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Can Relationships Survive Cheating?

Although cheating is an enormous act of betrayal, it is possible to repair the relationship. Some couples can address the root causes of the infidelity, leading to a stronger, more resilient partnership.
A man and a woman sit apart, thinking after a fight
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Can Relationships Survive Cheating?


Can my relationship survive infidelity?

It depends.

That's probably not the answer you wanted to hear, but it is the one you need to. But let's start at the beginning.

What is Cheating?

'Cheating' or 'infidelity' is the state of being unfaithful to a spouse or partner. It means being unfaithful either physically or emotionally, breaking the commitment to one's significant other.

What are the Effects of Cheating?

  • Lack of trust
  • Feelings of hurt, betrayal, anger
  • Emotional withdrawal
  • Jealousy
  • Self-Esteem issues
  • Grieving the 'old' relationship

Moving on From Cheating

If your hard boundary is cheating, then there is no coming back from it. You need to cut your losses and move on. The only way a couple can survive infidelity is if both partners are willing to put in the work to repair the relationship.  Repairing the relationship is possible, but it isn't easy.

Key Steps to Recovering From Cheating

1. Why did it happen?

The first step is to address the (painful) elephant in the room: Why did it happen? Having an open, honest, and healthy conversation is essential to repairing the relationship. The betrayed partner should be able to ask all questions in order to move on. The cheater needs to answer those questions without getting defensive, stonewalling, or shutting down. The couple must determine if they can have the discussion alone or if they require an impartial third party, such as a couples therapist.

Some questions that can get to the root cause of the infidelity:

  • Is it still ongoing? Has it stopped?
  • How long did it last?
  • Was it one time or more than once?
  • Was it with one partner or more than one?
  • How did you meet the affair partner?
  • How did the affair start and why?
  • Do others know about it?
  • Was there anything that we could have done in our relationship to avoid it?
  • Do you want to make things work?
  • How do you imagine repairing the relationship?

2. Process Feelings

Finding out about infidelity is a heartbreaking experience. Emotions will run high and bounce from one emotion to the next. It is likely that both partners will go through extreme emotions. Anger, guilt, hurt, jealousy, loneliness, and rage are all common emotions that occur after a betrayal.

If you need space to process your feelings, state that clearly to your partner. Take time to yourself to decide how you would like to move forward: on your own or with them.

3. Decide the Path Forward

Are you willing to stay and work on things? Is your partner willing to rebuild trust? If yes, commit to working on repairing the relationship.
Revenge, while it is tempting, does not allow room for healing. It will only cause more hurt. It makes it more difficult to heal the relationship.

Healing from betrayal takes time. Keep your expectations realistic, understanding that you will need time to heal. Healing is not linear, as there will be moments when you feel better and moments when the pain feels fresh.

Focus on actionable ways to move forward:

  • Building trust: Do you need complete access to your partner's phone to rebuild trust? Decide on how much sharing you need to feel comfortable and for how long.
  • Redefine boundaries: Openly discuss where your boundaries are. Hold each other accountable. Both partners need to agree to the boundaries in place.
  • Individual counseling: both partners can benefit from counseling from a therapist.
  • Marriage counseling: helps couples identify the root causes of the infidelity and how to resolve them

If you want more information on surviving infidelity, here are three book recommendations:

Although cheating is an enormous act of betrayal, it is possible to repair the relationship. Some couples can address the root causes of the infidelity, leading to a stronger, more resilient partnership.

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Note: The book recommendations are affiliated links. I earn (a tiny bit) of money if you buy from those links.