One or both spouses admit to infidelity, either a physical or an emotional affair in some 41 percent of marriages and when the affair is admitted or discovered, most marriages end. Some 31 percent of marriages do continue.* Whether or not the marriage continues, being cheated on is devastating and it takes hard work to heal.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to Gregory Smith who is the founder of MidLifeBachelor.com and the author of several books on infidelity including How To Successfully Recover From Having Been Cheated On.
Gregory, also known as the “infidelity guru” believes in getting to the bottom of your suspicions so you can move on to bigger and better things, either in your current relationship if you’ve discovered there’s nothing to worry about, or in a new one. He has seen the terrible damage that affairs or cheating can do to relationships so his goal is to help people figure out if they have been cheated on and then how to successfully deal with it.
In his book, Gregory’s first recommendation is to be sure that your spouse has definitely cheated on you and in addition to giving suggestions for establishing this beyond doubt, Gregory also identifies the different types of affairs, such as a one-night-stand or an emotional affair. The next step involves understanding why the infidelity happened and this means not only trying to understand why your spouse may have made the choices they did but also how your own behavior may have contributed to the situation. The latter is probably the more difficult to do but skipping this will likely hinder any hope of reconciliation. Even if reconciliation is not an option, skipping this step will damage future relationships. Gregory shares his ten universal truths about infidelity and then walks you through the ten steps you have to take immediately.
Quite a number of my interviewees have experienced infidelity. Sometimes an emotional affair comes as a eye-opener to how troubled the marriage is. Sometimes, the spouse’s affair is a complete shocker. Certainly one of the most hurtful situations is when the third party is a friend. So I asked Gregory for his input:
Mandy: I’ve interviewed a number of people whose marriages ended following their spouse’s affair with a friend. Does knowing the person your spouse cheated with make it harder to heal?
Gregory: Knowing (or especially being friends with) the person your spouse cheated on you with definitely makes it more difficult to heal … and that’s because everything will seem so much more personal versus the affair happening with a complete stranger. You feel betrayed first and foremost by your spouse … and then you also feel betrayed by your friend. It’s like a double sucker punch – two hits when you were expecting none. Dual betrayals of this nature can often inspire feelings of worthlessness on the part of the one betrayed. The best thing a victim can do in this case is to stay focused on the fact that these other two individuals are the ones who did something wrong … and that no one can control the actions or feelings of another … which means there is nothing the victim can do except focus on getting through the grieving process, and moving on with their life.
Chapters 3 and 4 of my book, “How to Successfully Recover from Having Been Cheated On” absolutely apply in this case. Chapter 3 focuses on what to accept and recognize in order to move forward. Chapter 4 provides a concrete list of actions for the victim of infidelity to take. When one is hurt so badly from an emotional standpoint, it helps to have a roadmap of what to do next to get through it all in black-and-white right in front you. Everything I’ve written about has taken years to formulate into a set of best practices. It is always best to leverage what works best from what others have gone through and done in the past.
Mandy: What about when your ex ends up marrying the person with whom they cheated and you have to co-parent with them? Aren’t you pretty much forced to have a relationship with your child’s new step-parent? What would you recommend for developing that relationship?
Gregory: Co-parenting with a former friend who your spouse cheated on you with would be particularly brutal to deal with. The best thing anyone could do is to focus on keeping an absence of drama, while also paying close attention to what is best for the children involved. It would be very difficult to be objective in a case like this – but you would have to do it. If either of the other parties proves to be a dramatic or difficult person – that would make the situation more intense and challenging. If any of this happened to me, I would constantly be preaching that everyone please stay focused on being nice.
Mandy: How much should you share or hide from your kids especially when your spouse does end up marrying the person with whom they cheated? Any advice on what reactions you can expect from your child and how to handle them?
Gregory: In my opinion, everything depends on the ages of the children involved. I think if pre-teens or younger children are involved, then the details of what happened are probably not within their ability to understand fully … and so my recommendation would be to treat the situation as something transactional … which means explain to them that mommy and daddy are splitting up, and now he (or she) is with this other person now. Clearly it would be hard to keep a straight face during this discussion.
If teens or older are involved, then they would be capable of mentally processing the situation – but my advice would be to explain it (and reinforce it) in a way that is most likely to prevent the teens from
taking sides, or from severely reacting.
Children of any age should NEVER be used as pawns – and yet some people will do exactly that. If the ex-spouse is using the children in this manner, all you can do is remain steadfast in the neutral way you are handling everything … and explain to the children why neutrality is best for everyone.
*Statistic Brain. Source: Associated Press, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy