How to deal with divorce when your husband had affairs

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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 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 the office during business 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, consider:

  1. 9 signs of a cheating husband (or wife)
  2. How to confront a cheating husband or wife
  3. Should I divorce my cheating husband?
  4. Understand divorce law re: cheating husbands
  5. My husband cheated — what are my rights?
  6. How to forgive a cheating husband or wife

Struggling to make sense of how painful infidelity is? Consider online therapy platform. BetterHelp has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating, thousands of certified, licensed therapists with a master's or doctorate degree, for rates starting at $35/week for unlimited messaging and weekly live sessions. Financial assistance available. Use this link to get 10% off and get connected with a therapist immediately >>

9 signs of a cheating husband (or wife)

 Sonya Schwartz, founder of hernorm.com, a site that helps women understand men (and vice versa), said these are tell-tale signs of a cheating husband, wife, girlfriend or boyfriend:

  • Your partner has become more secretive.
  • Your partner has started to pick more fights with you.
  • Your partner lies to you about several things.
  • Your partner has a sudden change in his/her habits.
  • There’s no intimacy in your relationship.

Adds Dr. Beth Ribarsky, communications professor at University of Illinois Springfield, adds: “It’s important to remember that affairs aren’t just the typical physical infidelity that we think of. Emotional affairs involve turning to another partner and sharing thoughts, feelings, and emotional intimacy that would typically be reserved for a spouse/romantic partner. Some emotional affairs remain just that. And, some physical affairs are just sexual in nature. However, it is not unusual for affairs to be both emotional and physical.”

Other signs of an affair:

  • If they once frequently kissed you goodbye or said, ‘I love you,' but they no longer do, they are making themselves increasingly distant from you.
  • They begin spending more time away from home. And, if you ask where they were or where they are going, they are vague.
  • They become increasingly secretive, especially when it comes to technology. Yes, it’s great if they are planning a surprise for you (Yes, I have a friend who thought her boyfriend was cheating, but he was really planning a surprise party). However, if your partner continually hides their phone, takes calls in the other room, quickly shuts the computer when you enter the room or becomes defensive when you ask to borrow their phone, it should make you question what they might be hiding.
  • Are they suddenly putting significantly more emphasis into their appearance? Again, maybe they are just taking on a healthier lifestyle, but when combined with other signs, it can be a signal something is wrong.

How to confront a cheating husband or wife

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, a licensed clinical professional counselor and Certified Relationship Therapist, is co-founder of TheMarriageRestorationProject.com, a Baltimore, Md., based effort to restore marriages.

Slatkin said there are two parts of confronting the cheater: Addressing the (possible) infidelity and moving forward after.

Slatkin says:

“If you don't have any evidence, confronting your spouse may provoke a defensive response and no admission, so it may not yield any results. I don't recommend spying on your spouse, at the same time you have a right to know if they are cheating on you. Phone records or emails are an easy way to find out if there are any unusual communications going on.

If you do have evidence, make a time to sit down and talk with them and, as calm as possible, present them with the findings. Depending on whether you are interested in staying together after the affair, you will want to insist on finding a good therapist to help you through this.

You are no doubt confused, hurt, betrayed and angry. Realize that this
process of getting over the affair will take time. Try to remain as calm as possible.

It makes sense that you would want to lash out at your spouse and hurt them back and that is not going to be in your best interest in the long run. You will want to find a calm way to discuss what happened with your spouse eventually.”

Should I divorce my cheating husband?

Maybe yes, maybe no.

Was it a single fling, that is now over, in an otherwise monogamous, stable relationship? Then you may be able to forgive him, understand what was broken in your marriage, work together to fix it, and move on.

Are one or both of you craving an open, polyamorous relationship? Then it might be worked out.

Did the affair bring to light deeper chasms in the relationship? Are you willing to work on those shortcomings? The answer may be no, and that is OK. Then the marriage is over.

Did the affair happen a long time ago, and is clearly over? Then focus on forgiveness and mend your marriage.

Is he a perpetual, chronic cheater and liar? Is this not ok with you? You may have to end the marriage.

If your marriage did end, and infidelity was part of it, here is how to move forward, and let go of that particular brand of heartache, and deal with a cheating husband:

Understand divorce law re: 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.

[29 rules for co-parenting]

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!

My husband cheated — what are my rights?

In some cases, if you suspected your husband spent large sums of money on his mistress or affair partner, that may be factored into a financial settlement calculations.

Otherwise, there are no special rights allotted to forsaken women.

Instead trying to take revenge through the legal process, focus on the task at hand: Divorcing amicably, with a focus on low-conflict and stability for the kids.

In a best-case scenario, you could file for divorce yourselves, online. Here is our list of the best, cheapest and most thorough online divorce services.

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 anymore, 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 tattletale. 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.

Does a cheating spouse affect child custody?

Technically, no, since there is no-fault divorce in every state. However, these things are often subject to a judge's arbitrary ruling, so infidelity may be factored into a divorce trial. However, as more and more courts defer to equally shared parenting, this is less likely each day.

Can my husband get custody if I cheated?

The same rules and trends apply to whether a man or woman cheated. However, it is well documented that society, and therefore judges, too, judge women and mothers who are unfaithful in their marriages than men. On the other hand, women are presumed to be the primary caretakers of children far more than men, so that might be a consideration, too.

Again, as society evolves to view men and women as more equal, these equations also evolve.

However, no matter who cheated, or whose fault you believe the divorce to be, I urge you to focus on equally shared parenting and an amicable divorce. This is so important not only for the sake of the kids, but both parties' ability to heal and move forward afterward.

