I just caught my spouse cheating. What do I do?

By: Jan Rakoff

There are simply too many variables to consider to prescribe a “one size fits all” response to such a devastating turn of events. But I can offer some thoughts which may help you in the moment.

What is most important right now is to get support, to talk out your feelings, and to find a confidante who can offer a listening ear yet not tell you what to do next. (Only you can decide the ultimate direction to take.) If your spouse is remorseful and wants to make amends and work on the relationship with you then you may need time to weigh your own feelings about this and then consider couples counseling.

You’re likely to be experiencing a wild swirl of emotions. Do you have a trusted friend you can turn to for immediate support? Talking to a trusted friend can serve to help you get your feet on the ground, avoid rash actions that cannot be undone, and make a reasonable plan for your next step.

If you don’t have a friend to turn to, it may be important to consider resisting the urge to turn to a family member. While it may not seem possible right now, many couples do reconcile after an affair. If you share your betrayal with your family (what we sometimes call “poisoning the well”) then it may be difficult or impossible for your family’s hard feelings toward your mate to soften later on — even if you yourself have decided to forgive.  This is why it is so important to consider seeing a therapist who can be more objective and provide a safe environment to discuss your feelings.

As a therapist working with dozens of couples over a 30 year period “after the affair,”  I can offer assistance in repairing the damage that this breach of trust can cause.  Understanding the multiple causes of the affair and helping each of you “listen” to your partner’s feelings is the first step in rebuilding the relationship.  It is often necessary to restructure the relationship so that when future disconnects occur (as they often due in marriage) each of you will have healthier options than stepping outside of the marriage.


By getting help early on you may be able to prevent further emotional devastation and preserve options for the future. Having someone in your corner can help strengthen you and your partner so that you can keep doing what you must do to carry on in life, including functioning on the job, parenting, and self-care. Once your situation stabilizes then you can consider what to do about your relationship for the long haul.

Let me know if I can help. I’d like to serve as a supportive lifeline for you both as you work to create the clarity needed in your life to overcome this very challenging circumstance.


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