“The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies.“
I’m not sure who said that but ain’t it the truth? Let’s face it, infidelity sucks. You almost never see it coming because it comes from someone you pledged your life and fidelity to while believing their fingers weren’t crossed as they pledged the same. It’s not really that the “Wife is always the last to know.” It’s really that she is the last to suspect because of trust!
Getting over a divorce is hard enough, but when a marriage ends with infidelity as the final act, it’s like a gut punch from the Incredible Hulk.
Here are 10 tips to help you bounce back after you’ve discovered your spouse is having an affair.
1. Leave. I’m going to take a hard stance on this one and say that there is nothing left to salvage after a third person has been brought into your marriage; whether it’s once or multiple times. Once that particular genie is out of the bottle you can’t put it back in and then it becomes the perpetual elephant in the room. Run!
2. Once you’ve left, bury the corpse. Don’t try to do a post-mortem because it will only bring up more pain. That means stop trying to figure out what led your spouse to have an affair. Only they can answer that question and it isn’t your circus anymore.
3. Understand that you didn’t cause it, you can’t control it and you can’t cure it. Stop taking ANY of the blame for your spouse’s affair. And while you’re at it, don’t take half the blame for all the bad things in your marriage that “led to their affair.” The marriage might have been bad and you may have contributed but the two events are exclusive. The only thing that led your spouse to an affair was your spouse. If you think you had any power over that, then by all means, whip out that magic wand and create world peace or stop world hunger, or both! You might as well put that magic to good use!
In case you’re having trouble with that concept try framing it this way: Let’s pretend that your spouse had a problem to face and stood under a tree of decisions. Let’s also pretend that the problem was that you were a terrible spouse. What were the options he/she could choose from the tree?
- Have an adult discussion about all the things that were making them unhappy.
- Suggest something useful like therapy
- Procure a hasty divorce
The first three are high up on the tree and require hard work with no guaranteed returns. Cheating is the lowest hanging fruit; often left to rot on the ground. It takes no effort. That is what they chose and that’s on them, not you!
4. Minimize or eliminate contact. If you have minor children, obviously you can’t go completely dark on your ex but you can employ two very useful tools:
- Gray Rock-A tactic in which you treat your ex like a professional business person (e.g. a store clerk). You are pleasant; you exchange only factual information (Little Micky has a cold or I will be here to pick up the kids at designated time).
- Scheduling software-Programs like Our Family Wizard in which you log in all the children’s upcoming school happenings; doctor appointments, etc. It also keeps a running log of communication that can be used in a court of law if necessary.
The bottom line is that there is a certain amount of disorder that goes hand in hand with cheating and limiting contact will help to clarify your view. It’s often impossible to see the forest through the trees until you get out of the forest.
5. Don’t skimp on the grieving. Even if your ex cheated and was the biggest jerk on the planet this is a loss and should be handled accordingly. Wallow for a bit with Netflix and ice-cream when necessary but deal with the feelings head on and don’t try to avoid them. Dating right away or the excessive use of alcohol fall into the avoidance category.
6. Just like Olivia Newton John commanded us to do in the 80s-Get Physical! Or in 21st century speak: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their (ex)-husbands!” Elle Woods would not object! In all seriousness, infidelity can bring about feelings of insecurity. Exercising to get some of those endorphins will also improve your appearance and hence your self-esteem.
7. Don’t leave the house, even to go to the grocery store, without trying to look your best. That doesn’t mean you need to dress in a ball gown and stilettos to run errands but put on a little lipstick, make sure your hair is nicely coiffed and save the sweatpants for the gym.
8. Set some new goals. Is there a new job that you’d like to go after? Maybe go back to school? Learn a new language or how to bartend? Choose something that you want to do and then figure out how to accomplish it.
9. Check out the internet for “Meetups.” It’s not a dating website but rather a site with groups of people with the same interests. They have hiking groups, single parent groups, pub crawl groups, sports loving groups, etc. It’s a great way to make new friends and get out of the house to do different activities.
10. Eventually, when you are ready, let go of the anger. Anger gets a bad rap but it can be useful; especially in the (immediate) aftermath of discovering an affair. Infidelity is stunning and paralyzes some people to inaction. Anger can help you snap right out of that state and into a good attorney’s office. Once you’ve done all that and the divorce is final, anger is no longer your friend. That’s when it’s time to let it go. It is very difficult to build a new life when you’re still angry about your old life.
Let’s face it: Our lives can change with every breath we take. And while this is certainly not the life I envisioned it is the one I have now so it’s my choice to make it the best possible. When you make that choice, that’s when you are sure to bounce back.