One of the most distressing and hurtful things that can happen in a relationship is the discovery that your partner is having an affair.
How are you supposed to feel or act? What are your options? How do even begin to sort through your emotions, much less take “next steps”?
Here are some tips that will help you to navigate through these emotionally turbulent waters without drowning.
- Take your time. Breathe… now breathe again… now breathe some more. You will get through this. It may not be easy, but you will be okay. Don’t panic and don’t do anything that you will later regret. Let the news sink in and settle. You don’t have to respond immediately, although you may want to. Take a few days before reacting or responding. Seek marriage help from a helping professional if you need to talk it out. You probably should not bring friends or family into the situation at this point. It could only make things harder later if you decide to reconcile with your partner.
- Talk about it with your partner. It must be addressed. It can’t be the “elephant in the room” that no one ever admits or talks about. The relationship will never be healed if the issues are not worked through. And you will never heal or grow if you ignore what has or is happening.
- Hear them out. As crazy as it may sound, give them the respect of hearing them out without interrupting. You deserve an explanation of why they cheated on you. It is important that you let them know the depth of your hurt, but try to curb your anger.
- Ask for the truth. Lies and deceit are how affairs are carried out. Therefore, it is important that you ask for and demand the truth. The truth may hurt, but it will not hurt as badly or be as damaging to efforts to reconcile and rebuild as it will be if it is found out later. It is perfectly okay to ask, “Are you telling me the truth?” or “Did you just lie to me?” Don’t be afraid to hold the line and don’t settle for anything but the “truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!”
- Get the facts. At this point, try to stick to the facts so that you can make wise choices for yourself and your future. Try to stay away from emotional interactions as much as possible. Questions like, “What’s wrong with me?” or “What does he/she have that I don’t have?” aren’t helpful. Instead, Find out such facts as:
- Is the lover someone you know?
- Is the affair still going on? If not, when did it end? Are they still in touch?
- Is your partner willing to end it? Does this seem believable and realistic to you?
- How and when did it start?
- Is your partner in love with him/her?
- What does the affair mean to your partner?
- Was protection used during sex? Have you been exposed to STDs?
- What means did your partner use to deceive you?
- Don’t Blame. Blame is always counter-productive and doesn’t help you or the relationship heal. In particular
- Don’t blame you spouse – Seek to understand them. Listen to what they say.
- Don’t allow your spouse to blame you. This is not your fault. They made the choice to have the affair. They are responsible for what they have done – not you.
- Don’t blame yourself. Even though your spouse may not blame you, you may fall into the trap of believing that there is something wrong with you that caused the affair. Ironically, sometimes even people in happy relationships with great partners have affairs. This is not about you… it’s about them!
- Don’t blame “the other” person. You may be justifiably angry with this person, but putting the blame on them may prevent you from addressing the issues in your relationship that need to be fixed. Focusing on fixing the blame is always counterproductive.
- And again… take your time. You will need to proceed slowly in most cases to understand your options and decide which is best for you and for your family. Working through issues, both your personal ones and the ones in your relationship, can be time intensive and complex.
WARNING: The temptation is to leave or divorce your mate and start over with someone else. This may seem easier, but you will most likely find that you have brought all of the baggage and damage from your previous relationship into the new one and are repeating the cycle once again.
- Take care of yourself. It is important that you practice self-care in this season. You are deserving of good things. Be a good friend to yourself and don’t skip exercise routines and maintain a healthy diet. Get the rest that you need. Practice spiritual disciplines like prayer and meditation. Read positive and helpful books, blogs, etc.
- Get relationship help. If you could fix your marriage/relationship on your own, you would have already done so. You can rebuild, even after an affair, if you are both willing to put in the work and make healing of yourselves and your relationship a priority. Relationship coaching or counseling can help you get back on track. Intensive, experiential seminars like the LoveRecon provide a unique opportunity to address issues and deal with them in a very short time.
- If you decide to end the relationship…you will want to make sure that you have no bitterness or animosity and that you have forgiven all involved. You will also want to know that you did everything within your power to make it work. Again, this decision doesn’t have to be made rashly or as a reaction to the discovery of the affair. A few months of working through hurt and pain to get clarity and to move forward- with your partner or separately – will be worth it.