Heartbreak

The Hidden Gift Of Finding Out Your Partner Cheated

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I get it. There’s that horrible span of time after you’ve found out you aren’t the only woman in your husband’s life, maybe after five, ten, or twenty years of marriage. Years you trusted your partner with your very life.

People become absolutely shaken after a revelation such as this.

How long didn’t I know? Why didn’t I know? How could I have been so stupid?

Betrayed wives (and betrayed husbands, too) find it hard to fathom how anyone could wound them so deeply. It seems impossible to understand how one person could so cruelly upend the life of another.

But learning about your partner's infidelity can actually be a huge opportunity. 

Hear me out.

RELATED: How To Get Over Being Cheated On In 5 Easy(ish) Steps

If the spouse you’ve been married to and trusted for so long can do such a thing, can’t anyone?

This is the kind of thing people say before they’ve done the work to understand what happened.

The sad thing is that some people are still saying it years after the affair happened … when an affair is nothing if not a wake-up call to investigate what is really going on in your marriage.

Your partner's affair is the beginning of a unique opportunity for growth — together or apart

The discovery of an affair should be the beginning of a protracted period of sleeves-rolled-up work. Obviously, things were not what you thought they were, or this terrible breach could never have snuck up on you and knocked you down the way it did.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to understand what happened and why.

The problem is that many people do not choose to accept this mission.

When an affair is discovered, many people want to cry out in shock and pain and make absolutely sure the other person knows how badly their world has been turned utterly upside down.

And that is not a bad thing! This person needs to understand how their betrayal has affected you.

But, you know what? You need to understand them, too. Otherwise, you will never know what you are dealing with, and you will never know whether the relationship was ever what you thought it was.

RELATED: How To Forgive A Cheater (& Whether Or Not You Should)

An affair can offer an opportunity to know your partner — and yourself — better than ever

That is the whole point of marriage: to be open and honest, to accept one another's body and soul as you really are. Not just to handle the work of life, maintaining a home and physical sustenance and children, but to become each other’s best friends.

If someone turned away into the arms of another person, then you most certainly were not one another’s best friend anymore, and it’s crucial that you understand why.

Maybe this person was always a carefully hidden psychopath or maybe they are a narcissist, someone who only pretended to care about your feelings as they lied and cheated all along. This is rare, but it does happen.

Maybe this person has been abusive to you for years, only you just did not realize that was what it was.

Maybe this person is hiding an addiction or some degree of mental illness. If so, you’re going to want to know that, and you’re going to need to let that inform your decision about whether to stay or go.

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Maybe you started out best friends, but distance slowly crept in and eroded your marriage, so that it has become only a shell of the living friendship it once was.

RELATED: The Right Question To Ask When You Find Out They Cheated On You

You get to dig deeper into what caused the affair 

I hate to say it, but if that’s the truth, chances are the problem is issues from childhood you both brought into the marriage.

People tend to marry thinking they can leave whatever happened in childhood, in childhood. That the shining image of what they think life will be like as they walk down the aisle on their wedding day will erase sad old memories and salve old hurts.

If you were emotionally mature enough, it can happen. But if an affair has come out in the open, it didn’t happen. 

Both of you will need to retrace your steps, all the way back into your families of origin, in order to see where and why you started growing apart

Find compassion, understanding, and love for one another again, and become the friends you used to be before you stopped truly knowing one another’s souls as a couple.

Somewhere along the line, one of you, and probably both of you, got scared and stopped talking.

If you don’t discover when and why all really is lost.

People reach a huge milestone in affair recovery once they can pull themselves out of shock, grief, and mourning.

RELATED: Why I Stayed When My Boyfriend Cheated On Me

You can learn to become a detective in your marriage

Instead of being a victim of your marriage, become a detective and investigate where and how it went wrong. And the sooner the better.

Knowledge is your friend!

When you delve into your spouse’s background, childhood, and thinking, you will truly understand what exactly went wrong, and you will know so much more about when and where it’s appropriate to place your trust.

Not only that, but you will see that you have come through betrayal in your marriage and it did not kill you. You know so much more about relationships now and it has made you so much stronger and wiser.

You know that being cheated on does not mean you are left forlorn like a child who cannot take care of him- or herself. It does not mean you are some horrible, deficient, or unlovable person.

All being cheated on means is that very common problems come up in long-term relationships between people, and you can learn the skills to see them accurately and to solve them.

And with that knowledge, you will know that you have the strength inside yourself to survive even if you are ever cheated on again. 

But, most important, you have the skills to handle the hard stuff in a long-term relationship upfront, thus preserving the connection between two people that makes cheating unthinkable.

RELATED: 12 Tough Things You Must Do When Your Husband Cheats

P.D. Reader is the author of Struggling In or With an Affair? A Guidebook and runs Unfaithful: Perspectives on the Third-Party Relationship on Medium.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.