After discovering your partner’s affair, typically the first issue is simply dealing with the physical and emotional reactions and then facing the reality that the affair happened.

facing the reality that the affair happened

By Linda & Doug

Most people who discover their partner has had an affair go through similar reactions and stages. The intensity of the feelings and the timing of the stages vary a great deal from person to person.  Typically, during the period immediately following the discovery of your partner’s affair, your biggest challenge may be simply surviving the emotional shock.

So, the first issue is simply dealing with the physical and emotional reactions and then facing the reality that the affair happened.

This article is taken from a short guide by author Peggy Vaughan (The Monogamy Myth) called, Recovering From Affairs – A Handbook for Couples.  The guide was offered as a free download on Peggy’s site, which for some reason we were not able to access any longer.  (Peggy passed away a few years ago and we suspect that may be the reason).

Luckily, one of the small group members shared it recently, so you can download the guide here:  Anyways, this excerpt focuses on the aspect of facing the reality that the affair happened.

Facing the Reality That the Affair Happened

Dealing with extramarital affairs is a life-altering experience. It’s more than just dealing with the affairs themselves (as if that weren’t enough). It’s dealing with the fact that nothing is the way you thought it was. Your dreams of the “perfect marriage,” however unrealistic, have been shattered. In essence, your world has been turned upside down and you must begin to make sense of this new world. Your innocence is gone and you need to face this new reality and learn how to cope with it.

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Stages of dealing with affairs:

There are stages that most people go through when experiencing the loss of something that is very important to their sense of themselves and their place in the world. The stages used to describe the process of dealing with death and dying apply to these “little deaths” as well, involving any significant loss.

These phases (that apply to dealing with affairs) are:

  1. Shock — the disruption of the world as you know it. Whether or not you suspected the affair before finding out about it, there’s the shock of actually knowing “for sure.”
  2. Holding on — the attempt to maintain the old situation, the not letting go. This can take the form of denial or simply an unwillingness to deal with this significant change in your life. You may feel in limbo—unable to go back but unwilling to move forward.
  3. Acknowledgment — giving up, yielding to what is. Only when you reach this point can you even begin to deal with the situation. At this point your thinking becomes possible, allowing you to get out from under being totally ruled by your emotions.
  4. Adaptation and change — establishing a new world and a sense of worth. This is the true “recovery” period. So you can see that recovery does not begin right away. The first steps must be gotten through before recovery can be undertaken. The key is to get to this point of beginning the recovery as soon as possible.



Personal Issues While Working Through These Stages

  • Dealing with regrets and a sense of loss
  • Dealing with guilt and the fear of failure
  • Dealing with feelings of hurt or anger
  • Coming to grips with who you are and what you want
  • Finding the time and energy to deal with these issues while continuing to deal with regular life issues (jobs, kids, etc.).
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As you can see, even if you’re willing to deal with what has happened and eager to take steps to recover from it, there’s a long-term legacy to an event of this significance in your life. And it calls for a long-term effort.

Long-term Efforts Necessary to Recovery

  • Accept the fact that it happened. This doesn’t mean “liking” it; it just means giving up focusing on “if only” and dealing with “what is.”
  • Work to understand what happened in terms of the societal factors that contributed to it—in order to overcome the idea that it’s only due to personal failure.
  • Talk about what happened—not just for the sake of talking, but in order to move the process along—since hiding it reinforces the feelings of shame.
  • Deliberately focus on dealing with it.
  • Believe it’s possible to recover.
  • Allow time to heal. Time alone won’t bring recovery, but it does require time and patience to work through this experience.

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The importance of this last point—time and patience—can’t be overstated. There are no shortcuts; the only way through this situation is to face it head on and deal with it. Even then, it will be difficult for everyone. Certainly, no one (either the one who had an affair or their partner) wants to drag this out; it’s so painful and uncomfortable that everybody wants it to be over quickly, but it just doesn’t work that way.

The way through the emotional turmoil of affairs is through— not over or around. The process of healing and growth is not the steady, smooth progression we would like it to be. It’s more often a series of ups and downs, dramatic improvements and depressing backslides, progressions and regressions—a moving back and forth between periods of clear thinking and emotional confusion—with an occasional plateau thrown in.

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By knowing in advance that this is the normal progression of recovery, you can avoid being so depressed or devastated when these inevitable setbacks take place. The moral is, persistence will pay off. Allow for down periods, and view each one as a fork in the road. One path leads to further decline, the other to continued change for the better.

