Are You the Betrayed Partner? What to do Now
“I’m having an affair.”
No one wants to be the oblivious wife who gets her world rocked.
Or the faithful guy who has a sneaking suspicion but hopes for the best, only to get served the same explosive phrase.
Or the partner who doesn’t get any words at all. Just the shock of accidental discovery.
Infidelity is that worst case scenario many of us pray we never have to face. “Betrayed partner” is something you never wanted to Google. But it happens. To a lot of us.
And the whole world tilts and twists as you find out how, when, and with whom you were betrayed.
There’s little else that approximates that kind of pain. It pins you down for a while and makes you consider just counting yourself and your relationship down for the count.
But you don’t stay down. You get up, bruised and disoriented, looking for answers. All the answers.
Who could blame you?
You Need to Know
Your hurt is compounded by the fact that you feel humiliated and left alone in a false reality. You live a false relationship and the hope of the future that your partner was undermining every day.
To make sense of the mess, you need to put the story together.
You need to know so you can get your bearings and figure out what’s real.
The problem is, when you’re in the swirl of the storm, you can’t really get your bearings. You’re still too much a part of the crisis to handle new information well. Debris from the wrecked relationship swirls around you. You need help and you need a plan.
People in grief are always reminded not to go too fast. Allow yourself the opportunity to step back, calm down, and figure out what’s next.
Getting Answers: Staying Safe & Productive
Set Boundaries Right Away
If your partner is still having the affair, refuses to end the affair, or you feel particularly emotional, strict boundaries regarding contact, reactions, and responses are vital. You must both remain safe enough to productively discuss the situation.
Find Out What Went On…within Limits
To heal and move forward, your partner’s willingness to be honest and transparent is important. Otherwise, your imagination will likely fill in the gaps and get the better of you. You want and need to know “what happened.” What happened when they first met?, What happened when they first kissed? What happened when they met up after work? And so on.
“What happened” could be quite the rabbit trail…how much do you really need to know?
A Guide for Asking Productive Questions
The guidelines below are not hard and fast. Some may feel right to you; some may not. Use whatever feels right to you. And one more thing. When you prepare to ask a question, ask yourself if finding out be helpful to you, or not?You can’t unring that bell, and if you get certain images in mind, those images could stick there. It’s important to know yourself, your limits, your needs.
- Initially, stick with key details only. Begin with the basics.
- Is this a one-night stand or long-standing relationship? Have there been multiple partners? Is sexual addiction an issue?
- Prepare for the conversation with specific, focused questions
Think of asking “who, what, when, where” questions.
You are well within your rights and the bounds of healthy knowledge to ask questions that include, but are not limited to the following:
- Is this your first affair?
- Who was responsible for initiating the affair?
- What did the two of you have in common?
- How did the two of you connect?
Was the relationship more emotional or sexual?
Was an effort made to stop? Why do you think it didn’t work?
- Is the affair partner in a relationship? Is that person aware?
- When, where, and how frequently did you get together?
- If sexual addiction is at issue, when and how often did you act out?
- Was sex protected? Have you had STD testing?
- How much money has been spent on the affair and affair partner?
- When was the last time you were together? Is the affair over?
- Who ended the affair? Did the affair partner want to end it?
- What complications can you see from the affair (legal, occupational, financial, or pregnancy)
- Avoid questions that make comparisons or ask for comparisons
You will want to know why your partner wanted someone else. Were they more attractive, more fun, more understanding? However, going there does little to facilitate healing.
Comparisons don’t supply information relevant for much, but instead contribute to intrusive, recurring thoughts. In the end, you’ll likely torture yourself with such painful lines of thinking and blame yourself inappropriately.
- Keep “why” questions to a minimum
It seems counterintuitive to not have clear answers for why this happened. How can you know if there’s hope for your relationship without knowing why?
Yet, your partner may not be able to give you a clear answer. They really may not know why. They may not have dug very deeply into the realities of their behavior. In short, the “why” may be fluid and inaccurate for a while.
To avoid being drawn it to an infuriating or frustrating answer or justification of the affair, focus on processing what you know and avoiding responses that make your interaction worse. Patience and strategy will be an important part of processing your feelings and determining the direction of your relationship.
How Not to Make A Bad Situation Worse
- Hold off on Major Decisions
You are hurting and likely tempted to say or do something decisive to regain control of the situation. However, emotion cannot be allowed to govern your future. Allow yourself to feel your feelings without deciding anything other than committing to the best affair recovery possible.
When you are more informed, less emotional, and able to see your partner and the relationship clearly, you’ll be able to make decisions from a place of healing with your best life in mind.
