How to deal with divorce when your husband had affairs

Divorce husband cheated

We're negotiating our divorce settlement and I believe I should be compensated for losing the family I wanted. My husband cheated, decided to leave, and I now miss my kids half the time and don't have a real family.

I am so pissed I have to pay alimony! He was unfaithful — how is that fair!?

He moved in with his girlfriend — the one he had the affair with. I will never be nice to her and do not want my kids exposed to her. She is a horrible person!

I make sure I don't get a raise so he will have to keep paying alimony. That way, he doesn't get off the hook — my husband cheated, went on to make way more money than I do. He needs to be punished.

For the record, my ex-husband didn't cheat on me. He did announce to all his guy friends (some of whom told me) that the minute he moved out he had a number of hotties he planned to ask out, which, in the depths of my pregnant self, hurt like a mother. 

Ask any divorce lawyer, and they will tell you: When there is infidelity, settlements are all but impossible, rationale goes out the window, and contention runs higher than in other matrimonial dissolutions.

“That betrayal colors every single part of the divorce process, and makes it so much harder for the cheated-on spouse to be reasonable,” said my New York City family attorney Morghan Richardson.

It is understandable why cheated-on spouses go so bananas with rage. You had a deal. You would sleep with and only love each other. You and your family came first, no matter what. That is the deal in marriage today, and you signed up and stuck it out, and he didn't. That isn't fair and it sucks so freaking bad.

Also: Trust. You trusted him. You trusted you were his only lover. You trusted him when he said he was working late, or having a beer with his friends or at work during working hours and not running around in the back of his car or at her house where her kids played in the next room.

This was not the man you knew and love (yes, currently. You probably still love him, at least a little. Or a lot). If he had a secret life, untoward agenda about his romantic life, can you trust him to be the father you thought he was? What else is he lying about? Money? Accounts?

If this is you, if your now- or soon-to-be-ex cheated on you, here is what you do:

Feel the hurt of the affair after divorce

Get all up and messy with that pain. Yes, you were betrayed, lied to and manipulated. Perhaps you took seriously your wedding vows, or simply trusted him. That is serious and you must acknowledge it, work it through with your therapist and understand why it happened and how it affected you. The wedding ring in divorce needs to go, it will make you feel better to be rid of it.

Consider a support group, counseling, including online therapy, which can be much more affordable, and convenient than traditional, in-person counseling (you can do text, phone, video or email therapy from anywhere, any place — no need to hire a sitter or spend time commuting!)

BetterHelp is a leading online therapy site, with an A Better Business Bureau rating, and thousands of therapists to choose from. Check out BetterHelp now >>

Understand divorce law when it comes to cheating husbands 

When it comes to moving through and past divorce or other serious breakup involving kids or assets? It matters to a judge or the divorce negotiations zero. ZERO!

No-fault divorce is standard in ever state, judges could care less. They've heard it all before, and it matters none how many people he fucked, whether thee mistress was your best friend, neighbor, sister or cousin. Don't care! Doesn't affect how much money each party gets, and infidelity does not affect his ability to parent. You don't get alimony because your feelings are hurt.

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Those judges are right, and they are correct. If you understand what the law says about divorce, it will help guide your negotiations. Whether you mediate or each retain attorneys, the goal is usually to avoid trial, and therefore apply to any discussions what a judge would typically rule.

Hopefully, you have a great lawyer who will guide you through a slit that is as low-conflict as possible. Listen to her. And she will tell you: No one in the legal world cares a bit that he cheated. Remember that!

In other words: There are no reparations in divorce

No financial compensation for your broken heart, and no parental upper hand because you loved him more than he loved you. Sure, you can blackmail a bigger financial settlement in exchange for not telling his super-religious mom about the prostitutes, but she probably already knows. And if not, who cares? He's not your husband any more, he can't give you an STD any longer, can't spend your money any longer, and it is over. Plus, no one likes a tattle tale. All you can do is move on. The closest you will get is to sell your diamond ring he gave you and feel good about it. Instead, focus on what you can control, and ask for the right things in divorce.

Put your husband's cheating into perspective  

Look, people cheat every single day, and have since the dawn of humanity. It hurts, yes it does, and those feelings are real and valid. But ever-after, fantasy love and lifelong marriage based on romantic feelings? Never proven sustainable, and face it: You know it.

