Most people want to keep their affair secret because they want to have both the marriage and the affair. According to Zelda West-Meads in her book: The Trouble With You: “Many people claim that an affair helps sustain their marriage, or provides a part of their needs that are not being met in the marriage.
They are unhappily married, and they may recognize that the person with whom they are having the affair is not offering what they want on a full-time basis, but just providing something which is important at the time. There are some people who want their affair to be discovered, as a way of signalling to their partner that for them, the marriage is over.
Or there are some people who want the affair to be discovered because of their guilt. They believe, foolishly, that if they tell their partner – and this is usually at the time when the affair is moving to an end or has just ended – they will be forgiven.
But life is not like that and their partner is not into forgiveness at this stage – it’s too soon. So, the person who confessed, far from being forgiven, suddenly finds they are on the receiving end of outrage, anger, hurt, or even the desire to murder or destroy their partner or the other person involved.
The desire to confess can be a selfish act if all you are trying to do is relieve your guilt. But if your partner suspects that you are having an affair, and insists they want to know the truth, it is fairer to admit it.
If, on the other hand, an affair is over, and particularly if it is in the past, there is little point in suddenly telling your partner all about it, because for them, it will not feel over at all.
Not only will this hurt them deeply, but they will want to know all about it. Equally, a one-night stand or a brief but regrettable encounter, would be deeply upsetting.
Whichever way you look at it, discovery of an affair really does shake most marriages to their foundations. Some fall apart, others grind on unhappily, or continue and then break up several years later. Others, however, can recover and can end up being stronger and more loving than before the affair – although for most couples, this is a long, painful journey.
Can the marriage be re-built after an affair? “If you really want to rebuild the marriage, and you’re both committed to this, it is possible, although not easy”, says the author.
“It takes time and a great deal of talking. The person who has not had the affair usually needs to talk much more than the unfaithful partner tends not to want to be questioned about the details of the affair. They see a fresh start as a way to put the affair behind them and get on with repairing the ‘marriage’.
But their partner has to be given time and the opportunity to express negative feelings of hurt, disbelief, anger, grief, rejection and loss of confidence and self-esteem. As well as this, some questions have to be answered honestly.
Who the affair was with, how long it had been going on, who else knows, when they met, and what the affair meant to them. This is painful to hear, but if it remains unsaid, it gives their partner no chance to deal with what has been going on.
What is usually not a good idea, however, is to talk about intimate sexual details, because these can really stay in the mind of your partner and haunt them for years. So, when they ask, as most do, it is kinder not to be explicit. If you say too much, it can get in the way in the future, particularly when making love. It takes time for these memories to fade.
The next state in the recovery process is moving from the recriminations to starting to look at what went wrong and what led to the affair. This is often particularly difficult for the partner who has not had the affair.
For them, it is often easier to stick with the thought that it’s all their partner’s fault and to go on blaming them, rather than looking at what they might have contributed. It is only by discussing what was going on before the affair that you can begin to understand each other and then painfully and slowly start to rebuild your relationship.
What about making love again? West-Meads believes it is usually better not to rush into making love too quickly after the discovery of an affair. Some couples do so because the person who has not been unfaithful and want their partner to stay, feels it is a way of keeping them or repairing the relationship.
It’s more often a woman who thinks this. She sees it as a way of showing she still loves her partner, or as a way to compete with the mistress. It usually does not work. This is because the man is missing his mistress, feeling guilty, or both, which can result in loss of interest in sex or the loss of an erection, which then feels like further rejection to the woman.
Or the woman is too plagued by thoughts of the mistress, or the relationship is still too tentative. Either way, both of you can end up getting hurt.
So for both sexes, if you do make love fairly soon after the discovery of an affair, it may be all right but you are more likely to think of what your partner might have been doing with their mistress or lover.
These flash-backs are always possible, but they do fade and die. However, in the early days, the memory or the imagination are likely to be very vivid and do not help the recovery process. It is better for most people to allow time for trust to be rebuilt before love again.