You Found Out Your Spouse is Cheating: What Do You Do?
Updated: Aug 18
One of the most distressing scenarios a couple can walk through is discovering your husband or wife has been cheating, unfaithful, or has had multiple infidelities. I have not seen more pain before me than in these cases. You’re not alone. According to current statistics, 50-60% of married men engage in extramarital sex at some time during their relationships and 13% of women reporting having sex with someone other than their partner while still married. Infidelity occurs whenever one spouse engages in an emotional or physical and secretive relationship with another person. Finding out your partner has been unfaithful can leave the injured spouse feeling traumatized, not enough, and doubting their own reality. Ultimately, injured partners question everything about the relationship leaving them on shaky ground.
Firstly, I absolutely recommend inviting an appropriately trained couples counselor into the crisis to assist both partners in processing their feelings, needs, and boundaries before making any decisions about maintaining the relationship or not. Having a neutral third party who is trained in affair recovery is a great resource to assist both partners in the immense task of understanding why the affair occurred, how to rebuild trust, how to deepen intimacy, and ultimately how to maintain the work from couples counseling to safeguard against future affairs.
Let’s say you or your partner are unwilling to enter into the couples counseling space or you are awaiting an appointment from a trained and experienced therapist who will assist you on the road to affair recovery here are some important steps to consider.
Make a wise choice
When discovering or disclosing an extra marital affair one can go through a range of emotions from rage to grief and also have rational thoughts about how how to move forward, pursue an attorney, or how to split assets. The healthiest decisions are made when acknowledging emotions, rationale, and all the consequences. It is best to give yourself some time, clinicians often recommend at least six months, to really process feelings, thoughts, and consequences to ultimately make a wise choice that they will be content with years later. All too often we can seek to protect ourselves by making reactionary decisions based on temporary thoughts and emotions.
Do not retaliate
It is absolutely normal and very common to want to take revenge into your own hands by telling family members and friends, blasting your partner on social media, or disclosing this to your partner’s place of employment. When your emotions are not in check you may end up making decisions that you regret. Fast-forward to a few months from now, and think about what damage can and cannot be undone and what you want to be able to say and think about your conduct during this time.
Take care of yourself
It is okay to create some boundaries from the crisis and choose to rely on coping skills that have been effective for you in the past or create new skills to support your own mental health at this time. Please do your best to get some sleep and fresh air! All too often I see clients who feel so triggered they are not sleeping well or getting out of the house as usual. Please realize without sleep one cannot function well emotionally and with this crisis at hand your brain and body need you to be fully rested. Of course, exercise, meditation, prayer, artistic hobbies, and eating well will also help one cope with the emotions of fear, overwhelm, grief, loss, disappointment, and betrayal that accompany this relational trauma.
Do not blame yourself
Infidelity occurs for reasons outside of the relationship that exist within the individual who became involved with another person. There are relational factors that contribute to affairs, but ultimately the decision to have an affair instead of finding other healthier ways of discussing the potential relationship issues was made outside of you. As the injured party it can be helpful to remind yourself of this reality rather than internalizing this crisis as something you are responsible for.
For the involved partner
If you have recently cheated, had an affair, or engaged in infidelity do your best to be patient and kind with yourself and your partner. This crisis leaves you both in vulnerable positions and the best thing you can consider is to begin therapy to discover why you made this choice with the help of a trained professional who is non-judgmental. You need to feel safe too. By working on understanding yourself and your choices you will more easily be able to non-defensively listen to your partner and seek to understand your spouse’s feelings.