Your Marriage Counselor

34 Years of Experience Helping Couples Get Together

(2)What to Do After Infidelity Has Been Discovered

Some Do’s and Don’ts

This section is designed to give the reader a place to start when faced with infidelity and will:

  • Suggest “3 choices” open to the person who has been betrayed;
  • Share a letter from a sufferer and an answer from a trained therapist;
  • Raise the questions that need to be faced and dealt with to move beyond the affair;
  • Offer advice to the person who has been unfaithful about what to do and not to do.

There are also a number of articles offering specific day to day tips you can try if struggling with infidelity and a self-help recovery manual that can be downloaded.

All of this material is designed to assist you in helping yourself during this difficult time. It is however, strongly recommended that you seek professional help if you are dealing with issues of infidelity, because the issues are so emotionally charged. The decisions you make during this time of tremendous pressure will affect you for the rest of your life and will also impact your children and other people who are important to you. It is essential that you get the best support you can during this difficult time.

3 Choices
After discovering the infidelity you have three choices:

  • to divorce
  • to deny that anything needs to be done
  • to work on healing the situation.

Unfortunately, although there are a limited number of possibilities, it is not easy to decide what to do. While there are no set answers to “what should I do?” there are several excellent suggestions in a response to a letter from Mary R. These serve as a good beginning when first handling the situation of infidelity.

A Note to “the Faithful Wife”
Dear Dr.:

I am a 43 year old woman and have two children who are 10 and 6 years old. I just found out that my husband has been cheating on me. I am angry and confused. What should I do? Should I divorce him? One of my friends says I should divorce him and take him for every thing he has. My sister has stayed with her husband for 15 years and she knows that her husband has had several affairs. If she can stick it out, shouldn’t I be able to? If I stay with him, can I ever trust him? He is a good father, a good provider and up until now, a good husband. I am so hurt I don’t know what to do. Please help me.

Mary R.

Dear Mary,

Perhaps the biggest betrayal a person could ever experience is discovering a spouse is cheating. Your emotions of confusion, hurt, and anger are normal and understandable. Those who haven’t experienced the pain of infidelity can never understand what you are going through. It shakes us to our very core. Here is my advice to you:

  • Don’t feel compelled to do anything immediately and don’t rush into a decision to stay or leave the marriage. Both healing and divorce are a process. You may feel a sense of urgency, but don’t act on it.
  • Find people you can trust, such as a family member, friend, or member of the clergy. You need to develop a support system of people you can talk to. Select people who care about you and do not have a grudge. For instance, people who are angry with their own partner or who have suffered through their own tough times may not be a good choice. Your supporter’s role is to listen and help you with whatever course you take.
  • Find a therapist. If you needed heart surgery you would look for a heart surgeon. Find a therapist who will help you think through both the options of continuing the relationship or divorce and help you sort out the answers in your heart. Just going back into the relationship will not solve the underlying problems. Divorcing badly will cause additional damage to the children and will be expensive. In this emotional jungle you need a professional to guide you through the terrain.

There will also be many other questions that you will need to address:

  • Should I ask him about the details of the affair?
  • Should I forgive him?
  • Most importantly, do I still love him?

This is one of the toughest times in your life. I wish you strength and hope you realize that you are worthwhile.

A Suggestion for the Unfaithful Partner

As for a suggestion to the unfaithful partner, it is important to avoid the common yet dangerous suggestion to “pick up the pieces and “leave the past behind.”

Some unfaithful partners after admitting their shame may say things like, “Let’s not open up old wounds” or, “Let’s give it some time to heal.” Studies of thousands of couples who have struggled with the issue of infidelity tell us that the “let’s-go-on-from-here” strategy is rarely successful in bringing couples together. The idea here is not to go back to the “business as usual” model of your relationship. Something wasn’t working in your relationship and that sowed the seeds for dissatisfaction and ultimately getting involved with another person. If you wish to continue your marriage you must understand and correct the “something” that wasn’t working. Often times that something was mutual and both of you may have been dissatisfied with the relationship.

In addition, your partner will need to understand what was going on with you and will need to feel secure that the unfaithfulness will not happen again. He/she may need to hear the details, know your whereabouts on a regular basis and have access to your phone bills and bank accounts. Your partner will need reassurance and verification but in the process, you may feel hemmed in and frustrated. In addition, your partner may have periodic attacks of anger and distrust for what seems like no reason at all.

This will be a tough time for both of you. It may take 6 months or even a year for things to feel like they are in balance. If your marriage is to work it will take patience on both of your parts. First, you must figure out if it is worth it to you to put a tremendous effort in the saving of your marriage. Does your love for your spouse, children, and the family, along with the financial aspects, make it worth the effort or is finding another partner while being married a wake-up call that you need something/someone else in your life?

It is best to have professional help under these circumstances, someone who can lend calmness, reason and guidelines as to the best steps to take. Regardless of whether you stay together, it is important to move carefully to avoid a bad situation from getting even worse.

8 comments

8 Comments so far

  1. eve h July 6th, 2011 11:57 am

    My husband have been having affairs with more than 3 women, i fund out and asked him about it and he denied all of them so i asked the lady’s involved and the confirmed everything to and later on he came to me and said he was sorry, but has not admitted to the affairs in so many words, i have suggested counselling but he doesn’t want to go. what do i do? i need help. i know if he doesn’t go with me i will end up leaving him, we are have a baby soon.

