(I'm so so sorry for this long post from me, I also found out years later and your experience has cut close to home and what I started to write ended up being the next novel it seems, sorry!!)
When I found out about my WH secret life of serial cheating, lumped together, it was overwhelming. What helped me was categorize the major issues so I could tackle it one bite at a time, if you’re finding you’re drowning at the moment I recommend you do the same.
The main areas would be, space, facing fears, road to recovery....
Give yourself space to think
I am of the school of thought that once infidelity is discovered you do need a period of NC so you can recover from the shock safely and then start making the decisions of Reconciliation or Divorce/Separation. Why? Because having your cheater in your face, dripping his lies, guilt tripping you, manipulating you, pushing you to do this or do that, pushing you to forgive and forget, influencing your choices etc that stops the healing process and locks you into something that could rob you of the rest of your years. Yes the notion of divorcing is scary but I can only tell you from my perspective, I’m on my way to divorcing and it’s not as scary or painful or life destructive as realising I’ve wasted 20yrs of my life with a serial cheater (we were also amazing, loved our marriage and relationship but reality was he cheated for most of it, some affairs, some ONS, he stopped cheating when he was 48 and started to have ED issues.)
Your marriage was this well contained bubble (by him) and he has now popped it, it’s very hard to acknowledge (i’ve had therapy myself to help me process this truth) but when one couple hides things, lies to the other’s face with ease and betrays without remorse what you thought you had was all spit and polish, surface shine marriage, the core is rotten. Whatever you choose moving forward, R or D, you need space away from your cheating husband to make the choice if you want to rebuild a new marriage or walk away from the broken one. I would tell him, without the whys, you need space to process this infidelity and you’ll get in contact with him next month, he is not to contact you and you will block his number. Then take that space, find help if you need it (IC and doctor/GP) and think, look at your core values etc. You really need to step back and allow the shock to pass and assess before you act.
Face your fears via gathering information
The notion of having to "start all over again" is a myth and a fear we betrayed tell ourselves however it’s not reality, life really does go on and what is actually happening is you’re "changing plans", that’s what it is if you choose D, changing some details, not restarting the whole thing. you are not killing off an entire lifetime, you’re just altering some things in your life. Reality is you’re already living a life now which is a part from your WH and you are living by yourself just fine without him in the same house. My WH also worked overseas for portions of his job, yes unbeknown to me he also used that time to sleep around, but like you, if I stopped taking his calls, stop replying to his texts and emails, I was living by myself. So separating while you think isn’t scary because he is over there, you are home.
There is a fantastic pinned post on our divorce/separation forum called "fear vs reality", read through it all, it honestly helps seeing all us betrayed share similar fears but it’s empowering to read the reality is nothing like the fear.
You’ve been directed to the I can relate forum but there is instant information over on our healing library under articles, read through it all, most are short.
Download the book "cheating in a nutshell" it’s a fast read. Those who believe in R would not recommend this book but as someone who also lived a long life with a cheater, IDK, it validated a lot of past and current hurts.
Talk to a divorce lawyer as soon as possible, you need this information to squash fears and self doubt. Even if you decide to reconcile having this information is valuable to your decision making. If you are in a state where infidelity is taken into account the daughter’s existence might be enough without you needing to get PIs involved. Regardless they can tell you the best case and worse case scenarios.
The more you read about infidelity trauma and healing, the more you identify fears and then find out information to squash them and give you peace of mind the more empowering your choices will become. Reading more on this also prepares you for the typical responses and actions your WH will dish out, things that look like remorse, sound like remorse but are anything but.
It's scary but you will need a full STD screen and ask your doctor if you think your girls need one too. I gave birth during the age where STD screening while pregnant wasn't done and when I went for my dday STD screen my GP automatically said my kids needed testing too, embarrassing as it is to admit this up until I had to worry about my husband giving me an STD from his infidelities I only thought STD/STIs were transmitted during sexual activity, I did not know giving vaginal birth, sharing a bathroom, towels, soaps, cutlery, cups, washing underwear together, patching scrapes etc etc all of that put my child's health at risk too as they are avenues of transmission. Before letting him back into the bed, if you choose to R, your WH will need STD screens done as well. This isn't an over reaction either, let's believe he only had one single ONS (not believed for a moment by this gal BTW) he participated unprotected without a care for you or your girls, the risk of transmission is a scary reality from just that one encounter.
