Q: Last night I found out my husband has been using the Ashley Madison website. We’ve been married for nine years, happily I thought, and we have three kids. I’m shocked, devastated, and confused. I don’t know what to do, yet I feel an urgent need to do something. I feel like my head is exploding. Help!
R: Unfortunately you are not alone. There are likely hundreds of people in the DC area are making the same discovery. Yet because of the stigma associated with these sorts of marital crises you might never cross paths with others going through the same struggle and so you likely are feeling very alone right now. Here are some suggestions for what to do in the short-term.
First, DON’T tell a lot of people what has happened! Trust us. We know you may be sorely tempted to lean on anyone and everyone for advice, but don’t. Here is why: First, you might not think so now, but you may ultimately decide to stay in the marriage and if so you will likely wish you hadn’t told so many people after the dust has settled and you’re wishing your life would return to some sort of normal. Second, even if you do decide to divorce you need to consider the impact your disclosures will have on your kids. Children, especially tweens and teens, can feel mortified by this sort of information floating around. Not to mention the more people you do confide in the greater the risk your kids could hear about what has happened from someone other than yourself.
This brings us to another matter. It is extremely important that you stay clear that this is a betrayal of your marital covenant (or contract) and not about your husband’s relationship with his children. Often when we are feeling hurt it is easy to get confused on this and present news to the children the as if our spouse has been disloyal to “us.” As hard as it is to be alone in this you are in many ways and you need to lean on other ADULTS for support to get you through, not the kids.
Ask yourself if you have a single confidant you can confide in who you could bare to have him or her know if the marriage sustains this crisis. We strongly recommend you try to choose someone that is a good listener and unlikely to try to persuade you to follow a particular path. Only you can make these choices; it’s your life. Additionally, we also strongly recommend you try to find someone with whom you are not at risk of developing romantic feelings for in response to his or her loving support. Although it might not seem so, that’s the LAST thing you need right now.
Finally find a good individual AND a couples therapist to work with, therapist who are experienced with both couples therapy as well as affair ambivalence and affair recovery. An experienced therapist can offer invaluable advice on topics such as how to broach the topic with your spouse. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel on this one, get help ASAP!