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How to Explain to My Husband Why I Had an Affair

by Dr. Sonya Lott, studioD

More than 50 percent of individuals who have an extramarital affair end up separating from or divorcing their spouse, according to a 17-year study on divorce and extramarital involvement published in the November 2012 issue of “The Journal of Family Issues.” Even though an extramarital affair can damage a marriage, it doesn’t have to be a “deal breaker.” With the help of marriage counselors, many couples are able to use the crisis brought about by an extramarital affair to rebuild a relationship, with greater intimacy than before.

Getting Clarity

Sometimes extramarital involvement, particularly emotional affairs just seem to happen, according to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy website. An affair is possible even when you have a healthy relationship with your husband. The reasons affairs happen can be difficult to understand. You must understand the reasons for your affair, however, for your husband to understand it. Working with a marriage counselor individually for a few sessions may help you gain that clarity.

Taking Responsibility

Even after understanding the dynamics of the affair, it may be difficult to sit face-to-face with your husband to explain these reasons. Writing a letter of explanation and then following up with the face-to-face discussion is okay. What is more important is that you take responsibility for the affair, so says clinical psychologist, Dr. Janis Abrahams Spring in her book, “After the Affair.” This is not the time for you to point out his faults. Also, don’t try to minimize the effect of your affair.

Moving Forward

In addition to helping your husband understand why you had an affair, you need to explain the steps you have already taken or plan to take to prevent another affair. For example, if the individual you had the affair with works with you, explain to your husband how you plan to limit your interactions to only those that are required. You might also want to explain your reasons for wanting to rebuild your marriage.

Allow Time to Heal

The betrayal of trust is the core issue in the discovery of an extramarital affair. Explaining to your husband why you had the affair and committing to rebuilding your relationship is just the beginning. It may take years to reestablish trust, according to Spring. Addressing your individual and marital issues that contributed to the affair also takes time. Rebuilding and strengthening a marriage after an affair is difficult but possible. Working with a marriage counselor at least in the beginning is recommended.

About the Author

Sonya Lott, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania, who offers online and in office counseling to individuals struggling with grief, loss or a life transition. She also facilitates mental health workshops for educational, professional, and community groups and maintains a blog on her website www.drsonyalott.com.

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