Here’s sound advice for betrayed spouses to follow after affair discovery.

what to do not doBy Linda & Doug

We came across the following piece of advice somewhere online. Neither one of us can remember exactly where, though it has the distinct feel of the Marriage Builders forum.

In general, it offers sound advice for betrayed spouses to follow after affair discovery. As with any advice piece, it may not apply in its entirety to your situation. So as they say… “Take the best and leave the rest.”

 Advice to All Betrayed Spouses:

  • You can’t MAKE anything happen.
  • There is NO magic bullet.
  • Recovery will NOT be instant gratification.

The fog does NOT usually go away until no contact has been established and has gone on for quite a while, sometimes it may take as long as the affair itself lasted.

All You Can Do Is:

  • Make changes to yourself that show the wayward spouse (WS) what you can be and what is possible.
  • Make the home, with the betrayed spouse (BS), a safe place for the WS to be and a better place than the affair.
  • Request, not demand that the affair end.
  • Exhibit care, compassion and concern for WS’s well being.
  • Protect the rest of the family from WS’s actions as much as within your power.
  • Protect your and the family finances as much as is legally possible.
  • Expose the affair to anyone within the circle of influence of WS and the other person (OP), including OP’s BS.

You Should Not: (as much as is within your power)

  • Finance the affair in any way. (This includes rent at another place, car payments or paying for babysitting so the WS can meet with OP)
  • Allow the children to have any contact with OP
  • Discuss the state of the relationship and expect a commitment from the WS.
  • Attend marriage counseling as long as there is contact between WS and OP. (WS often considers this as a good faith offer that absolves them of responsibility for the break-up of the marriage since they can say they tried counseling and it still didn’t work)
  • Trust the WS to tell the truth about anything.
  • Attempt to use the threat of exposure as leverage. Exposure is a good thing but it should not be used as a threat and must happen without warning to be of any real value.
  • Leave the marital home or ask the WS to leave before the beginning of Plan B. (This refers to Dr. Harley’s Plan B where WS is asked to leave and have no contact with the BS until they end the affair)
  • Threaten divorce or file for divorce unless you wish to end the marriage. (except in the case of having to file as a means of protecting marital assets from an actively WS.)
  • Make threats, attempt to coerce or belittle the WS.
  • Attempt to implement any marriage saving practice or principal other than unilaterally. (You can’t make him/her do what is right while they are wayward.)
  • Simply sit around, worry about the affair and wallow in pity for yourself. (Do something with the kids and ask WS to join you or go out with friends)
  • Beg, plead or cry to the WS.
See also  Cheating Spouses Must Look Within

If the Affair Ends and the Wayward Spouse Begins to Return to the Marriage:

  • Avoid spending all of your time together trying to force recovery or trying to fix relationship issues.
  • Do NOT bring up the affair repeatedly in an attempt at revenge for anything the WS does that is not related to the affair or even the affair itself.
  • Do NOT belittle the WS to anyone for any reason.
  • Do NOT exhibit trust of the WS except where trustworthiness has been shown.
  • Do NOT reward the WS merely for ending the affair.
  • Do NOT agree to simply move forward and forget the past. (The issue must be addressed, though not to the exclusion of daily life)
  • DO spend more time together doing fun things other than working on the relationship.
  • DO show compassion and care for the WS and support them through withdrawal from OP.
  • DO continue to monitor WS’s activities to ensure no contact is ongoing and the affair has not just gone underground. (Talking about snooping here)
  • DO continue to implement marriage saving principals unilaterally until such time as the WS begins to participate actively in recovery.
  • DO seek professional help in order to approach the issues surrounding the affair and its aftermath in an environment that is safe for both you and WS. Even simply having a witness to discussions can help to prevent heated arguments from ensuing.

Feel free to add any of your own words of wisdom in the comment section below.


    18 replies to "Advice for Betrayed Spouses – What to Do and What Not to Do"

    • lin

      I am really struggling today. My spouse of 32 years has been having an affair with a woman that he works with who is 33 years old. It has been going on for 1 1/2 years -off and on. He has lied to me and numerous councilors. I want to save the marriage but I feel like I have been doing a the work. I have asked him to decide if wants to work on the marriage or pursue life outside the marriage. I even gave him a deadline. He has been vacillating between me and the affair partner for the last year. It is disrespectful and humiliating to our marriage and our family. I have always had hope but I am beginning to lose hope. I think the fantasy is too appealing to him. I feel like my life is falling apart. I don’t know what to do.

