This morning, my mom read an article to me from Dear Abby. The discussion was about a woman whose husband was having an affair, and Abby gave her some excellent advice on how to protect herself. As my mom and I continued to talk about this article, I began to realize that I needed to write this blog for all those people out there who might be in a similar situation. About 3 1/2 years ago, I was a victim of an extramarital affair, and I somehow managed to do things right and received a great divorce settlement. Interestingly, I did exactly what Abby advised the young woman to do in her column!
In January, 2012, I was horrified to learn that my husband of almost 20 years was having an affair. Although I would have done a few minor things a bit differently, I was able to keep it together enough to handle the situation and divorce quite effectively. So, I would like to share some advice with those spouses who unfortunately are facing something similar today, especially with all the media coverage of the Ashley Madison controversy.
Before I begin, I would like to make it clear that I do strongly believe in reconciliation. If there is any chance that you will be able to reconcile with your spouse, by all means, do it. Divorce should only be an option when all other avenues have been exhausted. This advice is for those couples who are definitely headed for divorce as the result of an affair.
- As soon as you find out about the affair and upcoming divorce, CONTACT AN ATTORNEY! This is the first and most important step. Expect your spouse to be upset that you have done this. He/she will suddenly change into this person that you never knew. Lies will start to pour out of him/her like a faucet as he/she tries to justify his/her actions. Your attorney should do this, but make sure that all your assets are frozen. By doing this, your spouse will not be able to move any money around in the accounts and will not be able to remove any property from the marital residence without your consent. If possible, try to get this done within the first few days of learning about the affair/upcoming divorce.
- If you have evidence of the affair, be sure to make several copies and have at least one copy in an undisclosed location that cannot be accessed by your spouse. Be sure to give one copy to your attorney as soon as possible. If your spouse finds copies of the evidence in the marital home, you can be sure he/she will destroy them, so get them out of the house ASAP.
- DO NOT allow your spouse to intimidate you! He/she will try just about anything to get you to “calm down”, and may even try to get you to get rid of your attorney. DON’T EVER GET RID OF YOUR ATTORNEY! That would be the biggest mistake you could ever make. PROTECT YOURSELF – THAT IS YOUR NUMBER ONE CONCERN! Focus on that, and let the distorted words of your spouse roll right off your shoulders. Again, this is very difficult to do, but it is necessary and will be worth it in the end.
- Get into some kind of counseling as soon as possible. You will need a strong support group during this time. Check out your local church for Divorce Support groups, and search for a one-on-one counselor who specializes in family or divorce counseling. This is one of the most important steps of the process as you will learn that YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME even though it is highly likely that your spouse will try to tell you otherwise. Also, support from family and friends is incredibly important. Search out and talk to those family members and friends that you can truly trust.
- Do not move out of your house. Leaving the property may give your spouse ample opportunity to sell off items in the home or even sell the house itself if your name is not on the mortgage. Even if the attorney freezes everything, your spouse may still try to sell things, so do not trust him/her AT ALL! Unless you feel you are in immediate physical danger, stay in the house so you can keep a close eye on your property.
- You have more rights than you think you do, especially if you have been married for an extended period of time. Talking to an attorney will help you to realize that fact. Let your attorney do his/her job. I know they are expensive, but in the end, it will be worth it. Mediation is a viable alternative, but I strongly advise that you have your own attorney. If you move forward with a divorce through mediation without an attorney, you may not get everything that you are entitled to receive. Legal advice is imperative at this time.
- Give it all to your attorney. If your spouse harasses you during this time, don’t let it bother you. Forward all this information to your attorney and let him/her deal with it. You are paying them a lot of money, so let them deal with the problem. You have enough to get through on your own.
- Finally, lean on God. Prayer is one of the most invaluable gifts during this horrible time, and believe it or not, your faith can grow much stronger during this process as you learn to lean on God and trust him.
It is important to reiterate that your spouse will change in dramatic ways as he/she tries to justify his/her actions. You may come to question whether or not you knew this person at all. DO NOT beat yourself up for not seeing the signs. DO NOT blame yourself for not having better judgement. The affair is NOT YOUR FAULT. The responsibility lies solely on your spouse who had the affair. Make him/her take responsibility for his/her actions. Know that YOU ARE A WONDERFUL PERSON!
I hope this advice will help those who have to go through this now or in the future. My heart breaks for you as this is one of the worst things a person will have to go through. It is just like a death in the family. Just know that there IS light at the end of the tunnel!
May God bless all victims of affairs, and may he envelop you with His peace!