When you discover an affair it can feel as if your world is falling apart. Often distress makes it difficult to focus on sifting through articles to find and assimilate affair help in the immediate aftermath of discovery.
Here are our 15 Tips When You Discover an Affair, to help you navigate the initial shock after D-Day (Discovery Day):
1. Stay Calm
Being calm and composed is a way to protect yourself and to maintain some equilibrium in an often highly emotive situation. Do not become intimidating, violent, or abusive - not only will it help you think clearly, but you do not need legal complications on top of everything else.
2. This is NOT Your Fault
You did nothing to to cause your partner’s affair, and you could not have prevented it. You were not given the right of veto over your partner’s affair, and you did not drive them to it. Cheaters don’t have affairs to solve their issues - they have affairs to satisfy something internal, not to address any weaknesses in themselves or their relationships.
3. Get an STD Test ASAP
Even if your partner claims (and you believe) that they never had sex with the affair partner, get tested and insist that they get tested too. In our experience, there are very few instances where sex was not part of the affair. Protect your sexual health by getting yourself checked out medically.
4. Make a Condom Mandatory
Until you are able to be 100% certain that the affair is over (the one(s) you know of, or maybe one(s) you don’t), don’t play Russian Roulette with your health. If your partner/spouse has already cheated that is all the evidence you need to know that they are capable of taking risks with your well-being.
5. Sex With Your Cheater
Understand that having sex with your cheater AFTER you’ve discovered the affair could be considered LEGAL FORGIVENESS of the affair. Check the legislation applicable to your own country or state before you resume sexual activity with your cheater.
6. Security & Privacy
Be aware that accusations of infidelity have been linked to domestic violence. Create a new ‘secret’ email address in order to safely and securely direct all information about the affair, any support forum you join, and any legal information or proceedings.
Remember to clear the details of this new email address from your browser and cache, and use a password that your partner will not be able to guess.
Gather as much evidence of the affair as you can (or as you feel necessary) - this could include phone statements, emails, receipts, charges, spyware results etc. Be aware that even in the face of overwhelming evidence some cheaters continue to deny their affair. Speak to your lawyer about what (if any) evidence you need to provide for legal reasons.
Make a discreet appointment to see a lawyer or solicitor - most offer free consultations, so take advantage of that service. Do not communicate this appointment to your cheater - this is about fact finding for you, not making a threat to them. Make sure that you don’t precipitate a reaction that you’re not yet ready to deal with, by your partner discovering that you’re seeking legal advice.
Ask the lawyer questions about your risks and entitlements in separation and divorce, emergency spousal support and medical/life insurance coverage in the case of unexpected abandonment, dissipation of assets, child custody/support, asset division, and how to protect your financial position from further assault.
Seeing a lawyer does not mean that you want a divorce - it just means that you’re taking sensible steps to protect yourself and your family.
Discreetly make copies of all important household documents (bank statements, life insurances, investments, credit card statements, deeds, tax returns, etc), and keep them securely in a bank safe deposit box, or lodge them with a trustworthy family member, or your lawyer.
10. Start a Backup Plan
Even if you think you’re secure and that you can make it as a couple, have a safety net. Siphon funds onto a prepaid credit card if you can - cash back when grocery shopping can help with this. Keep the prepaid card somewhere safe. Consider this your financial emergency fund in case your cheater leaves. Even if you don’t think they would leave, our experience tells us that they often do, often without warning and without making appropriate arrangements for the care and support of their family.
11. Medical Help
If you start to feel overwhelmed, unable to cope, or maybe notice signs of depression (tiredness, unable to get out of bed, lack of appetite, etc.) check in with your doctor. Dealing with an affair is depleting and distressing. There is no shame or embarrassment in seeking medical help to help you through this so that you can make good choices for yourself and your future.
Remember though that it’s normal to feel sad and upset - you don’t necessarily need medicating just because you feel that way.
12. General Well-Being
Eat well, drink plenty of water, sleep when you can, and get exercise (taking the dog for a walk counts!). If you can’t eat, consider using a supplement like Complan or Ensure. Try making healthy smoothies, or foods that might help you fight depression, and maybe eat little and often if you’re struggling. Take vitamin and mineral supplements (if it is medically safe for you to do so) if you aren’t eating a balanced diet. Having rest, energy, and the right nutrients WILL help you through this.
13. Your Options
You may find yourself being pressured into making a decision in response to the affair by your cheater, family, religious institution, or friends etc. You may even find yourself imprisoned by you own fears and views on marriage, divorce, and infidelity. Allow yourself to spend time considering your own personal goals in life, your dreams for yourself, and what your partner brings to your life or keeps you from experiencing. Don’t permit yourself to be rushed to a decision, or held back from making one.
Don’t be pressured by anyone into staying or going. Acting in your own self-interest by choosing the path that you believe takes you towards your own goals (be that walking away, or trying to regroup and repair), is valid, rational, and courageous. Both staying and leaving brings its own share of demons to battle: Courage is in choosing to fight, not in the weapon we select to fight with.
14. Recovery & Therapy
It can take a long time to recover from an affair, and it’s often quoted that it can take 2-5 years even with help. Don’t put unrealistic pressure on yourself to ‘get over it’, and don’t permit your cheater to apply pressure to you to do the same.
You will probably find people rushing you to couples’ therapy, but this is not the right route to take because even if your cheater isn’t still in their affair, they are still in ‘affair-mode’ thinking. If you need some professional help to assist you in sorting through your options and reactions, consider a personal therapist. You can re-visit the idea of couples’ therapy if and when you both equally recommit to the relationship.
15. Develop a Support Network
You may feel unable or unwilling to talk to family or friends, but it’s important that you don’t become isolated. We have a Chat Room, where you can get some immediate interaction with people who understand what you’re going through. Sometimes it helps just to have some company.
Pause and breathe.
“While you’ll feel compelled to charge forward it’s often a gentle step back that will reveal to you where you are and what you truly seek.”
~ Rasheed Ogunlaru
For more affair help, support and advice on how to cope and manage your life through your partner’s affair, register with our Discussion Forum.