I cheated. There's someone else. If you've heard words like these come from your spouse's mouth, you're most likely grappling with an onslaught of emotions that feel like they'll never end.
But experts advise they can end, and often do. You can learn to put this behind you.
The Blame Game
Experts are divided on whether it's healthy for an innocent spouse to accept blame for the affair. Leslie Hardie, a licensed clinical social worker, says it's a mistake to put the entire onus on your spouse and take up the role of blameless victim.
Anne Bercht, co-founder of the Beyond Affairs Network, says not so fast. Yes, problems in your marriage may have led to your spouse's affair, but people have multiple options when facing problems. Your spouse chose to have an affair in response—you didn't have a say in this decision.
Tammy Nelson, a sex and relationship expert, suggests at least taking steps to examine what went wrong. Try to learn something from it so you can move forward.
Reconnect with Yourself
Nelson says that getting over an affair is a drawn-out process which occurs in stages. Go ahead and grieve for a while, then make your mind up to not allow this experience to define you as a person.
Reconnect with the old you—the person you were before you got married, or at least before the betrayal. This might involve reaching out to friends you've lost touch with or rediscovering hobbies or goals you've put aside. Explore new interests; things you always wanted to try, but never got around to.
The important thing is to establish a perception of yourself apart from what has happened.
Find a Support Group
Don't underestimate the power of an emotional safety net. Find, or create, a support group. You don't necessarily have to join up with a "What a Jerk He Is!" network in your community or online—although this might offer a nice chance to blow off a little steam once in a while.
Let your friends know that you might need to talk things out, and lean on those who seem most receptive. Bercht says that sharing her story proved invaluable as she was working through the fallout from her spouse's affair. Each time she spoke about her pain, the emotional load felt a little lighter.
Stay or Go?
The big question after an affair is whether you'll remain in the marriage. This may not be up to you; as painful as it is, your spouse may want out. Otherwise, Nelson cautions that you shouldn't make the decision immediately. Let the dust settle.
Hardie recommends avoiding certain types of behavior in case you ultimately decide you want to save your union. Don't endlessly berate your spouse for his or her actions. Don't try to compete with, or confront, his or her paramour. Focus on you and getting yourself through this, so when you finally make your decision, it will be what's in your best interest.