Though it is difficult, if you want to chart a path forward (whatever that looks like), it’s important to have information on hand. You need to know what happened and why, and you need to understand your cheating spouse’s thinking so you can understand how best to proceed.
Surviving Infidelity: Questions to Ask
To be fair, asking deep and penetrating questions about your spouse’s thoughts and feelings may be the last thing on your mind. You may just want to vent and let them know how angry, hurt, and disappointed you are. However, you need to think beyond that, and asking the questions below will give you the information you need not only to understand infidelity and its roots but also to make an informed decision with which you can live.
As you consider whether to ask these questions, you should be aware that these questions are risky. You may not like the answers you get, and you may be told some things that are difficult to handle. However, getting answers to these questions will help you know where you truly stand, and it can provide a good starting point for rebuilding, should you choose to go that route.
How did you justify and allow yourself to cheat?
This question is important as it allows you to ask your spouse about their frame of mind, and how they processed the act of cheating both emotionally and cognitively. One can also ask them how they justified their actions before the Lord, and how they permitted themselves to cheat.
Did they think it was okay, and if not, why then did they proceed to cheat? Or did they perhaps think that it was okay, and what, in their mind, made it okay? Understanding their mindset will allow you to discern whether they saw the harm they would cause, and what their thinking was that allowed them to proceed regardless. If someone doesn’t think that infidelity is wrong, it raises serious questions about the viability of the relationship.
In addition to asking them about their justifications, you can also ask them whether they felt guilty about betraying you and your trust. If they felt no guilt about what they did, that too raises serious questions about the future of the relationship.
Further, you can ask them whether they thought about you at all while they were cheating. Did they think about what their behavior would do to you and your family, and how it was putting your marriage and life together at risk?
Was it hard for you to keep lying to me?
Infidelity can be a one-time event or recur over an extended period. The question then becomes, whatever the length of the infidelity, did your partner find it hard to keep lying to you about what they were doing and where they were? Deception is a part of infidelity, and if your partner had no qualms about lying to you, then might they do so again?
Connected to this, you can also ask your spouse how long the affair lasted. This can be a hard question to ask because once you know how long the affair has lasted, it’s natural for your mind to go back over that time and pick out the times your spouse made excuses to go out, or they hid their phone and other activities from you.
Have you entertained thoughts about cheating before?
This question tries to get at the heart of whether the infidelity was a one-off incident or something that is a pattern of behavior. You can ask your spouse if they’ve been tempted to cheat on you before, and if yes, did they act on this temptation?
If they did not, then why not? Was it because they didn’t want to break your trust or for a lack of opportunity? Getting honest answers to these questions will help you discern whether you’re dealing with a breach in the dam or the total collapse of it.
What do you feel for them? Did you fall in love with them?
Asking your spouse whether they fell in love with the person they had an affair with might seem like adding unnecessary fuel to the fire or twisting the knife deeper into your own heart. However, you need to know whether they were emotionally invested in the person and the relationship.
If they genuinely fell in love with the person, and it wasn’t a fling or rooted in physical attraction only, there may be a greater likelihood that they’ll return to that person. Emotional investment is much harder to undo, and it requires a lot more work to disentangle oneself from in order to reconnect with one’s spouse.
You can also ask your spouse how the other person made them feel when they were with them. This question will help you get to the bottom of what they felt they had to gain from the affair.
Did you ever talk about me? What did you say about us? Did you confide in them about our problems?
One of the signs of a deteriorating relationship is emotional detachment, which can manifest in various ways, including whether you’re excited about your spouse, your spontaneous negative reactions, and a growing lack of self-disclosure. These questions get into some of that, especially by asking if your spouse’s lover knows you exist, and what conversations they may have had about you.
How were you described to this lover, and did they speak about the intimate details of your life? If your spouse spoke about you to their lover in disparaging terms, it is problematic.
What did they offer you that I didn’t?
This question can be hard to contemplate, let alone ask and receive answers to. But the question is not about denigrating you or about picking on you and what you might lack. The idea behind this question is to try and understand the situation from your spouse’s perspective. They loved you enough to marry you, so what caused them to gravitate toward someone else?
Sometimes, as priorities shift and people change, a couple can lose touch with one another. Maybe one spouse gets caught up with work and stops paying as much attention to their partner. Perhaps in the throes of busy daily life, you’ve stopped celebrating one another, and that’s created some distance.Sometimes affairs become a temptation because there is a need that isn’t being met. Though that’s not the whole story of why affairs happen, it is one reason. If you want to work on your marriage, you need to understand what these needs are and find solutions that work for you both.
Did you plan for and talk about a future together?
Fleeting affairs (if they can be called that), are often deeply embedded in the present, and the main concern is about the next tryst. However, if your spouse started making plans with their lover, whether it’s taking a vacation with them, going for a weekend away, or planning for a life with this other person, which may indicate a much deeper involvement with their lover. The affair has developed into a relationship, and that is a deep challenge to your marriage.
Another related question to ask is, “Would you leave me for them if they asked you to?” Perhaps your spouse has already contemplated this, and their honest answer is “Yes.” In such situations, salvaging the relationship will likely be a one-sided thing, when your marriage needs the two of you pulling in the same direction to succeed.
These are all hard questions to ask, but they will help you get an accurate picture of your marriage and allow you to make informed decisions about therapy and a way forward. Evasiveness or defensiveness from your spouse in the face of these questions is a likely sign that they don’t regret doing what they did, and it’s even more likely that they will do it again.
You must decide on the next steps if your spouse is unrepentant or isn’t invested in making your marriage work. There are myriad reasons why infidelity happens in a relationship, and not all of them spell doom for your marriage.
It may be that you’d feel better able to explore these questions in a safe and guided space such as with a therapist. Couples counseling is one space where you can do this sort of work on your relationship, and if your spouse is willing to work on things that space will provide you the support you need to process your emotions and understand how and why infidelity interrupted your relationship.
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