What do you do when your unfaithful spouse won’t answer your questions?

Question:

I found out about my husbands affair 2 1/2 years ago. It lasted for a long time. He did some really cruel things. I had a nervous breakdown. I was so devastated. I believe he has had multiple affairs. He basically said, I am sorry. That’s it. He thinks I should just be over it. I still have questions. He has never answered one.

To make things simple, I asked him for three answers.

1. When did it start?

2. When did it end? (Honestly) He kept seeing her after I found out.

3. Why? When I asked him question No. 1, his answer was…

I don’t know, I don’t remember. He refuses to discuss it and gets angry with me and makes me feel guilty for asking….And makes me feel guilty for his continued abandonment of my feelings.

When he answered that question, I think whatever trust, love, and support, just died in that one instance. He has lied to his/my family and convinced everyone that I was crazy. He still lies to everyone about the affair.

It is time to leave….right? I have reached my last straw with him. I want a divorce. I think there is no turning back for me today.

Am I wrong for wanting to know the answers?

Answer:

No, you are not wrong for wanting answers. In your case, things certainly don’t look hopeful since you are so far beyond the day of disclosure and still your husband has been unwilling to give you anything as far as answers.

It doesn’t sound like your husband has become genuinely remorseful for his actions, nor has he taken responsibility for doing his part in helping you to heal from the pain he caused you.

That said it would be unprofessional to draw a final conclusion based on the limited information in your email. It’s possible that the reasons why your husband has been unwilling to give you what you need include that he has been counseled not to tell you anything and believes it is the right approach. Most people today will advise others – “don’t tell.”

He may also be holding back, because he is afraid to tell you the truth. He may convince himself, it would be too painful for you to know. In reality, he is afraid telling the truth will be too painful for him. He may be afraid to tell you because he fears your reaction, and he may also fear that once he tells you will use this information against him in the future.

I am going to answer this question relevant to all. What do you do when your spouse won’t answer your questions about the affair? Is there anything you can do to help and encourage them to open up? Do you need to know everything in order to heal?

Not every betrayed spouse needs to know everything in order to heal, but many do. I would be divorced today if my husband had insisted on keeping secrets with another woman. I know every detail, and for me (and many, many others) knowing these details (although often painful) gave me peace.

My mind was not capable of thinking of a big blank when it came to my husband’s affair and what happened. So before I had answers, my mind imagined what the answers must be, and I can assure you that my imagination was far worse than any reality could possibly be. Getting the truth put an end to my obsessive thoughts.

Not every betrayed spouse needs to know all the details in order to heal, but usually every betrayed spouse needs to know that if they want to know they can know – that there is no more hiding and secrets in the marriage.

The betrayed spouse must be in control of the healing journey. They are the ones who must decide how much they need to know and how fast.

To the betrayed, I say, you are then responsible for that information. Don’t ask before you are ready to hear the answer you don’t want to hear.

For example, don’t ask, “Did you tell the other woman/man you loved him/her?” unless you are ready to hear the answer you don’t want, which is, “Yes I did.”

If you want to know sexual details, you need to know that you are a person who can handle this information and that after you know you aren’t going to end up with these pictures of what happened stuck in your head. Don’t ask if you won’t be able to handle the answers, but you decide this, not your spouse or others.

Nothing says it better than the article below in explaining why a betrayed spouse needs answers in order to heal.

The Need to Know

GETTING YOUR SPOUSE TO OPEN UP

Sometimes it can be helpful to provide your unfaithful spouse with information that helps them to understand why they should answer your questions. You must also talk in terms of how it will benefit them – how they will be getting the marriage and love they want with you by answering your questions. Remember, this is a message that goes against what is generally believed in our society.

You may share this study with your spouse:

In a study conducted by marital affairs expert Peggy Vaughan, she found that 86% of couples surveyed who had healed their marriages after an affair said they talked about it a lot.

To read this survey in it’s entirety, click on the link below.

Survey on Healing from Affairs by Peggy Vaughan

You may also order our book, “My Husband’s Affair Became the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” and share our story with them. There is not a person out there who wouldn’t want to have the kind of love, passion, fun, security and openness that we have in our relationship today. Helping your spouse to understand that answering your questions about the affair is how they get there and will help to give them the motivation and courage to open up.

Many also find it very helpful to book a coaching session with us, because we can help them to understand how it will benefit them, and also help you as a couple to create some guidelines around your questions and sharing in order to make telling the truth safe. You will not get the truth if you have a habit of punishing your spouse for being truthful.

BE SURE TO CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE IT IS SAFE TO TELL THE TRUTH IN YOUR MARRIAGE

To heal a marriage and in order to have a healthy relationship, you must have a relationship where you can tell the truth, be vulnerable with each other, and know that that information will never be used to hurt you.

The article link below has been profound in helping many couples to understand the need for and to create the type of environment where the truth can be told.

Helpful Insights for Rebuilding a Marriage

When you ask your questions, you must be asking with good motives. This can be a little like a chess game. You need to think several moves ahead. What good is going to come out of getting the answer to this question? How will this answer help you heal? Will it make you feel better? Will knowing this information improve your relationship? Unless you can answer positively to these questions, it might not be right for you to ask this question.

In all your interactions with your unfaithful spouse, your motive needs to be healing your marriage, being genuinely curious, understanding your spouse better. Your motive for asking must be “help me to understand you and what happened” and/or “what can I learn from this situation so we can improve our relationship and prevent it from ever happening again.”

When your spouse then gives you answers, you need to thank them for being truthful. This is all about creating a renewed marriage commitment based on honesty in the relationship. A commitment to honesty and truth will lead to faithfulness and trust in the marriage.

“It is time to leave….right? I have reached my last straw with him. I want a divorce. I think there is no turning back for me today.”

No one can tell you if/when it’s time to leave, because the only one who lives with the outcome of decisions you make from this moment forward is you, not anyone else who might offer you advice.

In deciding whether to stay or leave, I recommend that you get all of the perspective that you can, and then make your own decision. I also recommend that this decision not be made within the first three months following disclosure. You want to be sure you’ve taken some time and distanced yourself from the extreme emotions one feels in the beginning just after you find out.

For more information on deciding whether it’s time to leave or not, I recommend reading this article on whether to stay or go:

Should You Stay or Go?

 

Sincerely,

Anne Bercht

©Copyright 2008 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.