It is incredibly painful to find out your spouse is having an affair. That’s an understatement, but there are other emotions that go along with the hurt. You feel a sense of shock, abandonment, and it’s a big hit to your self-esteem. You wonder what’s wrong with you or what you did wrong.
Well, no matter what mistakes you might have made or what problems exist in your marriage, an affair is not your fault. An affair is a choice and only the person who made that choice is accountable. Your spouse may try to blame you, and you may be tempted to accept at least some of the blame, because after all you’re not perfect. Nobody is.
If you’re tempted to take the blame, think about this: there are much better options, choices that actually help resolve problems, rather than breaking the vow to be faithful. Your spouse has no excuse. No matter how unhappy or unfilled he or she was, an affair is not the answer. If the marriage is that darn bad then he or she should have left. Yet, your spouse still wants to hang onto you, while dancing the night away with someone else. I don’t think so!
If you learn your spouse is having an affair, confront him or her with it. Do not react hysterically; wait until you are more calm. Then, in a very matter of fact way, state the truth. Don’t torture yourself with all the details. Ask your spouse to leave until you have time to sort out your feelings. Don’t accept any excuses.
In a day or two, your spouse should approach you. Ask if he or she wants to continue being married to you. If so, demand that the affair end immediately. If you want to attend marriage counseling, this is a good time to get the other person to agree to it. Marriages can survive affairs if both spouses are willing to do the hard work. Trust can be rebuilt in time. It depends on how badly both of you want it to work.
The most important thing to keep in mind is retaining your dignity. Do not beg your spouse to stay, do not scream hysterically (call your friends to vent, stomp, slam doors or do what you have to do to get it out before approaching your spouse). While a freaked out reaction is understandable, hysterical behavior is very unattractive. Your spouse is likely to turn around and walk out if you respond this way.
You have every right to be angry and upset, but if you want to stay married, it’s better if you don’t let them see you sweat. Make them sweat instead, with your controlled, collected response. Ask others that you know who have been through it. Begging your spouse to stay or reacting hysterically are the best ways to insure that your spouse walks out. Instead of losing control, take back control of the situation.
*Check out Kristyn’s comments in Can a Marriage Survive an Affair?
As Kristyn noted, in some cases, continuing the marriage after an affair may cause the cheating spouse to think he or she can get away with anything. Make it very clear that this is not the case.
You might even want to create a contract where your mate swears to be faithful. Add to it the items he or she agrees to forfeit (property, money, custody) in the divorce if there is any more cheating, and make your spouse sign it. You can always agree to tear it up later as a sign of good faith, if things are working out, but it should serve not only as a wake up call to your spouse, but also a pretty clear indicator of how serious your mate is about saving your marriage.