You ask: Can we survive infidelity or should I walk away after the infidelity has been discovered?
The infidelity deception has been discovered — knowing when to walk away after infidelity or when to start an infidelity recovery process is your first challenge after the affair has been discovered.
Knowing when to walk away after infidelity is not easy
Hi, this is Abe Kass, MA, RSW, RMFT. I am a professional couple and family therapist who specializes in infidelity recovery.
Recovery from an affair is not easy; neither is living with your partner after they have betrayed you.
Let’s consider some scientific facts about relationships traumatized by infidelity:
In a national survey of couple therapists, extramarital affairs were ranked as the second most damaging problem to relationships, with only physical abuse having a more negative impact.
In another study of more than 2,000 randomly selected married people in America, researchers examined the effect of various relationship problems that led to divorce.
The impact of extramarital sex on divorce was more than twice as much as any other relationship problem.
Although there is a strong taboo in society against extramarital sexual relationships, sexual affairs are common.
Recent national studies have found that nearly 25% of husbands and more than 10% of wives have had extramarital sex at some point in their relationship.
Among relationship problems, such as anger problems, emotional abuse, having an affair, having irritating habits, spending money foolishly, or abusing drugs or alcohol, extramarital sex was the biggest predictor of divorce. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, October 2002,Vol. 28, No. 4,423-434.
After the affair has been discovered, there are 8 factors that will help you decide if you should attempt to stay with your partner or leave. Consider the following and answer the 8 questions:
1. The cheating continues
The unfaithful partner is still involved with the person they cheated with. If the cheating continues, there can be no recovery process. The affair must be completely finished before any healing can begin.
Knowing how to tell if your partner is still cheating is difficult. There are procedures and resources to help you determine if your partner is cheating or not. However, they are beyond the scope of this article.
Severing the relationship with the paramour (illicit lover who is outside the marriage or committed relationship) sometimes means changing jobs, moving to a different city, or other accommodations to reduce the possibility that the illicit relationship can resume again in the future, and to provide some measure of security for the betrayed partner.
Is the cheating continuing? Yes or No.
2. Serial cheater
Infidelity is not an innocent error. It is a deliberate act that the perpetrator must take responsibility for. It is a calculated relationship sin that causes great harm to the entire family.
If the betrayer has a history of cheating, and there is no clear evidence that he or she will not do it in the future, there is little hope for infidelity recovery.
It is never possible to blindly trust a serial cheater, someone who has never learned or desired to control their actions. Therefore, with such a person, recovery is impossible.
There is a saying: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
Is the unfaithful partner a serial cheater? Yes or No.
Here is a Video Summary of this article, When to Walk Away After Infidelity [8 factors]
The philanderer must take full responsibility for his or her bad actions.
He or she must acknowledge his or her bad behavior and regret hurting his or her partner and other family members.
On the other hand, if the cheating partner thinks that it is possible to justify what he or she has done, then he or she is not a candidate for infidelity reconciliation.
Blaming others for cheating means that in the future, the cheater may find new reasons and excuses to cheat again.
Does the philanderer justify and blame others for what he or she has done? Yes or No.
4. Feelings of empathy
Can the philanderer feel the pain he or she has caused his or her partner and other family members?
For recovery from infidelity to be effective, the philanderer must empathize with their partner’s pain.
A cheater who does not empathize is not a candidate for reconciliation since he or she cannot recognize how much injury cheating causes others.
Is the betrayer unfeeling about the pain he or she has caused? Yes or No.
5. Good character
Good character is an integral component of relationship fitness and is necessary for a healthy and stable relationship.
A person in a committed relationship must recognize the difference between ‘right and wrong.’ If they cannot do this, they cannot sustain a healthy relationship with another person.
Cheaters often lie, and this demonstrates poor character and a lack of integrity.
A person who often lies and thinks nothing of it, and when caught covers it with another lie, simply does not have the requisite positive character traits needed to establish a healthy relationship.
A person can certainly learn to be of good character. However, without the desire to change for the better, a cheater is not a candidate for infidelity recovery.
Is the perpetrator of infidelity a chronic liar? Yes or No.
Only a humble person can learn from his or her mistakes.
Recovery from infidelity requires that the cheater sit in the ‘hot-seat’ and describe what happened and take responsibility for their bad behavior.
Being in the hot-seat is uncomfortable. Nevertheless, a willingness to face and examine one's mistakes are necessary if they are to be transformed into valuable lessons. To do so requires humility.
A selfish and insensitive individual cannot look at oneself objectively and learn from past mistakes.
Is the cheater in your relationship arrogant and unwilling to examine oneself? Yes or No.
7. Willing to discuss what happened
The partner who was betrayed, the victim, has a need to know the details regarding what happened.
The betrayer, the cheater, who refuses to talk or gaslights twisting the reality of what happened, is not a candidate for infidelity recovery.
Does the partner who cheated refuse to discuss what happened and its details? Yes or No.
8. Willing to go to counseling
Infidelity recovery often requires a competent and caring professional.
