After infidelity, there will be many questions swirling: "How could you?" "Why would you do this to us?" "Do you have any idea how much damage you've done?" It’s important to remember that there are answers to all of these questions, and the person who has been cheated on (whether it's you or them) has a right to hear them. But there is a way to order and arrange these discussions to maximize productivity between you and minimize any further hurt.
The Initial Conversation Experts Douglas Snyder, Donald Baucom, and Kristina Gordon, who co-authored the book Getting Past The Affair, advise that the first few conversations will be more productive for both of you if you can "limit the number of questions you present to your partner and make your questions as specific as possible. List the top five questions you’d most like to talk with your partner about at this time.”
So, before sitting down to talk (which should be at a pre-arranged date and time), the person who was cheated on will write down 5 questions they want answers to now, questions like:
- “When did the affair begin and end?”- “Did you have unprotected sex or have you contracted an STD?”- “Are you still in contact with the person you had an affair with?”- “Have you already decided to end our relationship?”
The person who had the affair should provide thoughtful and honest responses to these questions - with two rules. One: if at any time, either of you loses your temper, becomes emotional, or starts hurling insults, you need to call for a time-out. Re-schedule the talk if needed, or communicate via e-mail if it's too hard to be in person. But do not let a discussion devolve into a fight. And two: Limit the discussion to the asking and answering of ONLY the 5 questions. Experts agree that if you exceed that limit, you'll feel emotionally flooded and will not be able to process information fully.
There is a way to order and arrange these discussions to maximize productivity between you and minimize any further hurt.
It’s important at this stage to avoid the why and how could you (and how dare you and why are you such an a**hole) questions. Those are not constructive. We’ll get to those later. The goal in this first (or first few) conversations is to get the essential knowledge that will help you get through the next few weeks. Lack of information breeds conspiracy theories, so start small. Get the basics. Process those answers. Then continue the larger discussion. You can do this.