Coping with an affair


Man removing wedding ringAs the Mumsnet Relationships Talk board illustrates, no one should underestimate the devastation an affair wreaks on the deceived partner and how difficult coping with the knowledge of a partner's infidelity can be.

Many people describe it as being like a bereavement but with an added helping of humiliation, a profound loss of trust and self-esteem, and a dizzying sense that you don't know who your partner is any more.

Here's how two Mumsnetters describe it:

"'Your heart is broken by the one person in the world who had no right to break it.' That's the hardest thing, isn't it? I had walls up against everyone else but I totally let him in, had no defences at all." pesha

"I feel like my marriage was a beautiful work of art to me and she came along and wrote 'X was here' all over it (with his help)." overdraft

In the aftermath of discovery, you may feel utterly uncertain what to think and what to do, how to get through the day without crying in front of your children all the time. You don't have to make any decisions. In that first raw period, we say: 'If in doubt, do nowt'. Maybe try to find some time and space to think / cry / look after yourself and:

  • Make sure you eat
  • Do your best to get some sleep <hollow laughter emoticon>
  • If someone will look after your children, try to do something you might 'enjoy' (shopping, swimming, a film, a drink with a mate)
  • Keep reminding yourself that it's not your fault
  • Talk to other people who have been there, too
  • Do what seems right for you; there are no rules

For some people, asking the partner who had the affair to leave the house can give some necessary distance.

What Relate says:
• You can't take responsibility for someone else's infidelity.
• A happy fulfilling relationship is not an insurance policy against infidelity, although it can be a helpful deterrent.

Others feel the need to keep the straying partner in view (along with every gadget by which that person can establish contact with the other party to the affair).

And many want to know all the facts of the affair so they can begin to process them.

As this Mumsnetter says: "I think knowing the truth, however hard it is to hear, is part of the healing process."

As time goes on, many Mumsnet users report that counselling can help, and that's counselling for you, not relationship counselling (which you may also want, if you are going to try to salvage your relationship). You may have to try a counsellor or three until you find one with whom you click. 

Mumsnetters who have been there and got the (unenviable) T-shirt say:

  • Make your partner talk about it until you are both bored with it. As one Mumsnet user says: "You have to get it out of the box and examine it, then put it away for a while and move a tiny step on, then get it out again etc, etc. It's a long process but it works if you both go along with it." 
  • The pain will get less, but it will also come back at odd moments.
  • Sometimes (but only sometimes) relationships which go through fire do, indeed, become steel. 

Last updated: about 3 years ago