You have three options: (1) leave now; (2) give it some time; (3) stay no matter what

You have three options: (1) leave now; (2) give it some time; (3) stay no matter what

Your spouse needs to work alone on his/her own changes, so you need to move deliberately away from your relationship, whether that means separation or divorce

  • Is there an obvious shift toward honesty, or are there still cover-ups and lies?
  • Does their confession include information you did not know, or only admitting to what you found out?
  • Does your spouse show genuine remorse for the behavior, or just sorry for getting caught?
  • Does your spouse accept full responsibility, or make excuses?
  • When confronted with your pain, does your spouse respond with empathy, or defensiveness?
  • Is your spouse willing to do the work of repairing trust, or are you expected to just get over it?
  • Does your spouse have insight into their affair behavior, or do they just call it a big mistake?

I want to be clear about one thing: if you have been betrayed by your spouse, you have every right to exit your marriage. When trust has been so profoundly broken. when vows have been so deeply violated. nobody should tell you that you are obligated to give your spouse another chance, even if it is your spouse’s first and only affair.

And let’s be honest; there are advantages to leaving right away. You save yourself from a process of recovery that will be harder than you want, take longer than you expect, and has a rather high rate of failure. It is possible that even after months of agonizing attempts, swinging back and forth between hope and despair, your marriage will end. So why drag things out? Why not just go ahead and get it over with?

Because there may be hope for healing and the discovery of a marriage that is even more satisfying than the one you experience before. Because you’ve already invested so much of yourself, and fixing what is broken may ultimately be better than letting it go. And because, generally, it is better to avoid making permanent decisions during the initial stages of a deeply emotional experience. Your first reaction is often not the one you would make after your feelings stabilize. If you’ve invested years in your marriage, would it be worth waiting a few months before setting your course of action?

Some spouses, like the one mentioned at the beginning of this article, feel self-imposed pressure to leave immediately simply because it is what they always claimed they would do. To consider anything else seems like cowardly compromise. But the choice to give your marriage more time, if made for the right reasons, is often an act of strength, not weakness.

Under what conditions would I recommend leaving immediately? If your spouse has had previous affairs followed by apologies and repeated promises of “I’ll never do this again,” then you probably need to go because staying will simply encourage the repetition of this cycle. Don’t try to save your marriage; don’t try to fix things. It’s not your responsibility anymore.

Why risk even more hurt?

Cindy (not her real name) anguished over her choice to stay with her husband who had recently been caught having an affair with a coworker. Her usual self-confidence seemed to abandon her, leaving her in tears as she wrestled with the fear that she had become the kind of pathetic, weak woman she use to criticize. In the twenty-plus years of their marriage, she had frequently warned her husband that if he ever cheated on her, their marriage would be over. No second chances. But when it actually happened, she did not follow through on her repeated threats.

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