If you just discovered you’ve been cheated on, your job right now is to take very good care of yourself. You’re in shock. Most likely you either feel numb, like you’re having an out of body experience, or you feel searing emotional pain. (Sorry to say, you’re probably going to alternate between these two states for a while.) You need to devise a triage plan in the short term.
Sleep. You can’t function without it. This shit is exhausting. Call your doctor, if need be, and get on some Ambien. Get your rest – You need your wits about you right now.
Eat. People who’ve been cheated on joke morosely about the “Infidelity Diet.” It’s not uncommon to lose 10 lbs a week from the sheer stress. People in shock tend to lose their appetite. You may feel revolted by food now, or have terrible thoughts about the infidelity that make you throw up. This crappy stage will pass. But for now – make sure you’re downing something each day (not high balls at the bar, okay?). Protein shakes, soup, water. You not only require proper rest, you need physical stamina for the adrenaline rollercoaster ahead. Recovery from infidelity is a marathon. It’s a fucking, long haul. Fuel accordingly.
Do I sound like your mom? Is this very boring, basic advice? Well, I promise you, unless you tend to these very basic things like remembering to eat and sleep (all very easy to blow off given that you’re in crisis), you aren’t going to have the wherewithal to act in your own best interest.
Be a field marshall. Resist the urge to give in to feelings of paralysis. I know this crap is overwhelming, but you need to make a plan. If your spouse, upon discovery is falling all over his or herself in apologies and promises — don’t buy it. You need to protect yourself. Infidelity is an act of aggression. People who will cheat on you will fuck you over in a multitude of other ways as well. Financially, physically, emotionally. Now is the time to see a lawyer to find out your rights. (Yes, even if you have no intention of divorcing and cannot bear the thought — SEE A LAWYER. Knowledge is power.) Check your finances and move money (only half) into a new account. Make a counseling appointment for YOURSELF. (Not a marriage counseling appointment — that’s pointless until the cheater is out of the affair or has stopped lying. A state that takes awhile to achieve, assuming they ever get there.) And protect your health. You need to get STD testing. Sorry, this sucks. But you really don’t know where all they’ve been. And I promise you, they aren’t copping to all of it.
Get IRL support. It’s very normal to feel ashamed that this happened to you. You might feel at some level that you’re somehow to blame or that this whole mess is mortifying. You’re probably also on the fence about whether or not the relationship will survive the infidelity, and perhaps fervently want it to. So you may hesitate to reach out to people in your life who can help you, for fear of exposing the cheater — and also of embarrassing yourself or dooming a reconciliation. Please put those fears aside. You need to draw supportive friends and family close to you now. This isn’t your fault and this isn’t your shame to wear. It is the cheater’s. If you are to reconcile, the cheater needs to do the hard work of not only winning you back, but winning back the trust and respect of those who love you as well.
Find online support. Even with the most compassionate of friends and family, if they haven’t been cheated on before, they don’t know how you feel. A support group can help immensely. Beware, however, that a lot of sites skew toward reconciliation. Chump Lady is not optimistic about reconciliation — and would hate to see you stuck in a bad situation longer because of false hope. The best thing about finding online support is that you are with other people going through the same thing, at the same time. A sort of Congress of the Fucked Over. The solidarity can’t be beat.
Know that whatever happens you’re going to be okay. Really. You will survive this shit. I did and you will too. Not only will you survive it, there’s an excellent chance that you will end up with a much better life than you had before. I swear, you’ve got a bright future on the other side of this nightmare — start moving toward it.