It’s every spouse’s worst nightmare: You find evidence that your husband is cheating on you. People cheat for a lot of reasons; a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences even found that men are more likely to cheat as they approach a milestone birthday.
But even if you’re dying to know why your spouse has strayed, you first need to figure out what to do next. Some people choose to stay and try and repair the relationship. Others decide to leave as soon as they can pack a suitcase. Here’s how to figure out what to do after you find out your husband is having an affair.
Consult a Lawyer
Your first instinct is likely going to be confronting your husband about his infidelity. But before you do that, talk to a lawyer first. That way, you’ll have a better idea of what you want to happen next. This is especially critical if there’s a large financial disparity between you and your partner.
A high net worth divorce lawyer can tell you what kind of alimony you might have to pay to your spouse. It may sound unfair that you have to pay support to a person who cheats on you, but a lawyer can tell you how likely that is to happen in your state. If you have kids, you should also prepare yourself to either make or receive child support payments. Alimony isn’t always ordered, but the custodial parent receiving child support is a near certainty.
Remember that this money is for the child, not for the parent. It’s not your job to say no to it because you think asking for child support will make your husband angry. Your husband owes that to your kids, not to you. It’s more common for men to pay child support than women, but if your husband gets primary custody, be prepared to write a check each month.
Talking to a divorce lawyer can give you an idea of how the process might unfold. It will keep you from making a mistake that could come back and haunt you later. For instance, some spouses leave the marital home because they can’t take the stress anymore. That can make it harder to get your fair share of the house’s value down the road.
Confront Your Spouse
You’ve had a free initial consultation with a lawyer. Maybe you’ve even talked to a couple of different ones and decided that you’re going to move forward with a divorce. Now it’s time to tell your spouse two things. First, you have to tell them you know they cheated. Then you have to ask for a divorce.
Focus on saying what you want to say, and don’t expect a lot of answers from your husband. You can ask if he’d like to share anything or offer an explanation, but don’t count on it. He may deny cheating. If he admits it, he may blame you for it. It’s unlikely he’ll immediately apologize and beg you for forgiveness.
Also, be wary of asking for a lot of details about the affair. Asking “Who is she?” may lead your husband to admit that he cheated with a friend or neighbor. A University of Colorado study found that more than half of people who stray cheat with someone they know well. About 30 percent of affairs happen with someone who is “somewhat well-known.”
If you don’t know your husband’s affair partner, you’ll be tempted to reach out to them for information. There are more options than ever for locating a person, but before you do that, think about what you’re hoping to get out of this. It might be OK to try once to talk to the person your husband cheated with, but don’t start following them around. Yes, they did something wrong, but they weren’t the person who made a vow to be faithful to you. Your husband cheated on his own free will.