10 Questions to Ask Your Unfaithful Spouse

Through discussions with his wife, Lisa, Les figured out how he let himself be drawn into an affair with Fiona, a new colleague at work. He recognized that it started off with his compassion for Fiona's situation. He was moved by her tale of a distressed marriage, a disabled child, and a terminally ill father who lived with her.

Les admitted that he was flattered by Fiona's idealizing him when she compared him to her insensitive husband. He pictured himself as her protector rescuing her from her troubled life. One freezing Sunday, when he got a call from Fiona asking him to drive over and give her dead battery a charge he did share it with Lisa. Later, he and Lisa agreed that when he stopped talking about Fiona at home and started keeping his weekend phone calls secret, the friendship had shifted into an emotional affair. Sexual intimacy developed as Les became convinced that he was "in love" with Fiona, and he began to detach emotionally and sexually from the marriage.

Fiona had grown up in a working-class family without luxuries. She was thrilled when Les took her out to a simple lunch at a restaurant that had table service. In contrast, when Les and Lisa went to five-star restaurants, they took it for granted as part of their lifestyle. Les felt gratified that he could add a little joy to Fiona's troubled life.

Because Les and Lisa talked about how he felt sorry for Fiona, it became clear to both of them that he was vulnerable to rescuing maidens in distress. He vowed that in the future, he would erect distinct boundaries with unhappy, attractive women who touched his kind heart. When involved partners share their feelings on this level, they are letting their betrayed spouse inside their mind and re-forging their bond. They not only are discussing what occurred, but together they are gaining insight into the underlying dynamics.

2. After the first time you had sex, did you feel guilty?

Asking about guilt reveals the internalized values of the unfaithful partner. Some people never feel any guilt about getting involved. People who anticipate guilty feelings before they act are more inclined to avoid dangerous crossings. Others feel guilty after they act, although guilt after the transgression doesn't necessarily keep them from repeating their "sin."

Some people feel so disgusted with themselves after their first extramarital sex that they get together again with the affair partner as soon as possible: another dose of the aphrodisiac offers them a temporary escape from their self-loathing. Some get rid of their guilt and continue the affair by rationalizing that nobody is getting hurt because they are "not taking anything away" from their spouse or family. Others transform guilty feelings by taking responsibility and terminating their extramarital behaviors long before they are discovered.
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