  2. Dr. Marty July 7th, 2011 5:05 pm

    Dear Eve,
    You should go to counseling on your own. When in counseling you can learn how to better communicate with him and how to set appropriate boundaries. You can also get emotional
    support to deal with the difficult times ahead. Also if you have children, it would be helpful to learn how to help them deal with the conflict that is going on at home. Children are sensitive
    and they know that something isn’t right. For a short video on what to do when only one person wants to go for counseling you can find that on:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsGX89P9Y4I. If You Tube has move it the video is also on the Home page about 3/4′s of the way down on the page.

    Good luck – hope that helps.

  3. tony July 13th, 2011 7:30 am

    Hi.

    My partner of seven years has admitted to having an affair with an ex-high school boyfriend. (She is 54. I am 50 and male.) Her affair started as an emotional one via Facebook. When I saw an intimate message from her to him (that she had forgotten to remove from our shared I-phone camera) she broke down crying and said she would stop the affair. BUT WE DID NOTHING TO CHANGE OUR RELATIONSHIP.

    Then, 6 months later, she went to her high school reunion while visiting her mother out of state and had a physical affair with him. When she admitted this, she did not say she would stop. This is a man she had told me years ago dumped her. She said he had been verbally abusive. But now she says he has changed over the past 40 years.

    My partner and I got together after she divorced another man she said had been verbally abusive for 20 years. She wanted a healthy relationship and divorced him after her daughter graduated from high school.

    Our relationship has been calm as far as fighting and yelling goes. However, though we had a strong emotional and physical connection the first few years, the two of us began to quietly drift apart the past few years. We became an “upstairs downstairs” couple. Life changes might have triggered our drifting. Among them were her daughter’s untimely death and my career change that nearly drained me finacially and emotionally while I was in grad school. Plus we are both several-year members of a 12-step group but had drifted away from meetings and maintenance of our spiritual programs. So, in a way, the affair has been a needed wake-up call for me.

    At the same time, her affair and her reluctance to rebuild our once-loving and healthy relationship has me frustrated and confused. I cannot understand why she would throw it all away on an abusive ex-boyfriend. And I cannot understand why she would not want tio rebuild our relationship — especially since I am willing to do so.

    But I try to take only my inventory. I have begun to make amends on my part. For the past month since I found out, I have been more present in our relationship, reaching out to connect again while also attempting to respect her desire to leave if that’s what she chooses. It’s a hard balancing act foe me. I feel hurt and angry sometimes, but mostly I fear losing her. I believe she and I both were/are lost, and that the solution is in finding each other and rebuilding a better, stronger relationship.

    As it stands she says she may be having second thoughts about leaving our state and hooking up with her ex. At the same time, she has little hope that our relationship can be repaired — that she can feel “in love” with me again. But she said she would be willing to go with me to a couples counselor to explore whether there is a chance we could rebuild. This was yesterday. We have not chosen one yet. I was in the process of looking for one when I found your site on the Internet.

    That is all I have to say right now. Thanks.

  4. Dr. Marty July 19th, 2011 4:59 pm

    Hi Tony,
    Please go to: http://www.yourmarriagecounselor.com/category/what-will-be-covered-during-counseling/ there you will find my video
    on how to find a good couples’ counselor, that will give you a place to start in your search.

    Let me know if you have any additional questions
    Dr.Marty

  5. Natascha October 3rd, 2011 1:47 pm

    Hi-
    I just found out that my boyfriend of two years has been emotionally unfaithful. He was going on Craigslist and emailing girls on the personal ads. I found some naked pictures on his email account. He said it was nothing and it was because I complain at him all the time and he felt so alone. After that, I looked at his Skype and he actually webcammed with some girls for hours at a time. I am so disgusted and embarrassed and I don’t know if I should leave the relationship or not. He wanted me to break up with him because he felt like I could never forgive him, but I want to try to work it out. I am deeply in love with him; he has always been an amazing boyfriend. I just feel like I don’t know him anymore. I am also upset with myself for not standing up for myself. What should I do?

  6. Dr. Marty October 13th, 2011 3:34 pm

    Hi Natascha,
    First there is a whole section on infidelity on the site, so please feel free to take a look at that information. You should sit down with a trained counselor and figure out how you want to handle this painful situation.
    You should also go with your counselor with your boyfriend to figure out how you can prevent future occurrences.

  7. Christiana October 15th, 2011 10:41 pm

    I just found out a few days ago that my boyfriend has been cheating on me…In fact he has been cheating with me. I am the “outside woman”. We started our relationship in January, but apparently he has had a relationship with another girl for a few years now. I went through his facebook messages after I had been suspicious of how he didn’t want to put up a relationship status or let me meet his family.
    He says that I am the one he loves, he says that he has broken up with the other girl for me. He says that he is sorry for what he did, but I think that he is only sorry that he got caught.
    What should I do? Sometimes I feel like I love him…other times I just totally hate him for what he has done to me. This is not the first time that I have been cheated on. He is the third boyfriend that has cheated on me. I am beginning to think that maybe I am doing something wrong. Why do men continue to cheat on me?!
    I want things to work for us, but I don’t know if I can ever trust him again. Our entire relationship was built on lies..
    He said that he is willing to go to counseling with me.
    Should I stay with him? Or should I work things out?

  8. Dr. Marty October 18th, 2011 8:22 am

    Hi Christiana,
    Please read my blog for 10.18.11, for my response to you. I chose your question because I thought it was a good one and I get similar questions from many folks who are struggling with their relationships.

    Thank you for your question
    Dr. Marty

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