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A betrayed spouse: the last to know – but the first to act?

The photograph said it all: Lady Linda Macdonald was pictured in the press this week the day after a national newspaper revealed the ‘intimate’ relationship between her husband, Sir Ken, who is head of the Crown Prosecution Service, and a glamorous young barrister, Kirsty Brimelow. Linda looked ashen-faced and red-eyed from crying as she left her home on Tuesday morning.

‘Linda is a lovely woman who has been very distressed since finding out the news. She had no idea this was going on,’ a neighbour was quoted as saying.

Betrayed spouses are usually the last to find out about their partner’s adultery. Work colleagues, friends and relatives may know or suspect, but the wife or husband remains in blissful ignorance. Even spouses who realise something is amiss often convince themselves their partner is stressed, worried or ill – anything rather than confront the possibility of an affair.

When they finally find out, the shock is catastrophic. Adultery exposed in such a public way as Sir Ken’s alleged amorous entanglement is one of the bitterest pills to swallow: there are so many layers to the cuckolded spouse’s distress – the adultery itself, the inevitable deception and lies, the humiliation and the shock.

If you have gone through – or are going through – what Lady Linda is suffering at the moment, you will know only too well the devastation caused by adultery.

So, for those caught up in such a horrible situation, what do you do?

My advice is that just because you’re the last to know about your spouse’s extra-marital activity doesn’t mean you have to be the last to react.

Seize the initiative: Try to harness your anger and pain in a positive way by resisting the urge to curl up into a ball. Do, firstly, what Lady Linda did this week – face the world, even with blotchy eyes and no make-up. That way you’ll earn sympathy and respect from your friends and peers. Lady Linda, despite a probably sleepless and hugely traumatic night, still went to work the next day.

If you feel you can’t cope, remove yourself, at least temporarily, from the situation: check into a hotel or health farm or go and stay with a friend or relative. Put a distance between you and your errant spouse so that they are left rattling round in the marital home with nothing to do apart from contemplate the ghastly mess they have created. Not only will this focus their mind on what’s important, going away for a while will allow you time and space to reflect on your next move.

Plan your strategy – even if you don’t intend to carry it out. In other words, don’t succumb to victim mode. Never forget that you are the wronged party and do all you can to be seen to rise above the adversity.

Adultery is one the main triggers of divorce, but it’s important to bear in mind that the ending of your marriage isn’t inevitable. Perhaps your spouse fell into the arms of another because there was a fundamental flaw in the marital relationship. Maybe he was hooked by an office piranha and was too stupid, or too polite, to say no. Try to work through in your mind what might have gone awry and consider whether it is rectifiable.

Don’t, whatever else you do, let your errant spouse off the hook. Whatever the circumstances, an adulterer is always wrong.

So make sure you keep the upper moral hand, whether or not you want to save your marriage. Be proactive, rather than reactive, and however wretched you feel, do everything in your power to ensure the show goes on.



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