- Exposure: Should You Expose the Affair?
- Exposure: When and How to Expose the Affair
Should you expose your MLCer’s affair? For many of you this is moot point because your MLCer is flaunting the affair and everyone already knows. This was how it was for me. Telling our friends about her was how he notified them that he was leaving me and when he took her to meet his family—a few weeks after moving out of our house— she was wearing an engagement ring! The only people left for me to tell were my family.
There has been quite a debate regarding exposure. Michele Weiner Davis of Divorcebusting is wary of it and recommends weighing and understanding the risks, whereas Willard Harley of Marriage Builders encourages it. The exposure issue then gets split into how and who and the issue has been so divided that it caused a split at Marriage Builders a few years ago and a group left to form their own forum, Marriage Advocates.
The main purpose of exposure is to end the affair—eventually—but exposure does not do that immediately even in cases that are not MLC. But this is MLC, so good luck! Seriously, you need to understand and accept that ending the affair quickly is not likely to happen if you are dealing with MLC and if it ends, MLC continues. Does that mean that exposure is not worth the hassle? No, it just means that you need to accept the process of MLC; there are additional reasons for exposing an affair. The debates at Divorcebusting, Marriage Builders and Marriage Advocates were not about MLC situations.
Types of Exposure
Tell only those who can make a difference and/or have a need to know. Consider your reasons for exposing and make a list of people who fit those reasons.
This accompanies Targeted Exposure. Do not expose to everyone at once, begin first with those closest to you and the marriage. Exposure creates pressure on the affair, so continue to expose as it feels necessary.
Though I have read various definitions, in general this is telling everyone. Announce it on the radio, buy advertising time on a billboard, stand outside their work with a picket sign, message all of their friends on Facebook… Though some do not use the terms that literally and limit exposure to everyone in their personal circles.
Where Do I Fall in the Debate?
First, please understand that I am giving you my personal opinion; The Hero’s Spouse does not endorse or reject Exposure. You each need to determine the best course of actions for your unique situation. I support Targeted-Graduated Exposure, but I also realize that when dealing with a midlife crisis situation, exposure may not be an issue if your MLCer is flaunting it publicly.
Who Do You Tell?
Michele Weiner Davis’ argument is that your family and close friends may refuse to forgive your spouse for the betrayal and this may make reconciliation difficult as well as the years that follow. A family’s inability or refusal to forgive can undermine your efforts to forgive and repair. Michele advises that you share information carefully with an understanding of the risks and that you share it only with those who are marriage-friendly even when there has been infidelity.
I find her argument to be sound. Targeted Exposure gives consideration to each person or group before exposing and the betrayed spouse’s family is a group that should be given a red flag—be wary of exposing to those who are so close to you that they are protective and want to avoid you getting hurt over and over again.
Should you tell your family? Should you tell your MLCer’s family? Friends? Employer? There is no need to tell those who will be supportive of or who will enable the affair and they may already know. Consider how your family will feel about how you are being hurt. Will they be able to forgive and accept reconciliation of your marriage? How is your relationship with your MLCer’s family? Do they take the blood is thicker than water route no matter what your MLCer is doing?
Though concern for whether your family will be able to forgive and accept reconciliation makes sense with a non-MLC affair, when dealing with MLC what are you going to tell them for the next few years when you show up without your spouse for holidays? How are you going to explain why your MLCer is living somewhere else and why your house is in foreclosure…? I didn’t want to expose to my family—though my reason was because I was ashamed, I never worried about their ability to forgive. But exposure was important because it would eventually become pretty obvious something was going on and they had a right to know that we were having troubles. Does that mean I should have left out the infidelity detail? No, it was the driving force for the midlife crisis; there was no other reason to give because my situation revolved around the affair. Had I left it out, they might have assumed he was having an affair and I was in denial or being naïve; this might have changed their attitude toward my Stand.
Chuck’s family believes that blood is thicker than water, but they are also staunch Catholics who believe in marriage. I knew that I would not have their support if I asked for them to take sides—and I felt I did not have a side since I did not want to oppose my spouse. I did nothing and within a year they were openly disapproving and banning the alienator from family events. What they were doing was supporting our marriage rather than supporting me while opposing their own flesh and blood. This meant that they were not alienating Chuck by opposing him and supporting me personally; what they did was perfect.
Should you notify your MLCer’s employer? There is no single correct answer to this. Will they lose their job and what ramifications will that have on you, your financial stability, on reconciliation and on any support and settlement you may receive in the event of a divorce? Sometimes losing their job is not a bad thing and other times it ruins their reputation beyond the point of return in their career field. I have also seen quite a few MLC affairs where the alienator or MLCer is the partner’s boss—either as a supervisor in a larger company or in a self-owned business.
If you feel you cannot tell any friends or family and you are feeling pretty lost since there is no one to tell, consider telling your pastor or finding a pastor to consult with if you do not have a regular church. A pastor is supposed to maintain confidentiality and may help you with some of the more existential questions you may have—why me—as well as with marriage related questions since many pastors counsel their parishioners through marriage difficulties. If you feel that you cannot tell your pastor for fear of retribution in the church, then consider finding another pastor for private counsel.
What I do not advocate is lying about an affair or separation (living arrangements, regardless of legalities)— especially not if directly asked. Do not make excuses for your spouse’s absences at family or social gatherings and please don’t tell everyone and please don’t make it a regular topic of conversation with those who know. Sometimes you will tell because you are bawling and your distress is obvious and when a friend asks, you break like a flood, spilling out the messy details. Sometimes you will be more deliberate, calling a friend and specifically saying you need to talk because you are having a hard time.
Your marriage is not the world’s business, but your friends are worried about you and those who are especially close may feel hurt that you did not come to them because they would have been able to hug you through some of your pain and a few may even have personal experience and can offer you guidance and insight based on being betrayed or being the betrayer.