Learning about the infidelity committed by a significant other sparks a gamut of emotions. The victim commonly experiences shock, depression, humiliation and a sense of betrayal. Unable to initially process the reality of the situation, the affected partner may slip into denial. They might feel like they are living in a fog that makes even basic daily living difficult. Therapists report that the first few weeks following the surprising revelation are often the hardest. Whether choosing to work on or end the relationship, there are coping mechanisms that assist in the healing process.
Regardless of the excuses made by the cheating partner, infidelity was a choice that they made. Going outside of the relationship due to problems within a marriage will not produce healthy solutions. The traumatized spouse must consider that they have no control over their partner's actions, and that the responsibility of what occurred lies with the cheater. In the end, the infidelity is a direct reflection on their character. Do not bear a burden of guilt.
A wide range of emotions build-up until they burst forth like a ruptured dam. This response is natural and spouses must allow themselves the freedom to experience the pain. Resist the urge to remain calm and composed. Cry, yell and pulverize a pillow if need be. However, while going through this phase of grief, avoid making major decisions until calmer heads prevail. Each member of the relationship may also benefit from a time out and some distance. Get support from and share your feelings with family or friends. Visit with a trusted cleric or a professional counselor.
Evaluate the Situation
Obsessing about and needing to know all the dirty details of the affair will not solve any issues. Trying to make sense of where the problems lie and what led to the infidelity should also wait until some healing time occurs. Once the initial shock and pain subside, begin assessing the situation. Depending on the circumstances, a spouse may choose to work things out or begin devising an exit strategy. Start thinking about how to move forward and create a detailed scenario. If deciding to end the relationship, consider the needs of the children, where to live and economic survival.
Recovering the Relationship
Whether deciding to stay together or not, the victimized spouse must arrive at a point when they are ready to forgive the offender. Retaining bitterness only eats away at the person possessing the negativity. It is not surprising that after an affair comes to light that the relationship is typically initially fraught with an increased number of conflicts, stress and talk of permanent separation. If planning on salvaging the relationship, couples must be willing to go to counseling individually and together while in agreement to rebuild a new relationship. However for some, once the trust is broken it never returns.