- Refuse to Retaliate
Hearing the answers to your questions, you may want your partner to experience the same kind of pain. That sentiment is not uncommon. But it is unhelpful and only hurts you (and possibly innocent others) in the end. Acknowledge the unfairness of it all without going on the attack. Retaliation won’t help keep communication open. Instead, focus on allowing your partner’s responses to inform your healing and grieve honestly.
- Exercise Emotional Control
You have the right to be angry. You should not let anger drive your behavior. It’s vital that you take care of yourself and keep calm. Violence, abuse, and extreme reactions put you both at risk and impede any healthy outcomes. Rational behavior, boundaries, and self-control are the key to moving forward.
- Give Up on Lectures
Responding to your partner’s explanations and answers by attempting to make them understand you or your pain is unproductive. It’s not wise to tell them why you think they are behaving the way are. It’s not your job to parent or make your partner “get” what they’ve done. Communicating this way will just lead to frustration and stifle forward movement.
- Set a Time Limit to your Question Sessions
This might seem like it’s watering down your right to inquire and get to the truth, but that’s not the case. Your partner will begin to feel trapped and bludgeoned, like they are being given the third degree. If that goes on too long, you will end up pushing them away.
If your desire is to salvage and restore your relationship and bring it to a new level, set a time limit. Cue your partner that you have some things to clear up, “that should take 10-15 minutes.” Try to stick to that limit. Then, if the conversation needs more time, check with your partner, “Are you OK talking longer, or can we continue later today (or whenever makes sense)?”
- Seek Help Right Away
It’s true, you didn’t cause this train wreck. But you’re wounded nonetheless. To repair your life, heal well and live a better life beyond this trauma, affair recovery requires you to reach out. This is not a matter of pride or a desire to punish your mate. As you learn the details of the affair, simply do what’s best for you. Seek the help that will help you recover.
20 Most Common Mistakes of the Hurt Partner
Moving past the affair doesn’t have to be impossible. Though, granted, it can feel that way for a while for the partner who has been hurt.
Still, there are things the hurt partner can do to make getting through an affair easier on them, their partner, and their relationship.
If possible, the goal is always to restore relationships and build trust. But first, you have to be willing to take care of yourself as the hurt individual. When you take the time to avoid certain pitfalls that can happen after an affair, you can start to move forward.
Let’s look at 20 of the most common mistakes you should avoid if your partner was recently unfaithful. Keeping these mistakes in mind can make moving past the affair easier on you.
- Your Spouse Feel Guilty
Once your partner has been caught, they’ll likely feel guilty enough. By pointing out their wrongdoing every chance you get, you’re hurting yourself each time, too.
- Not Practicing Forgiveness
Saying you forgive your spouse is one thing. Actually living up to that forgiveness is quite another. If you’re truly willing to forgive your partner, you must put forgiveness into practice each day.
- Acting Like You’re Not Hurt
When you’ve been cheated on, it’s normal to feel hurt. It’s normal to grieve! You may want to appear strong to your partner, kids, etc., but it’s important to take time to go through the grieving process.
- Never Talking About the Affair
While your spouse’s infidelity shouldn’t be the topic of every conversation, it also shouldn’t be ignored. Communication is a huge key in relationships – even ones that have been damaged.
If something is on your mind regarding your spouse’s infidelity, open up to them about it in a non-confrontational way.
- Believing the Affair is Over Right Away
Affairs aren’t always just about physical satisfaction. Many times, the person involved develops some kind of emotional connection with the person they’re cheating with. It’s unrealistic to believe they can just “stop” right away.
This is a hard pill to swallow for betrayed spouses, but it needs to be considered. It’s usually very hard for someone to pull out of an affair and have no contact with the person they were involved with. You may want to suggest counseling or another type of professional help for your spouse if they’re trying to get out of the affair and commit to your relationship.
- Trying to Keep Tabs On Your Spouse
It’s tempting to want to be with your spouse all the time after you discover an affair. First of all, this isn’t possible. If you work in different places, you’ll be apart a majority of the day.
Even if you work together, things come up where one of you will have to be somewhere else. To be honest, it’s not productive or healthy to try to glue yourself to your spouse’s side to ensure they aren’t doing anything wrong.
In the end, it will create more stress and tension for both of you. You don’t necessarily have to trust your spouse right away. But, some breathing room is good for both of you.
- Expecting Everything to Go Smoothly
Even if you both commit to the marriage, and even if you both seek professional help for moving past the affair, it won’t be perfect. Don’t expect everything to go smoothly.
