Discovering your spouse’s affair is traumatic.
You know you have to do something, but you don’t know what. Your mind is numb, your body won’t respond – you just feel like you can’t do anything.
It feels like shell-shock because suddenly your whole world exploded. All you can do is watch – as if in slow motion – while everything around you is crumbling.
Though different from physical trauma, emotional trauma still calls for immediate treatment. To manage its impact, you must first attend to the shock by taking several important steps.
First Steps After Discovering Your Spouse Had an Affair
It is absolutely crucial that you achieve a measure of mental clarity and emotional stability before anything else. Give yourself time to absorb the shock.
Step 1: Allow your feelings
Give yourself a moment and just breathe. Allow whatever emotions you’re experiencing to surge. Don’t hinder them, don’t judge them. Just observe them. You’re not crazy, you’re hurt. What you’re feeling is perfectly normal in the face of the profound trauma and loss.
Step 2: Don’t blame yourself
Be kind to yourself. It’s not your fault. Your spouse has to take ownership of their decision to cheat. Second-guessing yourself about what you may have said or done to lead to this catastrophe is completely unproductive.
There’s no justification for your partner's actions, no matter what problems you may have in your relationship. If you give them the impression that you think you’re to blame, they may never accept responsibility for it.
Step 3: Accept the reality
You can’t get to where you want to be if you never accept where you are. Hence, you must accept that the affair happened, and you must accept that your spouse failed you. Denial will not help you move on. Neither will wishing you were still in the dark. You must let go of this kind of emotional torture and denial.
Step 4: Take responsibility
While you’re not responsible for your spouse’s actions nor are you able to change what happened, you are responsible for how you handle the matter now. Taking actions to deal with your feelings constructively can help you find relief faster.
Try to avoid being hasty about deciding to stay or leave. That decision must be made with a clear mind and active support so you can evaluate all the information objectively.
Step 5: Find someone to talk to
Clearly, you need support to look beneath your raw emotions, understand what they’re telling you, and make sense of it all. You must find a constructive outlet – someone you can talk to openly and who is ready to listen compassionately. A marriage counselor could be just what you’re looking for at this point. They can help you examine your feelings, acknowledge the problems in your relationship, and guide you in sorting matters out.
Once you're more stable mentally and emotionally, you must continue to focus on your own recovery. You have no power over what your spouse will or will not do. They have their own decisions to make. The question you have to evaluate is whether your marriage is worth saving.
And if you eventually decide to give your marriage another chance, be prepared for your biggest challenge – overcoming the effects of deception. It can leave you with a lingering sense of betrayal and shattered trust, not only toward your spouse but also in your own intuitiveness.
While you take time to gather the details of the affair, explore your spouse’s reasons for cheating, and consider thoughtfully if they could one day be worthy of your trust again. You must also learn and employ coping skills. After all, emotional trauma comes with many stressful side effects.
If you take these first crucial steps successfully, overcoming this final hurdle to heal and restore your marriage is well within your reach.