You just realized that your spouse has been unfaithful. The news of the infidelity has hit you like a ton of bricks. Your marriage is now thrown into a state of crisis that may destroy it. On the other hand, you both may be able to work through it and end up better than ever.
It is natural to want to know why your partner cheated, but there is no simple answer to why someone becomes unfaithful. It could be a symptom of other problems in your marriage, it could relate to something in your spouse's past, or it could be totally unrelated to you or to your marriage. You may never truly know why it happened.
There are 15 things you can do to get beyond the hurt, forgive your unfaithful spouse, and save your marriage.
- Do not make any major decisions about ending your marriage now just because your spouse has been unfaithful. This is the time to do some reflection on your marriage to see what other issues other than this infidelity need to be recognized and dealt with.
- Understand that feelings are neither right or wrong. Accept that your feelings of rage, uncertainty, shock, agitation, fear, pain, depression and confusion about having an unfaithful spouse are normal. You will be on a roller coaster of emotions for a few months and possibly even up to a year or two afterwards.
- Do your best to take care of yourself. You may have some physical reactions to the infidelity such as nausea, diarrhea, sleep problems (too little or too much), shakiness, difficulty concentrating and not wanting to eat or overeating.
- Balance is the key to getting through this experience of coping with infidelity. Force yourself to eat healthy foods, to stay on a schedule, to sleep regular hours, to get some exercise each day, to drink plenty of water, and to have some fun.
- It's still okay to laugh. Watch some funny movies or TV shows. Spend some time with people who make you smile. Life goes on in spite of heartache and unfaithful spouses.
- Tears are healthy too. If they aren't coming naturally, put on some blues type music or watch a sad movie. Those betrayed may actually feel numb, but it is important to get in touch with your underlying emotions as well.
- Begin a journal. Write down your thoughts and feelings about your spouse's unfaithfulness.
- Ask all the questions you want.Talk with your spouse about the infidelity. However, you may have to accept that your spouse may not know why the infidelity took place or may not want to reveal this to you.
- Seek counseling. Do not try to get through coping with unfaithfulness alone! However, don't shout from the highest mountain to all you know that your spouse is an unfaithful jerk. Carefully choose whom you will share this information with. Knowing the type of infidelity sometimes makes understanding it easier and counseling can help get answers to questions. Was it a one-night stand or an affair? Did it come during or after a life crisis? Is a sexual addiction a possibility? Was it an act of retaliation? Did the cheating occur to end the marriage? Regardless, this may be the most important time to seek professional help.
- Take it one day at a time. You and your spouse should both be tested for AIDS/HIVS and STD's before you resume sexual intimacy without protection. Consider what boundaries you need in your marriage in order to stay in the marriage. You might wish to contact an attorney and get these documented in a postnuptual agreement.
- Your children need to know that you are going to be okay. You can't hide the fact that you are going through serious stress or trauma. Being honest with your children might be the best approach depending upon their age, but don't weigh them down with details. Also, don't make promises that you can't keep.
- Try not to get into the blaming game over who or what caused the infidelity. It's just wasted energy. That includes blaming the third party. It will not change anything. Also, think twice before you tell your family or your spouse's family about the infidelity. Family members can often hold grudges a long time.
- You may have post-traumatic stress. If you are jumpy, yell at trivial actions, feel like you are walking on egg shells, and continue to have physical reactions when you are reminded of the infidelity, see a physician as soon as you can. Medication, even temporarily, might be a good idea.
- It takes time to get beyond the pain of having an unfaithful mate. Don't expect the mixture of feelings, the sense of confusion and limbo, and the mistrust to go away just because you've tried to forgive your spouse and made a commitment to save your marriage. The stages of death and dying (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) are part of the grieving process. It doesn't mean your marriage can't be renewed and strengthened, because it can. But, it will be different. Remember that your marriage has changed. You will need to grieve that loss.
- Get practical. Look at your finances, housing situation, transportation, etc. If you do decide to end your marriage, make sure you have thought out where you will live, if you have enough money to pay for your essentials, etc. If you are unsure this is the right decision, seek counseling as well to guide you.
Infidelity is one of the more difficult challenges a marriage can face. It doesn't always mean it's the end. It's critical for both you and your spouse to carefully consider what changes you are both willing to make in order to get past it.
ARTICLE UPDATED BY MARNI FEUERMAN