Curveballs happen, and so will setbacks in your forward progress. Some days you might feel more hurt than others. Some days it’ll be harder to communicate with your spouse.
Stay on the course to strengthen your partnership, but don’t be caught off guard when roadblocks come up.
- Dealing with It Alone
It’s very hard to get over an affair with no support system. Whether you confide in friends, family, or professional help, you don’t have to go through this alone. You’ll find it’s much easier when you have people to lift you up.
- Trying to Be a Competitor
Don’t ever feel like you need to compete with the person your partner was having an affair with. It’s important to understand that a marital relationship is completely different from an affair.
In fact, there’s a good chance the affair has nothing to do with you. Trying to compete with the other individual will only end up hurting you more.
- Using Your Children to Inflict Guilt
Children are never at fault in an affair situation. Using them as pawns or to try to salvage your marriage is never a good idea. It could be emotionally-damaging for the children.
- Having Others Gang Up on Your Partner
Having a support system is great when it comes to moving past the affair. But, don’t let that support system badmouth your spouse. Even if your partner isn’t around you, you shouldn’t have to listen to hurtful things about your partner. That will only make it harder to forgive.
People will form their own opinions about your spouse and your relationship. Advice is a good thing, but blatant insults are not.
- Making Threats
Sometimes, hurt spouses make threats toward their partner. It’s usually an attempt to get them to change their ways “or else.” In reality, all it does is cause more shame and guilt, which ends up hurting you both. It also continues to set the relationship back and makes it harder to rebuild trust.
- Talking to the Affair Partner
There are many different mistakes that can take place with the other person involved in your spouse’s affair. Confronting them won’t make you feel better, and threatening them can make matters worse.
Chances are, they feel just as guilty as your spouse. They might also be married, or they may not have even known your spouse was married. Deal with your own marriage and your own partner, not someone else.
- Only Focusing on the Affair
While it’s important to discuss the affair with your partner, it shouldn’t be your only topic of conversation. As weeks and months pass, you should be able to spend positive or productive time together without the infidelity being the center of your relationship.
- Exposing Your Spouse’s Infidelity
You might presume telling the world about your spouse’s affair will make you feel better. Unfortunately, it will only cause more guilt and shame for them. This will make it harder for your relationship to get back on track.
Once people know about it, they might start looking at you in a different way, too. Sharing the details with a close support system is one thing. Airing out your marriage’s dirty laundry to everyone else isn’t helpful.
- Believing You Are Blameless
The spouse that did the cheating is quite in the wrong. There’s no doubt about that. But, don’t go into productive conversations with your spouse suggesting that you’re completely perfect.
After dealing with the pain and betrayal felt by the affair, talking about both of your needs, wants, and even your disappointments in one another can help to strengthen the marriage. Accept your flaws and commit to doing better.
- Following a Strict Plan
There is no quick fix or “master solution” when it comes to moving past the affair and fixing your marriage. Each situation should be treated on an individual basis.
You can read all the books you want, or listen to podcasts, gurus, etc. The bottom line is, if you need help moving on after an affair, it should be done with someone who will work directly with you and your situation.
- Taking All the Blame
Just as you shouldn’t believe you’re blameless, you also shouldn’t believe you’re completely to blame for your spouse’s betrayal. This is an easy trap to fall into. You might think you’re not good enough for your partner, or they’re looking for something more.
Talking with your spouse about the reason behind the affair can help to get rid of some of these thoughts. But, never put all of the blame or fault on yourself when your spouse has been caught cheating.
- Making Instant Decisions
Discovering your spouse is cheating is overwhelming. You’ll have a dozen different emotions pulling at you, and many people have a desire to make quick decisions. This isn’t the time to act on those decisions.
You might instantly think you need to get a divorce, contact a lawyer, kick out your spouse, etc. Instead of making decisions based on your emotions, give yourself some time to think things through. Some decisions might stand. Others might change if you have more time to think about it.
- Getting Revenge
It’s normal to feel betrayed when you discover an affair. You might want to show your spouse just how that feels by having an affair of your own or at least attracting attention from others.
This is a quick way to send your relationship into an even darker place. Instead of trying to work things out and make your relationship strong, you’ll tear it down all over again.
As you can see, there are many mistakes that can happen when you’re coming to terms and moving past the affair. Thankfully, knowing more about these traps can make it easier to avoid them.
If you’re still struggling, you might want to consider therapy. You never have to go through the aftermath of infidelity alone. Professional help can make a big difference individually and in your relationship.
Northside Mental Health Site Admin