    • Gizfield

      Lin, from what I hear, your best bet is to remove your self as an “option” and let this guy “live the fantasy”. From what I understand, this works about 99% of the time. He has exactly what he wants now, you and her. When it’s only her is when the crap hits the fan. Even if he didn’t doesn’t “choose” you, at least you know where you stand, not in limbo. Which in my opinion is the ABSOLUTE worst place to be. Don’t let yourself be treated as second class.

    • lin

      Limbo has been hell for me. Periodically he has shifted toward me and the family and that is wonderful and confirms that I want to save the marriage. I just don’t know how he can throw it all away and hurt so many people. I feel abandoned, afraid, angry and alone.

      Giz, I appreciate your response. Sometimes I feel like I cannot think clearly. If he is having such a hard time deciding if he wants to work on the marriage- why do I even want him??
      Yet, I do love him and am struggling to hold things together. I never dreamed life would be easy but I certainly did not see this challenge coming!

    • Gizfield

      You are welcome, Lin. I can’t really explain it, but the distorted thinking of the cheaters distorts the thinking of those around them. ESPECIALLY those of the betrayed spouse. If you can break out of that, you get a resolution, usually favorable to you, I’m happy to say.

    • CBB

      Dear Lin, I fuly agree with Giz here, get out of the limbo. I know it’s not that easy when they’re still working together. Don’t beg just let them know you’re sad that he is throwing all you had away for a fling. Almost a year after D-day (its 3y now) I stumbled on some internal maling and realised they had gone underground as I thought he was keeping his contact professional. It gave me huge shock but somehow this site had prepared me for this. I realised is was not up to me to fix the marriage. He first had to decide what he wanted in life. As the OW isn’t just a co-worker but also part of our social circle, mother to my doughters best friend it made the no contact-rule very limbo as well. I decided then I was getting myself prepared for the worst : devorce.But I wouldn’t let him know untill I was back on my feet. I was a wreck at that time and didn’t want to be dumped with 3kids as a nutcase. So I was lucky I could go for a 3months parttime parental leave (drop in income but I needed time to breath) I went to counseling on my own, saw a solicitor just to see where I stood and what precautions to take. Started living a life as if I had to manage on my own with the kids, not really shutting him out but not counting on him, not asking for anything, he senced it and i told him I had a long thought and I knew that he was the man I wanted to be married to , so i was’nt going anywhere but I was not excepting to be second best so it was time he did some thinking of his own and if I was not the person he wanted to be married to he schould leave out of basic respect. I told him a week before that I decided to work parttime for the next 3months so i had the time to figure out what I was goiing to do. It really shook him up bigtime. I think only then did he come out of the fog. We’re doing much better now and he’s joined me in counselling just recently and the thrust is slowly growing again. (what happend in those two years is for another post.)
      But the best thing is to mentally get out of it, get you’re help alone and show him you’ll do quite OK without him, not that that is wat you want but it’s not you’re call. One other advise ; keep thrusting your gut feeling in deciding wich road to chose. Good luck and hang in there. It does get better whatever the outcome!

    • Angela

      Unfortunately, I did every single thing on that list that a BS is NOT supposed to do. We are still together, still working on it, blah, blah, blah, and all that, but it has been 11 months of pure hell. Worst of all, I saw the signs of it happening and did not interpret them for what they were because of the trust I had in him. I feel I have most achieved getting the truth from him, but it took a lot of work and actually having a really nerdy friend with access to a lot of serious computer equipment for me to see the real nature of their relationship. He just won’t admit that this girl was paying him a lot of attention and he was enjoying it, encouraging it and wanted it to last as long as possible. (I ended that when I announced I was his wife when I caught him on a call with her). This relationship took place entirely online and on the phone, yet he still claims he did not have an emotional affair. He spent 15-18 hours a day on a game where the two of them played all day long, all nite long, every night for 4 months. My instincts were screaming that something was wrong and I kept telling him he needed to tell her he was married. He was probably laughing behind my back whenever I said that. He says he didn’t tell Anyone he was married because he wanted to maintain anonymity, but giving out our phone number? I say he didn’t tell her because if he did, it would have ruined the little “game” he was playing with her. Of course he denies this. We have worked through this and worked through this til I’m nearly ready to be hospitalized (losing 13 pounds last fall), but this last piece of truth – that he was allowing her to believe he was single so he could behave like he was single – he just won’t admit it. I feel that as long as even that small lie exists between us, my heart won’t fully commit back to him.