Road to recovery
Do not think about MC, IC is the way to go, if you are finding it hard to find one family counsellors often have training with infidelity trauma, if still unsure you can call your state’s therapy board or even your doctor/GP. Also shop around, speak to a handful to decide who feels right.
You could talk to your daughters to see if you all want to have a family counselling session so the three of you can navigate this together, they might also benefit because no doubt they are in a state of shock as well. If they don't want to do counseling but want to talk, while you're NC/thinking maybe they could visit you for the weekend where you all sit in your pjs, pig out and talk it out.
There is a fantastic youtube channel called affair recovery, watch it all. I personally like the two part video of talking to an expert where they give space to an infidelity trauma expert to talk about what happens to a betrayed spouse once infidelity is discovered. The title is "Infidelity Trauma: An Interview with a specialist" part 1 & 2
Drink water, more than normal and quit alcohol. The body and brain dehydrates faster when in shock and in trauma and a dehydrated brain leads to bad decision making, depression, panic attacks, slow reactions and impossible emotion control. To feel a little better add more glasses of water to your day, even if you already drink the recommended amount.
Exercise, you need the endorphins to help fight anxiety attacks, nothing to do with looking better, everything to do with free feel good hormones when you feel like shit.
If you choose to stay with your WH get a written timeline, not typed (they have to face their lies when written) and hold your cards close and bluff, tell your WH this is his one and only chance to tell the truth about all his infidelities (and yes use plural), be vague, say you will know if he is lying as this news (of daughter) has made you investigate past red flags and leave it as that, if he lies and it doesn’t match that’s it. When he returns home use the timeline to create your poly questions (pay a professional, they’re more expensive but more accurate and keep the date quite so your WH doesn’t plan ahead by taking drugs and using techniques to cheat the poly.)
Get him to read books on how to help his spouse heal from his infidelity, hopefully it'll inspire true remorse which is needed if you choose to R.
As for the other daughter....
Your WH is a selfish pig if he expects to bring this daughter into your family without thinking how this hurts you, it's blind and it's so selfish. He can have a relationship but you don’t have to have one with her, she is an adult, I wouldn’t want her near myself and I would honor whatever my adult children wish to do but as for me I wouldn’t acknowledge her. If she was a child it would be different but this is a legal grown woman, she can get to know her father and he get to know her but you do not need to be a part of that process, you do not have to have a relationship with this woman, it’s as ridiculous as asking you to be friends with his ONS because she is a mother to his child. If you are considering R and you do not want to know this woman then set some hard boundaries for you and your WH, it could be boundaries like no martial funds spent on her, or no holidays or celebrations shared, she doesn't get to be inside the martial home, no calling the marital home, you and your children come first or it can be he keeps the two families a part and respect your wishes not to know this woman. It’s not cruel, he can communicate and have a relationship all he wants but he can do that away from you, he found it easy to live this cheating life behind your back, he is experienced in hiding so he can keep this separate from your life.
I’m so so sorry for the long post here, hopefully you got through it and it gives you some help. My two cents is he has cheated on and off your entire marriage, his past actions, ease of hiding this ONS and simple opportunity points giant red flashing arrows to it for me. You are not a monster for not wanting this woman in your life, she is innocent but so are you except for you she is a symbol of your husband’s infidelity, no one is going to judge you if you allow him to get to know her but put your foot down and keep her out of your life, she is a grown woman not a child, if your husband thinks otherwise then that is a new deal breaking boundary you need to ask if you are going to let him cross. Everyone is different but I survived by leaving, finally. I turned a blind-gaslight-eye decades earlier, believing him when he said it was nothing only to painfully discover years later it was all a lie, he was cheating when I thought he was and he kept at it. so the hardest part is starting the divorce process, honestly that’s tough but each step past that is a life away from infidelity and with the help of IC and family it’s not so bad, I find peace and happiness even.
[This message edited by LostInHisFog at 5:33 AM, Tuesday, September 7th]