Here are more tips on how to be a successful co-parent after divorce.

How to forgive a cheating husband or wife and get over an affair

Rabbi Shlomo Radkin advises:

The healing will start once the affair is stopped. It’s hard to rebuild
trust after the affair if the affair is still going on. If the betrayer in
the relationship if still busy with someone elsewhere, then he/she will not be as invested in staying in the relationship. After the affair is stopped and that exit is sealed, you both need to talk about what happened.

The betrayed gets to ask whatever information he/she needs to ask- about what happened- so that all doubts can be removed and he/she can start getting over the affair. He/she also gets to share his/her feelings of hurt and pain and have the opportunity to be validated. (This will most likely need to happen more than once. Repeat as necessary.)

Once this is done, the betrayer makes amends, showing real remorse and being remorseful, asking for forgiveness, and resolving (sometimes
silently) to do something that will help the other spouse feel loved, some type of consistent new behavior. This reassurance on the part of the betrayer is going to have to be consistent and heartfelt, something which will need to happen over time- more than once most likely- and will require effort.

After that, time is needed to work on the relationship, exploring the
rupture that led them to this place-this need to look elsewhere- as well as ways to bring life and energy back into the marriage through love infusions..

Know that it may take time to repair and heal after the affair and
infidelity but if you both are committed you can heal.

My advice:

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.

Read: After a divorce, you get one year to be a hot mess. Sorry, but you don't get extra time after an affair than other people going through a divorce.

One pitfall to look out for:

When your single status or divorce comes up with friends, colleagues or new people you meet, resist the urge to mention that your ex had an affair. That puts the blame on him 100%, paints you as a self-loating victim, and otherwise enlists pity. Plus, it keeps that narrative alive and strong, and prolongs the pain of getting over an affair.

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, thousands of licensed, certified therapists to choose from. Prices start at $35/week for unlimited messaging and weekly live sessions. Financial assistance available. Use this link to get 10% off and get connected with a therapist immediately >>

1. 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?

2. 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 couples 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.

And yes, there is therapy for cheating, marriage counseling can help after an affair, and infidelity counseling is a thing — as is therapy for sex addiction. Maybe it works, and maybe it doesn't — but very few people ever regret going to therapy.

3. 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.

[17 steps to thriving as a single mom]

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 arrangements. 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.

Instead, focus on building your career, your finances, enjoying your kids. when you are ready, dip your toe in dating. Here is my guild to surprising joys of dating after divorce. And if you're ready for a committed, long-term relationship, eHarmony is the go-to, No. 1 best site for finding a partner.

Read more about eHarmony, including cost, app and success rates with our eHarmony review.

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

[A guide to when to consider couple's counseling]

How to get over a cheating husband and divorce

In summary:

  1. Take responsibility for your share of the breakdown of the relationship
  2. Realize that worse things have happened to people (no matter how much this hurts)
  3. Invest time, self-care and perhaps therapy to rebuild your self-confidence, and remember that you are a lovable woman.
  4. Recognize that repeating and focusing on the story of his unfaithful acts ultimately hurts you, and holds you back.
  5. Focus on rebuilding your own incredible life post-divorce.

Did your ex cheat? What did you say to a cheating man? How did that affect your divorce? How did you get over it? Share in the comments! 

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist and author. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Emma's Top Single Mom Resources.

75 Comments

Where is the advice for the person who lacks any intergrity or genuine honor .Sounds to me like society is accepting this behavior .People used to be afraid of shame ,or at least feel it .Not anymore the good old days are gone .

This article is disrespectful and I’m very surprised how glib the author is. Cheating is abuse. It involves lying to your spouse, friends, children and family. It involves taking away from marital funds and resources such as love and care and time. Gaslighting is common and the author makes it sounds like “oh well, you get and STD from one of the hookers. Get over it!” I’m very offended by this and I’m quite surprised this would appear on a supposedly feminist website. Cheating is abuse. Do your research.

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Whoever wrote this crap must be a man really people cheat and shi t happens .If everyone one had such a callous outlook like this not one marriage would last ,and yes people actually take there vows serious and respect there partner children parents friends etc and don’t destroy there loved one’s because of there selfish immature sick wants .You should say all narcissists and sociopaths in society should never marry or have children save us normal adults the heartache of dealing with you people

I have been cheated on for years. He does it at the hotel he manages and comes home to me every night. Sometimes we have sex and sometimes we don’t. I don’t think he ever stopped even after I caught him and he swore to never do it again. He adores me but he is an addict. I am waiting til the summer when we sell the home to leave him for good. I deserve better.

Why did I stay?

Before you judge me, we lost our little girl last year and he was an awesome dad when she got ill. He carried her everywhere. It is this sole reason that i put up with his antics. It made me love him more to know he COULD actually feel such a deep love. The infidelity is about self esteem on his part but i am over the man if he doesn’t love himself enough to see how much I love him.

wish me luck…I will learn to be alone again, but not for long. Some guy will see me for the amazing person i am and will become.

“You don’t get money because your feelings are hurt“ ?
Seriously?
How crass. I hope you’re never on the receiving end of infidelity. People commit suicide the pain is so bad. How could you say this?

The very important point being made was that when it comes time to work out the legal logistics of divorce, the courts don’t care about your feelings. They are not relevant when legally divorcing. My husband cheated on me so I know the pain you’re referring to. However, not living in reality before you get to court will only result in more pain. No matter how much a spouse hurt you, your feelings don’t matter to the legal system. That’s just fact that every jilted partner needs to be aware of.

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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.

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.

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.

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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