It’s the ultimate betrayal by someone you love. And, unfortunately, infidelity in a marriage is extremely common. Although statistics differ, it’s estimated that around 50% of spouses cheat at least once in their marriage.
Your Initial Reaction
Your initial reaction might be one of disbelief or even, perhaps, resignation. You might be so angry that you‘ll do or say something you‘ll regret. It‘s possible you‘ll be engulfed in sadness which will lead you into a state of depression. It could be none of these or a combination of these. It could be something else entirely. Everyone reacts to and deals with infidelity differently and none of these reactions are wrong.
Once the initial shock, anger and sadness have subsided, you’ll have to make a decision as to whether or not your marriage can survive. Essentially, you have two options. You’ll either decide to stay together or you’ll decide to end your marriage.
Deciding to Stick it Out
If you decide to work it out, there are a number of steps you and your spouse must take in order to get through the situation and salvage your marriage.
The first and most important event that must happen is for your spouse to end all contact with the other man or woman in their life. There can be absolutely no negotiation regarding this issue. In the unfortunate and tricky event that your spouse was cheating with a co-worker , it goes without saying that your spouse will have to find another job immediately.
You cannot move ahead in your marriage knowing that your spouse will see his or her ex on a daily basis at work. Even though the job market is tough right now, you’ll never be able to build any sort of trust again if the two of them continue to see one another. Of course, the same principle applies in any other area where your spouse and the ex are bound to have routine contact.
Once all contact ends, both you and your spouse need to attend marriage counseling. It’s important to find a counselor that you both feel comfortable talking with about extremely personal issues. It may take multiple visits to multiple practitioners to find the right match for both of you. One positive aspect of marriage counseling is that a counselor can often open up lines of communication that have been long gone or were never there to begin with.
Unfortunately, a lack of communication in your marriage can often lead to feelings of isolation, resulting in infidelity. It’s exceptionally important that you feel comfortable talking to your spouse and they feel comfortable talking to you. A counselor can help greatly in this area and can often recommend tools and techniques for improving those verbal, and nonverbal, lines of communication.
Moving Beyond the Lack of Trust
You’ll also need to be extremely realistic in dealing with one another. You will not get over an affair right away, and if your spouse expects you to, you will continue to have issues. The lack of trust will overwhelm you and cause you to question everything your spouse is doing, everyone your spouse is talking to and every minute your spouse is not with you. No matter how hard you try, this lack of trust is inevitable.
Although it won’t be an easy task, your spouse has to rebuild the trust that was lost overnight. It could take years for that to happen, so you both have to be committed to rebuilding the relationship.
Establish “date-night”. Though it might seem cliché, having a set time for you and your spouse to spend time with one another alone, talking, laughing and enjoying one another, it can be one of best gifts you give yourselves as a couple. The responsibilities associated with marriage, parenting and life in general bring with them massive amounts of stress; yet another factor in the evolution of infidelity.
The simple fact is that your relationship will never be the same again, but perhaps that’s not a bad thing. Maybe it was never great to begin with and it can improve through the trials and tribulations you’re currently facing.
When Separation is the Only Option
You might find that you’re simply unable to move ahead with your marriage. In that particular case, you and your partner will need to make extremely difficult decisions regarding how to move forward individually. This can become even more stressful when there are children involved.
No matter what, don’t have discussions or arguments in front of your children. It’s not fair to them and will do nothing but hurt them in the long run. What’s happening in your marriage is between you and your spouse and children don’t need to hear the sordid details.
Once you’ve reached a decision regarding divorce, both of you should sit down and talk with your children together. If your kids can see a united front when it comes to them, it will help them heal and move forward. In addition, your kids will see right from the get-go that they won’t be able to manipulate you and use you against each other with the popular mom-said-this, dad-said this game.
You’ll want to find a good divorce attorney, but keep in mind that the more cordial you can be with your spouse, the better it will be for everyone in the long run. If possible, sit down with your spouse and discuss options. Make a list of your wants and needs and have your spouse do the same. Then, do your best to combine those lists into one acceptable agreement.
You will both have to make concessions, but it’s much easier to divide the marital assets if you go in knowing that neither of you will get everything you want.
The Healing Process
Once your divorce is final, give yourself time to heal. Dating will not be easy for a while, so it might be best to concentrate on yourself and your children. Take up a new hobby, follow that dream you put aside when you first got married and take a lot of time to get to know yourself as a single person.
Once you’ve taken those steps, you will find it a lot easier to move forward with your life.
There is no right or wrong answer regarding the path to take after infidelity. Be realistic and honest with yourself and your spouse. Ultimately, it’s simply a choice of what you can or can’t forgive.