Cheating, in all its forms, remains one of the most common relationship issues that plague couples. Physical and emotional infidelity can have the same disruptive effect on a relationship, with neither partner completely satisfied in the aftermath of the discovery of an affair. This time period can be messy, with paranoia, heartbreak, and desperation stemming from the relationship wound.
After an affair is discovered, many betrayed spouses feel that they are entitled to every detail regarding their partner’s cheating. Some betrayed spouses feel that, by knowing all the details, they’ll regain some of their lost control. Others subconsciously want to know the details to confirm their low sense of self-worth. Here are some reasons why a betrayed spouse would want to know the affair details:
Cheating takes away some of the loyal partner’s agency. They are unable to consent to any number of risks that the cheating spouse agrees to take on. Therefore, a betrayed spouse may want to know what risks they’ve been exposed to. Some risks are obvious, such as exposure to sexually transmitted infections or personal details such as addresses and family exposure.
Other risks are less obvious but still valid, including public embarrassment or isolation from one’s community. The betrayed spouse may want to know the full scope of what situations they may need to face if they stay with their partner.
Relationships start for a wide range of reasons, and infidelity is not exempt from this standard. A betrayed spouse may want to know details about an affair in order to understand the origins of what went wrong in their relationship or to gain some insight into what type of person their spouse really is. A straying spouse is the only reason an affair happens, but there may be extenuating circumstances that may have made the affair seem like a viable option for the cheater.
Frequent culprits for this mindset include dead bedrooms, desire discrepancy, a partner’s inability to engage in sex due to illness or physical disability, an outright lack of interest in one’s partner, and, quite commonly, narcissistic tendencies. In many couples, a betrayed partner will not know the full extent of their partner’s pain or disinterest until an affair has been revealed.
3. Trust Building:
A critical portion of infidelity repair in therapy involves rebuilding trust. One of the significant ways this can happen is through full transparency. A betrayed spouse may ask their partner for every detail about the affair in order to gauge their partner’s commitment to repairing the relationship and rebuilding trust. During this process, a therapist will act as a mediator to ensure everyone’s safety and relative comfort.
The therapist may also question why a betrayed spouse wants to know certain information, as some questions may not lead to helpful answers, or will help the betrayed spouse engage in revenge-seeking. For example, asking about the types of sexual positions the cheater and his outside partner engaged in is probably irrelevant, but asking why the cheater felt sexually free with the other partner might be helpful.
Revenge-seeking is never appropriate. Most therapists frown upon it, and it rarely gives the closure that the person enacting the revenge desires. However, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. During the infidelity repair process, some spouses want to know every single detail about their partner’s affair in order to impose harsh restrictions upon them and get revenge on both the spouse and the affair partner. Some betrayed spouses even escalate this to stalking and assault.
Revenge-seeking details typically include wanting to learn the affair partner’s full name, place of employment, automobile type, and address. There is also a tendency to want to know about the extent of the partner’s sexual pleasure with the affair partner. These types of details, if not relevant to the story of how the affair happened, are gratuitous and actively damaging to rebuilding and repairing the original relationship.
In some cases, cheating is the absolute worst act that a partner could do. In this situation, a betrayed spouse may want to know every detail about their partner’s cheating in order to get their affairs (no pun intended) in order to prepare for a divorce.
The hurt spouse may want to know how much money went towards the affair, if the affair partner ever engaged with the hurt spouse’s children, or if the cheating spouse engaged in infidelity while engaging in substance abuse. By knowing the details of the affair, the betrayed spouse can create a narrative for a favorable divorce ruling. Some potential benefits of being the loyal spouse during a divorce case may include paying less alimony or child support, or a preferable custody agreement. However, these benefits and considerations vary by location and law.
The cheating spouse may be extremely reticent to come forth with details about the affair. If they feel guilty, revealing all the details about the affair may seem cruel, unnecessary, or even dangerous. Even those who do not feel guilty may still feel that they have a lot to lose, hence pursuing an affair rather than confronting or breaking up with their partner. Whatever the cheater’s feelings, if they truly desire to remain in their relationship with their loyal spouse, they should be prepared to share some details about their affair.
Utilizing a couples therapist’s services can be extremely beneficial in helping a couple rebuild their relationship after an affair. The therapist ensures safety for both parties while helping the couple navigate the ebbs and flows of repairing trust and affection. The therapist can also provide a sense of accountability to both parties, ensuring the betrayed spouse has reasonable expectations for their partner to gain trust again, while also helping the cheater be honest about what caused their infidelity. A therapist can also help guide each member of the couple to reflect meaningfully about their role in the relationship and their individual reasons for maintaining the relationship if they choose to continue.