smashing car

The discovery that your spouse is cheating on you is one of the worst experiences in the world. You are buried in shock and anguish.  How could this happen to you? What had gone wrong? If you are especially unlucky, you may have had no idea that there was even the slightest bit of problem in your marriage. Everything may have seemed just fine only for you to discover in the worst way possible exactly how many fractures existed in your fairy tale life. 

When it comes to a spouse’s infidelity, shock and sadness have a tendency to quickly give way to anger. Unsurprisingly, that anger can lead you to do things you might later regret. It may seem like there is no way to make a spouse’s utter betrayal worse, but it is possible to make things more problematic for yourself in the long run. Unfortunately, those things that you want to do and that you are convinced would make you feel better are usually the exact things you should avoid. Short-term happiness will be fleeting anyway when you are still trapped in the emotional quagmire of a recently discovered affair. As such, you need to act in ways to help you find happiness in the long term. That means you need to avoid making these common mistakes.

Tell Everyone

If your spouse did not want anyone else to find out about their bit on the side, they should have kept it in their pants, right? While it is true that keeping an affair secret is a losing battle, taking to the rooftops to shout that your spouse is a no-good, dirty rotten cheater is not the best way to respond to your heartbreak. Airing you and your spouse’s dirty laundry in public is a mistake that will come back to haunt you. You do not have to keep utterly silent about the issue, and frankly, you should not bottle it up. There is a difference, however, between confiding in a close friend or seeking the support of a family member and posting on Facebook about how horrified you were to discover the gifts your spouse bought for their lover. Affairs are emotionally painful enough without inviting the peanut gallery to set up shop and watch your pain play out.

Attack the “Homewrecker”

It takes two to tango, but it can be oh-so-tempting to pin all the blame on your spouse’s lover. If they did not exist, after all, then your spouse would not have had an affair. If they did not come into you and your spouse’s lives, everything would be fine! This, of course, is not true. Your spouse would still have cheated. They would simply have cheated with someone else. Such logic does not always win out over anger and grief, but resist the temptation to go after your spouse’s lover. Physical violence is completely unproductive and also totally illegal, and shredding the homewrecker online will do nothing to make you feel better either. There is also always the possibility that the man or woman who wrecked your marriage had no idea that your spouse was married. Cheaters can be very good liars, and it is not unheard of for adulterers to convince their lovers that they are single. Painful though it may be to consider, your spouse’s lover may be an innocent in it all.

Get Even

Whether it is “Before He Cheats,” “Bust Your Windows,” “Irremplazable,” “Take a Bow” or “Beautiful Liar,” there is no shortage of songs about getting even with a cheater. These breakup anthems can certainly help fuel the righteous fury that might be necessary to get you out of bed and away from the liquor and ice cream, but they should not be taken as examples of good post-cheating behavior.

When you get hurt, you generally want to get even. The desire for revenge might be fleeting, but it usually shows up at some point. The more serious the hurt, the more tempting it is to give into that urge. No matter how much you want to get some of your own back, resist the urge to go get some good old fashioned revenge. Keying your spouse’s car may make you feel better for a few minutes, but the feeling will fade and you might find yourself liable for damages. Revenge cheating will do much the same. You might feel better for a short time, but it will not help you heal any faster. If anything, seeking revenge will just keep reopening that wound.

Ignore It

Adultery stirs up just about every emotion a person can feel and blends them all together into a slop that can overwhelm anyone. When this emotional hurricane combines with the very practical and logical questions that come with dealing with adultery, some people just want to bury their head in the sand. After all, deciding if a divorce is the best thing or whether counseling will help and how to deal with the fact that you, your spouse and your spouse’s lover all work together requires calm deliberation. “Calm” is not something that is easy to achieve when you alternate wildly between wanting to curl up under the covers in a ball of misery, laugh hysterically at how unfair the world is and scream yourself hoarse at your spouse. As such, some people want desperately to just ignore that the affair ever happened. This, however, is a mistake. If you and your spouse are going to stay together, you need to address whatever failing led to your spouse’s betrayal. You cannot do this without confronting the affair. You also cannot do this without accepting that things will never “go back to the way they were” before the affair. Your spouse made a conscious choice to betray you. That is not a situation you want to return to which is exactly what “going back to the way things were before” means. You return to the pre-affair state in which you spouse was willing to break your trust. Moving forward hurts, confronting the affair hurts, but you and your spouse have to do it if you two are to have any hope of getting on with your lives, whether together or apart.

Make Big Life Decisions

Adultery is more than enough to end a marriage. It certainly is the end of life as both you and your cheating spouse knew it. As such, it can be tempting to make grand gestures that show that you are either moving past the adultery or leaving your soon-to-be-ex-spouse behind. Regardless of whether or not you and your spouse stay together, the period after the discovery of an affair is not the time to be making big life decisions. You are dealing with serious emotional upheaval and a lot of changes in your life. This is not conducive to the thoughtful, objective, calm contemplation required before undergoing serious decisions. You might well move across the country to get away from your cheating spouse, only to find that you miss your family and friends. On the flip side, deciding to buy a new house together to signify that you are both committed to working though the issue is not the answer either. Until your emotions have settled down, avoid making decisions that will affect you for more than a few months. Planning your summer vacation to distract you from your pain is fine. Planning to become a parent is not.

Discovering an affair is certain to cause you all sorts of trouble. You have to deal with the very real legal and practical ramifications of the betrayal, such as whether or not to get a divorce and how to explain the situation to your children. You also have to wrestle with the extraordinary emotional upheaval cheating causes. The stress and emotional roller coaster are more than enough to push you toward some problematic decisions. Resist the urge to give in, and instead, focus on moving forward in healthy ways. This too shall pass.

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