Things will never be the same
That’s what you keep saying over and over in your head. The reality is – you may be right. You just discovered the world as you know it is broken. Your spouse, your partner in this world, has been cheating on you.
Regardless of how you discovered this news – an errant text, a weird expense on the credit card, or a mystery phone number on your bill – it has led you down a rabbit hole. A truth you cannot quite make sense of. Your world has begun to crumble.
As the trauma of this revelation sets in, there will inevitably be questions. Some will revolve around the who, what, when, and where – but above all, why? More questions will soon surface on what to do next: How do we work through this? Do we want to work through this? Are we done with the marriage? What about the kids? Can we tell anyone about this? Should we tell anyone about this? This flood of questions often leads to despair and a sense of being stuck in a situation you would have never chosen.
So what do you do now?
Step 1: Recognize what you’re feeling is normal.
As a therapist who works with situations like this on a weekly basis, I want to tell you that all of the things you are feeling and thinking are okay and are normal reactions. Affairs wound any relationship they touch, much like the injuries from a bad car wreck. Your pain is real and the wounds need to be treated.
Step 2: Find help.
Both of you will need help to get through this. Often this comes in the form of a therapist, clergyman, or someone who has affair-related training. If your spouse is willing to join you, all the better. You both need a plan of action and a path forward. Therapy can offer that. The path may lead toward restoration or it may unfortunately lead to the end of the relationship. A skilled therapist can help with the appropriate healing, whatever the outcome. These types of wounds often don’t heal properly if not dealt with correctly.
Step 3: Set ground rules
These rules will, in part, depend on your spouse’s disposition at this stage – remorseful, defensive, or stoic – but it’s important that the two of you begin to set ground rules to move forward. The affair will need to end if both spouses want to move forward. A therapist can also begin a process of disclosure with both spouses. This is a process in which many questions about the affair can be healthily answered. Therapeutic disclosure will give the opportunity to hear the truth in a safe environment and allow for the beginning of healing.
These steps are only the beginning of a way through the discovery of an affair. As you work your way through, there will likely be more pain to come, but there is always hope. Change is possible. And that change can lead to healing, and one day, happiness again.