If your spouse just found out about your affair, there are a few things you should do right away...
1. Offer to talk, but don't push.
Your spouse may or may not want to talk. Don't push, allow them to do what feels right to them. If they want to yell and scream, that is ok.
Take breaks as needed. Do things to calm yourself down when you're taking a break. Reassure yourself that this is a very upsetting, but temporary, situation. It will get better.
2. Be very soft, gentle and apologetic.
As you talk with your spouse, focus on listening and let your spouse vent their frustration, anger, and hurt. Where you can, be soft, apologetic, genuine, and empathetic. Say things like, "I can only imagine how hurt you are," or "It makes sense that you'd feel that way."
Your spouse is craving empathy and support.... give that to them. Now is not the time to explain why you did what you did or what it meant to you. It's all about your spouse at first.
3. Take frequent breaks, but don't leave.
If things are getting very heated, ask for a break, but don't leave the house. Leaving sends the message that when the going gets tough, you get going.
Your spouse needs to know that's not what you will do, they need to know you're going to stay with them, even when it's hard. The only exception is if there is any physical violence.
Rarely, someone will become so upset that they become violent. If this happens, tell your spouse that you want to stay and help them feel better, but you have to leave. Remove yourself from the violent situation; say that you will be going out for a while and will be back in a couple of hours. If necessary, take any children or pets with you.
It is not common for someone to become violent, but just in case, I want to make sure you know what to do.
During The Next Few Days....
4. Become as transparent as possible.
Once the initial shock has passed, you can start to offer more information to your spouse. I'd like you to become an open book, where you become as transparent as you possibly can.
Share your email, your passwords, your Facebook account, twitter, linked in, your phone, anything and everything you use to communicate.
This may seem like an invasion of privacy, and candidly... it is.
If you acted in a way that broke the trust in the relationship, you must take some drastic steps to show that there are no more secrets and that you're willing to do whatever it takes to be trusted again.
(Need help healing from an affair or other trust injury? Start here.)
5. Prove you’re being honest.
Please understand that having an affair is like dropping a nuclear bomb on a relationship. Once an affair is revealed, the trust in your relationship has been blown up completely.
There are some specific things you can do to start rebuilding trust.
One of the ways is to allow yourself to be trackable. You can put a GPS tracker on your car to show you are where you say you are. You can put a tracking app on your phone.
Another way to build trust is to use Skype or FaceTime to show your spouse where you are and what you’re doing.
I’d like you to volunteer to do things that show you’re being honest. Really knock yourself out to show that you are where you say you are and that you’re doing what you say you’re doing.
Yes, it’s a lot of work and maybe annoying to do all of this, but it will drastically reduce the amount of time it takes your spouse to heal from the affair.
6. Encourage questions.
Encourage your spouse to sit down and write out as many questions as they have for you. Some people want to know every detail of the affair, some want less detail. Please let your spouse ask you every question they have.
Answer those questions as completely and honestly as you can. Yes, it will be painful. Yes, your spouse will be incredibly upset. Yes, it's going to suck. But... it's the right thing to do.
Holding anything back will create major problems in the future. You may think you're protecting your spouse by sparing a painful detail, but what usually happens is that the truth comes out later. Your spouse will assign tremendous value to these details, so please, don't skip or whitewash anything.
The only exception is that I’d like you to NOT share any sexual details of what happened. These details can further traumatize your spouse.
If you don't know what to say at any point, it's ok to say you don't know, but do try to offer a rough idea.
If the conversation is getting too hard or too much, ask for a break and agree on a time when you'll come back and continue. During the break, do something to calm yourself down - take a walk, listen to music, take a shower, meditate, anything that feels right to you.
Most spouses become very focused on WHY the affair happened and this can be one of the hardest questions to answer. To help you start thinking about this, please check out this blog post on why people have affairs. It will help you figure out some of what lead you down this road.