After An Affair: Ask the Tough Questions
By Susie and Otto Collins
If you or your partner had an affair and you have decided to
try and put your relationship back together again, it's
probably obvious to you that rebuilding trust needs to
With weakened or no trust, it is virtually impossible to
have the close relationship that you've probably wanted all
One way to begin to rebuild trust is to ask yourself what we
call the "tough questions."
Inquire within and then be willing to share and listen with
These are some of the possible thoughts that you might be
puzzling over in your mind:
"How could infidelity have happened in our relationship?"
"When did we become so disconnected and far apart?"
"What can we do to fix this?"
"Is our broken relationship fixable?"
It is important that you and your partner consider these
tough questions so that you can better understand why the
distance between you formed in the first place and what
contributed to the affair.
In fact, as you gain a clearer view of the possible ways
that you both have played a role in creating the
dissatisfying state of your relationship today, you are on
your way to rebuilding trust.
*Please notice that among the tough questions listed
above we do NOT include these:
"Why do I always attract bad men/women?"
"How can I get back at my partner for what he or she has
Questions that involve either you or your partner taking
sole blame for the broken trust in your relationship might
feel appropriate to you-- and there may even be a lot of
evidence to support this.
However, if you decide to stay in this relationship and
rebuild trust, it's imperative that you and your mate ask
yourselves the kind of tough questions that will help you
better understand all of the
relationship habits and dynamics that potentially
contributed to the infidelity.
Start at the disconnection.
Try to adopt the role of a researcher or archaeologist. Make
it your intention to find out reliable information and then
learn from it.
Many studies have shown that a lack of connection is a
primary cause of affairs.
For this reason, start your own research at the
disconnection between you and your partner. "Dig" back
through your memories and feelings to uncover what happened.
Do you have a sense of when you began to notice distance in
your relationship? This might take some time to think back.
It can be helpful to talk about this with your partner--
with your researcher hats on.
This means that you and your mate agree to
discover more information about when and why you became
disconnected with as little blame and judgment as possible.
Remember, we aren't recommending that you re-hash the
literal events of the affair.
Focus mostly on the thoughts, beliefs and habits that may
have led the distance between you two to increase.
Quite often disconnection develops when one or both of you
feel that specific needs are not being met in the
These needs could be sexual, emotional, intellectual,
financial, physical or might take other forms.
Look within yourself and make note of the unmet needs you
feel today. They might be the same as they were when the
distance between you and your partner began.
It is more important to identify the possible unmet needs
and other factors that may have contributed to disconnection
in your relationship than it is to pinpoint the day or event
during which this might have occurred.
Tough questions can lead to rebuilding trust.
Be willing to honestly share with your partner what you
discover about your unmet needs or other feelings, thoughts
and habits that may have contributed to disconnection.
As you share, be sure to own how you are feeling (or how you
felt) about a particular issue and speak mostly in terms of
what your needs are.
It's a great idea to also share specific ways in which your
needs might be met.
This information can be difficult and invaluable to your
It might not be easy for him or her to hear that you need
more variety in your lovemaking, for example; but it can be
a means by which the two of you begin to make changes and
Listen with openness to what your partner shares.
As you know, this is not always comfortable information to
share about (or to hear). Ask for more information if
you feel triggered or confused by what he or she has to say.
Once you have both shared your feelings and unmet needs that
may have contributed to the disconnection and the affair,
agreements that you both can follow through with.
For instance, you might agree to check in with one another
emotionally for a specific amount of time every evening.
This agreement can address an unmet need that one or both of
you have and it is also an effective way to restore
connection and trust.
As you make and follow through with agreements and you both
continue to tune in to what you need in your relationship,
trust can begin to rebuild.