When you’re in a committed relationship, the last thing you want to discover is that your partner has been unfaithful. Whether it’s a full-blown physical affair or an emotional one, it can be devastating to learn that they have been giving their time and affection to someone else.
With emotions running high, you might struggle to know what to do when you find evidence of infidelity. Some may want to curl up into a ball under a desk, while others are ready to set the world on fire. No matter what, we all deal with things differently and will likely struggle to get through the rough patch. If you find yourself in that situation, here are some things you can do to regain your equilibrium.
Get the Facts
Even if you saw things with your own eyes, you deserve to have the full story. It’s probably going to be hard, but avoid jumping to conclusions. Take some deep breaths and try to calmly ask questions (easier said than done!).
Also, while you should always trust your gut and follow up on suspicions, your partner may not be cheating. Ask them to explain any unusual behavior or messages, and then go from there. If it doesn’t sound right, then you’ll have to decide what to do next but at least you will have the facts.
Feel All the Feelings
You are probably going to go through a range of emotions all day, every day for a while. Anger, sadness, betrayal, shock, and grief are all pretty normal when a partner has strayed. While it’s ideal that you don’t do something destructive, it’s okay to allow yourself to have those feelings. After all, you need to process what’s happening.
Did you know that a short pity party might actually be good for you? One therapist on Psychology Today details the benefits of self-pity, while this great story recounts how one woman gave into all of the feelings and came out better on the other side. Don’t be ashamed of your hurt—let it out and then focus on healing.
Talk to Someone …
Time can heal old wounds, but sometimes we need more than that. If you’re struggling to get through the day or feel lost and depressed, consider talking to someone. Sometimes the shame of being cheated on makes us clam up, so you may benefit from a good cry fest with a close friend.
There’s no shame in speaking to a professional, though, if you need more than that. Try to find a counselor who specializes in infidelity who can help guide you through this tough moment in your life. If needed, they may also be able to meet with you and your partner together.
… But Don’t Broadcast It
In this age of social media, you may be tempted to tell the world how you’ve been wronged. While you may get some support and empathy, you might also cast the net wider than you can handle during this vulnerable time. Even if they messed up, you may not be ready to hear people criticizing your partner. Love is a strange thing.
Plus, you may ultimately decide to work on your relationship rather than breaking up. If you choose to give your partner a second chance, you don’t want to have to deal with the fact that people now know that you’ve had problems in your relationship. It’s best to keep things quiet, at least until you’re completely sure of what you want to do.
Protect Your Kids
When you discover betrayal, you may be tempted to tell your children all about the bad things their other parent did. You may want to know if they’ve had contact with the person your partner has been cheating with. Please, please don’t do this unless it’s absolutely necessary. The other parent may be terrible at romantic relationships, but that doesn’t mean it should ruin their relationship with their children.
Also, whether you like it or not, your partner may end up leaving to be with this other person. Unless there is some legal or safety concern, this new relationship will be part of your child’s life. Don’t make this transition harder on them by burdening your children with your own pain.
Avoid Making Big Decisions
There’s a good chance that your first instinct will be to end the relationship and kick your cheating partner out of your life. And, ultimately, this might be exactly what happens, but it’s best to save big decisions until things have cooled down.
You want to look back on this time and have no regrets. You owe it to yourself, and any kids you may share, to take the time to think things through. So before you offer forgiveness or change the locks, give yourself time to digest everything.
See a Lawyer
Share kids, a home, business or other property with your partner? You’re going to want to talk to a lawyer—the sooner the better. No matter how things turn out, getting your ducks in a row is always a good idea. After all, you were blindsided by your partner’s actions, who’s to say there isn’t more to learn on the horizon?
It is incredibly important to protect yourself after infidelity. At the very least, have a consultation, explain the situation, and get some advice. Hopefully, you won’t need to use it, but in the end, knowledge is power.
Schedule a Doctor’s Appointment
Whether you’ve caught your partner having an explicit, sexual affair or what appears to be an office flirtation, you should treat both situations the same. Schedule an appointment for STD testing. The only thing you know for sure is that your partner has been lying to you, so they may not be truthful when asked if they’ve had unprotected sex with someone else.
It’s a terrible thing to have to go through, but it’s better to address it as soon as possible. If you’ve been exposed to something, beginning proactive treatment measures can make a huge difference.
No one wants to find out that their partner has been unfaithful. While sorting out the details is important, you need to put yourself first. Do what you need to go to get through those difficult days right after an affair is discovered and then come up with a plan for your next steps. Don’t let this derail your journey—if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you’ll find your path.