Home Love & Relationships You’ve Caught Your Partner in an Affair. Now What?

You’ve Caught Your Partner in an Affair. Now What?

Partner in an Affair

Catching your partner in an affair is one of the most heartbreaking experiences a person can go through. Your partner, whether you’ve been together for a few months or 30 years, is someone you trust, someone you love, and someone you’ve been genuinely intimate with. Finding out they’ve been unfaithful to you is a serious blow to your relationship – and potentially, a relationship-ending mistake.

It’s normal and appropriate to feel overwhelmed, lost, and confused. But it’s also important to take a moment to collect your thoughts and feelings and figure out a way to move forward.

Where do you go from here?

Every Situation Is Unique

First, it’s important to remember that every situation is truly unique. There is no right way to respond to an affair because affairs take so many different forms. You might have overwhelming evidence of the affair or only suspicions at this point. This might have been an isolated incident from 20 years ago or a pattern of ongoing cheating. When caught, your partner might have been tearfully apologetic or cold and callous.

Because there are so many different ways this could have happened, and so many different relationship dynamics to consider, only you can make the final call on how to move forward. Your emotional and mental well-being should be your top priorities, regardless of what you decide.

Your High-Level Options

No matter what, you’re going to have a lot of intellectual and emotional work to do to move beyond this. High level, there are two major options in front of you.

  •       Resolution. If you still love your partner and want to work things out, you should know that there is often a path to resolution, assuming both partners are invested in finding that resolution. Marriage counseling is one of the best ways to mediate discussion, promote healing, discover strategies for healthier relationship building, and ultimately hold both partners accountable to their claims and promises. It’s an excellent choice if you want to repair the damage.
  •       Separation. Sometimes, the damage is too great. If one or both partners is no longer interested in pursuing the relationship, or if one or both partners refuse to do any real work, separation could be a more viable option. If you’re considering separation, it’s important to talk to a divorce lawyer as soon as possible.

The Emotional Fallout of Infidelity and Betrayal

Catching your partner in an affair is emotionally devastating. In the aftermath, you may feel:

  •       Betrayed. Cheating is an explicit violation of a relationship pact you made together. It’s reasonable to feel betrayed.
  •       Distrustful. An affair is a massive violation of your trust. How can you ever feel trustful of your partner again after this blow?
  •       Unwanted and/or unloved. Though it may not be a reflection of reality, you may feel as though your partner had an affair because they no longer love or want you.

These are negative, but completely normal emotions to have. Try not to dwell on them, but do recognize them and process them in the healthiest ways you can. Journaling, mindfulness meditation, professional counseling, and open discussions with trusted friends and family are all warranted.

The Long Road to Forgiveness and Reconnection

If you do conceive of a future relationship with your partner, there is a road to forgiveness and reconnection – even if that road is long and challenging.

  •       Open conversation. Healthy, open communication is a prerequisite for solving any relationship issue. You and your partner need to trust each other and commit to each other enough to have open, honest, and direct dialogue. That means expressing what you feel, setting boundaries, and acknowledging what the other person is saying.
  •       Neutral counseling. Private conversations are good for promoting your relationship, as long as they’re healthy, but it’s even better to have at least some neutral counseling. A counselor serves as a mediator and guide in helping you and your partner restore your relationship.
  •       Accountability. Both partners need to take accountability for their actions, but the burden of this is disproportionately placed on the partner who had the affair, for obvious reasons. Without accountability and contrition, there is no path forward.
  •       Mutual respect. If one partner doesn’t respect the other, the relationship is doomed to failure. To have any path to resolution, there must already be a foundation of mutual respect.
  •       Non-sexual touching. Touch is vital for building bonds and making us feel connected and fulfilled. In the aftermath of an affair, sexual and romantic touching may be neither wanted nor appropriate. Non-sexual touching, however, is an important way to reconnect.
  •       Specific goals and milestones. Together, you and your partner should set specific goals and milestones for the relationship. What do you want this relationship to look like in the near and distant future? How are you going to get there?

The Possibility of Separation

Of course, it’s also reasonable to consider separation, especially if this affair is part of a pattern or if one or both of you are unhappy in the relationship. If you want to leave your partner, make sure you gather evidence of the affair, talk to a divorce attorney if appropriate, and avoid talking openly about the affair or any of your plans.

You should also be prepared for the possibility that your best attempts to recover the relationship may not be successful. It’s not a judgment on you, your relationship, or the efforts you make; sometimes, it just doesn’t work out.

Nobody expects to discover their partner is having an affair, and it’s an event that could change your relationship and your outlook on the world forever. But if you’re willing to put in the effort, and your partner is too, there’s a potential future for your relationship in which both of you are healthy and happy.