Pain. Anguish. Shock. Blame.  These are some of the first emotions 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 of the marriage. 

The adulterer hurts her spouse and herself

Along with hurting her spouse, the adulterer also victimizes herself by violating the sanctity of the marriage, usually one of the most valued relationships in her life.  If she loves her spouse and values her marriage, she must live with her choice to commit adultery 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, 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 for the betrayed spouse to 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.  

Take action

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

If your spouse has cheated and you ignore it, you may want to consider 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.

Know the primary cause

You may not like what your spouse 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 each spouse regards their love for one another enough to stop it.  Often, marriage counseling will be necessary to improve communication in the relationship.

Spend time apart if that's what you need

Do what you need to do upon hearing the news, but 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 as to what is best for you without your spouse’s influence.  She may not need to physically leave the residence.  From sleeping on the proverbial “couch” or just another part of the residence, you may benefit from some distance in the relationship.

Talk with someone who can empathize 

Seek a support system that will be understanding of your feelings and possible shock.  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.  

Once you get back into your routine, stay focused and keep your mind busy, dedicated to your career, children and primary responsibilities.  Disallow marriage problems from stealing time and energy from all that you regard and love. 

Of course it will still be there, like a looming cloud, but staying busy will actually help you come to terms with it and provide a better frame of mind to make decisions. 

Again, this doesn't mean to avoid making decisions or giving your marital problem(s) attention when needed.  Just don't let the situation cripple you or consume your every minute.  You will need to make hard decisions.  You need to do this will a clear head and within a reasonable, not rushed, period of time.  

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.   

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.  But, your spouse made a terrible decision and she owns it.  You may consider some of your poor behavior when making some decisions 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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