Sunday, February 19, 2012

HOW TO HELP A FRIEND WHOSE SPOUSE IS CHEATING

Your friend, co-worker, neighbor just confided in you that their spouse or significant other has been cheating on them.   This blog is to help you help them get thru it.  


When someone you care about loses a loved one due to illness or sudden death, it's easy to know what to do.  And altho infidelity is nothing compared to the finality of death, this person also just lost their spouse.  


Some couples do reconcile after infidelity and come back stronger than ever, but that takes alot of work on both of their parts - especially of the one that cheated.  True reconciliation is something your friend most likely wants, but false reconciliation is unfortunately too often the norm.  False reconciliation occurs when the cheater is sorry and says they want to reconcile, but what they are really sorry about is that they got caught.  They have no intention to stop seeing the other person - they are just going to be more careful.
You need to know that.
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So how do you help your friend?  What do you say to them?  What do you do for them?


At first they are going to be angry and hurt.  Their anger is going to be directed at the other person, not at their spouse at the beginning.  Join them.  Help them come up with a nickname for that person.  You would be surprised at some of the great nicknames that have been used to describe the other person.  And it does help!
Never refer to the other person by their name if it is known - your friend never wants to hear that name again.
Never ask your friend if the other person is younger, better looking, more physically appealing.  That will only make them feel worse.  It doesn't matter anyway. Lots of cheaters affair down - meaning they take what they can get.  


Your friend is probably not eating or sleeping.  Here are two huge issues that you can help them with.
Ask them what they have eaten today.  Insist they are honest because it's hard to eat when you feel like someone just punched you in the gut.  If they are not eating, tell them to drink juice.  Bring them a healthy smoothie.  Even a milkshake.  If there are kids in the house, the last thing on earth they feel like doing is cooking for the kids.  Make a casserole and bring it over - for the kids, hopefully they will munch on it too.
Make a banana bread, or just a little extra of whatever you made for dinner and bring it over.  I cannot tell you how appreciated that would be.
If there are kids in the house, offer to come over for a couple of hours just to give them a break.  Let them get out of the house if they want.  Or tell them to go lock themselves in a room and watch old I Love Lucy reruns.  Or to take a hot bubble bath.  They are feeling like a mess and are probably feeling worse about their children seeing them this way.  
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Their ego has just been busted.  Remind them how beautiful they are - but do it in a sincere way - do NOT say things like I don't know how s/he could have cheated on you.  
Take them out shopping.  New lingerie for a woman is a real ego booster.  A hair cut, a massage.  Happy Hour.
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Let them cry to you.  Let them talk your ear off.  Even after you get to that point where you cannot deal with listening any more - let them know that you are there for them.  They need to vent!  And if they don't contact you - contact them.
Even just an email to ask how they are doing can brighten their whole day.


When they are not thinking clearly - let them know, but be gentle.
When they want to believe their spouse is sorry and wants to save their relationship, remind them that actions speak louder than words.  Ask them what their spouse has done to prove to them that they are sincerely sorry?  Did the cheater agree to marriage counseling?  Did the cheater call the other person in front of them to tell them it's over?  Did the cheater let the spouse have access to their cellphone? Their email?  Spend more together time at home?  Remind your friend what a wonderful person they are and that they do not deserve to be second best.


If your friend is not doing well and is talking about defeat - even suicide - make sure they get help as soon as possible.  Encourage them to find a counselor or a clergy they can talk to.  Encourage them to join a support group.  There are even amazing online support groups.  Encourage them to read books on how to get thru this. 
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Encourage them to talk to an attorney to find out what their rights are especially if there are children involved or property.  There are many family law attorneys that will do a free consultation.  They will not feel like doing this, but they need to be prepared especially if the cheater files for divorce and they are caught off guard.  But remind them that the attorney is there to protect their legal rights and does not want any emotion.
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Remind them that they are strong and they will get thru this.  Tell them that they will be okay.
Remind them that often.
When they don't know how to get thru the day, tell them one foot in front of the other.  Tell them to take a crying break when they need it.  Tell them that it takes time to heal.
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If they don't own it, buy them Adele's 21 CD.  Don't ask... just let me tell you that CD is the best therapy out there!


WHAT NOT TO DO!
Do not rush them into a divorce.  Your friend needs time to know that they did everything they could to save their marriage, just for their peace of mind.  If it is at the point of being ridiculous already and the marriage is clearly over, it is okay to ask them how much more crap they are willing to take... but filing for divorce has to come from them... even if it's years later.


Do not say to them 'You two never had a good marriage anyway'.  'You two were mismatched'.  
You don't know that.  You only know what you saw or what they shared with you.  You don't know what went on behind closed doors.  And please don't say 'I'm not surprised that s/he cheated'.


Do not say to them 'Get over it already'.  This is probably the most common hurtful thing that is said.
Their world has just been ripped apart.  They are never going to get over this, even after they have moved on.  This kind of pain will always be part of them.  It has become part of who they are now.  And don't try to talk them into dating before they are ready.  Just like divorce, this has to come from them.






The most important thing you can do for them is to just be there for them while they go thru the stages of grief, gently helping them get to the next stepping stone towards healing.   



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