I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a dear friend and ask her about a very painful subject - her husband's affair.
Her story is probably a lot like yours. She'd been married for several years, they had a young child, she was busy juggling work and home life. She thought everything was fine. One day, she was cleaning and found a camera she didn't recognize tucked away in a back drawer. Curious, she turned it on and started scrolling through the pictures. Those images showed something she never wanted to see: pictures of her husband with another woman. They were recent and he was clearly having an affair.
In that moment, her heart dropped and her world turned upside down.
It's been many years now and I just recently felt I could ask her to revisit that painful memory. I explained that I wanted to write something for you, something to help you get through the first 24 hours after an affair had been discovered. She graciously agreed to help.
I asked her to specifically recall the moment she saw the pictures and knew her husband was cheating. How did she feel? What did she do? What advice would she give someone else in that spot?
Here's what she had to say...
1. Sit down and get out a box of Kleenex, you're going to need it. This will be one of the hardest days of your life, but you'll get through it. You're stronger than you know.
2. Call your best friend and tell them what you've discovered. You're going to need some support from someone who loves you and can be honest with you. This is a time when you will struggle to think clearly. You want someone in your corner who can help you make good decisions.
3. Don't get in the car and drive anywhere. You're going to be too upset. If you really need to get out of the house, call a friend of use a service like Uber for a ride.
4. Don't start drinking, don't start destroying anything. Neither is going to help.
5. Don't start posting on social media, don't tell your kids, don't tell your family. You can't undo these steps and they'll make the situation much worse. Just tell your best friend, someone you love and trust completely and who will support you.
6. Don't confront your spouse right away. Let yourself cool down. You might benefit from staying at a friend's house for a couple of days while you think about what you want to do.
7. If you're staying at home, it might feel good to move your spouse's clothes to another room or pack them up in a suitcase. Realize that doing this will tip your spouse off that you know something, but if it seems right to you to do it, do it. If you're just moving your spouse's clothes to the other bedroom, you could always tell a white lie and say that you're re-organizing the closet. Your spouse will probably know something is up, so just be prepared if you decide to do this.
Now, here's where her advice gets a little controversial....
My friend is a very savvy businesswoman and she likes to do research and gather information before she makes any type of decision. For her, it was important to learn as much as she could about her husband's affair, especially the financial details.
At this point, she wasn't sure if she'd be staying with her husband and you might not know either. Sometimes it helps to gather as much information as you can before deciding on your next step.
Following all the steps below will give you a lot of information that you may not currently have. This information might make it easier for you to make a decision, but I suspect that doing these things will be very upsetting to you. You don't have to do any of this, so if something doesn't feel right to you, don't do it. Before you proceed, please do a Google search (or check with a lawyer) to make sure these steps are legal in your state.
8. Run your credit report on a free service, like CreditKarma.com. You need to know what's going on and by studying your account balances, you can learn a lot. You might discover that accounts were opened in your name that you knew nothing about. Getting your financial information now will help you decide how to proceed.
9. Log in to your bank accounts and credit cards online. Review all the recent spending activity. Print anything that you might want to have for later. Change the passwords to these accounts so you can be the only one with access for a couple of days. Your spouse might try to go in and delete information.
10. Transfer money from your joint account to your own separate account. If you do confront your spouse and things get messy, you'll need to have access to your own money.
11. Print out anything and everything you want to have as proof for later. Realize that once you confront your spouse, he/she may start deleting things online. (Need help talking to your spouse about what you know? Click here to get our affair conversation guide.)
12. Talk to an attorney to get some advice if you have a complicated situation. It's better to know what your options are before you confront your spouse.
Here's what she said she really wished someone could have told her in that moment....
"It's going to be ok. Realize that although this hurts, it happens to a lot of people. Many people experience this and they find a way to get though it. You will too. You'll get through it, your kids will get through it, things will get back to normal eventually."
She's right. You will survive this. I know it seems impossible, but you can do it and I'm here to help you every step of the way.
The most important thing to do right now is to take care of yourself. Here's an article all about how to care for yourself when you've just discovered an affair.
I hope it helps you and that you'll be feeling better soon. Big, big hugs to you!
PS. I'd like to thank the very special friend who allowed me to talk to her about this painful topic. You're an amazing person and I just adore you, thanks so much for your bravery and valuable insights.