When you’re on the other side of cheating, a million questions can run through your mind. How to move on from infidelity? What to do when your spouse cheats on you? Should you be staying with someone who cheated on you? How to get over being cheated on? The questions are endless and the torment unbearable sometimes.
Studies show that 23% or more of men will be unfaithful to their spouse, or love interest, at some point in their life. For women, the statistic is 19%. These are conservative estimates, with some reports of infidelity being much higher.
What’s more, after someone has been unfaithful they are three times more likely than others to become a ‘repeat offender.’ That makes sense. If you are willing to break the promise you made once, you’ve then shown yourself to be among those who are willing to stray and more likely to do so again.
Very often infidelity spells the end of a relationship. In fact, more often than not this is the case. Even so, it is worth noting that some remarkable couples manage to mend their relationship and move forward in life.
That’s the exception, not the rule.
When Your Spouse or Love Interest Betrays Your Trust
If you are in a romantic relationship (married or unmarried) and your partner is unfaithful, you are left at a crossroads. Do you stay in the relationship and try to make it work, or part ways and be free of the person who has betrayed you?
There are, of course, many different things to consider when making this decision. Are you married and have children? Was the person who cheated under unusual stress and acted in a way that is inconsistent with his/her character?
Everyone, and every relationship, is somewhat different. The particulars of your relationship need to be considered carefully. But in the end, there is an unalterable fact that cannot be ‘explained away.’ Your partner broke your trust. Made a decision to betray you.
Infidelity is not an accident. It’s not a mistake that can be excused by “Oh I forgot” or “I didn’t know what I was doing.” You may forget to bring milk home from the store, but forgetting that you are in a committed relationship is an altogether different story.
One cannot be that casual with infidelity. “Oops honey, crazy me, look what I did by accident. Wow, ended up sleeping with my co-worker. Boy was I surprised when I discovered what I had done.”
Nope. The one who is unfaithful may say that he, or she, did not plan it, and never intended it to happen. But that’s not 100% true. They may not have gotten out a spreadsheet and spent hours developing a detailed ‘Master Infidelity Plan’, but they certainly could identify what kind of relationship was emerging with the person with whom they cheated.
That’s true whether the relationship grew over the course of a single evening, or over the course of months. The failure to step away as the relationship became overly intimate is a sign of planning.
It may have simply been a plan to not avoid intimacy. One need not be the pursuer in an unfaithful relationship in order to be an active participant.
In the end, there is an unalterable fact that cannot be explained away. Your partner made a conscious decision to break your trust. To betray his or her commitment.
The unfaithful partners who claim otherwise are simply flaying about in an attempt to avoid taking responsibility. This is a bad sign. It strongly suggests that further betrayal may be in your future. With infidelity encore performances are unwelcome.
What To Do?
Although there is no one size fits all best response to infidelity, there is an one size fits ‘most everyone.’ In general, the best course of action is twofold: forgive and move on.
Why take this approach?
The first reason focuses on whether you can expect that betrayal will occur again sometime in the relationship. The rationale for this conclusion was given above. But research also shows that those who have been unfaithful in the past are much more likely than most people to cheat again.
The other reason, also referenced previously, is that most relationships do not survive this form of betrayal. With these reasons in mind, it makes sense to make a clean break. To muster all the grace you can and forgive the other person, but move on and start anew.
Some readers will consider the advice just given and conclude that it is a wise course of action. They will then proceed to discard the advice altogether.
The unfaithful partner appears vulnerable, contrite, evokes pity, or there are children who would be devastated by a divorce/separation. Or perhaps the unfaithful partner is seen as ‘the best’ someone will ever find, even with this flaw.
The reasons for remaining are endless, and often lead people to stay. For many, it feels less painful in the short run to remain in a relationship, even a badly fractured one, than to leave and start over. Most of the time this leads to even greater heartache and simply delays the inevitable separation.
If You Decide To Stay
If you decide to stay in the relationship and work things out, there are a few principles to consider in order to give yourself the best possible chance of being successful.
ONE: Enter couples counseling. Right away. No delays.
