THE BLOG
04/08/2014 10:47 am ET | Updated Jun 08, 2014

Sleeping With the Enemy: Saving Your Family After an Affair

Your spouse was the person who completed you, who finished your sentences and who was the first you told of any major change. For so long, your cocoon of love protected you, inspired you and was enough.

But everything is different today.

Today, you woke up bleary eyed and sad after another knock-down, drag-out, late-night argument. You probably can't even remember what the fight was about.

These fights just keep happening like a daily habit. They have become more frequent and more heated. Yet, you never see them coming, and for this reason, these spats seem inevitable and tortuous. If only you could change things back to the way you were before.

Yet, your blood-shot eyes and puffy face tell the story. Even your friends at work know something is not right. You hear your children whispering, commiserating with one another asking why "mom and daddy scream a lot... at each other."

Before you got married, you vowed "in sickness and in health." You pointed out old couples hobbling hand in hand at the park or in church, and you both collectively admired their fidelity. Sweetly, your spouse shared with you that your eyes would never stop sparkling despite how you may change through the years.

You never intended this to end. You were going to be different from those statistics. But today your spouse dropped the D word: "I want a divorce."

Your spouse said that they "haven't been happy in years." Come to think of it, the sex has stopped -- and date night is a distant memory. In your effort to buy the stuff to make the kids happy and to "check the good parenting boxes," you have neglected the marriage box one time too many.

Your spouse continues, "I love you. I am just not in love with you anymore."

This is impossible -- a bad nightmare. But it is happening to you. You try to tell yourself,
"Everyone goes through these phases; eventually we will get out of it, right?"

Then your spouse starts to tell you their plans. They have found a new place and already paid a down payment. "Don't worry, it's close to the family home. Things will be the same. The kids will just live in two different homes."

Your spouse wants to tell the children. But how can you? You heard your spouse's words and hope that their madness will subside and a divorce won't be necessary. But the presentation continues.

"Baby, I've even found a family lawyer who said that we can do this all by agreement." The words are too polished and rehearsed -- they are too damn happy about it.

It becomes clear that your spouse was or is cheating. You know it. Those business trips when they always left early on Sunday "to get prepared for the week" now seem suspicious; they probably weren't alone. Anger overtakes sadness, and now you want to find out who their lover is... the person who ruined your life.

You try to tell yourself that it doesn't matter -- your spouse doesn't deserve you. But you cling to that marriage that you thought you had yesterday.

It's okay to be sad. Divorce is a death, of sorts. And it's hard to accept that this relationship in which you have invested so many years is now over.

Unfortunately, in my 11 years of experience as a family lawyer, I have almost never seen a couple reconcile once a cheater has met with an attorney. They already have one foot out the door and their heads are filled with visions of the greener grass on the other side.

If you know someone whose spouse has asked for a divorce, encourage them to seek legal counsel immediately. Don't let them wallow and fret, particularly if they believe their spouse has talked to an attorney.

At this point, they need to protect their children.

I have seen many dirty tricks -- particularly from cheaters. One of the most common that I have seen is where the cheating spouse will have initial consultations with all of the best lawyers in town. By sharing just enough information with these lawyers to create an attorney-client relationship, they effectively "conflict out" these attorneys so that they cannot represent the spouse.

You make yourself vulnerable to this tactic the longer that you take. You also create more opportunities for your spouse to hide assets, funnel money out of the estate and create other challenges for you.

Please understand, I am not selling divorce. You are not abandoning your marriage: That was your spouse's choice.

You are not to blame for the death of your marriage. But if you delay, you could spend the rest of your life blaming yourself for the disaster of your divorce.

I empower you to act quickly and to seek the right professional counsel. You are now responsible for saving what remains of your family.

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
We’re basically your best friend... with better advice.