    • Adri

      I am recovering from partial paralysis for the past 3 yrs. I am 70% mobile now. Just discovered my wife seeing someone else … she said I am sick and imagining things. I was sitting at apartment bench at around midnight when I saw her walking into apartment.

      I asked her where she went? She said having coffee at Starbucks with a lady colleague. I asked for her phone to confirm she had the appointment with her friend. She refused and said my sickness is causing me imaginations.

      I can’t walk out of her now as our daughter is getting married next year. Wife is also refusing to return me the settlement money paid by hospital.

      I am sleeping in different room now. I don’t want her to be near me. After our daughter’s wedding I will leave her.

      Am I acting right?

    • JP

      “DO show compassion and care for the WS and support them through withdrawal from OP.”

      Are you kidding me??? How demeaning and tortuous for the BS.

      • Shifting Impressions

        JP I totally agree with you on this one…..that’s a completely ridiculous expectation!!!

    • MommaL

      I am the wayward, my husband filed for divorce in dec ’19, and I started my affair at the end of jan ’20. My relationship lasted until the end of mar ‘ 20, so 2 months. I honestly thought that my marriage was done that there was no saving it. I was on medication for my mental health and as advised by my doctor I had stopped taking a few of them, and when they were out of my system I saw things so much clearer and realized my mistake. We turned in the paperwork to cancel the divorce in april ’20. I ended my relationship, and was even working with my husband to move back home. Although I was still texting the op in secret. I finally moved back home at the end of may ’20, and our children came home the middle of june ’20. My secret conversations were found out and I did officially stop all form of communication July ’20. It is now March ’21, I have been begging my husband to go to marriage counselling, doing a marriage program, anything, any type of help to help us get through the affair and strengthen our marriage. He refuses it all. I understand his pain and his hurt and his anger, I’ve been the betrayed as well so I do get it, but he wont get any help and feels that what he is doing is perfectly fine. His anger is bad, his belittlement is horrifying, his disrespect all of it. I dont want to lose my family because of a mistake in the darkest time of my life. I want to keep my marriage but I dont know how.

      • Aimee

        Maybe you should not have cheated. If you had been betrayed, you knew how much damage that had caused. Yet, you decided to act selfishly. I am the betrayed. I have been more than understanding and when my spouse comes out of his darkest moments I hope not to be there for him. I hope to be like your husband. I hope to be strong and as disrespectful as he is to now. I will belittle him as much as he did me. I have told him often to open his eyes because he is sowing hate and he does not care. You did not care, now reap what you sowed. I hope your husband finds himself a woman worthy of him. You should find my husband as he is more in line with what you deserve. Or did you think that all the pain and suffering you were causing would just disappear because you decided to come home. Your husband is not second best so go find your affair partner who you thought was the world.

        • Shifting Impressions

          That is a lot of anger. I totally understand the rage a BS goes through but in the end we are still accountable for how we handle ourselves.

      • Shifting Impressions

        I know that you realize that you made some really destructive choices. When you say that you ended the relationship with the AP you didn’t really because you kept in contact. So it’s completely understandable that your husbands trust in you is broken.

        You can’t force your husband into counseling but you can get help for yourself. Even though your husband has been betrayed he is still accountable for how he treats you. Please get some help for you!!!

    • Bella

      When I found out that my WS had cheated, I called the AP. I found phone records with hundreds of phone calls over 4 years. I told her I was his wife and that he was all hers. She actually said to me, “I don’t want him, he’s nothing but a liar and a cheater, who would want him as a life partner?” I hung up, but she was right. I divorced him and have never been happier. Why would I want to keep a liar and a cheater? Who says he would change? Whether the “love” he felt was real or a fog doesn’t really matter to me. He felt it was love, and he felt a lot more! Nothing would ever undo that fact! I am happy now!

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