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What To Do When Your Wife Cheats

It’s abundantly obvious, and understandable, that a person who discovers their spouse has been unfaithful will experience a range of emotions, from shock to sadness and everything in between. The expression a “storm of emotions” is certainly fitting when it comes to infidelity.

But all storms end, and this one will too. That’s why it’s so important that you weather this one in the smartest way possible. Because when the clouds disperse and the sun comes back out—and it will—you will have to make the decision whether to rebuild your marriage or to completely dismantle it.  Either way, and especially if you have kids, the less damage you can do to an already injured relationship, the better.

Most women who have been cheated on report feeling betrayed, deceived, angry, heartbroken, deeply worried, and jealous. Men experience these things too, but for many men, there is an extra layer of pain, one that can strike a man’s self-esteem quite hard.

If your wife has cheated, know this:

This wasn’t about you. People who cheat—women and men—do so because of something inside them, whether it’s an emptiness or ego, or something else. Yes, there may be larger issues going on with the marriage, but that does not automatically lead to infidelity. Many people go through hard or even unfulfilling times in their marriage and don’t cheat. There are other ways to deal with a struggling marriage. So this isn’t about you. No, that probably won’t mean much right now—because it feels pretty personal, doesn’t it?—but I think you recognize the truth of that on some level nonetheless.

In any event, if you’ve discovered that your wife has in some way broken your trust, you’re probably wondering what to do about it. Yet in my experience, especially in those early days, it isn’t so much about what to do as it is about what not to do.

So here are your top-five things to NOT do when you discover your wife has been unfaithful:

1. Do not lose your shit. Yelling, screaming, or crawling into a bottle—you’re better than that. And if you have kids, you need to be better than that.

2. Do not forecast. Don’t let the pain or confusion of what is happening right now fool you into thinking that it will always be like this. It won’t.  Similarly, don’t predict the future! You just don’t know how all of this will play out right now.

3. Do not obsess. Don’t spiral into a storm of assumption, speculation, or analysis. What’s done is done, and as time goes on, the information you want will become available to you.

4. Do not let your ego make decisions for you. The decision to work on the marriage or end it should be made rationally and thoughtfully, not because you are feeling wounded or insulted.  I’m not downplaying those emotions—I’m just saying it isn’t in your best interests to let them decide your future or compel you to make impulsive decisions.

5. Do not listen to other people. Or more specifically, don’t listen to people who are biased or overly negative (e.g. bitter divorced buddies) or those who want to sway you to make a quick, hard decision you may regret.

Of course, there are many things you should do, and many things you should not do, to properly deal with this marriage crisis.

But more than anything, the smartest thing you can do for yourself, for your marriage, for your kids, and yes, for your wife, is to use your head and not your heart right now.

Whether your wife had an emotional, physical or tech-based affair, you need to handle things thoughtfully and strategically. You need to understand why your wife did what she did, and you especially need to know how to handle things in the way that is most likely to save your marriage—because if there’s any part of you that wants that to happen, you should listen to it. You don’t want to look back at this time and think, “Maybe I should’ve tried to work it out.”

So review my top-five things to NOT do, and then think for yourself.

Men have a great capacity to remain rational and level during times of crisis

It’s that strength and ability that I hope you will call upon now, because it’s definitely in your long-term best interests to do so.

Despite what is happening, this can still be a time for you to lead the way in your marriage and family life. You’ve had the strength to overcome previous problems and obstacles, and you can do it here too, regardless of how things ultimately turn out.

If you need some practical help doing that, I deliver effective, no-nonsense resources that can make a difference, starting now.

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Debra Macleod, BA, JD, is an international marriage author-expert whose plainspoken style and proven resources have empowered millions worldwide to save their marriage.