"I found out that my spouse has been unfaithful and I am considering a divorce. Do you think that is a good idea? Am I jumping the gun?"
The reasons that lead a couple to divorce are never black and white. A spouse who has been cheated on may feel that he or she had no part in causing the other spouse to cheat in the first place. In some cases, that may be true. However, in other cases, the one that was cheated on may not be looking inward and admitting that perhaps they did not provide something that the other spouse wanted or needed. Any relationship needs to be able to grow and evolve, and without a willingness to grow with the other spouse, eyes may start to wander. The person you are, or the person your spouse was when you were married, may not be the same person you or your spouse is now. That is not necessarily a bad thing.
Moreover, spouses can become unfaithful not only for sexual gratification reasons, but emotional reasons. A spouse may develop a relationship with a co-worker that, although non-sexual, can be very emotionally intimate because that relationship provides something exciting or something missing from the marital relationship, and such a relationship can actually be more damaging to the marital relationship than a one-night stand.
A lack of communication between spouses about their needs and wants is generally never going to lead to a positive outcome. Having an open line of communication is vital for any marriage and relationship to work and to continue to grow -- no matter what life throws your way. Both parties have to remember that marriages take a lot of work, especially as more years pass by. A good tip is to think of your spouse as your boyfriend or girlfriend and that you are still dating (i.e. when you cared about how you looked, what you said, and what you did).
So, if your spouse has been unfaithful, automatically getting an attorney and filing for divorce without any consideration of the possible causes beforehand is unwise and short-sighted, because the affair may actually end up reopening that line of communication and force both parties to admit their own shortcomings and determine what went wrong that led to the affair to begin with. If the cheating spouse is willing to admit their fault and, more importantly, to do marital counseling and sincerely work to rebuild the relationship, the outcome may be a relationship much better than before. Simply filing for divorce right off the bat would mean that such opportunity for redemption, growth and forgiveness could never be given the chance to occur. Moreover, you know your spouse, faults and all. He or she knows you too, faults and all. You married your spouse for some reason, there was some reason you fell in love with him or her. Chances are that the reason is still there, somewhere. On the other hand, finding someone new who is an unknown commodity is fraught with uncertainty and could conceivably lead to finding someone better like your "true soul mate" -- but probably not.
The bottom line is that you should objectively look at your relationship from all angles, be honest and communicative, be willing to admit fault and listen while also being observant as to whether your spouse is sincerely sorry and willing to work to regain your trust and love, and determine whether your relationship is worth saving. Chances are it is. The worst that can happen is that you try to make it work, and maybe your efforts fail. At least you can say that you gave it a shot and tried to save your marriage. Divorce should always be considered the last resort.
Gerald A. Maggio Esq. is a lawyer at The Maggio Law Firm in Southern California.