10 Questions to Ask Your Unfaithful Spouse

Betrayed partners vacillate between glorifying the lover as an incomparable rival and disparaging him or her as a despicable human being. Questions about physical appearance, personality, and intellect are attempts to see whether they measure up to their rival in sex appeal and achievement. These questions aren't helpful, as they seldom reveal the lure of the affair partners looking rather ordinary. The appeal of the affair is frequently in the positive mirroring or the sounding board it provides, rather than in the lover's charisma.

8. What did you like about yourself in the affair? How were you different?

Instead of focusing on what the affair partner was like, it is more productive to focus on what the unfaithful partner was like in the extramarital relationship. New relationships allow people to be different: more assertive, more frivolous, or more giving. A strong attraction of affairs is the opportunity to try on new roles: the insensitive, detached husband becomes energized by his own empathy and devotion; the sexually uninterested wife is exhilarated by newfound passion and erotic fantasies. In long-term relationships, the potential to develop a different persona is constricted by familiarity. For example, a man who is a powerful CEO in a large corporation is regarded and teased in his family of origin as "the baby."

A good question for the involved partner is: "What did you experience about yourself in the affair that you would like to experience in the marriage?" Perhaps the marriage can begin to foster these positive aspects of the self. In fact, the betrayed partner may find it hurtful that the involved partner enjoyed them first with somebody else.

9. Were there previous infidelities or opportunities, and how was this time similar or different?

This is an opportunity to examine any patterns of infidelity or near misses that may be relevant to how this affair unfolded. Discuss how you or your partner handled previous temptations, even if no lines were crossed. Explore past experiences of slippery slopes and blurred boundaries. If this is not the first incident, ask how this infidelity is different from or the same as the others. Were there earlier experiences that were "only oral sex" or "sex without love" or "love without sex"?
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