It can be very distressing to discover that your partner is having or has had an affair. These tips will help you take practical steps to cope with it.
Give yourself some time
Recognise that in all probability you will be in shock and experiencing shock responses such as panic, disassociation, anger, and total pre-occupation with thoughts swirling around. You may be feeling fearful as you contemplate what this means to your family. You may be feeling this in your body in ways too. At a time that may be the most difficult to do this, it is especially important that you take care of your physical wellbeing. You may not feel like eating but you do have to do it! You may not be able to sleep but do try to rest.
Talk to your partner
Although bringing the affair up with your partner may feel painful, it's important you ask questions so you can assess exactly what has happened. Find somewhere private to talk where you won't be interrupted. If you don't feel ready to talk together you may want to consider Relationship Counselling, where you'll have a safe and confidential space to discuss things. You need to talk about the affair but you need a break from it also as you’ll end up going around in circles and get wound up so that you can’t think. Try to agree on those times and boundary them timewise.
Ask your partner to tell you the truth, however painful
Recovery after an affair is always worse if lies or half-truths are offered at the start of the discovery. Trust has been eroded so if you find out other things further down the line it will make recovery tougher.
Avoid cutting in on what your partner is saying
Let them finish before responding. You will undoubtedly be shocked and upset but try not to start shouting or rush out of the room. It’s going to be tough.
Ask questions if you need to, but try to focus on the facts
For example, you might ask how long the affair has lasted and what your partner wants to happen now. The most urgent question for many people is 'why?' but sometimes a partner can't tell you this immediately and their perspective often changes over time. Avoid asking questions such as 'Were they better in bed than me?' You may want to talk about this kind of thing later on, but it's better to establish the facts first.
Avoid immediately blaming your partner, the affair partner, or yourself
It may seem tempting to hurl an insult at your partner or get into name-calling of their affair partner, but this often gets in the way of true understanding. You should also resist self-blame. You may wonder if your own shortcomings have caused the affair, but while you were both responsible for your relationship, you could never be responsible for your partner’s choices. An affair can never be the 'fault' of a faithful partner.
Take time to think about what you want to happen next
Once you have established the facts if your partner resolves to end the affair and re-commit to your relationship, be slow to judge. You'll need to reflect on whether you're able to forgive the breach of trust and you may not yet have all the information with which to make that decision. Only after talking and establishing the reasons for the affair, will you be able to decide. You can however say that you're willing to work with your partner and to try to understand why this has happened. At this point, you may find it helpful to talk to a counsellor who can work with you both to determine your next steps.
There are many reasons for affairs and they happen in happy relationships as well as those where there have been problems. Listen to what your partner is telling you and try not to make assumptions if what they are telling you doesn’t fit with what you have always believed about affairs. Until you have gone through it you don’t know that. Many couples recover very well after a discovery. No-one is asking you to forget, that would be impossible. But you can come to terms with it and go on to have a meaningful, loving and lasting relationship.
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