1.Don’t rush your response
It might feel natural to finish the relationship as soon as you discover the infidelity, but do stop and take stock. Wait for your initial feelings of hurt and anger to be replaced by secondary responses – these will be more productive in the long term. Can you understand why the infidelity happened? Were there warning signs? If the roles were reversed, might you have been tempted to be unfaithful in your partner’s position? Were there outside pressures on the relationship – a new baby, a family upset, a big change, depression? Taking time to consider the contributory factors in any situation isn’t weak, it’s sensible. And understanding the reasons will help you move forwards.
You will feel an urge to obtain every piece of information about the affair, just to give your racing mind some peace, so talk about it with your partner. Discovering the details won’t help you emotionally (you’ll feel they will, but they won’t), but you will find comfort in talking to your partner about it, because talking is a sign that your partner wants to rebuild their relationship with you. If your conversations end in arguments, consider talking to your partner with a counsellor present. Just having a neutral third party in the room will make you and your partner behave in a less emotional manner.
3.Ask for what you need
If there are changes that will help you cope – moving into a separate bedroom, taking a holiday (alone or together), meeting the other person – then ask for them and do it early on. At the beginning, your partner’s guilt will make them amenable to your requests and they will try to help you as much as they can. Later on, they will prefer to try to “forget” what happened. So take a private moment to think of practical arrangements that feel comforting, and then state them.
4.Write it down
Keep a journal where you pour out every last feeling of hurt and distress, every question, every moment of anguish. Write it all down. Don’t reread what you write, just let it pour out. The simple act of writing is comforting, plus it gives you a safe place to process your thoughts. Keep it a private book, don’t let your partner read it, and don’t quote irate passages from it. Use it as a place to express your emotions until you begin moving past them. Later on, you might want to ceremoniously destroy the journal as a symbol you have closed the chapter.
Talk to friends whose relationships survived an affair, or find online groups where people discuss the issue from their own experiences. Look for support in moving onwards positively – don’t let yourself be talked into ending the relationship unless you are sure that’s what you want to do. Find a counsellor or therapist you can see individually, if you need a sounding-board. Your partner will want to spend less and less time talking about the affair, preferring to rebuild your relationship, and might see every conversation about What Happened as a backwards step, or yet another request for them to express contrition. Find other people to talk to. Avoid close family or friends you will socialise with alongside your partner as knowing that everyone has heard every detail of the infidelity will make your partner feel uncomfortable in their company for many years. Moving on and finding forgiveness is a personal undertaking; the rewards are many, but you’