Confronting an Affair
by Peggy Vaughan

Some people confront their partners as soon as they have any suspicion of an affair. But for most, coming to grips with their suspicions is a long struggle. Unfortunately, the possibility of an affair is so frightening to most people that they either suppress their awareness of these changes or hope that they are temporary, or insignificant, or due to some problem that will just "go away." The two primary ways of avoiding dealing with a possible affair are through rationalization or denial.

One of the major reasons people rationalize their early suspicions of an affair is because they don't want to believe it's true. The sense of personal shame and embarrassment that comes with entertaining the possibility that this could happen causes them to look for ways to convince themselves that their suspicions are unfounded. Most people will go to great lengths to rationalize their concerns about an affair.

At some point, rationalization fails to be sufficient to explain the behavior of a person who suspects an affair. When there is actual evidence to suggest an affair and they still fail to confront it, they have entered the stage of denial.

When to Confront:
It's important for each person to face this issue only when they're ready. There are two primary questions to ask yourself in determining whether or not you're ready:

1. Do You Really Want to Know?
A person needs to be sure they really want to know before asking if their partner is having an affair. One of the biggest drawbacks to being ready to confront the suspicions is feeling unprepared to face it if the suspicions turn out to be true.

2. Do You Feel Open to Either Staying or Leaving?
An important consideration as to whether or not a person is ready to confront their suspicions is their willingness to remain open to either staying in the relationship or leaving it. If their decision is predetermined (whether the decision is to stay or to leave), then they're not fully prepared to deal with the issue of affairs.

So the issue of confronting an affair is more than just whether or not to do it; it's also deciding when and how. Any effort to deal directly with a possible affair needs to be serious and well-planned—being prepared to insist on the truth and to deal with the potential consequences.

Adapted from The Monogamy Myth.

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