I’ve had this blog post sitting on my computer now for well over a year. It’s one I haven’t wanted to post because I’ve been healing from my own marital betrayal, and I felt like if I posted it, that would make me a “bitter ex-wife.” Sadly, in the time since I originally wrote this, I have had several friends, family members, and acquaintances find themselves in the position I found myself back in 2013. When you are the betrayed spouse, your world turns inside out and upside down. If this post can help even one person deal with this heartache, I don’t care how “bitter” I might sound.
I don’t wish the pain of discovering an infidelity or affair on anybody, and if you find yourself there, I am so deeply sorry. From my own experience, I can offer you a few bits of insight on how to get through the days after affair discovery or disclosure. Everyone moves through heartbreak in their own way and at their own pace. These are simply some things I wish I had known or done when I found myself in the middle of my own heartbreak. These are suggestions from my own personal experience – which may or may not be similar to yours. In the end, you have to do what’s best for you.
1. Your spouse may say things to you like “I need space” or “I love you, but I’m not IN love with you.” These two sentences are major red-flags and stereotypical passive admissions of an affair. The “space” they need is between someone else’s legs; it’s NOT space in which to self-reflect or to be alone. If they’re not in love with you (their husband/wife, whom they’ve promised to love, honor, and cherish), they’re “in love” with someone else. If you hear either of these utterances, brace yourself.
2. If your spouse leaves the family home to have said “space,” let them go. Do not chase them. Do not beg them to come back. Do not call them, text them, or otherwise engage them. This is THEIR shit show, so let them go star in it. It will be absolutely excruciating because this is the person with whom you have built a life, possibly had children, thought you were going to grow old. As much as it hurts, keep your dignity and self-respect, and leave them alone.
3. You will likely have a strong physiological response to their betrayal. Vomiting, lack of appetite, insomnia, and constant panic are all common in the early days of affair discovery. Try to eat, sleep, and stay hydrated the best way you can. It will not be easy. You will probably quickly drop significant weight even if you’ve been on every diet known to man up to that point. Know that this is normal, and it will pass. It will feel like the heartache will kill you. It will change you forever, but I promise you won’t die.
4. If you have joint bank accounts, go to the bank immediately and withdraw half of the money in them. Don’t worry about how your spouse is going to feel about this – they aren’t thinking about you at all. Open accounts in your name only, and deposit that money. If you divorce, you will have protected half of your assets. If you stay together, you will have protected half of your assets. Your “stuff” can be sorted during divorce proceedings. Many people blow tons of cash on affairs. Don’t let your spouse do this with yours!
5. Decide if you’re going to try to “wait out” the affair. Many people are not willing to toss decades-long marriages into the toilet because of affairs. If you choose to wait it out, give yourself a timeline. Know that cheaters will sometimes come and go from the family home multiple times while they try to “figure things out.” I HIGHLY recommend NOT letting your cheating spouse do this more than once, if at all. Having their cake and eating it too is a hallmark of these “indecisive” individuals. Don’t have a revolving door. Don’t be their cake.
6. Know that if your spouse is cheating, your spouse is lying – lying to you, lying to the affair partner, lying to friends, lying to family members. They are lying because they know what they’re doing is shitty and wrong. This is a hard pill to swallow because this is likely the person you’ve been closest to and most emotionally invested in for a long time. It’s a crap sandwich, but the sooner you come to grips with the fact that this person does not respect you enough to be truthful about what’s going on, the better off you’ll be.
7. Whatever you do, do NOT contact the affair partner. Assuming they know their new “love” interest is married, know that this person has no regard for you, your children, your marriage, or quite frankly him or herself. There is nothing to be gained by talking to or otherwise communicating with anyone who would knowingly get or stay involved with a married person. Some affair partners have no trouble whatsoever flaunting their affairs – being seen in public at events, posting photos of themselves with their new “soul mates” all over social media. They are quite proud to be involved with married individuals. Some affair partners go so far as to stalk the family home or family members’ social media. These people do not care that you’re hurting or that your children’s world is falling apart. STEER CLEAR.
8. File divorce papers. Seriously. Cheaters don’t always file – cake, remember? If the cheating spouse doesn’t really want to end the marriage, they’ll extricate themselves from their affair partner totally and commit to rebuilding what they’ve destroyed. Divorce papers can be withdrawn. If they don’t care, they’ll let the divorce move forward, and you save a lot of time and misery. As a betrayed spouse, you’re the one playing catch-up. The cheater mentally left the marriage a long time ago – probably without giving you much, if any, indication that (s)he was miserable enough to go screw around with someone else. The catch-up game takes a while, but you’ll get there.
9. Understand that THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Your spouse CHOSE to cheat on you. The affair partner CHOSE to get involved with a married person. You got NO choice in this matter. You are a victim of their selfishness, but you can choose NOT to be a victim of continued infidelity, head games, gaslighting, and manipulation. You are not helpless and can take control of your response to the situation that’s been thrust on you.
Know this: your marriage as you have known it is over. Whether you stay married or not, affairs change the relationship dynamic forever.
Some marriages survive. The cheater must really show remorse for the pain (s)he’s put the family through. The betrayed spouse must be willing to move past a lot of rage, misery, and shattered dreams. This is possible, but only if BOTH parties are fully committed to rebuilding their relationship and overcoming the breach of trust that has occurred.
Here’s the thing though. If someone is willing to turn their spouse and family upside down and inside out because they need to bang someone else, that’s a very clear indicator of what they do and don’t value.
You’re worth more than that.