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How To Cope When You've Learned Your Spouse Is Unfaithful -- How to Respond

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Photo: Thomas Northcut / Photodisc / Getty Images
You just realized that your spouse has been unfaithful and cheated on you. The news of the infidelity has hit you like a ton of bricks.

You have hope that your marriage can survive your spouse cheating on you, but you still fill sick inside when you think about the affair.

You probably want to know why your partner cheated, but there is no simple answer to why someone becomes unfaithful. It could be a symptom of other problems in your marriage, it could relate to something in your spouse's past, or it could be totally unrelated to you or to your marriage. You may never truly know why it happened.

Here's what you can do to get beyond the hurt, forgive your unfaithful spouse, and save your marriage.

Difficulty: Hard
Time Required: Long Time

Here's How:

  1. Don't make any major decisions about ending your marriage now just because your spouse has been unfaithful. This is the time to do some reflection on your marriage to see what other issues other than this infidelity need to be recognized and dealt with.

  2. Feelings are neither right or wrong. Accept that your feelings of rage, uncertainty, shock, agitation, fear, pain, depression and confusion about having an unfaithful spouse are normal.

  3. Take care of yourself. You may have some physical reactions to the infidelity such as nausea, diarrhea, sleep problems (too little or too much), shakiness, difficulting concentrating and not wanting to eat or binge eating.

  4. Balance is the key to getting through this experience of coping with infidelity. Force yourself to eat healthy foods, to stay on a schedule, to sleep regular hours, to get some exercise each day, to drink plenty of water, and to have some fun.

  5. It's okay and healthy to laugh. Watch some funny movies or TV shows. Spend some time with people who make you smile. Life goes on in spite of heartache and unfaithful spouses.

  6. Tears are healthy too. If they aren't coming naturally, put on some blues type music or watch a sad movie.

  7. Begin a journal. Write down your thoughts and feelings about your spouse's unfaithfulness.

  8. Ask all the questions you want.Talk with your spouse about the infidelity. However, you may have to accept that your spouse may not know why the infidelity took place or may not want to reveal this to you.

  9. Seek counseling. Don't try to get through coping with unfaithfulness alone. However, don't shout from the highest mountain to all you know that your spouse is an unfaithful jerk. Pick with care who you will share this information with. Knowing the type of infidelity sometimes makes understanding it easier and counseling can help get answers to questions. Was it a one-night stand or an affair? Due to a mid-life or life crisis? A sexual addiction or an act of retaliation? Did the cheating occur to end the marriage?

  10. Take it one day at a time. Both you and your spouse should be tested for AIDS/HIVS and STD's before you resume sexual intimacy without protection. Consider what boundaries you need in your marriage in order to stay in the marriage. Contact an attorney and get these documented in a postnuptual agreement.

  11. Your children need to know that you are going to be okay. You can't hide the fact that you are going through a trauma. Be honest with your children, but don't weigh them down with details about how your spouse cheated on you. Don't make promises that you can't keep.

  12. Try not to get into the blaming game over who or what caused the infidelity. It's just wasted energy. That includes blaming the third party. It won't change anything. Also, think twice before you tell your family or your spouse's family about the infidelity. Family members can often hold grudges a long time.

  13. You may have post-traumatic stress. If you are jumpy, yell at trivial actions, feel like you are walking on egg shells, and continue to have physical reactions when you are reminded of the infidelity, see a physician as soon as you can.

  14. It takes time to get beyond the pain of having an unfaithful mate. Don't expect the mixture of feelings, the sense of confusion and limbo, and the mistrust to go away just because you've tried to forgive your spouse and made a commitment to save your marriage. The stages of death and dying (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) are part of the grieving process. It doesn't mean your marriage can't be renewed and strengthened, because it can. But it will be different.

    Remember that your marriage has changed. You will need to grieve that loss.

  15. Get practical. Look at your finances, housing situation, transportation, etc. If you do decide to end your marriage, make sure you have thought out where you will live, if you have enough money to pay for your essentials, etc.

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