebuild her self esteem and self worth. You can allow her the time and space that she might need. But, you don’t necessarily need to unload on her just to ease your guilt. Some of the things that you may be tempted to unload could very much damage her further and make her feel worse about herself. And this is something that you definitely do not want. Your goal should be to strengthen her every chance that you get.
Thankfully, I eventually learned to stop demanding the details about my husband’s affair that hurt me the most. And, my husband eventually learned how to show his true remorse and how to move us both forward. These things helped a lot. Although I never would’ve believed this two years ago, my marriage is stronger than ever after my husband’s affair. It took a lot of work, but it was worth it. Because of all the work I did on myself, my self esteem is at an all time high. I no longer worry my husband will cheat again. You can read a very personal story on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com/
Katie Lersch writes articles about moving past an affair. Her corresponding blog is at http://surviving-the-affair.com/