What should you do after discovering that your partner has had an affair? And what should you not do? Couples therapist Myrna Reisman-Moreno, LMHC, today’s guest blogger, provides practical advice to make dealing with the pain a little easier:

g-stockstudio/Shutterstock
Source: g-stockstudio/Shutterstock

You discover your partner had an affair. Panic, confusion, mental and physical pain put you in a dark place. Advice floods in from family and friends, books, and the Internet. Your life divides—Before the Affair and After the Affair. No matter how much your unfaithful partner voices his or her regret, you remain unsatisfied and your mistrust lingers. 

Finding out that the person you loved and trusted has had sex, or even an emotional relationship with another person—whether briefly or for many years—causes you to feel like the earth has opened up and swallowed you. I have learned a few things from working as a couples therapist and running women’s infidelity support groups that seem to help people in this situation. 

Here are nine ways to begin to deal with infidelity:

  1. You may want to turn immediately to Facebook, pick up the phone, or email everyone you know to share what he or she has done to you. Slow down. Take a deep breath. Act judiciously, not impulsively.
     
  2. Keep in mind that even if it seems unlikely now, you may yet be able to work out your relationship problems. After a while, you may see that you can forgive the affair. If you convince those who know you that you have been grievously mistreated and that your partner is a monster, it will make it much more difficult for them to accept your partner again. Your family and friends' reactions may pose difficulties for your relationship even after you have resolved your own and your partner’s anger.
     
  3. Tell selected and trusted people in your life. Empathic support is needed in order for you to begin healing, regardless of whether the relationship can be salvaged. Do not isolate yourself: Good friends are needed to create and maintain momentum to get you through this difficult time.
     
  4. After sharing your situation with those trusted few, you may decide to go completely public. If and when you broadcast bad news about your partner it will be a deliberate choice. This will reaffirm your ability to make discrete choices and exercise control of your actions in spite of the blow you suffered. 
     
  5. Don’t hire movers just yet. If you can’t stay under the same roof, make short-term plans until you feel more stable. The idea of continuing to live with this person you thought you knew, and to whom you revealed your vulnerabilities, may seem impossible. But give yourself enough time to know that you are truly operating in your own best interests and not simply reacting self-destructively to the pain. I have seen more than a few couples have to pay for two apartments even though, within a couple of months of discovering the affair, they resumed spending nights together.
     
  6. Vengeful acts will not make things better. Being emotionally, verbally, or physically abusive to an unfaithful partner will not get to the root of your problems. It is understandable that you want to say hurtful things to this person, but it can become a destructive pattern that further deteriorates any possibility for rebuilding trust and creating emotional safety. Future respect comes only if you intentionally work toward achieving it.
     
  7. Many people believe that physical abuse only occurs when a man hits a woman. Physical abuse has no preferred gender. It is destructive no matter who initiates or perpetuates it.
     
  8. Stalking or posting things on Facebook about the person your partner had the affair with may fill your need for immediate gratification, but in the long run, it accomplishes nothing. Don’t waste your energy.
     
  9. If you have kids, remember: They are under your protection. They suffer when you speak badly of their other parent. You are trying to hurt the person who hurt you, but you can end up hurting your children at the same time—and they do not deserve it.

Even with these guidelines, dealing with infidelity can be excruciating. Try to focus on understanding where your best interests lie. There are times when partners can overcome an affair and make their relationship work as well, or better, than ever. There are also many times when such a result is just not possible. No matter how you view your situation, exercise compassion toward yourself—not self-pity—as you consider your options.

Thanks for reading. Please share comments, questions, suggestions with us. 

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