If you just found out your spouse cheated, your world may be shattered. They broke your trust. They disrespected you. They devalued your relationship. Your spouse can’t take back their actions, and you may be wondering if your marriage can ever heal.
Deciding how to move forward after an affair is deeply personal. You may have a hard line that cheating is never acceptable. You may believe in the lifetime commitment of your marriage vows. Or you may be somewhere in between. If you’re conflicted on how to proceed, weigh your options carefully to determine what is best for your future happiness and wellbeing.
Can you trust your spouse?
If your marriage is going to succeed, you need to be able to trust your spouse. Do the circumstances of the cheating allow you to trust them going forward? For example, a drunken one-night stand is not great, but it is not as bad as a months or years long affair. If your spouse is a serial cheater and has had multiple extra-marital relationships, they are pretty much guaranteed to do it again. How you found out is also relevant. If your spouse came clean, that shows understanding that their behavior was wrong and a desire to be honest with you. If you found out accidentally or someone else told you, you have to ask if your spouse would ever have told you the truth. If given what you know you would not feel secure in your relationship going forward, it may be time to call a divorce attorney.
What are your options moving forward?
You have three options for how to move forward: (1) working to improve your relationship, (2) getting divorced, or (3) doing nothing. The last option is a terrible choice. Whether or not your spouse cheats again, sweeping it under the rug is not going to solve any of the problems that lead to the cheating.
If you are able to forgive your spouse and trust them again, then working on your marriage is a viable option. This is best done with a couples counselor who can give you some skills for how to build a healthy relationship. Trying to work things out yourselves without professional help is like trying to put out a fire with a garden hose. This isn’t a fight over whose turn it was to do laundry—cheating is a big deal, and it needs a correspondingly big solution. If your spouse is unwilling to attend couples counseling, that is a huge red flag. You can’t heal your relationship if they are not willing to make an emotional investment.
If you can’t forgive your spouse or find a healthy way to move forward, then divorce is the best option for you. Divorce can be scary—you’re taking life as you’ve known if for many years and turning it upside down. But divorce gives you an opportunity to create a new and better life. Leaving someone who doesn’t respect or love you is empowering. Leaving an unhappy relationship allows you to build a happier future. Cheating is often a sign of bigger problems in a relationship—it may just be the wake up call you need to go through with divorce.
Should you try to make your marriage work?
If you feel you can rebuild the trust in your marriage and have a healthy relationship, it’s worth a shot. But don’t stay together just because you’re scared to get divorced. This will only delay the inevitable. If you’re going to get divorced eventually anyway, it is better to do it sooner rather than later. Divorce means rebuilding your life independently—emotionally, financially, and logistically. The longer you’ve been married, the harder it is to do. Ask yourself, if you try to stay together but end up divorcing in a year, how will you feel? What about five years? Ten? If you see the writing on the wall, it’s better to get divorced now and start disentangling your lives.
If you do stay married, you and your spouse should sign a postnuptial agreement. A postnup is just like a prenup, except you agree to it after you’re married. A postnup can give you security around certain issues that would be addressed in a divorce. You are taking a risk by staying with your cheating spouse—a prenup offers you protection in the event it doesn’t work out. If your spouse won’t sign, this is another red flag. If they don’t intend to cheat again, then protecting you in a potential future divorce should not be a problem.
Whether you decide to get divorced or give your marriage another try, you deserve to be loved and respected. If your spouse can’t give that to you, it’s time to go. If you need help with your divorce or postnuptial agreement, Porchlight is here for you. Call 678-435-9069 to schedule a Legal Clarity Session and see how you can move forward.