10 things to do after finding out about an affair:
1) Allow yourself to experience all of your feelings. It’s normal and healthy to experience emotions like anger, betrayal, sadness, and grief over the loss of the relationship you thought you had. It’s important that you don’t shove these feelings down or pretend you aren’t having them.
2) Forgive yourself. You shouldn’t have seen this coming, and it’s not your fault.It’s a normal reaction to feel like you had the rug pulled out from under you. Don’t compound it by feeling like you were wrong to have ever placed trust in your partner. When you are in a committed relationship, it is ok to expect you will be safe and have loyalty in a partner.
3) Is your partner making amends? If your partner is not expressing remorse or cannot show empathy for your pain, then your relationship is probably not salvageable.
4) It’s time to look at the pros and cons of this relationship. Is there enough in the relationship still left for you that it’s worth the work that will lie ahead to rebuild a relationship? Actually taking out a pen and paper to write down the upside versus the downside of staying in this relationship is a worthwhile task.
5) Has your partner cut off all ties with the person with whom they were involved in the affair? This may require leaving a job or moving into another apartment complex in some cases. There needs to be a reassurance made to you that the person with whom he/she cheated is no longer in the picture. You won’t be able to make it work without this step.
6) If the desire to stay in the relationship is still there, then you need to start figuring out what happened in the relationship that made an affair a viable option for your partner. This is often a painful time for the person who was cheated on. When this process is done properly, it requires both of you to look at how some of your own behaviors contributed to a breakdown in the relationship. Often the reason an affair happens is because the partners have lost some level of emotional connection to the point that one seeks validation outside of the relationship. Couples therapy is a safe place to have these conversations so you have an outside party moderate and monitor if things get heated.
7) Give yourself enough time to express any lingering emotions and ask for what you need from your partner. If this means you need to ask details about the affair and express your anger until it’s relieved, that’s ok. Part of the amends process means your partner doesn’t attempt to rush you into moving on if you are still in pain. Just because it is uncomfortable to talk about the affair doesn’t mean you are required to sweep it under the rug.
8) If you decide to forgive and give the relationship another chance, then you must do it wholeheartedly. It’s not enough to say you forgive and then throw it up in your partner’s face every time you get in an argument. Remember you are forgiving to release yourself of pain as well. When we hold onto resentment, we are punishing ourselves just as much as the person we are holding in contempt.
9) Practice good self-care. There are going to be days that feel emotionally harder than others. It’s ok to do nice things for yourself. Treat yourself as you would if you were sick and needed some extra attention. Speak to yourself the way your parent or best friend would. Remind yourself that you are taking it day by day.
10) Accept that you will no longer have the same relationship you had before the affair. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There were likely cracks in your relationship that created an opportunity for the affair to happen. By building a new foundation and working to shore up the areas that needed work, you are creating the opportunity to have a possibility better and more genuine relationship than you had prior to the affair.
Written by Dana McNeil, MA in MFT, Relationup Advisor