Your partner has cheated. What now?

You may still be reeling from finding out that someone you love has betrayed you. He/she is saying that the affair is over, but you don’t know how to figure out what to do next. Do you stay with the person who has done something unloving and untrustworthy or do you move on? If you stay together or not, how do you recover from this loss?

Ultimately, this is a very personal decision. There are people who cannot tolerate cheating of any kind; one incident signals the end of their union. There are others who won’t consider ending their relationships no matter what happens. This could be due to love, children, money, insecurity or any number of other reasons. Then there are the people in the middle, between these two extremes. Even though they are devastated, angry and/or heartbroken, they need to decide if they can forgive the cheater and move forward.

 For those who need to make a decision about whether or not to stay with a partner who has cheated, it may be helpful to consider these factors:

  • Do you love each other?

Someone who has been betrayed can lose sight of the love in the relationship. His/her anger may be focused on the violation and humiliation he/she has experienced. This can lead to a punishing or controlling approach to his/her partner.  

Love includes kindness, grace and caring. It involves understanding that when people are cold, upset and angry; they can do foolish and regrettable things.

It’s important to ask yourself how much love the two of you share and how much more you can develop.

  • Have you both accepted the fact that there was something wrong with your relationship prior to the cheating?

Once a partner cheats, he/she tends to be solely blamed for ruining the relationship. The betrayed person usually feels as though the cheating lets him/her off the hook for anything and everything. It doesn’t seem to matter if there were problems like distance, resentment, hostility and rejection between them. 

But, realistically, as a couple you must have had some difficulties. And you both would have contributed to them. This doesn’t excuse the cheating. It does tell you where some of your effort needs to go if you’re going to get past it and develop a stronger relationship. 

  • Are you capable of forgiving someone for wrongdoing?

Forgiveness in this case means processing the loss that occurs when you’re betrayed, but then letting it go. That involves giving up the tendency to think about it all the time, go into fits of rage over it and suspect that it could be happening over and over again.

If you think about it all the time, you’re staying immersed in the problem and you’re not considering the other important parts of your life and your relationship. Going into fits of rage over it suggests that you haven’t been able to get past the anger stage in the process of loss. Perhaps you need to figure out what other anger is hooking you in there. If you suspect the cheating could be happening over and over again, you may need to work on lowering your anxiety level. Maybe you should also make sure you and your partner are on the same page about the kind of relationship you want to have. If you are simply incapable of trusting him/her, then you will have a relationship defined by lack of trust. 

  • Can you re-build your relationship?

Whether you consciously realize it or not, you built your relationship once already. Together, you took it from nothing and made it into something. In other words, you learned how to trust each other. And then one piece of it went wrong. Now, it’s essential to revisit the issue of commitment, fidelity and trust to see where the two of you are at and what sort of contract you want to make.

Is it possible to get past the pain, anguish, humiliation and sadness that come when you’ve been betrayed?

Whether you go forward as a couple or as an individual, it’s very important for you to see cheating as a loss that occurred. It’s possible to recover from a loss by going through the stages of shock, anger, depression and acceptance. Working through your thoughts and emotions in this experience can bring you a lot of peace, strength, dignity and humility.

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