Pain. Anguish. Shock. Blame.  These are some of the first things to arise in the face of adultery.  Regardless how one finds out a spouse has cheated, the feelings associated with the betrayal can be overwhelming.  

Dealing with the news of an infidelity

The world rushes around each of you while your marriage seems to implode. Every thought and possibility starts to rush into each of your minds. There's no escaping the immediate quake that's damaging your marital foundation.  Life seems to have instantly changed forever.

Both spouses suffer

Depending on which side of the betrayal you are on will bring up different emotions along the same plane of devastation.  No matter what happens from this point, you both feel it will never be the same again.  The length of your marriage, your relationship with your spouse and the marriage’s value in your life will determine how long it will take each of you to recover the initial impact.

While it may seem as though there's one victim and one adulterer, that's not necessarily the case.  There can be a great deal of issues that cause a person to commit adultery that may or may not stem from the relationship itself.  And while the adulterer is still the victimizer in the eyes of the unknowing spouse, much of the time, if both spouses still feel love for each other, there are two primary victims in the marriage. 

The adulterer hurts her spouse and herself

Along with hurting her spouse, the adulterer also victimizes herself by violating her marriage, usually one of the most valued relationships in most spouses' lives.  If she loves her husband and values her marriage, she must live with what she has done and either face the consequences when confessing to her spouse or live with the secret.   Regardless, the guilt from committing adultery can be overwhelming and life damaging.  

If she did not value her marriage, then she also hurts herself by remaining in a committed relationship where there is diminished love and unhappiness.  

Regardless how the adulterer feels it does not give much relief from the pain the other spouse feels as a result of the betrayal once revealed.

After a betrayal

While the reaction to the infidelity may be different for everyone, it’s important the betrayed spouse consider the following:

Don't rush long-term decisions 

Don't make any decisions that affect your life, marriage or family inside of the first month following the news.  While your spouse may want you to make some decisions on her schedule in order to provide her some idea as to the future of your marriage, do not rush the decision to satisfy her guilt or your need to resolve the painful situation.  Regardless of any decisions you make, the situation will not be readily resolved.

You will also not do yourselves any favors by rehashing the details of the adultery over and over.  You are at a heighten stage of emotions.  Not only does that produce behaviors and reactions that are not representational of your true self or clear-headedness, but it also spurs poor decision making for the future.  

All that being said, one decision that would be helpful to make sooner than later is to talk with a licensed professional who may be able to help you individually with your immediate crisis.   A marriage counselor may also be beneficial in the coming months, but it may be best to get things worked out in your best interest first before working on your marriage (if that's what you decide you want to do). 

Take action

Conversely, you are in a situation that requires your attention.  Ignoring the problem does not make it go away.  It builds anger, resentment and hopelessness for both spouses.  This may include rudeness, sarcasm, more dishonesty and deliberate inattention within the relationship.  

If your spouse has cheated and you ignore it, you may want to consider if the adultery was a poor attempt to let you know your inattention to the “pre-adultery” marital problems are serious.   If adultery doesn’t get you to deal with the problems then the marriage was in serious trouble before the infidelity. 

Ignoring your spouse's confession could also precipitate more adulterous behavior.  If you are unable to cope with the situation, it may help to speak with a licensed therapist/counselor individually and later a marriage counselor together.

Know the primary cause

You may not like what your spouse's infidelity has forced you to face, but you have to face it.  At the head of the beast is the adultery, but it usually begins with problems your spouse has failed to share or problems of which you both were aware, but did not resolve.  

As always, bad behavior, regardless if it is responsive to marital problems or in response to infidelity isn't helpful.  It continues to erode a marriage until it's end or until each spouse regards their love for one another enough to stop it.  If you both feel the marriage is worth fighting to save, marriage counseling will usually be helpful and in many cases, necessary.  

It's okay to ask your spouse to leave for a period of time it takes for you to decide what to do next.  This separation time will allow you to think objectively and without your spouse's influence about what's best for you.  She may not need to physically leave the residence.  From sleeping on the proverbial “couch” or just another part of the residence, you may both benefit from some distance in the relationship.

Talk with someone who can empathize 

Seek a friend and family support system.  You should be surrounded by those that will be understanding of your feelings and possible shock.   Even just one confidant can make all the difference in the world. Someone that will let you vent, irrationally, if needed.  You don’t need someone who will judge you at possibly the worst time in your recent life. 

That being said, try to keep it together as much as possible to avoid total stress overload.  Do the best you can, but accept emotional break-downs, as needed.  Those who love you will understand, even if they don't.

Take time to come to terms with the situation

If you need to take a personal day or personal week to collect yourself from the shock of what is before you, that’s ok.  Everyone is different, but sometimes it’s best to give yourself a reasonable amount of time to get the worst of your emotions under control without co-workers and friends witnessing you at a serious low point.   

You don't need to disclose the reason, that's why they're called "personal" days.  If a nosey nelly asks, it's perfectly fine to be vague.  It's really nobody's business other than those with whom you wish to confide.

Deal with the shock

Don't feel that taking some time to adjust to what's happened makes you weak or overly affected.  It's actually quite the opposite.  It actually indicates how important your marriage is to you and that you recognize the emotions an infidelity has caused could compromise your job performance, safety and/or professional relationships. 

Emotional shock following news of adultery is cause for serious distraction that may lead to more problems you don't need.  One breakdown in front of a client or the boss may make you wish you took some time to come to terms over such a heartbreaking betrayal.

Those who take some time may actually be better able to cope with any long-term aftershocks.  So take the time you need so that you can stay focused when you return.  

Cope with the problems

Once you get back into your routine, stay focused.  Stay dedicated to your career, family and primary responsibilities.   It's easy to suddenly find faults in areas of your life that don't need fixing.  This is a result of stress and drama overload.   Don't make any big decisions regarding other areas in your life unless absolutely necessary.  Disallow marriage problems from stealing time and energy from all that you regard and love.   

Of course it will still be there for awhile, like a looming cloud, but as time passes the cloud will get smaller as long as you take some action to resolve it.

Don't let the situation cripple you and consume your every minute. Staying busy helps keep your mind focused away from issues you can't readily control. 

You need to make difficult decisions that require a clear head.  When you're not obsessing over your marriage problems daily, you'll be more relaxed and willing to address the issues at the right times and in the right way. You will both need to find coping strategies.  Again, to do this, therapy or counseling may be necessary.  

Don't let people push you to do something you don't want

Don’t let family, friends or your spouse tell you what you should do or what's right or wrong in this situation.  Don’t be bullied or sweet-talked into making serious decisions about your marriage, life and love for your spouse.  

Your decisions are personal and unique to you, your life and relationship.  Only you can chose to forgive and maintain your love for your spouse, separate or end the marriage with hopes of later forgiveness or end the marriage with no interest to forgive.  Never forgive because you feel forced to do so for the benefit of what others think or want.  Forgive when you're ready.  It does help, but only when it's your decision to do so. 

Hold off on the self-blame

While you may have some reasons to blame yourself for what has happened, let yourself off the hook.  There will be time to deal with adultery and all that led up to it or resulted from it.  But, your spouse made a terrible decision and she owns it.  You may consider some of your poor behavior when making improvements related to the marriage and it’s survival, but unless you have also recently committed adultery, don’t let the blame be transferred to you as a means of deflection or excuse.  

As mentioned earlier, if you feel like your decisions are all over the place or you are unable to make decisions within a reasonable time frame regarding your marriage, future, forgiveness and heartbreak, you will want to seek therapy or help through a support group.  This will allow you an opportunity to constructively vent about the situation and help you come to some decisions that are best for you, your family and your marriage.


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