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Can A Relationship Survive Infidelity?

If you or a loved one have ever experienced infidelity in a relationship, you likely understand just how devastating it can be. Knowing how much pain affairs cause, one would think they would cease to happen, yet infidelity continues to occur in both unhappy marriages and happy ones. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, 15% of women and 25% of men will engage in sexual affairs. These numbers rise by about 20% when including emotional infidelity.

So why do people cheat?

Can your relationship truly survive once it’s been tainted with an affair?

Is divorce the only option?

Does infidelity say something about you as a person — or is it the quality of your relationship that could be lacking?

These are all questions that couples will ask themselves after discovering an affair. While valid, the answers to these inquiries are often complex and are unique to every relationship. The following article includes information everyone who has experienced infidelity will want to know if you’re asking these questions.

Take time to process your emotions

It will take time to process all your emotions after discovering the affair. There’s a good chance you’ll feel mixed emotions that may change quickly from day to day. Your emotions may range from shock to denial, to anger and jealousy, to deep grief and disappointment.

During this time, it’s important to remember that how you feel now is not how you will feel forever.

Is your relationship worth saving after infidelity?

You may need time to process what you want from your relationship now that it has changed and whether your relationship is worth saving. It’s helpful to remember that you do not need to rush to a decision. Instead, you can take your time to decide what is best for you.
Some relationships aren’t meant to survive, and every relationship comes with its own set of values, context, and expectations. Sometimes, an affair is the final straw to a relationship that was already dying on the vine, and infidelity is just one of many other issues. Domestic violence and emotional abuse are boundary violations that have no place in a relationship, so if these are recurring features in your relationship, you may want to look closely at whether this relationship is healthy for you.

Have intentional conversations

First, it will be helpful if the partner who did the betrayal is honest and can answer their partner’s questions about the affair. Asking and answering these questions may be hard, but it’s vital for the betrayee. Otherwise, they may be further tortured by their own imaginings of the event and the reasons for the transgression. It is also very important that the unfaithful partner take accountability for their actions that caused pain and express this sincerely.

Ask investigative questions

As tempting as it may be to mine for all the exhaustive details of the affair, it may be better to ask your partner investigative questions during your conversations.
  • What was this affair like for you?
  • What did you get from this affair that you did not get from our relationship?
  • What was it like for you to hide your affair from me?
  • What do you value about me and our relationship?
a woman leads her partner by the hand, showing forgiveness after infidelity in the relationship

Is reconciliation possible?

Reconciliation is possible, but both partners have to want their relationship to work and be willing to put in the effort. It could mean enlisting the help of a couples counselor to help you both communicate constructively. For couples who have stayed together after an affair, this decision often depends on some of the following conditions:

  • How long the affair lasted
  • The good times in your relationship
  • The unfaithful partner’s willingness to take accountability and feel remorse
For the partner who was betrayed, it’s essential to restore their sense of self-worth. That might mean rediscovering hobbies, making time for friends, traveling, or solo-time to change your scenery and busy your mind with things that bring you peace and happiness.

Decide if you can forgive

Forgiveness is a cultural ideal that’s often admired (especially perhaps among women), and it is a lovely concept in theory. It’s an attribute that most of us strive for, and we all probably consider ourselves to be understanding, reasonable people who are capable of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is also one of the hardest things to do when it comes to betrayal from your partner. So if you are considering reconciling with your partner, you’ll need to determine if you can actually forgive them.

Forgiveness Defined:

Researchers define forgiveness as “a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”

Can we skip the forgiveness part?

If you’re like many people who’ve been heartbroken by betrayal, you may think that forgiveness means that you condone the transgression and that you are letting your partner “off the hook” for their bad behavior.

In actuality, forgiveness does not involve denial or dismissal of the offense that was made against you. You can also choose to forgive your partner without continuing a relationship with them.

However, forgiveness will be necessary to rebuild and repair your connection with your partner. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you forget, but it means that you are committed to being present in the relationship and learning how to reconnect without bitterness and resentment.

If you are looking for individual or couples counseling to help navigate infidelity, reach out to our care team today.