If someone breaks a bone, they need an orthopedic surgeon. There is no getting around this fact. For a couple struggling to overcome infidelity, they often need to turn to an expert to help them get through the crisis. “There is no getting around this fact.”
A cheating partner who refuses to work with a trained professional to help recover from the affair is a partner who is not serious about taking responsibility for the damage he or she has caused and to move on to the recovery process.
Regardless of the need, the betrayer refuses the assistance of a professional therapist? Yes or No.
Your answers to the above questions will tell you when to walk away from your cheating partner
If you have answered “yes” to any of the above 8 questions, then it is very doubtful that your relationship can recover from infidelity.
Certainly, there are other considerations to be take into account; such as financial, having children, and other imperfections in the relationship that must be taken into consideration regarding whether to divorce or not. Knowing when to walk away after infidelity is not always easy.
Your answers to the above eight questions should help guide you in knowing if you should walk away from your partner or stay and begin a recovery process.
What happens when you divorce your cheating partner
Surviving infidelity is difficult. This is why divorce often follows cheating.
Research shows that 53% of couples who experience infidelity divorced five years later compared to 23% of non-infidelity couples. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 2014 American Psychological Association, 2014, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1–12.
If you are to survive infidelity, you will need to work at it likely for several years. Alternatively, you can get divorced, which is often equally difficult.
The 4 common events of an affair-induced divorce
The events of an affair-induced divorce is reasonably predictable. The divorce and post-divorce typically goes as follows:
Having an affair breaks the relationship bond. Lies have been told. Both the cheater and the victim are disoriented, confused, and angry at one another!
Engaging in a divorce process creates distance between the two combatants, and although painful, there is some security in knowing what is next and where one is headed.
The divorcing couple fight during the divorce proceedings, creating distance between one another. The hope is that this divorce wall will be a comfort and protection. Nevertheless, even if a divorce has a silver lining of comfort, the pain of going through a divorce is overwhelming and universally proclaimed as unpleasant.
2. The fight
Rather than working to recover from infidelity, the couple fights about their relationship.
The unfaithful partner insists on denying what is evident or blames his or her partner, while the victim announces to the world what their partner has done.
Both partners go around town advertising the most embarrassing secrets and repulsive activities of the other, which is highly unattractive to the captive audience. It is especially burdensome for children. Soon, everybody agrees that these two ‘should get a divorce.’
The “divorce fight” leaves emotional, financial, hurt children, extended family, and many other deep wounds.
3. Reality sets-in
Outside the legitimate relationship, the abandoned partner makes contact with the world and learns that life continues.
The cheater’s grand affair or great independence or great power play comes to an end when the partner who was cheated on recovers.
Eventually, the infidelity victim finds a new partner and starts life over again. And if there are children, they too have a new parent.
As the partner who was cheated on experiences growing strength and coping skills, gaining others’ support, and seeing the rewards of being free, the cheater starts to feel the divorce’s drawbacks.
As the legal, financial, and parenting complications become more evident, the philanderer becomes more angry and resentful.
If the philanderer has begun living with their paramour, then they are always under scrutiny by this new partner who wonders if they too will be betrayed as the first partner has been.
4. Human sacrifices
Both partners, but most often the philanderer with more frequency and greater intensity, are shunned by family members and friends. One individual becomes “good,” and the other individual is “bad.”
Often the children are made to choose between one of the two parents — who are they to be loyal to, who are they allowed to love, and who they can spend time with. The alienated parent is devastated.
Whoever sought the divorce now gets the desired divorce, gets surrounded by tragedy, and gets to hunt for everyone’s support for the resultant state of mourning that will last for years.
Mourning the loss of the original family, especially when children are present, is often accompanied by expensive and emotionally wrenching litigation.
Whether you walk away after infidelity or stay there will be challenges
If you stay with your partner after the infidelity has been discovered, you will ask yourself over and over again if you made the right decision.
Know, the hurt can resurface instantly when you look at your mate or react to something they say or do.
Often, to cope with your recovery, the pull to rehash the affair must be set aside. At such times, you need to focus on the good years and the reasons you decided to stay.
On the other hand, if you walk away from your cheating partner and start a new relationship, your new companion will not have the supernatural properties to save you from your past misfortune, nor will he or she take away the feelings of hurt, betrayal, and resentment.
If you prematurely throw yourself into a new relationship before healing the wounds of your broken heart, you’ll be unable to navigate the challenges of a new relationship.
Many second marriages fail. And the reason for this is that the pain from the first relationship loss has not subsided, and the relationship lessons needed for a good second marriage or committed relationship have not been acquired.
When you have fully recovered from your betrayal, loss, and the unfairness of what your ex-partner has done, only then will you then have an open heart that is open to a new partner.
Based on my many years of helping couples recover from infidelity or go through the divorce process, I would strongly urge you to seek reconciliation if it is at all possible. Although it is hard work, in the end, this is a better solution, especially when you have children.
Wishing you the best,
Professional couple therapist and infidelity expert, Abe Kass, MA, RSW, RMFT.