Ask Andrew – My partner says he’s ended his affair but won’t talk about it
Hi Andrew, I have recently purchased your book – HCIETYA due to finding out that my partner of 6 years has had an affair.
We had broken up once before due to constant arguing and doubts as a result of previous cheating however we got back together after a year apart and the relationship had since been the complete opposite to the old one (at least that was my impression), we were not arguing as before, we dealt with our disagreements – communication was better, our sex life was good, we did social activities together as a couple and individually with friends – just to try and have a life balance, things were going well.
I still had doubts which understandably anyone would due to the past, and found out there was another person in the picture all along which had been around even before we had broken up. Immediately I thought to myself he had not changed. Based on what I found out, it appeared to not be exclusive, no one in his life (ie family and close friends) knew about her, almost as if he wanted to keep that part of his life separate, however, still no excuse.
I confronted him about it, he initially kept silent. I did the “letting it rest” thing in order for him to come forward but nothing. Eventually, we spoke and although he still hasn’t physically said yes there was a relationship, he has told me he will put an end to that situation (which he has since informed me he has).
He has apologised to me, and says he wants us to move forward and try and work things out, yet I still have doubts if he is serious or just wants an easy get out of jail free card.
My questions to you are as follows:
- if he still chooses not to talk to me about what happened is that an indication of him not being sorry for his actions and hurting me?
- I’m an “open, i’ll talk for ages” person – he’s the opposite, how do we find a medium?
- Am I silly for still trying to have faith in saving the relationship?
I am thinking about suggesting to him we have sessions with yourself/ Debbie or Relate as I think there is more to it and we (as a couple and individuals) could really benefit from counseling.
Thanks for listening,
It sounds like you’ve been through a terrible time and your confidence has taken a horrible knock but everything is not quite as gloomy as it seems. So let’s look at your questions – in reverse order.
No, I don’t think you’re silly for having faith. The first stages of saving a relationship and healing and moving on are exactly the same! You need to understand why your relationship went wrong and what unhelpful patterns of communication that you use. Sometimes during this journey, one or both halves of the couple say ‘you know what, it might be possible to sort this out but it’s too late or I can’t be bothered’. More often that not, they begin to experiences how much better ‘different’ feels and slowly but surely regain confidence and commit to trying again. However, if you walk away from this relationship now, you’ll be left with all sorts of unanswered questions and ‘what ifs’. Basically, working on your relationship is never wasted. Either you lay the foundations for a new and better version or walk away with greater self-knowledge (unlikely to make the same mistakes again.)
How do you break the ‘talk for hours’ and ‘will discuss nothing’ problem. This question makes me feel quite hopeful because you’ve come to the nub of all your issues in one question! He is worried that if he gives you a bit of ammunition – ie tells you the basics of the affair – he will prompt ten million more questions. Meanwhile, you fear is that you’ll never get anything answered EVER! Think of it like a see-saw, the more you press down on your side: ‘we need to talk’, the more he soars up into the air: ‘say nothing!’ And visa versa, the more he shuts up, the more desperate you are to talk. The answer, like on the see-saw, is come into the middle. Often couple counselling is about getting the talking partner to ask only one question at a time (not five) and to wait and hear the other’s reply (rather than starting to guess the answer). In contrast, it is about encouraging the quiet partner to stop listening and start explaining.
Now your final question, I have met people who are serious about repairing their relationship but refuse to go into details abut what happened. So it is not a complete barrier to recovery. However, it depends a lot of the attitude of the discoverer, sometimes for her or him it can be a block. So basically, it depends on you. If you were my clients, I would look to find a format for getting the basics out: who, when, how often. However, I would want to frame it in the guise of what’s needed for resolving what did not work in the primary relationship rather then rehashing what happened in the affair relationship: what they ate on their third date, what the affair partner said on the fifth date and why they went to your favorite restaurant together.
So I think there’s everything to play…. read ‘Are you right for me?’ to discover if your relationship has solid foundations. ‘Help your partner say yes’ to find different ways of communicating and think more about counselling.