There is little worse than finding out that your spouse has been unfaithful to you. The pain and betrayal are hard enough to deal with, but you cannot simply freeze when you find out about your spouse’s affair. You need to take steps to protect yourself in the long run and make decisions that will allow you to heal from the emotional and spiritual blow. Terrible as it is, there are things you need to do immediately after finding out your spouse is cheating on you. Some of those things are pragmatic concerns while others are meant to help you deal with the emotional maelstrom you have just had dropped on you. Regardless of whether they deal with the practical side or mental elements of what to do next, these issues all need to be handled.
Get the kids out of the house.If you and your spouse have children, there is another whole layer to the problems that are created with cheating. Suddenly, your spouse’s betrayal no longer affects just the two of you, it also effects the rest of your family. As such, the issue is no longer simply one between spouses. The children, their feelings and their futures also have to be taken into account.
Depending on the age of your children, they may have to be involved in the aftermath to some extent. When you first find out about the cheating, however, it is often a good idea to get the kids out of the house before you confront your spouse. Your children do not need to see that fight or those tears. Have the kids spend the night or the weekend at a family member’s home or sleep over at a friend’s house. Emotions will be running high between you and your spouse, and it is all too easy for children to get caught in the crossfire in such situations. Get them out of the way for now so that when you and your spouse have your confrontation, you can focus entirely on the other person instead of worrying about what curious ears might be listening.
Take some space.The myriad of emotions and issues that are raised by an affair cannot be addressed in one conversation. As such, there is no way that your initial confrontation with your spouse is enough to deal with the multitude of problems that have been invited into your lives. Do not be ashamed of walking away from that conversation when you are drained, emotional, feel like you are talking in circles or sense that you and your spouse have done all that you can that day. When you reach that point, walk away.
The revelation of an affair will leave you with a lot of emotions to deal with, and few of them are the sort of emotions that give you warm and fuzzies. You are likely hurt, confused, anguished and absolutely livid. Those emotions make it easy for you to either lay down and accept your spouse’s betrayal so that you can stop dealing with the heartbreak or make you lash out furiously at your spouse, their lover or an innocent bystander. Rather than do something you will regret, take some space. Spend the night at a friend or family member’s house instead of home with the cheater. Turn off your phone and log out of Facebook to give yourself some mental space. Then, you can start working on processing what you have learned.
Find some support.When this sort of emotional and spiritual tragedy strikes, you do not want to be dealing with it alone. Reach out to someone you trust for support. Sit down with a friend, and let yourself cry. Spend the weekend with your mother. Find someone who will be there to help you put yourself together after you fall apart.
Seeking support is not the same thing as airing dirty laundry. Asking a close friend to help you think through next steps is finding support. Wailing about your stinking, no-good, #cheater spouse on social media is airing dirty laundry.
Take care of yourself.Discovering that your spouse has been cheating puts you through the ringer emotionally. As such, you need to give yourself a little extra T.L.C. in the aftermath. Do not turn to dangerous “band aids” such as alcohol. Instead, eat healthy comfort foods and get plenty of rest. Allow yourself to curl back up under the blankets like you always wanted to do and get a few extra hours of ‘z’s. Make sure you get some exercise as well. While going to the gym may be the last thing you feel like doing when you are wrung out emotionally, the endorphins released by exercise can give you a brief runner’s high and will give you a much needed energy boost. Exercise is also a great stress reliever.
Distract yourself during your down time rather than turning your spouse’s betrayal over and over in your head. Read a good book or watch your favorite movie. It might be a good idea to avoid romance or rom-coms at this point, no matter how much you love “Dirty Dancing,” “The Notebook” or “Pride and Prejudice.” Stick to safer subjects or indulge in those B-movie disaster flicks that are your guilty pleasure.
Get tested for STD’s.It is not something you really want to think about, but if your spouse was cheating on you, you need to get tested for STD’s. Your spouse may well have passed on a disease they caught from their lover. Make the appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. If your wife is pregnant, insist on and arrange for a paternity test. If she has been cheating, there is every possibility that the baby is not yours.
Protect yourself.It seems cold and callous to be thinking about money when your spouse has just stomped all over your heart, but you do need to take action to protect your finances. Check your credit card statement for unfamiliar or untrustworthy purchases. Cancel charges and return items as needed. It may also be a good idea to change passwords or pin numbers so that your cheating spouse cannot decide to run off on a Hawaiian cruise on your dime.
If you are considering divorce, start looking for a good lawyer. Also, be sure to start gathering evidence in the event that things get messy or turn into a protracted custody battle. Be sure, however, to set aside time to find a therapist. Whether you try and make it work with your spouse or not, talking to a professional will help you deal with the trust issues and potential depression or anxiety that can arise from such a betrayal.
Discovering that your spouse is cheating is only the beginning of a terrible rollercoaster ride. Unfortunately, once your spouse makes the decision to get on the ride, you are strapped in, too. Do what you can to take care of both yourself and your kids during that time. Think honestly about what you want to do about your cheating spouse and your marriage, but do not make any snap decisions. The time for serious decisions comes later. First, however, comes damage control and creating a supportive enough environment that you can process how utterly you were betrayed and at least begin to contemplate that terrifying question, “what comes next?”