If your relationship were a patient in cardiac arrest, the hospital ER would be your first stop. There are serious problems that need to be addressed right away. Get thee to a marriage counselor.
A caveat, however, is in order. Some therapists who work with infidelity like to ask the faithful member of the couple “What was your role in pushing your partner away?”
If that is a question your therapist asks in the first few meetings you need to get up and walk out the door. Yes, you may have had a role in creating friction or unhappiness in your relationship. So what? That is an issue to deal with down the road.
Had your spouse/partner gotten angry and plunged a knife into your leg would you expect the doctor to ask “Hey, what was your role in provoking this attack?” Of course not.
The same applies to infidelity.
Later in therapy, after the unfaithful partner has taken full responsibility and some semblance of stability has returned, this question of your role in creating a problematic relationship may be helpful. But when it is raised early in therapy it simply acts as an escape hatch for the guilty partner. It makes it easier for him or her to avoid taking responsibility.
If you hope to rebuild your relationship, trust will need to be re-established. That will be impossible if the person who violated that trust does not take full ownership of their actions.
TWO: Don’t rush the process. Reconciling takes time.
Sometimes years. If you are the one who broke the relationship then you will also be the one who needs to be the most patient.
That does not mean you become a doormat. But you need to appreciate that from your spouse, or partner’s perspective, you’ve shown yourself to be both reckless and selfish. They will want reassurance that trusting you again does not open them up to repeated heartache.
If this makes you feel resentful, get over it. You broke it, so you own it. Give the process time. Lots of it.
THREE: Realize that many relationships will not recover from infidelity.
They may reform sufficiently to enjoy a pleasant sense of harmony, but never again experience the sort of passionate intimacy that had been known in the past.
Others will find that the best they can do is form a tenuous peace with each other that is neither satisfying nor unbearable. The relationship becomes ‘comfortable’ but unfulfilling.
The least fortunate are those who remain in a relationship that is marked by perpetual bitterness and resentment. An unending struggle between two people who had deeply loved one another in the past, but now stand in the ashes of that once satisfying romance.
If your relationship falls into one of these categories you need to be prepared to ask yourself whether this is the best way to live your life? If not, it’s time to reconsider an amicable parting of the ways.
Infidelity is not the norm, but neither is it rare. When one member of a couple decides to be unfaithful it’s important to step back and calmly consider how to respond. The choice that needs to be made boils down to leaving the relationship or attempting to salvage it.
There is no one solution that works for everyone. Although some couples are able to move forward and rebuild a beautiful relationship, most are not.
For the majority of couples, the best thing is to forgive and get on with life… separately. Nevertheless, at times there are other considerations that make this difficult (children, finances, illness, etc.). When this happens and the decision is made to stay together, the first step should be a focus on rebuilding trust.
If trust can be rebuilt you very well may be able to salvage your relationship. If not, you need to think about separating yourselves in the most constructive way possible.
Whatever course you decide upon it is important to put things in perspective. Despite the immediate pain infidelity creates it need not be the defining event of your life. Many, if not most, of the goals in life that once excited you remain to be pursued. Try not to waste time dwelling on what might have been,
It will take some time, but with persistence, you will regain your footing, and very well may find that this experience, however unwanted, has made you stronger and more resilient.
Want to know more about how to move on from infidelity and whether you should be staying with someone who cheated on you? Check this video out below!
Written By Forrest Talley Originally Appeared on Forrest Talley
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can a relationship work after one partner cheats?
Relationships can work out after one partner cheats, but a lot of work, effort, and dedication need to be invested to repair the broken trust. Some couples are able to find their way back to each other, and some do not.
Can a relationship go back to normal after cheating?
Yes, a relationship can sometimes go back to normal after cheating. However, this will require a lot of hard work, effort, and honesty from both partners, especially the one who cheated.
What is infidelity vs adultery?
Infidelity is basically an act of being unfaithful and disloyal to your partner when you are in a committed relationship with them. Adultery is a legal term used to define and address infidelity as far as divorce cases as concerned.