You’ve Just Learned About An Affair

If the most difficult words to hear are “you’ve got cancer,” the next most jolting sentence might be “I’ve been having an affair.” Your head spins, emotions may erupt, your emotional earth has essentially been forever shifted on its axis. Dreams are shattered, the partner or spouse you thought you knew is now a stranger, and the wound you feel is so deep like you’ll bleed forever. The betrayal seems unfathomable, the hurt indescribable, and the marital ship now navigates without a rudder.

In this altered reality, this bad dream from which you can only hope you’ll awaken, the feelings of devastation are palpable, the doubt ever-present, and need for relief genuinely intense, it is very difficult to know just what to do. You may or may not tell your friends and family, and when and if you do, for every three people in whom you confide you are granted four opinions, some conflicting.

This is a particularly delicate moment in what now marks the beginning of the recovery process from an infidelity for both you and the offending/injuring partner. It’s delicate for several reasons, but I’m only going to discuss one of them in this article, and it is this: Make no decisions about the relationship at this stage of infidelity recovery.

Here is what that means:

1. You will be told by some to leave the relationship and get a divorce;

2. You will be told to stay and work it out;

3. You may be told to punish him/her;

4. You may be thinking, or have been told, to have your own affair;

For now, simply stay put. Calling a family law attorney and beginning the divorce process before the dust has settled from this domestic explosion often ends up heaping another regret on top of the current one. Remember: making no decision about the disposition of the marriage AT THIS STAGE does not mean you have decided to never leave.

Why am I advising no decisions about those important matters in particular? Because you are highly emotionally activated. Without going in to great detail here (because you can see more detail in my previous article), the reason is because emotional reactivity prevents or inhibits logical, thoughtful thinking. Therefore, if you are not thinking logically and thoughtfully, the odds of making a decision might later regret skyrocket.

Yes, you probably said to yourself and your partner an affair was “a deal breaker,” as if it was written in stone. However, some people find themselves re-evaluating carved-in-stone positions for a variety of reasons. If you re-evaluate and still decide it’s a deal breaker over time, then fine. There is no implied or explicit moral imperative about divorce in this message whatsoever.

But you’re in pain, lots of pain, and you want relief. The limbic brain will do almost anything to get that relief because that’s the way it’s wired. Sometimes the avenue of relief we choose ends up causing more pain, unintended pain. While there may be an immediate reduction in pain, it also may be short lived. You don’t need that. Instead, you need to create a solid, long lasting relief you can trust. Right now, trusting yourself is important, as trust in general has taken a huge hit. However, bad decisions tend to increase doubt in ourselves, and reduce trust in our ability go forward and be happy again.

There are many other ways to relieve some of the initial pain of your partner/spouse’s affair, and you can find them if you have a skilled professional help you. Otherwise, let the dust settle, and read Peggy Vaughan’s book, The Monogamy Myth, which you will find very helpful, before you make a life changing decision. Regain your emotional equilibrium before you make any major decisions.

In addition, you also might consider attending Brian and Ann Bercht’s workshops for people in the earlier stages of infidelity recovery.

© Copyright 2010 by Jim Hutt, PhD. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • R.dixon

    April 20th, 2010 at 4:26 PM

    I have experienced a similar situation,but luckily it was not reading me being cheated on! I have been in situations wherein I felt the need to take a spontaneous decidsion and make amends,but I have waited because I kept telling myself “You are not thinking clearly,hold on and think about it later”.This talking to myself has helped me as time has proved and has convinced me decisions should be made only with a clear frame of mind.

  • Terri

    April 21st, 2010 at 3:11 AM

    I lived through this and the recovery is painful and difficult. You always wonder what you could have done to make him not cheat.


    April 21st, 2010 at 6:26 AM

    it is much better to think about it,take time and then take a decision rather than hurrying through it and doing something in haste that you may regret later on.

  • Jim Hutt, Ph.D.

    April 21st, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    Terry, I hope that one of the benefits from what sounds like a well intended recovery process, you have been able to gradually let go of the notion that you “made” him cheat. I imagine a part of you knows this intellectually, but you might, as others, struggle from time to time with the notion that if you had done or been (fill in the blank) he may not have cheated. I often hear adult children of alcoholics say the same thing. Fact is, no one ‘makes’ and parent drink, and no one ‘makes’ a partner stray. Period.

  • Clare C.

    April 21st, 2010 at 3:03 PM

    @Terri:It is very important that you do not blame yourself for another person’s actions!Not only about a partner cheating but in everything else as well.What a person does is by his/her own choice and nobody else’s actions are the reason for it!

  • Staying Sane

    August 13th, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    I am reading this exactly a week after finding out about her affair. I am still in the phase of not sleeping, not eating and clearly not thinking straight. I totally agree that no decisions should be made now. However, how to start the recovery and the dialog without committing to something? I do know that no one makes a partner stray, but we all know that the real reasons behind an affair, lay with the unhappiness in a marriage, which means, in the most cases, the blame is on the both sides. Or maybe those should be handled as two issues, one being the affair, and the other being the unhappiness in the marriage. I don’t know….At least, I know that I don’t know….

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.