The Devastating News of Learning Your Spouse Has Been Having an Affair
If you recently learned that your spouse was having an affair, you are probably experiencing a range of intense emotions. You can’t stop thinking about the affair and feel compelled to find out everything you can, even if it’s painful. And you are trying to decide if your marriage can survive infidelity, as you don’t want to live in constant fear of it happening again.
First things first, you want to survive the news of learning about the affair. When emotions are high, it can be hard to see what choices you have and sort out what you think. Your choices lie in how you respond and make sense of the affair. In doing so, you will unpack what you are going to do as well as what you are not going to do.
What Not To Do When Your Spouse Has An Affair:
I have listened to many individuals and couples, and have heard what helps and hinders people from recovering from infidelity. Those who have survived an affair have shared what not to do…
- Don’t let the affair tear down your self-worth. You are not any less lovable or attractive. While it’s hard to not take the affair personally, your spouse’s behavior doesn’t have to define your value. Infidelity doesn’t mean you aren’t enough. Instead, the affair is how your spouse dealt with their own discomfort and stress.
- Don’t get stuck on trying to fix your spouse. One of the ways your spouse deals with stress and tension is to turn to more than one person for comfort. Each time you try to fix, advise or correct your spouse, you will be letting them off the hook from fully understanding and learning from their actions.
- Don’t over-focus on the affair. While the affair may be all you think about at first, it helps to look at the bigger picture; that is the marriage and/or family environment. The affair is typically a symptom of underlying individual insecurities, marriage patterns, or family stress level. While you may have played a part in marriage conflict or emotional distance that helped create a vulnerability to affairs occurring, your spouse is responsible for how they dealt with the problems.
What To Do If Your Spouse Has An Affair:
Now that you’ve heard what prevents some from surviving an affair, let’s explore what to do instead.
- Nurture Yourself: Expect to feel the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Find ways to manage worry and practice good self-care. You will need to take extra good care of yourself right now, as stress takes a lot out of you.
- Take Opportunity for Learning: Use the news of marital infidelity as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your marriage. What do you want to change to improve your quality of life? What marriage patterns could be contributing to your marriage being vulnerable to infidelity? Consult with marriage and family specialist to help you make sense of what contributed to the affair.
- Recognize Denial for What It Is: If your spouse is denying and minimizing the affair when you have evidence of its existence, then he or she isn’t ready to accept responsibility for their actions. And your spouse may also not be ready to end the affair. If your spouse is ready to end the affair, they will do so without you telling them to.
- Be Clear About Your Position: You have a choice. Decide whether or not you are ok with being with your spouse if they are also turning to someone else for emotional and/or sexual comfort. Instead of setting boundaries on them that they may or may not follow, let them know what you are willing and not willing to do while they are having an affair.
When experiencing a high level of anxiety, your first reaction may be to tell your spouse what to do. It can initially create more anxiety to realize you can’t change your spouse’s behavior. Find comfort in remembering that you always have choices and that you can find your way through this hard time.
Marriages and people do survive and recover after an affair. While some choose to stay together, others choose to end the relationship. The choice really is yours, even if it’s hard to make. Either way, you can turn the affair into an invitation to tend to what needs to grow or change. In this way, some marriages can even be stronger after surviving an affair, but it will take each person working on one’s own emotional distance.
If you are tired of feeling like roommates with your spouse, schedule a free 15-minute phone session to learn how to renew your intimacy with your spouse. Marci Payne, MA, LPC offers individual relationship counseling in Lee’s Summit MO.