It is always shocking and painful to discover that your husband is cheating. You feel blind sided by the revelation, even if you had a gut feeling that something was going on. As in most cases, you stumble upon the information. Maybe, you were innocently looking at his phone, found a receipt, observed the strange way that he interacted with someone or were told a “story” that you intuitively felt was off or eventually found out was a lie. There is a shock and paralysis that sets with the feeling of being overwhelmed. What do you do next? What is the best way to handle this?
Here are 7 steps of what to do next in the short term as you are sorting out your next move.
1. Wait until the right time to confront your partner. Although you may be eager to confront them and want to call them at work or accuse them the minute they walk through the door, wait for the right moment. You want to be grounded and strong so that your message is clear coming from a place of strength. You want to have your partner’s full attention so they are able to take in what you are sharing. And you want the conversation to be private, away from roommates, family and kids, so that no one interrupts you or is impacted by your conversation. Choose the right moment so you can accomplish what you need to, in the manner in which you want to.
2. Investigate. You stumbled upon evidence that they have been cheating. Before you confront them, do a bit of research to see if you can any more information about how extensive this is. Check their social media, their computer, their gym bag, car, cash withdrawals, cell phones bills to see if there is another phone, even their credit card statements to see if it more pervasive than you thought. Since most people minimize, deny or rationalize their behavior when confronted about cheating, it is better to confront your partner with more evidence than less.
3. Confront your partner. Share with your partner what you have discovered and convey the message you are letting them know that you know, and are not asking them if it is true. Confronted partners often lie or worse, they accuse their partner of wrongdoing, (snooping, checking up on them, being jealous, being insecure etc.) and try to make the problem about their partner’s behavior and not their own. Don’t get distracted by this tactic. Stay clear and focused that this is about their behavior and stress the fact that you are giving them an opportunity, right now, to come clean, to be truthful and to stop the lying. Remind them that more lying will just compound the problems and set you back further. Being strong, calm and clear is disarming to your partner (they know you are serious) and results in a less dramatic and more honest conversation.
4. Despite what you think, you won’t have the whole truth. It is extremely common for cheating partners not to reveal everything when they are confronted. That is why it is important to know that you are going to revisit this discussion at a later date when you have had time to absorb what has occurred and to think about questions you need to ask or ask again.
5. Don’t tell everyone. The last things you want to do in this tumultuous time is to tell everyone you know what is going on, especially family members . You are hurting and it can feel like your world is collapsing, but telling everyone can just add to the drama and and be more hurtful than helpful to you. Moreover, you don’t want your news to become gossip and people finding out whom you didn’t want to know at this point. Also, people can judge you or him and this can damage relationships should you decide to stay together. So, proceed slowly and cautiously in your revelations.
6. Get support. It may not be good to tell everyone, but don’t try and go through this alone. You are at the beginning of your healing process, which begins with discovery and disorganization which is characterized by a volcano of feelings including, shock, anger and sadness.
7. Get yourself tested for STDs. Regardless of whether or not your partner admits to unprotected sex, make an appointment to get yourself tested for all STDs. You partner exposed you to health risks and you need to make your health care a priority.
After you catch your partner cheating, the days following are tumultuous. How your partner behaves around the confrontation and what (if anything) they disclose will play a big role in what happens next. Couples have different journeys in their healing, but the commonality is that the repair cannot take place without honesty. A relationship, just like a house, needs a strong foundation and trust rebuilt on lies, omissions and dishonesty is very fragile.