I Caught My Partner Dishonest. What Ought to I Do?

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It’s a story as old as time: Your spouse was in the shower and received some flirty texts from an unknown number. Or worse, you came home to find her red-handed. Maybe this news hit you like a bus, or maybe you’ve suspected it for a long time.

Either way, you caught your spouse in the act and you now have concrete evidence. What now? Should you confront your spouse right away, let your emotions take control, and blow them up? Or should you retreat to the corner and sob? Or maybe … cut up all of your spouse’s clothes at work? As tempting as that sounds, it will likely cost you more than one in several ways, so put the scissors down.

In all seriousness, you may be feeling very alone and panicking now, but please take a deep breath and know that times are tough right now, but you are by no means the first person to have this happened – not even nearly. According to the American Association for Marriage and Therapy, national surveys have found that 15 percent of married women and 25 percent of married men have cheated on their spouse. Those numbers increase by 20 percent when you include emotional matters (cheating without sex).

Still, you probably think that navigating my situation is emotionally or practically no less bearable. So how can you do it?

Stop and take a deep breath

You have come to a fork in the road: should you turn left (try to save your marriage) or right (end it)? It’s a compelling question with an even more powerful answer that definitely doesn’t come from a rush of emotion. So the worst thing you can do right now is to react. Your feelings are too raw.

Instead, it is best that you give yourself time to process the situation, including whether or not you are willing to take the risk of your spouse cheating again. According to another study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, titled “Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater ?: Serial Infidelity Across Relationships”, participants who were unfaithful in one relationship were three times more likely to be unfaithful in their next relationship. That is compared to those who had not been unfaithful in their previous relationship.

Whatever the case, if you decide to repair your marriage, make sure that your cheating spouse invested fully in the process, including counseling couples and the hard work to regain your trust. When they’re not on board, your spouse has essentially made your decision for you.

Look at the children when you have them

Another important consideration is the children and how they will react to a divorce. It should go without saying (but I’ll repeat for emphasis) that you need to prioritize the best interests of your children. And no, that doesn’t mean you’re sticking with your fraudulent spouse for financial reasons, or keeping the family “complete”. Newsflash: Families come in all shapes and sizes these days.

Remember that your children develop their view of the world from how you raise them. Children are always watching you react. In a morally conflicting situation like adultery, ask yourself what kind of message you want to send them. That it’s okay to cheat? Or be betrayed? It’s a rhetorical question.

Take care of yourself

It may seem like your world is collapsing around you, but I promise it isn’t. You hit a bump in the road – a big one. But if I sound mundane for a moment, you’ll get over it. That’s when you think about taking care of yourself. Do something you loved before your spouse turned your life upside down – baking, knitting, reading, whatever you enjoyed. It could be as insignificant as taking a bath. The point is, the deed benefits you.

Also, remember to eat, even if the thought of it makes you sick. Eat healthy, drink plenty of water, and exercise. You will need your strength now more than ever. So remember not to indulge in old vices or take on new ones. A bad habit is harder to break than it is to start.

Find a support system

Spend some time with (supportive) friends and family. Not only is it important to have strength behind you as you move forward, but also to restore a sense of normalcy if you feel like you’ve recently lost it.

When you have kids, you need to be at your best for them. An emotionally disturbed parent can adversely affect children as they grow up. That is why it is important to maintain stability and be available to it. A psychiatrist can help you with this.

If they see a need, your therapist will refer you to a psychiatrist to provide you with anti-anxiety medication that can relieve you if you are having trouble managing your anxiety or experiencing panic attacks.

Look for a lawyer

It shouldn’t matter that you haven’t made up your mind whether you are going to divorce your spouse or try to save your marriage. You should still look for a divorce lawyer. Even if you live in a no-fault divorce state like Washington, where I practice, it is beneficial to find an attorney who is familiar with conflict divorce situations and is committed to putting your children’s needs first. In no-fault divorce states, a court will not award adultery against the offending spouse. Of course, there is always the court of public opinion that can operate in other more subtle ways.

One last word

Given the hostility that fraud often creates between spouses, the wrong attorney can quickly resume the stress – and your legal bills – which affects your family dynamics and the ability to be successful co-parenting. And there won’t be a price tag for this poor service. Just pain.

Elise Buie, Esq. is a passionate, creative, and problem solving family law attorney who creates solutions, no barriers. After Elise evacuated her hometown of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and survived a divorce, she ended up in Seattle and started her law firm. Elise’s practice encompasses all aspects of family law, guided by a collaborative philosophy and her deep understanding of complex parenting problems. Elise started her company at a time of personal need. In a time of global adversity, Elise’s company has seen its most significant growth to date, largely attributed to its driving force and mantra: “I can do it.”

Photo by Rob Hampson on Unsplash

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