You saw the signs. You’ve assessed the damage. Maybe you even know why your husband strayed. Now, you’re dealing with the fact that, yeah, he committed the ultimate act of infidelity, and maybe he even owned up to it.
While you might be tempted to throw your wedding band out the window, don’t – there could be a happy ending to your tragedy.
You shouldn’t act out, Laurie Watson, sex and relationship therapist and host of the podcast Foreplay, says, meaning: You shouldn’t tell your kids or everyone you know that your spouse cheated. Instead, she says, you need to take some time to figure out what everything means – because it doesn’t necessarily mean divorce.
“A lot of people have affairs and their marriage can be strengthened after,” she says. (Does that mean go have an affair to strengthen your marriage?
No. No, it does not. But it does mean that any rash decisions made after you learn your spouse is cheating are unlikely to help rebuild your relationship.)
Grapple with your emotions – and decide if you want to make the marriage work
“If you find your husband cheating, you’ll feel angry, hurt, and betrayed. Ask yourself if you’re invested in your relationship and want to make it work,” says therapist Dr. Jane Greer.
“Sometimes people cannot even consider going forward in the relationship, but if you’re willing to work at it, then make sure your partner is apologizing and – more importantly – taking responsibility for what they did.
Don’t beg your husband to stay
It’s important to not plead and beg, Watson says. However, you should stress to him that you want your marriage to stay intact, she says.
She suggests telling your spouse something like, “I want you, I want the marriage.” That’s different from begging. It’s important from to know that you want to make it work.
And then…it’s time to work on stuff.
See a couple’s therapist
“I really believe in seeing a couple’s therapist,” says Dr. Megan Fleming, a sex and relationships therapist,. “The reality is there’s so much emotion that gets pulled up.” That emotion may be tough to deal with alone.
When one person in a marriage has cheated, she adds, there’s typically something that needs to get repaired, beyond the initial angry emotions.
“It’s a betrayal of trust. That’s the part that needs to get repaired,” she says. “Ultimately, [the couple has to] to look at [the situation, and ask] ‘how did this happen, how does the person take responsibility for their actions, and can they make commitment [or a] recommitment?”
In therapy, you might be forced to reconcile with how a disconnect emerged. (That’s not to say it’s your fault – it’s not – but when someone cheats, it’s often because there’s something off with the marriage.)
A therapist can make reconciling with these emotions much easier, and help you keep perspective on the end goal.