I sometimes hear from folks who feel as if they don’t have any one with whom they can be completely honest about their marriage and the recent infidelity that has threatened it.
Sometimes, this concern comes from the faithful spouse. You’ll often hear comments like: “I really wish I had someone to talk to about my husband’s affair. But I don’t want to tell my family or my friends because I know that they would think less of my husband and they would think less of me because I may just stay with him. I feel like I just have to keep this inside of me and guard this awful secret.”
Other times, you will hear these kinds of concerns from the cheating spouse. Common comments are things like: “I feel horrible guilt about cheating on my wife. I would do anything to make this right again. I am so sorry for my behavior. I wish I could talk to someone about this. I’d love to hear some insights about what might have been behind my stupid behavior. I can’t talk to my wife about this because it will hurt her. I can’t talk about any of my friends about this because I don’t want people to know how much of a jerk I was. I don’t even feel comfortable telling my pastor about this because I feel like my wife wouldn’t like him knowing about our marriage. I guess I will just have to have conversations in my own head.”
I firmly believe that it’s very important to have an outlet for this. But I also know first hand that you have to be very careful about who you share this with. All of the above concerns are extremely valid. If you tell mutual friends, family members, or acquaintances, then you run the risk that these people will make judgements or will continue to ask about or bring up the affair long after you want to let it go.
Plus, hearing other people’s judgements and assessments of you, your spouse or your marriage can be very hurtful. This can affect those close relationships that you really need right now in order to lean on for support. So below, I will offer some alternatives that might help.
Consider Talking To A Third Party Professional: I know that some people might roll their eyes or groan at this suggestion. Because a counselor, marriage, or mental health professional is usually the first consideration that is often rejected. I know that the idea of going to see a stranger and unload about your marriage might feel odd, but think about it this way. A professional has no preconceived notions about you, your marriage or your spouse. They have no investment about the outcome. They just want to help you sort out the issues and heal. And, when you are at the end of the process, you don’t have to worry that any thing that you tell them will come back to haunt or you.
Consider Talking To A Friend That Doesn’t Know Your Spouse Or Who Has No Interest In Your Marriage: Sometimes, you have a friend or a coworker that you only know casually or outside of your personal life. In other words, this is someone who you never have to worry about coming over to your house and facing or judging your spouse. This is often a coworker because many people are able to keep their work and their professional lives separate. But sometimes this might be someone who you get to know at the gym or on the train that you are comfortable enough approaching.
Consider Talking To The Blank Page: Many people resist writing in a journal because they are afraid that their spouse is going to read what they have written or they are a little embarrassed to put their feelings on paper when their teenage years are behind them. But, I strongly suspect that if you try this for at least a week, you will be glad that you did.
Frankly, I journal on a small word processor that has a password feature. That way, I never had to worry about anyone reading what I have written. Or, you can use a computer and delete the entries if this makes you feel better. Another idea is that you can get a journal with a lock or you can rip out the pages as you finish. Whatever it takes to make you feel free to release your feelings is worth the effort.
People will often tell me that they have no idea what to write about. If you need a little nudge, there are a couple of things that you can try. I would often read self help books about infidelity and then I would write out my reaction. I would write about why I thought the author was right or wrong. And then I would go on about my own personal situation and feelings.
Or, you can use open ended phrases like: “today my most persuasive feeling or thought is _____ and here is why.” You can try free association and you can write the first thing that comes into your mind. You can look at photos in magazines and write about what feelings those evoke in you. Or you can set the timer for five minutes and just start writing and see what presents itself.
However you get the words out, it’s important that you do. Keeping your feelings inside will often keep you stuck. Once you release the feelings, they often lose their power and you can begin to work through them. But please talk to someone or something. You don’t want to keep your feelings trapped inside of you. They need to be released so you can begin to heal.