Is his affair the end?

Dear Toni-
My husband had an affair and when I found out he said he needed time to resolve it before we see what direction our marriage will take. Should I wait for him or should I move on? --In Affair Limbo

Dear Dear In Affair Limbo,

Your question offers no background or detail and leaves me with many questions I would like to ask you/him. I'm going to make an assumption that he did not elaborate with you and that you also feel very much in the dark and that is why you are writing to me.

The very first thing you should do is make up a list of questions that you need him to answer in order to know what your next move should be. Granted, this may have to happen in stages, so just start with basic ones that put some frame around this affair and show you a clearer picture of what you are really dealing with. Later on, you can ask more detailed ones, depending on what he shares in the first round.

Some questions that I suggest you consider starting with, depending on what you already may know:

* How long/often were you seeing her?

* What is her relationship status?

* Are you still in contact and if so, can you share specifics about that?

* How much of this affair was physical and how much emotional? Did you ever feel you were falling in love? Do you feel that way now?

* What led you to this affair in the first place? Issues in your relationship? Or perhaps restlessness and/or a desire for something new/different?

* Were the circumstances a factor (for example), she was available, you had time alone together, etc?

* Who made the first move?

* How serious is she about you/the relationship?

* Did you ever discuss being together in a real relationship?

Feel free to add any others that you think of that help sketch a basic picture of what occurred between them. I recommend you not ask for any specifics about the sex at this point. If he spent family money that may be an issue you need to ask about in order to protect your financial health. The key here is to have a more detailed picture but to avoid raising his defenses too much so that he shuts down or gets belligerent. You want to keep him open and present in the discussion.

When you sit down to talk, and I do mean sit down--make sure cell phones and other electronic devices are turned off and that there will be no distractions. Pay close attention to his body language when you ask him each question and look for signs of dishonesty, withholding, guilt, anger, resentment, or any emotions that will help you to read what is going on inside of him. You can't read his mind but you can get a lot of valuable information from this. Avoidance of eye contact, closed posture, involuntary muscle jerks, looking around the room, gritted teeth, raising his voice, harsh language, and avoiding giving real answers to your questions are all things to look out for.

If he refuses to have such a conversation or to answer any questions, he's probably halfway out the door already and just buying time for himself.

The way he handles your request for this discussion and his attitude and level of participation will tell you a great deal. From there you can make arrangements to see a counselor if he is willing and open, and make this a condition of staying together. If he refuses, you should see someone on your own for help and support in dealing with the end of your relationship and moving forward from there.

(from June 2012)

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Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


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