How to Cope After Discovering an Affair
You have learned that your partner has had an affair. It is a hurt unlike any you have ever experienced. How do you handle it?
Once an affair has been discovered, the aftermath can be very ugly. If there is any hope for the individual or the couple to weather this event, taking the time to reflect is critical.
However, first and foremost is the need for you, the hurt partner, to gain control of your emotions. It will not serve you or your family well, especially if you have children, to lose control and behave in ways you may regret later.
This tear in the fabric of the relationship often takes a long time and a lot of hard work to repair, so be prepared. Some really good suggestions for getting through this very difficult period are listed below.
Dealing with the Infidelity
Don’t make hasty decisions. Despite feelings to the contrary, it is extremely important to let some time pass before deciding what to do about your relationship. You will benefit more in the long run if you give yourself some time to reflect. Sometimes the hurt spouse becomes so angry and outraged that they create collateral damage. Behavior like destroying the unfaithful partner’s phone, computer or car or creating a scene at their place of business is an impulsive act of anger that adds to the damage. You must think things through before doing something you may later regret.
Don’t tell everyone right away. Although you may feel the need to share your pain with friends and family, you may end up influencing the way they feel about your spouse or getting opinions that you are not ready for. Should you decide to repair the marriage you may not want family members, who are now intolerant of your spouse, trying to influence your decision. On the other hand there may be a close friend or friends in whom you may feel the need to confide. It is often difficult to keep these powerful feelings to yourself and, if you do not have close friends in whom you can confide, I recommend you seek professional help quickly.
Take care of yourself. Your emotional state may be very delicate but you need to pay attention to your health. There is often a tendency to spiral down; gain or lose weight, not sleep, drink too much or use drugs to escape bad feelings. Force yourself to take a walk, swim, eat properly and spend time with close friends for support. I cannot emphasize this enough as you will need to be strong to manage the days, weeks and months ahead.
How you should handle the children. If you have kids they will know something is wrong. It is unlikely that you will be able to hide your pain completely. However, especially depending on their ages, try to keep the details of your upset private for as long as possible. You will only make things worse if your children become unnecessarily anxious about the future of the family. Some spouses find themselves confiding in one or more of their children. This typically puts an unnecessary burden on a child who now has to deal with the confusion of aligning himself with one parent over the other.
Understand the roller coaster of emotions. You will likely feel many emotions, not just anger or sadness. Understand that it is normal to feel everything you may be feeling. Powerful emotions can overcome you at any time so be prepared for that possibility. Leaning on close friends at this time can be very helpful. If you find that your emotions are too hard to control and are interfering with your ability to work or simply conduct your everyday life, seek professional help as quickly as possible.
Create a personal journal. Creating and keeping a journal can be both reflective and cathartic. You will likely benefit from this form of self-expression during this difficult time. It is a way helping you to think things through or even vent on paper. It is also a useful tool to use as you and your spouse move through the process of reconciliation.
Get counseling. This may seem obvious but many people let too much time go by before seeking professional help. Whether as an individual or as a couple (I recommend both) counseling will help you (and your spouse) better understand what really happened and why.
If you and your partner are willing to engage in the repair process it is extremely important that you get the help you need.
Understanding the reasons that an affair happened in the first place can be a delicate matter but is an important part of the process. Left on their own spouses may tend to either blame themselves or the other for subtle developments in the relationship which happened over time.
These issues are often difficult to deal with on your own.
About the Author
Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with couples struggling with powerful issues such as infidelity, careers and intimacy. He also specializes in treating addictions, anger, anxiety, stress, depression and work life balance.