How to Respond to Your Cheating Spouse's Affair

Here's how to gain the upper hand.

concerned woman

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If your spouse had an affair, life as you know it has changed. You're probably wondering why this awful thing has happened to you. And now that a bomb has gone off in your marriage, you have to respond in some way. What will you say to convey your pain without making a bad situation worse?

1. Don’t Make Accusations Before You Have Proof of Infidelity 

Our intuition can be wrong; just because you think your spouse is cheating doesn’t mean they are. Lipstick on the collar or a phone number on a book of matches isn’t hard, cold evidence of wrongdoing. Don’t jump to conclusions about infidelity, or start pointing fingers and destroying trust until you have done your homework. Nothing is more irritating than a spouse who is constantly questioning their partner’s faithfulness.

If you have witnessed changes in your spouse, like secrecy, then it’s time to take a closer look and find out what the catalyst for the change is. Sometimes spying on a cheating spouse it is the only way to get to the truth. Check your cellphone bill for constant calls to a strange number. Check credit card receipts to see if there is excessive spending on items you are not aware of. The more red flags you find, the more suspicious you should be. If your suspicions become great, it is time to confront your spouse to ask what is going on.

Dr. Kevin Skinner notes that "soon after discovering infidelity, it’s normal to have a racing mind that feels out of control. It’s usually hard to focus and nearly impossible to stay on task. As a result, directly after discovering that your spouse has cheated, it’s best to avoid making any rash decisions."

2. Talk to Your Spouse About Your Suspicions

As hard as it may be, remain calm, reasonable, and rational. Bringing up the issue in an offensive manner will only put your spouse in a defensive frame of mind. It may sound odd, but you want your spouse to be able to trust you with the information they give you. If you're able to, keep a level head so you can use the information you are given in a constructive manner.

This is especially important if you want to try to save your marriage. It’s also important if you intend to divorce your spouse. Any information you obtain from your spouse can be used in your own best interest, whether you decide to rebuild the marriage or divorce. The more rational you are when trying to retrieve the information, the more information you are likely to receive.

3. Hire an Expert

If you feel your spouse is not being honest, consider hiring a professional. If your spouse’s behaviors have led you to believe there is an affair, then it may be time to let a trained professional confirm your suspicions.

Hire a private investigator who will be able to confirm your fears instead of following your spouse and facing the consequences if you're found out. If you decide to divorce your spouse, any evidence found by a private investigator can be used in divorce court. What they find is admissible without prejudice and will be worth every penny you have to pay for it.

Most men who are engaged in an affair will spend money on their affair partner. If you become concerned about your finances and confused about where the money is going, it's a good idea to hire a financial analyst. A financial analyst will help you identify any assets your husband may be spending on gifts, trips or hotel rooms with his affair partner—all evidence you can use in court.

woman talking to a lawyer
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4. Consult an Attorney

If, after confirming your spouse is cheating, you decide to divorce, consult an attorney who will give you advice regarding your legal options, your state’s laws pertaining to infidelity, and what your next move should be. Most states have no-fault divorce laws, but they also give judges great discretion when deciding divorce cases, and infidelity can play a role in what kind of divorce settlement you get, especially if your spouse has spent money on their affair partner. 

Do not engage in conflict with your spouse in court—and especially not with the other man or woman (particularly if they are present during proceedings).

5. Surround Yourself With a Positive Support System

An affair in a marriage is an emotional blow to your life in many ways, so it’s important to have a network of family and friends to talk to, share time with, and help you cope with the negative consequences of your spouse’s actions. Talking about the situation and expressing negative emotions will help you purge any anger you feel and better equip you to move on with your life.

Don't share the gory details of your spouse's affair with just anyone who will listen. Be selective about who you talk with, but make sure you have a few close friends or relatives you can depend on when you need to vent or gain support. If a support team isn't an option, or even if it is, consider meeting with a therapist to help you navigate the emotional blow you are having to process. 

6. Don’t Blame Yourself

Don’t take responsibility for your spouse’s cheating. It is normal for you to question yourself and your role in it, but ultimately, you are not to blame for their affair. It is easy to wonder what is wrong with you that would cause your spouse to cheat.

In the book Treating Trauma from Sexual Betrayal, Dr. Kevin Skinner addresses one of the reasons why women often blame themselves after a spouse cheats. "By taking the blame for sexual betrayal, somehow we think we can control the outcome. It sounds something like this in the mind, 'If I was better, he wouldn’t have done this. So if I look better, lose weight, and have more sex, his affairs will stop.' Unfortunately, ideas like this rarely create the change that really needs to happen after an affair."

Doubts about your value and worth as a spouse will cause you to second guess yourself because infidelity destroys its victim’s self-esteem. Take care of yourself emotionally and physically so you are better equipped to deal with the stress the divorce process brings with it.

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