Relationships

Surviving betrayal: 19 tips to get past your husband's affair

April 13, 2001 at 5:39 AM ET

Lies and deception are bad enough, but when a spouse betrays you the shock can be devastating. Millions of marriages—one in every 2.7 American couples—are touched by infidelity. But what the numbers don't reveal is what betrayed spouses are doing to get past their personal trauma and rebuild their lives. Here, iVillage members of the Betrayed Spouses Support Group offer the candid guidance they wish they'd had.

Finding Out: What to do right after "D-Day"

"Take time off. Going away for a while (with or without children) helps you to gain clarity. Take a few days off from work. If that's not possible, go away for a weekend. Even if you can only afford to go down the street to a friend's house, the personal time is worth it."—elangro

"Surround yourself with people who love you. Ask for help and support from your parents, siblings and friends right away. Don't be afraid of what anyone might think, because this situation is not your fault."—elangro

"Learn to say 'no.' You are under extreme stress, but the rest of your life—job, kids, friends—won't calm down. Prioritize your responsibilities so that you can put some of them on the back burner. Start to tell people, 'I will have to deal with this low-priority issue later.'"—lonelyforhim

Putting Yourself First

"If you don't have one, start your own bank account right away. Save as much money each week as you can. Even if your marriage heals, you can always use this account, and it's much better to be prepared than to get caught short."—marnaj

"Get counseling for yourself first. Couples counseling is important, but going alone is vital. If insurance allows it, see your own counselor apart from your marriage counselor on a regular basis. I also find that this online support group helps me immensely."—elangro

"Go get tested for STDs and HIV. As scary as this seems, your health is something that is simply too important to hide from. For many of the tests, you can even get results in one day."—theirmomfirst

Deciding to Stay or Go

"You are not to blame for your husband's decision to cheat. In the same way, you must take responsibility for your decisions. If you base all of your choices on what makes you happy, they are good ones. Don't stay with him out of guilt, but do not leave him out of spite."—catherine303

"If you settle for less than you want, you will get less than you settle for. I hope that none of us are settling for anything."—town11town

"I simply could not live with mistrust. At first I thought, 'Well yes he hurt me, but he's a good father, a good provider, and he makes me laugh.' But I always came back to questions. If he went out of town, I wanted to know if he was having one-night stands. If I couldn't reach him at work, I wondered, was he with another woman? Some women may be able to live with the question mark, but I could not."—anonymous

If You Choose to Rebuild the Relationship

"Beware of the 'honeymoon stage.' A lot of betrayed couples go through a period of bliss right after they decide to 'work things out.' A sort of euphoria comes on, but it is simply false security, because the roller coaster ride often comes next. The happy honeymoon stage can last from 2 days to 10 months, but eventually you will have to live in reality—tough times and all."—cl-Jill.2

"If you need to know where your spouse is at all times, that's okay. He betrayed you and you are hurting. Just ask for extra reassurance. An extra phone call or having the key to his office can help. If he really wants to repair your relationship, he's got to be willing to share the details of his life, no matter how small."—dorsini

If You Choose to Let Your Spouse Go

"Don't look at your husband's leaving as your life endingit can be a new beginning. After 17 years together, my husband left me, and I felt so alone, scared and angry. I found out I can do things I thought I never could, and a new, more self-confident, peaceful me emerged."—superjagfan

"It's hard, but stop yourself from wondering if he will come home. Focus on yourself (and your kids). Do things that you like to do—shop, take walks, long baths, whatever makes you feel good! If you have kids, make special time to be with them."—anonymous

"Explain the situation to your children if they are old enough to understand what's happening. Tell them that you are still available to them, and that you need their support, too. Kids are perceptive, and they'll see through any lies."—stitcher2000

Facing the Idea of the Other Woman

"Try this: If you say, 'I hate the other woman,' ask yourself, 'Why does she have that power over me? How am I like her? What am I getting from all this misery?' I struggled with these questions, but when I finally answered them I felt as if a huge load was off my shoulders. I had so much trouble seeing how we might be similar, but light bulbs went on for me when I figured it out. For example, she is destructive, but so am I because I am hurting myself by being sad."—murmaide

"I once compared my husband's decision between the OW and me to a decision between sleek but crippling high heels (that's her) or sensible loafers (that's me). If your husband stumbles upon the oh-so-fashionable black silk pump, here's what you do: Let him walk around a bit, enjoying the benefits pumps have to offer. Sooner or later, we all grow up and decide not to wear shoes that make our feet hurt. Sabotaging his relationship or berating him for his decision will only push him away. Let him figure out what damage he is doing on his own and give Strappy Slingback the boot on his own."—goggles

"I met the OW and would recommend it. Granted, it doesn't make it all okay in the end, but it gave me a sense of closure. Just make sure you are ready to meet her so that you can be strong and maintain your dignity."—mmark68

"If you try to tell the OW what is happening, you are the only one who could lose. Say she throws him out. You may be left feeling like a consolation prize. If he ends it on his own, it will be his choice, and you won't be left feeling regret. Continue to grow, learn to be self-sufficient and strive to be the best individual you can be."—csb49

A Word about Revenge

"Revenge never helps you get control and always comes back to haunt you. Choose healthier ways to your express anger. Yell, talk about how you're feeling with friends, go work out, but in the end learn to let the anger go. The only acceptable revenge is to live a wonderful life."—catherine303

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.

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