So you’ve heard “I love you but I’m not IN LOVE with you” or “I don’t love you like a spouse. I’ve never loved you” and somehow you’ve discovered that your spouse has been unfaithful. You feel compelled to do something FAST to try to save your marriage. Unfortunately your instincts are going to work against you. Let us give you four things you can do starting right away that will help to not only save your marriage but also save your sanity and your dignity!
1) Don’t be in a rush.
Right now, you are going to feel like you are on a roller coaster of emotions…up and down and up and down until you just can’t take it! So the first thing you need to do calm down and don’t do anything rash. There will be plenty of time for making decisions, deciding what to do, when and how. Right now you need to take care of YOU. Unless you are in the right state of mind, and prepared to face what is to come, you will experience even more confusion and pain.
Everyone has different ways of calming down in a crisis (and yes, this is a crisis!). Some people can “get ahold of themselves” by taking several deep breaths; some by taking a walk or run; some by just watching a sunset and thinking. But right now the first thing you need to do is something that is calming to try to stop panicking. Although it feels like you have to do something RIGHT NOW, in real life if you take the time to think things through, it can and will save your sanity and may very well contribute to saving your marriage. So don’t be in a rush; it’s okay to slow down, think things through, and BE DELIBERATE.
You need to take some deliberate steps to take care of you. You are going to be in shock–maybe even medical shock–so we recommend two common sense things and two you just need to do.
1) Buy some lotion kleenex. You are going to be doing a LOT of crying and if you have non-lotion kleenex, you will chap your nose and eyelids and then when you cry you’ll have salt in the chapped skin and it is PAINFUL.
2) Buy some soup. Yes I know you think “Buy soup? Now? Are you kidding?” but you have things you will NEED to take care of, and you are going to need your strength and health. Maybe you have kids to care for…maybe a household or a pet…maybe a job…and you are going to need to eat. You can not swallow anything past that lump in your throat, and guess what? Soup is WARM and it’s liquid, and it will nourish you enough to get you through some of these physically and mentally exhausting days.
Now the two things you NEED to do:
1) Schedule an appointment with your doctor. You are going to need an STD test, because I don’t care what your Disloyal Spouse told you, they may have exposed you to a disease that could take your life if you aren’t treated. It may be embarrassing, but better embarrassed and alive because you caught it in time, than ego intact but dead to keep up appearances! Tell your doctor WHY you need an STD test as factually as you can, and they’ve seen it before so they’ll be professionals. It is conceivable they may prescribe anti-depressants as well, but here’s just my own personal, humble opinion: don’t jump on that pill as a crutch. You are going through a sad situation–it is appropriate to not feel “happy” or even close! Some people don’t take an anti-depressant at all; some people do natural or herbal anti-depressants; some take medication. All I’m saying is just like this whole section: don’t rush! Find out all the facts and then make a well-informed decision. Either way it will be a good thing to have your personal physician informed on all the things that could be affecting your health.
2) Open your Bible. Everything we’ve stated up to this point has been focused on you relying on your own internal strength. But that is never enough – your strength can run out. You can easily let yourself down. But you have a Source of undending strength, compassion, and healing at your fingertips. God promises to be there, and God can not, will not, and does not lie. What He promises, He does. So step away from everything else, find a quiet place, and open your Bible. This must become a habit for you, this is more important than all the pills, hugs, and advice anyone else can give you. Right now you need comfort, in the upcoming days you will need support and truth. This is all found in God’s word. Right now, read the Psalms. Try Psalm 9, 22, 27, 46, 56, or 116. There are many others that offer comfort!
Before you speak to your spouse about your marriage and their affair, take time to do these few things. Don’t fly off the handle and make things worse or completely act like a doormat–take your time, take stock, and prepare. Again, TAKE YOUR TIME. You will not regret this!
2) Take responsibility for your part of what has occurred.
“WHAT!?” you might say, incredulous. “Are you kidding me? My spouse is cheating on me and I’m supposed to take responsibility? Yes. For the dynamics in your marriage to be different (aka “better”), something has to change, and the only person you can change is YOU. So take a long look at yourself, how you have behaved, buttons you’ve pushed (or stopped pushing) and be honest with yourself.
We don’t mean accepting the cheating spouse’s excuses or blame. No they are responsible for the choices they are making. Blame would be “You made me do this or that” and often it is tempting to either accept all the blame, or to blame your spouse 100% for all the problems! On the other hand, taking responsibility is saying “I could have chosen this or that, and I chose this.” Hey we are all human and we all make bad choices at times. Just be honest with yourself about the things you did to break down the love between you two, and the things you stopped doing that used to kindle love.
3) Do a 180 turn from what you’ve been doing.
Your first instinct might be to beg and plead with your spouse to stay, beseeching them to think of how much they’re hurting you and the children. Another common instinct is to promise that you’ll change. These initial instincts deceive you and rarely work because they cause your spouse to lose respect for you and destroy your dignity. You cannot make your spouse love you or want to love you, so let them know it will hurt you very much, but if that’s what they want to do, they are free to leave. Let them know that you and the children will not be leaving the marital home because they choose to have an affair, but if they can choose to move out. Do not be openly desperate or needy even when you are hurting. Act as if you intend to move on without your spouse and then set about being busy but also being the wonderful, loving person you were that attracted them in the first place. This is the time for you to rise to the occasion, grow as a person, stop doing the things that destroyed the love, and start doing the things that create love!
On top of this, pick up your Bible and begin reading. Make it a habit. Start a ‘Through the Bible in a Year’ regimen. You will be glad later that you started this now. Your growth in Christ, formed by an ever increasing understanding of His word, will determine all of your future relationships, decisions, and plans. It is vitally important!
4) Get advice from an expert.
I am not advocating that you need to see a counselor or coach–although we can be really helpful! I am also not advocating that you tell every member of your church what a louse your spouse is in an attempt to get everyone “on your side.” No, I am talking about getting some help and support, privately and confidentially, from someone you trust who is wise and who will give you wise counsel in getting through this. Trust me, it’s hard! But this person could be a parent or grandparent, pastor, sibling, friend, or professional. Don’t pick someone who’ll just say “yes” and rant on with you about your spouse, but someone who will really tell you to your face what you need to hear and sometimes just give you a good hug. By the way, this is not a suggestion that you say to your spouse, “Hey we need to go to marriage counseling.” No! This is an expert for you. This is someone who will be of assistance to you personally.
* Updated 2/3/2014 after a good comment by John (see below) to point out some spots that needed editing. Thanks, John!