Boundaries After Infidelity:
What You Need To Consider
If an affair has recently come to light- regardless if you are the betrayed or the unfaithful- your world has been turned upside down.
You probably can’t concentrate on much of anything…
much less make thoughtful decisions that will have long-term consequences….
But healthy boundaries after infidelity are essential for relationships…
this includes figuring out what, how much, and who to share your story of infidelity with.
In this blog series, I want to help you navigate through an extremely difficult time by answering commonly asked questions.
I hope this series provides you with things to consider.
Ultimately, every affair has a unique set of circumstances…
while boundaries after an affair are essential, the specific boundaries will vary from relationship to relationship. So, please don’t mistake my answers as the correct answers for your relationship.
Here’s what I do know:
It is ideal to slow down your thoughts and make decisions after you have had a great deal of time and space to think through the potential consequences.
If you are desperate to take immediate action, before you take action pause to consider:
“Will this be helpful or hurtful to me, my children, and those I love?”
Communication Boundaries After Infidelity:
I think my kids should know about my partner’s betrayal. I plan on telling them.
If the affair recently came out, don’t involve your kids when you discuss the infidelity.
While you both may decide it is important to share some of the information regarding the affair, most of the time it is not urgent to tell the kids.
When the betrayal is fresh, it is important to consider your motivation behind wanting to tell the children.
- Is it because you need to vent?
- If so, your children may feel stuck in the middle and end up playing adult roles while the adults move into more child-like roles
- Is it because you want to inflict pain on your unfaithful partner?
- If so, you are using your children as a weapon to hurt your partner. They become preoccupied with the anxiety in the household.
- Important note: I’ve yet to meet a betrayed spouse that admitted to using the kids. There’s always a “valid” reason why the kids need to know. I’ve rarely encountered “valid” reasons that outweigh the risk-to-benefit ratio for the children.
If I could give you any advice regarding telling your children about an affair, it’s this:
BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND.
Do you want to share your story from a place of strength?
- Do you want to demonstrate that your family can overcome incredibly challenges?
- Do you want to demonstrate to your children that you were able to face life’s obstacles with dignity and courage?
- Do want to share with your kiddos about an experience that seemed impossible to ever rise above… and yet somehow you were able to make something new out of the challenges that you faced?
- Do you want to give your children an example that you aren’t defined by what happened but by how you react to it?
Do you want to share a grievance story?
- Do you want you kids to know all the horrible things that you had to go through?
- Do you want your kids to know how terrible their other parent is?
It is impossible to share a story that comes from a strengths perspective immediately after the infidelity has been uncovered.
It takes time to unpack the pain.
It takes persistence to walk through the darkness of an affair.
It takes a great deal of introspection about your role (however big or small) in the affair.
It takes courage to admit your mistakes, take accountability for your shortcomings and work to change yourself.
Beginning with the end in mind means respecting that the “end” in a family is generations after you’re no longer alive.
Your behavior can shape how your children view and interact in future relationships… which can impact how their children view and act in relationships.
If the affair is reactively exposed with no further discussion (and repair conversation), it can shape how your children will view their intimate relationships. For example, they may come to believe:
- People are not trustworthy and they shouldn’t trust their partner.
- It may seem like affairs and infidelity is the norm and acceptable in relationships.
Communication Boundaries After Infidelity:
I would like to reach out to the affair partner.
Is that a good idea?
Let me start by saying it’s very normal and natural to want to reach out but it’s a bad idea to reach out to the third party.
You may want to reach out to the third party out of some sense of fairness and justice.
The third-party brought chaos and devastation to your life and you want to bring it into theirs.
- This urge can lead the betrayed to reach out to the third party, the third party’s spouse, and family members.
- This urge is understandable… but it’s probably coming from a place of pain and hurt.
When the motivation is vengeance, it won’t make you feel better in the long run and it will only complicate your life.
You may want to reach out to get to the bottom of the affair.
- You want to know exactly what happened.
- You feel that if you reach out to the third party, you’ll get corroboration about what your partner shared with you.
- Or, you may reach out because the unfaithful partner isn’t willing/reluctant to share many details about the affair.
The problem: The third party will have their motivations.
- It may be to either distort the truth, exaggerate it or minimize it. I’ve seen a lot of situations where the affair partner has made the affair story worse than it was and I’ve seen some situations where they made it less severe.
- The unfaithful partner should be the one who is revealing the information because they are the one who is going to have the most accurate information about why they did what they did.
The betrayed may want to reach out to the third party to let them know how they feel, to set boundaries, and to let them know that,
“You know that I know about this and I want you to leave my man or my woman alone.”
Understandably, you feel the need to set those limits and want to express how angry and upset you feel about them bringing chaos into your life.
Unfortunately, you at an increased likelihood of creating more problems for yourself.
Navigating through the dark waters of an affair is incredibly difficult.
You don’t have to do it alone.