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.