You know that is a fact now as you read this, and you knew it when you got married, and before that, too. You know half of marriages don't last. And you know plenty of married people who have affairs. I'm not passing judgement on this fact one way or the other. But it is a fact, and if you thought you were immune from it, well… now you know you were naive and wrong. I'm sorry for your pain, but that has nothing to do with what happens next.

Shit happens. Shit happens in business, in the economy. The natural world is full of shit happening, the government is a mess and your friends will inevitably let you down. Do you wallow in it? Or do you own your feelings, sort out your part of the mess, and push forward into a brighter future?

Take responsibility for the dissolution of the marriage and forgive yourself

This is where it gets really hard. But this step is necessary:

Take responsibility for the end of the marriage.

This does NOT mean that you are responsible for his actions, or that his affair is because you gained weight, or that it is women's responsibility to keep the family together.

No. He is an adult responsible for his actions and his relationships. So are you. It takes two people to make a marriage thrive, and it takes two to end it.

You may not get there right away. It will likely take a long time, a lot of therapy, tears and inner work to get to this spot.

But don't rob yourself of this opportunity to learn about yourself, grow, and pave the way for a better relationship in the future—whatever that looks like for you.

Vow right now to take your share of the responsibility for the end of your relationship—and to forgive yourself.

Make it your goal to forgive the infidelity, heal and thrive.  

This is the part where you get to blame him. For a minute.

Ask any divorce lawyer. Family court judge, therapist or best friend of a divorced person: The people who thrive after a split are those who get on with it already. No matter the circumstances, they forgive, focus on what they can control (not him, for cryingoutloud! YOURSELF. Your life, feelings, actions. YOU!).

Moms who thrive after divorce don't drag the ex to court every other week, or get into text pissing matches, blaming the other party for “ruining our family.” They accept their kids' new step parents and ex's romantic partners, because, what is the other choice? To badmouth the person to your kids for eternity? Spew vitriol across the aisle at your kids' wedding, or confirmation or bat mitzvah? Wallow in the pain and contrived victimhood of your divorce? Not a good look.

It may take time to actually, authentically feel better and whole and strong again. Until then, fake it till you make it. Be civil and focus on getting through the horrors of the divorce process.

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I've been through a divorce, and let me give you the best piece of advice I can: GET OUT OF THAT PLACE ASAP! Clench your jaw and get to the other side as graciously and maturely as possible. Help your kids acclimate to their new living arrangement. Be at the very least civil and non-violent to his new (or maybe not-so-new?) girlfriend. Bite the shit out of that tongue. Just bite it and smile.

This is want that for you: A happy, STD-free future, full of forgiveness and peace. You got this. But it is on you.

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Did your ex cheat? How did that affect your divorce? How did you get over it? Share in the comments! 

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, noted blogger, and bestselling author. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.  Find out Emma's top Single Mom Resources here.

65 Comments

  1. kesha on September 17, 2019 at 6:15 pm

    last week my husband has presented me with divorce papers, It was the greatest shock of my life. I almost lost my life to alcohol… I lost my job, I got sick and was admitted into the hospital emergency ward, Two days later when I opened my eyes I saw my mom and my husband beside me holding my hands, I was shocked again and confused to see my husband.
    Then he knelt down and apologized that my best-friend told a lie that I was cheating on him, He was advised to divorce me so they can get married. I didn’t understand, until I was discharged.

  2. kesha on September 16, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    last week my husband has presented me with divorce papers, It was the greatest shock of my life. I almost lost my life to alcohol… I lost my job, I got sick and was admitted into the hospital emergency ward, Two days later when I opened my eyes I saw my mom and my husband beside me holding my hands.

  3. alyssa on June 5, 2019 at 3:46 am

    My parents are getting a divorce due to my dad cheating on my mom and i had no idea how to feel. This article made me feel a tiny bit more okay about what’s happening.

    • Mellisa on August 4, 2019 at 2:31 am

      I hope you support your non cheater mother as she understands the damage done especially betraying a family and herself. Her pain will never be truly understood. Through her pain and grief it will help you understand your own feelings.

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