What to do if you discover an affair


With the big Ashley Madison leak last week, many people are discovering that their spouses have had- or had been thinking about- having an affair. This discovery is obviously devastating and can turn lives and families upside down.

For some, there is a lot riding on what happens over the next few days. They may have kids and own a house together. Leaving may be tempting but definitely not easy in these cases.

When someone tells me are dealing with the discovery or disclosure of an affair I always recommend getting into therapy asap. I also let them know that whether to stay or go is their decision and no one else can make it, but that taking some time before making their decision is ok. They are not “weak” for not breaking it off right away. It is never their fault – we are not responsible for another adult’s actions. But in most relationships, there are often many factors that play into an affair, and it does not have to mean the end of a relationship.

Of course, women and men should never be subjected to violence and abuse and in these cases it is safer for the women and men to do work on their own. VictimLink can direct you to appropriate services.

Many couples who have gone through an affair are able to process the hurt, grieve the losses and eventually come through it with more understanding about the other person and about what aspects of the relationship were present that made an affair become a possibility.

The hardest part in recovering from an affair is for the injured party to be able to trust their partner again. And that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes weeks, months and years of consistent behaviour on the part of the person who did the hurting. The injured party will need to know where his or her partner is all the time. And anytime the partner is unreachable or late, the injury will get inflamed again. The injured party may need to be in control of the finances and the computers to monitor what is happening, especially in the beginning. But, eventually, with some steps forward and back, the couple will feel like they are on solid ground and may decide to start trusting again.

The process is definitely more manageable if the couple is assisted by a trained couples counsellor. Look for someone who is trained in emotionally-focussed couples therapy, as that type of therapy has high success rates with couples who have experienced emotional injuries such as affairs. Get in some double counselling sessions as soon as possible after the affair is disclosed or discovered to help you make a plan to get through the next 7 days.

It’s a tough road but obviously worth it in many cases.