Hurt people hurt people. That’s why it’s so easy to say or do things that you know would hurt your spouse when you’ve found out he or she has been unfaithful.

Silence/Withdrawal

Protecting yourself from further hurt by retreating to your own little space is a coping habit that many people learn as children. Rather than have a healthy conversation that addresses the issue, many people choose to just avoid the issue altogether. It may be your first response when you discover the affair, but in the end it doesn’t solve anything. It delays healing at best, and at worst, perpetuates bad relationship dynamics. Keeping your pain to yourself doesn’t allow for the unfaithful partner to reach out to you and help you. It doesn’t allow you to ask questions that it would be helpful for you to have answers to. It closes the door on communication out of fear. If there was ever a time to reject your standby method of coping and try to engage in a conversation that promotes understanding and healing, this is that time.

Spending for spite.

If you know how important money is to your spouse you may be tempted to go spend a bunch of it when you find out how he hurt you. “Rack up debt. Who cares? If he’s going to leave me I’ll make him pay.”

Remember that your marriage is in a state of crisis. You will likely incur expenses that aren’t currently in your budget. Counseling for sure, hopefully dates and babysitting, maybe a weekend away where you can reconnect without distraction. Or,  possibly rent on another place for one of you for a period of time. You may even experience a loss of income as a result of job loss or time missed at work.

Money is better spent on healing than on causing further hurt in the marriage. Money problems will compound your marriage problems. Certainly, a little shopping therapy isn’t such a bad thing. Go buy a new outfit and splurge a little on shoes or lunch with friends. But spending for spite will only compound your problems.

Sarcasm

Words can be a passive aggressive way to hurt someone else. Maybe you’d never hit your spouse or throw anything at him or her, but you have no problem cutting him or her down with your remarks. Sarcasm is one of the easiest tools to use on a daily basis. Maybe you feel unequally matched to have an actual constructive conversation with your spouse about the affair, so you painfully jab at the betrayer with your statements so he or she will know how you feel. Sarcasm may make you feel better in the seconds that you say it, but the only thing it accomplishes is to build barriers between the two of you.

Slander

Words can also be a very aggressive way to hurt someone else. Your first inclination may be to spill your unfaithful spouse’s dirty laundry all over town. You want his boss, his parents and all his friends to know what a louse he is.

Doing so will make the healing process that much harder. Realize that the intensity of your feelings of betrayal will not last forever. Even if you don’t have any intention of reconciling with your unfaithful spouse at the moment, the time may come when you wish to give the relationship a chance.

This is not to say that you can’t tell a few trusted friends that he or she cheated on you. You will need their support.

Rage

Your anger at finding out your spouse cheated on you is understandable. Your spouse has broken your trust and risked everything you thought you had together. While it’s not a good idea to suppress your emotions, you don’t want to take your anger to the point of rage. Violence is going to do more damage to your situation. If you can’t control yourself, hit a pillow or run on the treadmill until you’re exhausted. Your feelings will continue to rise and fall during the days and weeks after disclosure. Find a way to express them that won’t hurt anyone.

Revenge

Revenge can mean many different things. Having an affair to get even with your husband and hurt him back is one of the worst ideas for revenge.You don’t even know where that could end up. It would open a whole new can of worms. Now you will end up suffering the shame and guilt of cheating too. You could potentially develop an emotional attachment with your fling and end up wanting to leave the marriage while your husband or wife is trying to save it. You could get a sexually transmitted disease or just put yourself in a really unsafe situation.

Destroying something that is meaningful to your husband is also unwise. You can’t take back the destruction you’ve done if you ever do reconcile. And if you divorce, you want to have a clean slate going into court.

Rejection

You may feel empowered if you reject your spouse when he or she tries to communicate with you. But there can be no progress in your healing or moving forward in any way if you reject all his or her efforts to make amends. If the betrayer is humble enough to try to communicate, your job is to be humble enough to engage. If you choose to shut down all of his or her attempts to reconcile, then you must realize that you are compounding your pain and exacerbating the situation.

The disclosure of an affair in your marriage will reveal a lot about who you really are. How do you respond when you’ve been wronged? Are you a person who gives second chances? Are you a person who listens?

Discovering that your spouse has cheated on you is probably the best chance of your life to prove your character and take the high road. It is your best chance to prove that you value love over hate. It is a perfect opportunity to opt for maturity when lashing out in immature ways would probably feel really good in the moment. But only for a moment.

Anything foolish you choose to do in the midst of your hurt has every potential to come back and bite you, whether or not you stay married. Anything wise you choose to do in the midst of your hurt is a positive gain in your personal journey, whether or not you stay married.