5 Things to Do When You Realize You’re Officially Having an Affair
You’re not exactly sure how things got so carried away, but you know for sure that you can no longer write the situation off as a one-time drunken fling, or something that happened a couple of times, but will never happen again.
In fact, you are completely besotted with your new paramour. Obsessed, even.
And you have no idea what to do about it.
It starts with cheating on your spouse
Because, well, let’s call it like it is: you are cheating on your spouse. You are most definitely not in an open marriage. Your honey pie waiting for you at home would be crushed if they found out what you were up to. They love you and, as far as you know, they think everything in your marriage is pretty good.
And then, of course, there are your kids. You’re pretty sure your teenager has some deep intuitive hit that there is a disturbance in the force. The younger ones probably haven’t caught a whiff of the excitement and danger that wafts through the air when you come home late — again — smelling of booze or lust or the ineffable, charged energy of danger and delight. But whatever they know or don’t know about what you’re actually up to, the thought of living a life in which you don’t wake up with them every single morning runs counter to everything you’ve always believed to be Right and Good.
Who is my affair partner?
Moreover, you’re not really sure how you’ll feel about your new person in another month or two or three… and you’re not sure how you feel about your spouse at the moment, either. Do you still love them? Maybe. Do you want to stay married to them? You don’t know. The affair is exhilarating and overwhelming and confusing and it’s hard for you to figure out which way is up amidst all of the intense feelings and new situations, and you don’t have anyone to talk to for a reality check. You’re pretty sure your friends would be freaked out if you told them what’s going on. They all know and love your spouse. You like your therapist well enough, but you’re not all that confident that even they would understand. You’re in a bit of a pickle.
You do know you need to get some clarity on your situation, and quickly. You know you can’t keep carrying on the way you currently are forever — you’re already uncomfortable with the deception and the uncertainty, and you know there’s a real chance your spouse might threaten a very nasty, and possibly very expensive divorce if you don’t handle the situation well.
All of that is incredibly stressful. But the good things about your current situation are so, so, so good.
If you’re in a situation that sounds something like this and you’re in need of some assistance, here’s what I suggest you do right this minute (I’m a life coach specializing in helping people sort through complicated situations that have to do with sex, love, relationships, and family — or some combination thereof).
1. Take a deep breath
Right now. Maybe even two or three. Even if your life is pretty darn complicated these days, in this very minute, you are probably more or less okay. You’re reading these words. You’re safe. Take that in for a moment: you’re okay right now.
2. Think about all of the good aspects of your current situation
See if you can set aside all of the negative or conflicted feelings about your affair for a few minutes, and just focus on what’s awesome about it. Maybe you feel more alive than you have in a long time. Maybe you feel really, really good for the first time in ages. Maybe you’re having great sex for the first time in a long time — or maybe the first time ever. Maybe you feel seen and heard and understood and appreciated in a way you never have before.
3. Give yourself permission
Just for another moment, give yourself permission to connect to the feelings of joy or delight or excitement or amazement or _____ (fill in the blank: what’s the best feeling associated with your affair?) without hesitation or reservation.
Affirm to yourself that you are allowed to experience these kinds of feelings. Even if you also, simultaneously, have a complicated situation on your hands that you might not feel good about at all. Allow for the possibility that both of these things can be true at the same time: joy and difficulty. Bliss and confusion. Elation and discomfort.
4. Ask yourself what’s bad
Now, ask yourself what specifically about your situation is bad. Don’t just go with “It’s wrong to cheat on my spouse.” Many of us have absorbed this kind of message as a general truth, I understand — but get more specific. Do you feel guilty about the deception associated with your affair? The infidelity — whether emotional or sexual or financial or otherwise? Are you scared about what might happen as a result of the affair? Apprehensive about having to contend with your spouse’s wrath, should they find out? Concerned what your new person will do if you don’t decide to leave your current spouse and whisk them off to Bora Bora? Dreading the possibility of an ugly divorce?
Get as clear as you can about what you think is bad about your situation.
Getting really specific makes the situation more manageable.
5. How can you make your situation a little better
Ask yourself what small step you can take right now, or today, to make your situation a little better. This step does not have to resolve your entire situation, and in fact, I recommend that you be as un-ambitious as possible with this action item. For instance, you might decide to give yourself permission to keep on doing what you’re doing for a little while longer. You might decide that you’re going to relieve yourself of the stress of trying to figure out exactly what you want for another day or two, or another week or month.
Or perhaps during the course of thinking about the questions I raised, you’ve realized that you have something you definitely want to say to your spouse or to the other person you’re involved with. If that’s the case, you don’t have to have the whole conversation today. You might start with figuring out what you want to say — and it might take another day or two or more to finalize those ideas.
You can take it one tiny little piece at a time.
The good news is, there’s no one-size-fits-all prescription for handling an affair and all of its associated implications on your life. That’s also the bad news. You don’t have to let anybody shame you or blame you into courses of action that aren’t right for you… and you also have to find the inner peace and fortitude to figure out what’s really right for you.
One last thing. Affairs tend to be blame-y, shame-y, guilt-y situations. If that’s the case for you, listen up: you are not bad. Even if you’re engaging in behaviors you aren’t completely proud of, and even if people are very upset with you. You are not bad. You may have a complicated situation on your hands, you may need to take responsibility for your actions, and there may be some uncomfortable moments ahead. But ultimately, these are just opportunities for learning and growth. You’re okay, and you’ll make it through this.
Check out my podcast — “Your Secret is Safe with Me” dedicated to expanding the conversation around infidelity from a constructive, non-judgmental perspective.