This article is geared towards those folks who may have discovered their partner’s affair somewhat recently.  Please comment on your experiences with respect to facing the reality that the affair happened.  It would also be nice for those who are further along to share their experiences and/or advice.  Thanks!


    6 replies to "Facing the Reality That the Affair Happened"

    • B_Mac

      The cheater is way ahead of you emotionally and perhaps they have a plan in place. Mine did and my discover of the affair happened before she was ready. There was only one way for her to save what was most important to her which is her public image and that was to destroy me.

      I had to stay focused and I had avoid taking the bait that was dangled in front of me constantly as she tore me and my family apart and at the same time. I could write a book about the dirty tactics that she used legally and otherwise. Hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with and my life will never be the same.

      I don’t believe marriages recover from affairs but I do believe individuals can.

    • Denise

      Hi. I found out about my husband’s affair last July. I stayed because he told me he work on our marriage. Fast forward a bit and things were getting better. We were getting along better than we had in a while. But he was still seeing her. I had looked online and had found a few sites about affairs, but not a lot. I was really struggling and I now know I was doing all the wrong things. For example, bad mouthing the other women. I had accepted the fact it was going to be a long slow process. Things would be good between us, and I would make plans for us to do something together. Well, she would end up making plans too and he would bail on me every time. I had been trying to find a counselor since this all started unsuccessfully. I had asked him to be here for Christmas and he agreed. We talked about it before Thanksgiving and I’d confirm with him a few more times. He had spent a weekend away with her right after Thanksgiving, another thing we would have done,. This was their first time going away.
      By now I knew everything about her. She was told that I was there to help out with his daughter. My stepdaughter, who doesn’t know anything, who I love and will do anything for. After the new year I felt like we took steps backwards. He wasn’t coming as much, not calling or texting. We had both also gotten sick and I’m sure she was mad he was with me. About a month ago we had gotten a fight because he was bailing on me again and he told me that he didn’t want to hurt me anymore. We were done. This hurt me more than anything else. He chose her! Even though he said he didn’t, but that’s where he is every night. I’m so lost. I’m hurt amd broken and I have no where to go. We are in the process of buying our house(another story) and he doesn’t want me go. He wants us to be friends. I’m trying to have boundaries and it’s fine for a while, but when his daughter is around we act “normal”. Part of me still believes he’s in this affair fog. Mainly because he’s choosing “her” over is daughter at times. Am I crazy for still having a sliver of hope?

      • Sarah P.

        Hello Denise,
        I am so sorry that this is happening.😢

        You mentioned at the end of the comment that you are buying a house.

        This stood out to me. You must make sure that you are on the house title and that your husband is not. The reason I plead for you to do this is because I once lost my house to the other woman. It was brutal. I could have been homeless and thankfully I was not. My ex moved the other woman into our house and “chose her.” I am grateful we did not have children. I urge you to play hard ball and make sure the house is in your name and please make sure all the bank accounts are locked up.

        I know you have a sliver of hope, but don’t let that give you the kind of hope that blinds you and allows her to take your place in your home and in your bank accounts. Please seek out legal advice as soon as you can. I don’t want you to be in the position I was in. 🙏💛

        Many blessings,

        • Denise

          Thank you for your concern. It means a lot..
          The house will be in both of our name, and we’ve always had separate bank and bank accounts. Which I’ve started another savings that he doesn’t know about. The reason for the house is 2 things: 1 it’s buy it or all 3 of us are out on the street. 2. We are trying to keep things as normal as possible for our daughter for a little while longer. I’m trying to keep a clear head and have boundaries, but some days I just lose it. All I do is cry at everything around me. Very few people know what’s going on and they are trying to be supportive, but they just can’t understand. I always told myself that I would leave if this happened. I wish i had when i first found out. It would have been so much easier. Now im so meased up in the head, i dont know what to do.

    • Winston

      Denise – I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. First of all, do not blame yourself for anything and cut yourself some slack for thinking that you did all the wrong things. Almost all of us who are in this unfortunately “club” have made our share of mistakes. Personally, I do think that you still have reason to hope, but I also think that you have to go on with your life for now – as if you are a single parent. Your husband is off in his fantasy land which will probably end at some point – but there are no guarantees of that happening. I know that it may seem impossible, but try as hard as you can to be good to yourself and you’ll get through this!

    • lisa

      Denise, I’m curious to know where things stand between you and your H. I just came across your post and I wish I had done so sooner. My heart literally aches for you. Please update…..

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