Suddenly being confronted with evidence that your spouse is cheating on you can be devastating, especially if you discovered the affair by accident and you didn't suspect it beforehand. You'll most likely feel betrayed and angry, and you may be tempted to do something drastic. Or you may feel frozen and at a loss for what to do. The fact of the matter is, the moves that you make at this point will be important later, so it's important to make sure that those are the right moves. Before you do something you may regret later, here are a few dos and don'ts that can help.
Don't Confront Your Spouse's Partner
While anger at the person your spouse was cheating with is a common and completely understandable emotion, confronting this person is rarely a good idea. What could they possibly tell you that would make things better for you? Venting your anger might make you feel better for a few minutes, but it won't really address the problem.
The person that you should be angry with is your spouse. Your spouse is the person that broke your wedding vows, and your spouse was the one that had an obligation to be honest with you. Your marriage is already in trouble because your spouse brought a third party into it. Bringing that third party further into it yourself won't solve anything.
Do Hang on to the Evidence
Unless you found out that your spouse was cheating because they verbally admitted it to you, chances are that your discovery is based on some tangible evidence of the affair. Whatever you found that clued you in about the existence of the affair, it's probably something that you should hold onto. Take a screenshot if it's a social media post, and if it's a text message, forward a copy to yourself. Save any physical evidence like receipts or letters.
You may need this evidence later if you decide to get a divorce. In some cases, an affair can impact the division of marital property during a divorce, especially if there's a prenuptial agreement in place. Be aware, too, that in a few states, like North Carolina, Utah, and Hawaii, you may be able to sue the other man or woman for alienation of affection. This is a legal term used when you bring an action against a third party for interfering in your marriage. If you live in an alienation of affection state and want to pursue such a case, you'll need whatever proof you can get.
Don't Make Hasty Decisions
It's prudent to watch what you say and preserve any evidence in case you want a divorce, but doing this doesn't mean that you have to get a divorce. That's not something that you can or should decide the moment that you discover that your spouse has been having an affair.
Take some time to explore all of your options before making any decisions on how to proceed. It's not a bad idea to arrange a consultation with a divorce lawyer, in case you decide to get a divorce. A lawyer can help you figure out where you stand legally and financially, and help you come up with an exit strategy before you file divorce papers. However, it may also be a good idea to arrange a consultation with a marriage counselor, to explore the possibility of saving your marriage. If you're not dealing well with the knowledge of the affair, you may want to seek individual counseling as well. There are many options open to you, and you should take the time to explore all of them before choosing one.
If you decide to go ahead with a divorce, a family law attorney with experience in divorce cases can help you. Don't go into a divorce settlement without ensuring that your legal rights are protected.