There are few things more awful for a married individual, than discovering that their spouse was cheating on them. However, once the affair has been exposed the biggest issue is going to be deciding how to deal with the fall-out. Do you get divorced or try to make it work? If you stay together, do you see a counselor, or try to work it out on your own?
All of these questions will need to be answered, and there are lots of resources out there to help you make those choices. We would like to talk about three that we think are of critical importance during this difficult time. If you decide that your marriage is not worth saving, then you’re going to need a good attorney in a hurry. But if you and your spouse harbor any hopes of saving your marriage, then these are three things that you need to know:
Know the truth about affairs.
An affair is an illusion. It is a fantasy in which two people indulge their desires for illicit excitement and the intoxicating cocktail of chemicals produced by the “newness” factor. It’s not a real relationship, in which two people who love and respect each other live their lives in a way that honors or values their partner. Every once in awhile an affair is about two people who meet and fall deeply in love while married to other people, but that’s not usually the case. More often than not it’s a thrill ride. The sexual equivalent of a roller coaster.
If you are going to be able to move past this, you need to focus on the truth. That way you can work towards healing. So what is the truth, you ask? It’s this: while the affair may have seemed exciting and fun, it was based on deceit, and did not in any way replace what a marriage offers. So when you’re feeling down, remind yourself that your spouse’s “other” was not your replacement. Instead, they were an illusion, and that the affair was dishonest and unlikely to survive in the long run. This will help you to stay focused on restoration.
Know that you are not to blame!
Nothing could be more natural, after your spouse has an affair, than to feel sorrow and self pity. Some people even feel that they may have been partially responsible. The old “if only I hadn’t done this, then they wouldn’t have done that” form of blame game. But the affair was a choice made by your spouse, not by you. Don’t blame yourself for their choices, and don’t choose to see yourself as anything less than a valuable and lovable person who deserves respect.
Your marriage may have needed work, and may have been struggling, but your spouse could just have easily chosen counseling over an affair. A struggling marriage isn’t an excuse for someone to cheat, and you shouldn’t feel responsible for the affair. If you allow negative emotions like shame or guilt to monopolize your thoughts, you are more than likely to experience depression, anxiety and self-loathing. Don’t do it! Not only will it make rebuilding trust harder for you, it will slow the healing process exponentially.
Make a concerted effort to remain as positive as you can, for as long as you can. This doesn’t mean “putting on a happy face and pretending everything is OK”, but it does mean trying to stay focused on a positive outcome, and not allowing yourself to wallow in self-pity and misery. Acknowledge that something tragic happened, and embrace the fact that lots of work will have to be done in order to repair the damage, but make a frequent point of thinking about the stronger, better marriage that you and your spouse intend to build together.
Know the importance of your spouse’s affair partner.
Your spouse’s “other” is exactly that – an “other”. Don’t make them more important in your mind than they are, and don’t give them more power than they already have. In most cases, they are not of value to your spouse as a person, they were simply a means to an end, or a chance to live in a fantasy world. Assuming that your spouse isn’t filing for divorce in order to be with them, then you should accept the fact that they have no real importance in your life or in your marriage.
If your spouse is willing to work with you to rebuild trust slowly and attempt to restore the relationship, then you need to realize that the “other” is not as important as your marriage or your future. Don’t ask your spouse questions about them, don’t think about them more than you have to, and don’t discuss them with your friends and family. The more space you give them in your mind, the more control you allow them over your thoughts. They are not a part of your future, so you need to banish them to the past, where they belong.
We hope this was helpful advice for those of you who may be struggling with the revelation of an affair. If however, you are having a very hard time dealing with the affair, which is certainly not uncommon, you may want to seek out professional help to work through your feelings. Also, don’t forget, if in the end your marriage is unsavable despite your best intentions, we are here to help you pick up the pieces and move on. Call us 24/7 at 517-886-1000. We are here to help.