Do you need to know all the details — where they went, what they did, gifts, how many times they had sex, how long the affair lasted? My husband has had two affairs, and they were consecutive. I believe they both lasted a combined two years, but I am unsure. Fortunately, he has repented and is remorseful. The struggle I have is that he didn’t — and still doesn’t — want to tell me everything. He has been afraid to tell me everything because he says he doesn’t want to lose me. So I guess the bottom line is how much do you need to know and not know to heal and forgive.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve. Not only is this a very good question, it is one that I frequently get. So here’s my take on this issue. There are basically three reasons people want to know the details of their partner’s indiscretions:
Reason #1: So they can use the details to torture themselves and their partners.
Reason #2: So they can use the details to compare themselves to the affair partner (most common).
Reason #3: Because they hope that finally getting the details… will lead to true closure for themselves.
Here’s how these three approaches usually break down.
1) People who end up using the details to torture themselves and their partners… usually don’t start out with that intention in mind. In fact, before the details are revealed, many betrayed partners had good intentions. Only to later discover… they could not resist the urge to use the details like a club to beat themselves and their partners with. How do you know if you’re the type of person that can handle the details? That’s a great question. You can start by taking an honest look at your past history. Are you the type of person to use your imagination to self-torture? Do you have a habit of “obsessing” over the little things? Do you have a history of “rehashing” hurts, and are you known for laying on thick guilt trips? If you answered yes… then maybe… just maybe… this is a time to let sleeping dogs lie. Because at the end of the day… the past… is over. And none of the “details” can bring it back (except in your imagination).
2. Using the details to compare yourself to the affair partner or relationship to what they did during the affair… is the path to self-destructive jealousy. Sadly, a lot of betrayed partners end up doing more damage to their own self-esteem because they use the details more as fuel for jealousy than for anything else. But here’s the thing about jealousy: it’s always a mind game. Because all that comparing and competing with the affair partner… can only happen in your own mind (not in reality), and so using the details to compare your “real life” with the “fake life” of an extramarital affair is a spectacular waste of time and energy.
3. If you are hoping that having the details will lead to true closure for you, then keep these things in mind.
The details are facts. Facts are neutral. Only your interpretation adds meaning. So, if you plan to get the details… be aware that… if the truth hurts… it’s not the truth that actually hurts… but rather your interpretations of the truth
Details don’t move you forward. Just because you gain more information today than you had yesterday, doesn’t necessarily mean you are moving forward. In fact, many people find out that it does the opposite, that having more details actually prolongs suffering and lengthens their recovery process.
Forgiveness has NOTHING to do with details. This is important because forgiveness is about letting go of the past, and getting the details is about reconstructing the past.
Think about it this way…
Waiting on the details before you forgive is like waiting on air before you breathe… because the reality of it is that forgiveness is really for you. If you accept that it frees… it’s your suffering that it ends… it’s your heart that it heals. Forgiveness has nothing to do with details. Remember, forgiveness is not about reconstructing the past. It’s about releasing the past.
Now… am I saying that getting the details is wrong? Nope, that’s not what I am saying.
The point I am getting to is that you need to be sure of why you want the details and what you plan to do with those details when you get them. Because just like how a knife can be a great tool if used the right way… used the wrong way, that same knife becomes a deadly weapon. Details are the same… when handled correctly they can be a great tool… when not handled well, those same details can become weapons of destruction.
And since I know that’s not what you want…
Then now is the time to move past the pain and experience true recovery. To help you do this, I suggest you download and listen to my recovery coaching mp3… Forgiving Infidelity and Releasing Pain. In that session, I’ll coach you through my simple and yet highly effective 6-step method that allows you to embrace forgiveness (with or without the details), and I’ll teach you three of the most powerful techniques for permanently putting the past behind you. I believe that both of these tools could be the difference that makes a big difference for you.