Besides the death or illness of a loved one, infidelity and divorce are some of the most painful experiences one can go through. Usually a whole host of emotions is thrust upon someone when confronted with a spouse’s sexual infidelity. Anger, frustration, jealousy, but also hurt, shock, uncertainty about the future, perhaps wondering what it was that drove them into the arms of another. Once you’ve been cheated on, sometimes the wondering can take up your day-to-day life and crowd out the other, important things like family life, career and so on. If you’ve recently come to understand that your spouse has been unfaithful, and you are struggling with exactly how to deal with the infidelity, and deciding whether or not to divorce or try to work it out, here are some ideas on how to sort things out, and a little insight into how to operate while in this vulnerable, wrathful or perhaps even volatile state, to make sure that the outcome of your actions at this stage set you up for the best possible outcome in the near future. First, realize that it might be wise to get tested for STDs. Those who practice infidelity often skip protection with their other lover or lovers. Go to your regular doctor, explain to them what the situation is and have yourself tested.
Whether or not you decide to divorce, you should look into your legal rights, custody, assets and think about getting a lawyer or having an accountant give you a glimpse of what you might be looking at in terms of a settlement and custody if you have children. The sooner you start gathering documentation to support your case, the better protected you will be no matter how the matter proceeds. Some people feel like it’s natural to bottle up. They don’t want others to think less of them for being cheated on, or feel it’s a blow to their ego. But that’s the exact opposite of what one should do in this situation. In fact, it’s the support of close friends and family that will help you vent, sort out the matter, give you advice and help you through this difficult time. What better therapy is there than talking the matter over with a good friend? Everyone needs caring, support and love especially during a trying time such as this. Men in particular will bottle things up inside, or turn to substance abuse. But that only hurts themselves. Learn to talk about the issue with the appropriate people, seek out support and you will receive it. Generally, people are more than happy to help, and wish you’d ask. Research has shown that a strong social network can help relieve extreme stress, which is not good for one’s mental or physical health, and can help you overcome trying times such as this more easily.
Have a frank conversation with your spouse without blame or shaming, to simply find out why they cheated. Has it got something to do with your relationship? Studies have shown that a minority of these relationships turn around and become stronger after an infidelity, as people realize where they’ve gone wrong and are motivated to fix it. The majority of infidelities, particularly serial infidelities, end in divorce. Trust yourself, your observations and feelings. Honestly, there is no right or wrong in this situation. Everything is up to you as to whether to proceed and try to fix the marriage, have a long separation or divorce. Some couples, due to financial hardship, stay separated for long periods of time. They also do this to avoid the emotional suffering divorce can bring. Still, it’s important to note that any change in your spouse’s income could affect an eventual settlement, depending on state law. What’s more, it may become more difficult to eventually divorce. There are many gray areas however. Protect yourself. Find out what the law is. Get expert advice. Don’t have unprotected sex with your partner. Don’t jump into anything until you’ve dealt with your feelings on the matter, grieved and healed. Give yourself some room and space to cogitate and really get to the heart of how you feel about your whole relationship and the affair. Don’t jump into revenge sex or a no strings attached relationship right away. If you are emotionally healed, it may be okay as long as you are protected. But otherwise you may be hurting yourself far worse. Don’t blame others or make threats and don’t seek revenge. Instead, reflect upon your own life, sort out your feelings, and decide how is best to proceed so that you can live the happy, healthy and well-adjusted life you deserve. For more on this topic read, Getting Past the Affair: A Program to Help You Cope, Heal, and Move On — Together or Apart by Douglas K. Snyder Ph.D., Donald H. Baucom Ph.D. and Kristina Coop Gordon Ph.D.