Finding out that your spouse has been cheating on you is one of the hardest things to experience. You find yourself flooded with all kinds of questions you've never even had to think about before, such as "What did I do wrong?", "Am I at risk for an STD?" and "Does this mean we should divorce?"
Not only do you feel shocked, but you also feel enraged that your spouse could do something like this to you. After all, even if the marriage wasn't going great, cheating was not necessary. He or she could have talked to you. But now that an affair has happened, there are decisions that need to be made. These decisions could be life altering, and affect more than just you and your spouse – they can affect your children and those close to you as well.
So as you're deciding what to do, here are a few tips to help you. Specifically, here are a few tips of what NOT to do.
Don't get revenge
Lots of spouses who've been cheated on want some kind of revenge. After all, it's not fair what your spouse did to you. But even though you think he or she needs to feel the same kind of pain you feel, getting revenge only makes things worse. And definitely don't try to contact the person they've been cheating with to tell them what scum they are. And most importantly, don't try to get revenge through your kids by telling them what your spouse did. Revenge only complicates matters and creates more problems that need to be cleaned up and healed later.
Don't make any big life decisions
Once you find out that your spouse is having an affair, you can't help but begin thinking about how everything is going to end. You wonder things like, "Will my partner end the affair?", "Will we divorce?" and "Will my children be scarred by this?" And even though your partner's affair is a life-altering matter, it doesn't mean you need to make life-altering decisions – at least not right away.
Making life-altering decisions right after an affair usually results in bad decisions being made. There's too much going on emotionally and mentally for you to make a good decision right now. You need to make decisions, but limit them to short-term decisions – things like whether you should still go on your summer vacation or not. Take some time and let the dust settle. After a while, when you feel you're in a calmer place and your head is clearer, then you can begin making the bigger decisions that need to be made – like whether to divorce.
You will want to reach out to others for support, which is good. In fact, reaching out for help can help you as you are working through this difficult time. But show good judgment in who you choose to tell. Telling your parents (who may already dislike your spouse) might make for even more awkward holidays together. And telling your spouse's boss could get them fired (if the person they were cheating with also works with him or her, for example). So reach out for help if you need, but make sure you think through who you're reaching out to.
Another common response when you find out your spouse is cheating is to quickly move past it so you can get back to having a happy relationship. So you quickly forgive in order to get back to being happy again. But forgiving too quickly is a band-aid cure for a more serious problem. It's necessary to talk through the tough stuff in order to address the problems in the relationship and to create real healing. You need to talk with each other and dig deep into the problems in order to create a new relationship that is healed from the affair.
The first few days and weeks after the discovery of an affair are critically important. The way you respond can help heal or further harm the relationship. There's already going to be plenty that needs to be healed as a result of the affair. You don't want to create even more that needs to be healed as a result of how you reacted. Being aware of these items can help the healing process.
Aaron Anderson is a therapist and Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He is a writer, speaker and relationship expert. Checkout his blog for expert information on how to improve your relationship.