There is no avoiding it, after discovering your partner has had an affair there is pain. Often there is pain for both parties because the person conducting the affair has not thought through the consequences, they probably never thought they would be caught out and now everything is out in the open they have to face the reality that an affair brings sorrow, tears, anger, begging and at worse the end to the relationship.
How is discovering an affair supposed to feel? Most people feel alone with their feelings, no one understands and even if your best friend was cheated on they probably dealt with things differently. There is no right or wrong way to feel after an affair has been discovered but I’m hoping that if you are one of the 43% of married people that have been cheated on then I hope my words will help. Of course you don’t have to be married to be cheated on, the pain is just the same.
Usually the first feelings are disbelief (unless of course this has happened before). You might go around in a haze ‘how can this have happened?’, ‘how could I have not seen it?’. Bewilderment and confusion might dominate most of your waking and supposed to be sleeping hours. It’s not unusual to not sleep properly, you might find yourself waking up and feeling that stab of pain connecting in your stomach as soon as you register you are awake. An affair rocks your world, everything seems like it has changed, normality strays, and routine’s change and thoughts are mainly focused on questions about the affair. You have to allow yourself to grieve, cry and be angry. Please note that your anger must be managed responsibly, try not to take it out on others that cross your path that are not deserving. Be appropriate, find a close friend or family member who is willing to let you ‘sound off’, remember it’s your partner that you are angry with. Some people are angry with themselves too, and yes of course the person they cheated with, but ultimately your partner made the decision to get involved.
You will find yourself asking yourself lots of questions. You might want to know everything about the affair, who, where, why, how many meetings, how much intercourse was involved, what was I doing while you were with them? These are all normal questions. You will want to work out how this was able to happen, what did you miss? Your partner should be respectful of the questions and be as honest as possible but of course (depending on the circumstances of whether you are still together or not) they might be trying to protect you. You are entitled to know the answers to all of the above but it might take time for you to get all of the information, you might be getting it in dribs and drabs. Don’t be tempted to contact the person they had the affair with. Depending on how they are feeling about the affair coming to light could depend on what answers they can give you. If they want their relationship with your other half to continue or develop, which will mean a separation for you, they can give you an unfair representation of circumstances to make sure that happens. They might want revenge on the adulterer if they have ended the relationship to stay with you and therefore want to make things worse for them with their answers. Only you and your partner can work this out by communicating with each other, and as hard as it seems right now you have to trust them to give you your answers.
You might be wondering if the affair is sill going on. You might be checking phones and emails, logging times and how your partner is dressing when they go out. If an infidelity has been discovered your partner must make the decision to end the relationship with them. If they are not willing to do that then there is no hope for you two to work this out. If you need to check their whereabouts and they are unhappy about it then that’s a consequence of their betrayal. You don’t want to be doing this forever but for now it’s possibly comforting.
Let someone close to you know how you are feeling. It is important for someone to know if you are thinking rationally, acting out of character and, of course, if there are suicidal thoughts, this needs to be taken seriously. Trauma of this kind can lead us to behave irrationally and you may not be able to see it. You might be feeling resentful that your relationship is now exposed to others, but this is another consequence of betrayal and people will make judgements and want to have their say. You might hear others say they had an idea or are not surprised. Try to focus on your needs and not the comments of others.
Do not use your children as confidants; children are also affected when an infidelity happens. Children often struggle to hear sexual encounters about their parents and won’t want to know intimate details. Even though you are the injured party, children may still feel disloyal about thinking bad thoughts about the other parent. Never ask them to take sides and answer their questions as truthfully as you can. If necessary ask them to go to the other parent for answers you cannot give.
Thoughts of ending the relationship might be prevalent from first discovering the affair. This might be the outcome in the end but take some time to explore the reasons leading up to the affair. Let your partner explain their thoughts and actions that led them to the other person. Sometimes discovering the ‘flaws’ in the relationship you had together can lead to a much healthier relationship in the long term. I know at this point you won’t want to be feeling like it is your fault and of course it isn’t. If someone decides to have an affair rather than resolve issues in the relationship then it might make you wonder if it’s worth it but some people struggle to communicate their feelings, might feel excluded or have struggled to get through to you. If this is the case, hear it out. Communication is paramount to even begin to work things out. You might need to communicate in short bursts, a bit at a time. This might be painstaking or enough to handle but find what’s best for the two of you. Don’t take unsolicited advice on how things should be progressing; no one else knows what it is like to be in your relationship.
Sometimes an affair was not sought out. Our heart is a complicated organ and often jumps before we have had time to work out what is happening. Many of us will at some times in our lives wonder what is would be like to be with someone else. This is normal. In this day and age, where we are exposed to so much media, we have a window into the lives of so many others. We might think our relationship seems not as rewarding as everyone else’s. Our heart can often jump when we are showed attention by another and it can be hard for us to ping back or get it out of our mind. Depending on how we feel about our relationship can depend on how much thought we put into the attention we receive from outside the marriage.
Before you make a decision to end a relationship think about whether you could have actually invested more. It’s absolutely normal to feel sorry for yourself but think about things outside of housework, looking after the kids, picking your partner up from the station, looking after the kids while you were out and so forth. You might find yourself saying all these things to yourself and others, ‘how could they do this to me when I was doing all these things?’. Focus on how imitate you have been, have you given your time to listen, understand and be close? Have you been having sex, going out together and sharing responsibility? All of these things are important to have a happy healthy relationship, it is not just all about ‘getting things done’.
You might be finding yourself wanting to find out as much about the other person as possible. This again is normal. You might find yourself asking questions of others, searching Facebook and other social media, looking for pictures and any information that can help you build a profile of the other person. This information is important so we can compare ourselves, what is it about them? This information though becomes useless, only your partner will know what the attraction was and even when questioned might play it down with ‘I don’t know what the attraction was’; sometimes it is purely just attention.
If necessary, seek out some professional help. The aid of someone outside of your relationship that has no investment whether you stay together or not can be a very helpful insight into what really goes on in your relationship. Issues can be explored with a mediator to focus emotion and minimise arguments that are not going to get you anywhere. It gives you time and space to explore your relationship, each other and what you both really want. An infidelity is bereavement, the loss of a relationship you once had. Acceptance that it will never be the same is important for growth if you stay together. If you find yourself saying ‘I want things to go back to how they were’ then you are letting yourself down because how they once were led to the infidelity. A betrayal can take up to two years to recover from and become a renewed relationship, longer if you don’t talk about it. Bear that in mind when making your decisions about the future of the relationship, don’t expect things to heal quickly, forgiveness is a long process. Don’t let the betrayer push you into resolving things quickly, they will want to put things behind them but you ultimately need to heal for any relationship to flourish.
I hope this article has been helpful if you have been affected by an infidelity and leads you on to get the outcome you deserve and have happy and successful future relations.