You just found out your partner cheated on you. You never thought this would happen to you. To add salt to the wound, your go to confidant is now the source of your wounding. You feel crushed, angry, shocked, numb, and completely unsure of what to do next.
Take Care of Yourself
First and foremost, self-care. You are in a tender spot. Tend to your mind, body, and soul intentionally. Journal, exercise, take a yoga class, get some fresh air. Times of distress require extra TLC.
Get Support after the Affair
Though it feels like you are the only person going through this, it’s likely that others in your circle have dealt with or are dealing with betrayal. Approximately 25% of marriages experience infidelity. If others have experienced similar heartbreak, others have also survived it. You don’t need to broadcast the affair on social media (in fact, please don’t), but please do consider getting support, whether it be an online support group, confiding in safe, inner circle friends, or finding professional support.
Battle Internal Shame around Infidelity
Most women I work with feel tremendous shame after discovering their partner was unfaithful. This can be around body image, being good enough, comparisons to others, etc. In addition to the betrayal trauma, many women experience existential & gender-based self-judgment- “I’m a strong, independent woman. I can’t believe I’m putting up with this! I was just at the Women’s March… I feel like such a fraud. I would tell a friend to leave, and yet here I am.” The fear that others will judge your decision to stay or leave the relationship often leaves the betrayed partner feeling increasingly isolated. Shame that prevents women from finding support tends to point more towards internal shame messages than the reality of how friends will respond. Don’t believe everything you think.
Give Yourself Time to Make a Decision About the Relationship
You don’t need to make a decision today about whether you’ll stay or go. You may feel totally conflicted, and that’s okay. The decision to stay or leave the relationship is multifaceted. You may be considering your love and affection for this person, your history together, whether or not you have kids, financial realities of separating, your age, etc. Give yourself time to process and think. It’s usually unwise to make a significant life decision in the heat of emotion.
Believe Changed Behavior, Not Words
If you choose to rebuild the relationship after infidelity, you must rebuild trust. Pay attention to behavior changes, not words or promises. At this point, you have little reason to trust any promises from your partner without sustained behavior changes that back it up. Make requests for what will offer you reassurance (For example - “Please share your cell phone location with me” or “Please email your business travel itinerary ahead of time” or “Please sit down with me and delete/block the affair partner’s contact information.”). Set boundaries to take care of yourself if those requests are denied or broken.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and need help, reach out, you don’t have to walk this path forward alone.