After an affair has been discovered and the initial shock has worn off, there is a sense of helplessness that the offended spouse goes through. Similar to stages of grief, there is a time of shock, anger, mourning and disbelief. In a sense you are mourning the breakdown of a relationship – and what happens from here will be up to you.
So what’s next? What do you do after the initial horror? Sometimes what you SHOULDN’T do is just as important as what you do.
• Make revolutionary decisions about the state of your marriage. The day you discover an affair is not the day to call a divorce lawyer – although you will certainly be tempted to get one on retainer. Spend some time letting the raw emotions settle before deciding one way or another.
• Stop taking care of yourself. A couple of days drowning your sorrows in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s is not going to be the end of the world. A couple of months with Cherry Garcia and not only is your marriage in trouble, so is your health. Make sure that you are eating regularly and getting some exercise. If you were already routinely working out, get back to it. If not, now is a good time to spend a little time doing something good for yourself.
• Go crazy trying to «pay him back». A rebound affair is trouble in every way. Don’t go looking for a way to show him how it felt or to prove you’ve «still got it». It won’t help you sort out your feelings and it won’t be helpful in any way – it only adds to the disaster.
• Stop having fun. You may think that laughing and having fun seem wrong during what is a major crisis in your life. It’s ok to still enjoy life – because life does (and will) go on. Go see a movie and laugh – the saying «Laughter is the best medicine» does have merit. It restores some of your joy – even if you don’t realize it.
• Act like nothing’s wrong. It is ok to mourn, and have feelings of anger and betrayal. You don’t have to put on a brave face for your kids – let them know in a healthy and non-frightening way that you’re sad and upset, but that you are working through it. They can usually pick up on your emotions and will know something is wrong – denying it will only add to their sense of unease.
• Refuse help. Sometimes you need a non-partial third party to talk to. Seek counselling through your church, work programs or a licensed counselor. There is no weakness in admitting you need help.
• Be unrealistic. Recovering from infidelity will take time. The tentacles will be far-reaching and can catch you unawares – even when you think you’ve gotten over it. Don’t place unrealistic expectations on yourself for how long it takes you to be able to move on and feel secure.
Moving on from an affair does not have to spell the end of a relationship. It will take time and effort to get over the betrayal, but it is possible if you take the right steps.