What If You Discover Your Spouse Has Been Unfaithful?

What If You Discover Your Spouse Has Been Unfaithful?

One of the most shocking revelations you can have is to discover your spouse has been unfaithful. It’s enough to send you reeling, not knowing what to do. And, if you’re like most people, you probably want to do something

But … the better approach in the immediate aftermath of discovering infidelity is to make no sudden moves. Except perhaps to listen to Vanilla Ice when he rapped, “All right, stop. Collaborate and listen.” 

Though I can’t speak to the rest of the lyrics since the time in my life when “Ice Ice Baby” topped the charts has long since passed, what I do know is that Vanilla Ice’s advice is relatable and transferable, including to a situation where you’ve discovered your spouse has been cheating. 

So stop immediately reacting, collaborate with people who can and want to help, and listen with a discerning ear to what you hear, using the following tips to guide you.  

Figure out how you feel about your spouse’s infidelity.

Likely, you’re not jumping for joy at the discovery your spouse has been cheating. However, it’s not unheard of to have an Oprah-type “aha” moment, in which you say to yourself, “You know what, our marriage hasn’t been working for a long time, and I’m kind of relieved.” 

On the other hand, despite the infidelity, you might want to work on your marriage if your spouse would be willing to. Perhaps you’re unsure how you feel now or will in the future. The point is to begin processing your feelings about your spouse’s infidelity. Forget how your spouse feels for the moment. How are you?  

Evaluate your rights and options. 

Infidelity doesn’t necessarily lead to divorce. When both partners are willing, many couples successfully repair their marriages and move forward together. That said, it is wise to take a little time to understand your rights and options — what they are if you stay in your marriage versus if you leave — before doing anything, including confronting your spouse. 

Evaluating your rights and options with a family law attorney immediately following the discovery of your spouse’s unfaithfulness will not only enable you to pivot quickly based on what transpires during your conversation with your spouse, but it will also empower you, letting you know you are not alone no matter what happens. If your spouse doesn’t appear to be remorseful or willing to recommit to your marriage after you speak with them, you will have a plan of action, a plan B, to refer to, which will include a family law attorney to guide you from that point forward. 

Confront your spouse calmly about their cheating.

After you have consulted with a family law attorney and when you feel calm and can control your emotions enough to have a conversation, confront your spouse about their cheating. If there is a history of domestic violence, take appropriate precautions before engaging in a discussion. In all other non-violent situations, use this time to …

Gauge your spouse’s reaction. 

You stand to learn a lot from this conversation (and the ones that follow soon after) about how your spouse views their infidelity. Are they denying it, apologizing, or telling you they want a divorce? Even if you don’t like what you hear, or they’re hellbent on gaslighting you, keep your composure, ending the conversation before it devolves.

Insulate your kids from discussions about infidelity. 

This should go without saying, but it bears repeating: Keep your kids out of your marital issues. No good can come of it.

Children of all ages, even adults, see themselves in their parents. When you call your spouse — their parent — names or accuse them of things (even if those things are true), you risk your children absorbing those descriptions as their own or somehow putting the blame on themselves. You’d be surprised at how creative kids can be when casting blame. 

You also need to consider your ability to co-parent in the future. Whether you’re married or not, you and your spouse will forever be your children’s parents. Apart from it not being a good idea to antagonize your spouse by interfering with their relationship with your children, you want your children to continue seeing both of their parents as authority figures, not to mention people they both love and respect. 

Speaking negatively of your spouse to and in front of your kids will do nothing to advance this cause. It will hurt you, your children, and your spouse. Everyone loses, but really, your children most of all.

Choose wisely who you want to lean on for support. 

Having emotional support during this time can be a big plus as you begin coping with infidelity. Be sure to choose wisely the people you lean on. Sometimes, even though people mean well, their advice can lead you down a negative path. The person or people you confide in should also be ones you believe will not divulge the private information you share with them. 

Resist the urge to engage in unhealthy behaviors.

Many times, after discovering their spouse has been cheating, people will start behaving as if they’re starring in an episode of “Law and Order.” They will look for evidence everywhere and in everything. They will become skilled interrogators, questioning their spouse’s every move. Jilted spouses will also question themselves, especially their ability to rely on their own instincts.

What all of these behaviors have in common is that they are unhealthy and can only inhibit healing. So can eating poorly, not sleeping, and abusing alcohol and drugs. Which is why you should …

Practice self-care.

A far better approach than the above self-defeating behaviors is to practice self-care. This entails eating nutrient-rich foods, drinking a lot of water, moving your body lovingly, and getting enough rest. 

Sounds like basic advice, I know. But in the wake of discovering that your spouse has cheated, these behaviors can fall by the wayside. However, during traumatic events, self-care is more important than ever. If you have children, you will need to be strong for them. 

So, take it slow. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Do what you can (healthily) to get through trying moments. Marital discord is never easy, but there is a path through it, even though you don’t yet know where that path is heading. Your goal should be to focus only on the present for the time being. 

Visit a mental health professional.

Part of practicing self-care involves caring for your mind and emotions. Which is why you should consult with a mental health professional on your healing journey. 

If you and your spouse are interested in saving your marriage, a marriage counselor can also provide guidance. Regardless, though, you should speak with a mental health professional individually, whether the same marriage counselor or someone else. 

Collect any evidence you might have. 

Washington state is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that neither you nor your spouse must prove who is at fault for the marriage to end. That said, there is information that can impact your divorce, such as whether your spouse depleted funds in conjunction with their affair. 

Without compromising your mental health (or safety), collect any information you can that could potentially speak to how your spouse’s affair affected your family finances or the care of your children, if you have any. A family law attorney will be able to determine whether the information you present will be relevant in your case should you decide to legally separate from your spouse. 

Consult with a Seattle divorce attorney if your spouse has been unfaithful. 

If you have discovered your spouse was cheating but are unsure whether you want to end your marriage, it can still help to speak with a family law attorney about your options and about what you should be doing for yourself and your children right now. 

At Elise Buie Family Law, our compassionate team of Washington state family law attorneys have vast experience helping individuals who have faced infidelity in their marriages. We also have copious resources to educate you about your matter and how to rebuild your life after it.

At Elise Buie Family Law, our compassionate team of Washington state family law attorneys have vast experience helping individuals who have faced infidelity in their marriages. We also have copious resources to educate you about your matter and how to rebuild your life after it. Call our Seattle office today or set up a consultation.    


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