How should I act toward my cheating spouse now that I’ve discovered their affair?

An upside-down landscape with a woman swinging from a swing attached to the land over the sky

I hear this question from hurt partners regularly. I am currently taking a new training with Michele Weiner Davis, but in this post, I want to dive into some of Michelle’s historical thinking about best practices for hurt partners.

Michelle has caught a little heat online from hurt partners who say her protocol may be too difficult. I am here to tell you that this method, the 180, works. But it helps to have a good therapist to help you over the initial hurdles.

Her particular strength is helping spouses in a one-down position recover a sense of self-respect and dignity when their world is turned upside down. She calls this new set of behaviors “doing a 180.”

How Should I Act Toward My Cheating Spouse?

1. Do not pursue, reason, chase, beg, plead, or implore.
2. No frequent phone calls.
3. Do not point out good points in marriage.
4. Do not follow him/her around the house.
5. Do not encourage talk about the future.
6. Do not ask for help from family members.
7. Do not ask for reassurance.
8. Do not buy gifts.
9. Do not schedule dates together.
10. Do not spy on your spouse.
11. Do not say “I Love You”.
12. Act as if you are moving on with your life.
13. Be cheerful, strong, outgoing, and attractive.
14. Don’t sit around waiting on your spouse – get busy, do things, go to church, go out with friends, etc.
15. When home with your spouse, (if you usually start the conversation) be scarce or short on words.
16. If you are in the habit of asking your spouse her whereabouts, ASK NOTHING.
17. You need to make your partner think that you have had an awakening and, as far as you are concerned, you are going to move on with your life, with or without your spouse.
18. Do not be nasty, angry, or even cold – just pull back and wait to see if your spouse notices and, more importantly, realize what she will be missing.
19. No matter what you are feeling TODAY, only show your spouse happiness and contentment. Show him/her someone he/she would want to be around.
20. All questions about marriage should be put on hold until your spouse wants to talk about it (which may be a while).
21. Never lose your cool.
22. Don’t be overly enthusiastic.
23. Do not argue about how they feel (it only makes their feelings stronger).
24. Be patient.
25. Listen carefully to what your spouse is really saying to you.
26. Learn to back off, shut up, and possibly walk away.
27. Take care of yourself (exercise, sleep, laugh & focus on all the other parts of your life that are not in turmoil).
28. Be strong and confident.
29. Know that if you can do 180, your smallest CONSISTENT actions will be noticed much more than any words you can say or write.
30. Do not be openly desperate or needy even when you are hurting more than ever, and really are desperate and needy.
31. Do not focus on yourself when communicating with your spouse.
32. Do not believe any of what you hear and less than 50% of what you see. Your spouse will speak in absolute negatives because they are hurting and scared.
33. Do not give up no matter how dark it is or how bad you feel.
34. Do not backslide from your hard-earned changes.

Don’t Be Predictably Overwrought

The “180” is a stance that holds a certain distance from the involved partner. How should I act toward my cheating spouse? The last thing you want to appear as is predictably overwrought.

The ball is in their court. Because nothing can happen to save the marriage until the involved partner ends the affair and seeks to repair.

You can send the message that you will be OK no matter which way it goes.

The 180 shows that you have awakened… and business, as usual, is over.

Start Your Affair Recovery with Couples Therapy Inc

Daniel Dashnaw

Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist and the blog editor. He currently works with couples online and in person. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and Developmental Models in his approaches. Daniel specializes in working with neurodiverse couples, couples that are recovering from an affair, and passive aggressive behavior patterns.

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  1. Right on perfect best practices as applied to a spouse in chaos.
    Only problem is sometimes after a year or two, three, four, of waiting, the waiter does naturally move on. Sad but true. Oh, and be prepared for the next round.

  2. My husband is having an affair and he is denying it. I and i am in denial about it. I don’t want to believe it. I want a divorce.

  3. I read this advise and it’s crazy but that is how I treated my husband. Without advice 20 years ago. It worked, we got our marriage back togeather. Sometimes I think Cheaters. Still have a wandering eye and the potential to cheat again and again.

  4. I must say the Article is Excellent because Their Is No Excuse For CHEATING ..and if the CHEATER Feels UNLOVED..Cheating is Demoralizing to the Innocent Mate. I Love This Article it is right on POINT.

  5. I agree with Ray above, I have done both the above and the opposite of the above on discovering his affair.

    I moved out when I discovered it.

    I was struggling to work out why when I acted happy and just got on with my life, he was chasing. But when I showed him love and expected same level back it never fully came, felt like something missing. Now I’ve backed off he is begging to move in with me.

    Now I’m not sure I even want him to, its way too soon to put myself at risk again.

  6. I recently got back with my ex husband after being apart for 4 years because he had an affair. 4 months ago I moved back home with him. I found out that he is still having a relationship with the same woman that I divorced him for the 1st time. I’ve given everything up in my life to make this work with him. I was fooled again and now I have no idea of what to do. I can’t conforming him about this because he gets upset and mad and then we fight for days at a time. I’m dealing with medical issues of my own right now and don’t need anything triggering me to blow up. Not sure what to do. Any advice would be great.

  7. I think some points are counter productive. I have read other sources that pointing out good points in the relationship, as a form of ”remember when” and some talk about the future is actually good; it shows that there is still some love and a relationship to maintain. It doesn’t have to be imploring or begging; I think it shows that the other is still important even after finding out about the affair. Also a small gift here and there shows that there is care and even forgiveness. I agree with most of the rest, but if the partner strayed because he felt unloved, it seems that pretending I don’t care and am moving on is only confirming that the relationship is over for me as well, when it is not the case.

    1. Michele’s list is controversial for some readers, which I mentioned early on in the post.
      Thanks for reading and sending in your comments.

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