Peter Pearson

Many people say the worst marital crime is having an affair. It breaks the bonds of trust that were assumed at the beginning of your relationship.

Imagine you are in a start up company that is struggling. Then it is discovered that your partner has been embezzling funds. You started your company together with optimism and hope. Of course you assumed you could trust each other, so you never dreamed of such a thing, let alone “planned” how you would handle it!

The aftershocks and consequences of the discovery ripple through the entire business and partnership.

I am reminded of Gandhi’s observation about trust: “The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything else he does becomes tainted.”

You don’t know what is truth or deception when you talk to the embezzler. You want to believe him (or her) but are terrified of the consequences if the deceptions continue.

Imagine how you would feel if the embezzler said, “Go ahead and take your well-deserved vacation. I’ll take care of things here.” Or, “Why don’t you go home and I’ll close up?”

Perhaps even more difficult to hear would be: “Can’t you just get over it, I said I wouldn’t embezzle again.”

And that, dear reader, is the dilemma of your partner after learning of your affair.

They want to know what happened, when and why.

And trust me on this: these conversations are no easier on your partner than they are for you. It is just that the pain is experienced differently.

In the previous blog I described a key task for your partner. If you want to see your partner’s task you can read it here.

Your task is slightly different. Here’s your current mission should you decide to accept it.

It is all about being honest. Painfully honest. And continue painful honesty.

Every discussion will be a temptation to shade the truth a bit – to spare your partner’s feelings, to avoid an attack, to avoid an excruciatingly cold shoulder.

And the reality is you could probably shade the truth in ways they would likely never discover. But that is a slippery slope.

The one area to avoid revelation is describing any picture that depicts sexual activity in the affair. Once your partner gets those images in their head, they become damn near impossible to erase. And those images compound the misery.

The rest is honesty and more candidness.

Honesty probably means prefacing some disclosures with something like:

This is not going to be an easy thing to say. I also know it will not be easy to hear. It feels like I am hurting you all over again by describing these things. I have already brought more pain than you should have to endure. You deserve the whole truth even though I understand the distress it creates by your trying to understand what is real today, what was real yesterday and what to build on for tomorrow.

I know it will take many conversations to establish a new foundation of trust. Even though I violated your trust, I know that trust is the foundation for any relationship that endures and grows. I promise to be honest with you. Sometimes you will ask me questions and I will say I cannot remember. It would be understandable to think I am weaseling. Later I may recall the events more clearly when I don't feel so anxious. When that happens I will get back to you. I don’t want you to think you have to keep using a crowbar to pry out the truth.”

In other words you have to be like Caesar’s wife – above reproach.

Not every affair is a deal breaker. A medical person once told me that sometimes when a bone breaks, it can heal stronger than it was before.

Start to heal the pain with “Rapid Relationship Repair”.

Getting through this crisis will take working as a team. It is not just enduring attacks and feeling like you are being dragged by a pick-up truck down a gravel road until the driver chooses to stop.

And it is more than fixing problems. Fixing just gets you back to the stage before the cracks showed up.

What is needed is rethinking your relationship.

Rethinking allows marriages to go beyond the fix.

Rethinking allows you to become better, stronger, and united as a team.

Nothing great was ever accomplished without teamwork – this could be your opportunity.

Tell me in the comments – are you ready to rethink your relationship to move forward?


We help couples struggling with marital affairs in Menlo Park, San Francisco, San Mateo, Redwood City, San Jose, Campbell and the surrounding areas.


Peter Pearson, Ph.D., Relationship & Teamwork Expert for Entrepreneur Couples

Pete has been training and coaching couples to become a strong team since 1984 when he co-founded The Couples Institute with his psychologist wife, Ellyn Bader.

Their popular book, “Tell Me No Lies,” is about being honest with compassion and growing stronger as a couple.

Pete has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including “The Today Show,” "Good Morning America,” and "CBS Early Morning News,” and quoted in major publications including “The New York Times,” “Oprah Magazine,” “Redbook,” “Cosmopolitan,” and “Business Insider.”

A Glossary of Terms that are sometimes Confusing

Couples Therapy is a counseling procedure that seeks to improve the adjustment of two people who have created an interdependent relationship. There are no standard procedures to help two people improve their adjustments to each other. Generally, a more experienced therapist will offer more perspectives and tools to a couple. Length of treatment will depend on severity of problems, motivation and skills of the therapist. A couple can be dating, living together, married or separating and may be gay, lesbian or heterosexual.

Marriage Therapy is a term often used interchangeably with marriage counseling. The term marriage implies two people have created a union sanctioned by a government or religious institution. The methods used in marriage counseling, marriage therapy and couples therapy are interchangeable and depend more on the specific challenges of each unique couple.

Psychotherapy is one or more processes to help improve psychological and emotional functioning. Examples are psychoanalysis, cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, Gestalt therapy, Transactional Analysis, Rational-Emotive therapy, or group therapy. Many forms of psychotherapy are blends of different approaches. For example, newer forms of psychotherapy called energy psychology draw upon recent advances in brain and neuroscience. These approaches often build on cognitive behavioral methods.

Clinical Psychologist. After graduating from college, it usually takes about five years of graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Psycholgy. It then requires an additional two years of supervision and passing a written (and often) an oral exam. There are a few states that allow psychologists to prescribe medications (with additional training) but that is uncommon.

Psychiatrist. After graduation from medical school, there is a generally a 4-year psychiatric residency. After the completion of this training, psychiatrists must pass an exam issued by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to obtain certification and legally practice in the field. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications.

Clinical Social Worker. This profession usually requires two years of study after obtaining an undergraduate degree. While specific licensure requirements vary by state, most require clinical social workers to obtain 3,000 hours or 2 years of supervised clinical experience, after obtaining a Masters degree. Social workers can also specialize in diverse fields such as human services management, social welfare analysis, community organizing, social and community development, and social and political research.

Marriage and Family Therapist. Obtaining this license requires a Masters degree which takes approximately two years of post graduate study. The license also requires 3000 hours of supervised work and passing written exams.

The Couples Institute. We have assembled a group of top notch therapists at The Couples Institute. Whatever marriage help or marriage advice you are looking for, we are here to serve you. While most other therapists see only a few couples a week, we specialize in marriage and couples relationships, working to develop and bring you the most current and effective approaches to couples therapy. For more information about couples therapy or marriage counseling, see our couples therapy section.

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[…] Next time a bit of advice for the betrayer. Read the second blog in this series. […]


[…] Next time a bit of advice for the betrayer. Read the second blog in this series. […]

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