“Once a cheater always a cheater”, “You’re crazy to stay in this relationship after he/she cheated on you”, “Your marriage is a big lie. You found out, now leave!” These are only a few examples of what betrayed partners hear when they share their pain with others. Staying after infidelity seems like a big mistake if you listen to these, but there might be another way to look at it…
As a couples’ therapist, I see couples impacted by infidelity on almost a daily basis. I see the pain they go through as their hearts are broken to pieces. As we work on healing, more often than not, I get this question from the betrayed partner: “Is it normal to want to stay in this relationship after being cheated on?” Here’s my long answer to those considering staying after infidelity:
Why do the people closest to you tell you to leave?
As a society, we have a tendency to shame men and women who choose to stay in their relationship after infidelity. We tell them to move on, to leave, and to forget. We expect them to recover and find their happiness in a new relationship. One that isn’t tainted by infidelity.
The people closest to you can be your family, friends, or simply someone you chose to share your pain with. It’s very hard for someone close to you to see you suffer. They want to make it go away and the best way to ensure it is to have you end the relationship. It is almost impossible for most people to see how you can be happy with the one who betrayed you. To them, staying after infidelity simply doesn’t make sense.
It is the combination of our society’s general belief that a cheater is always a cheater and your closest people’s need to see you break free from the pain that drives most to suggest leaving. This is why you so often hear from people that staying after infidelity is a mistake. But, my experience as a couples therapist and the available data show a different picture. Let’s first try to understand why you might want to consider staying after infidelity.
Why even consider staying?
When you find out your partner had an affair or is in an extramarital relationship of some sort your world is shattered. You know that the ease of being in a trusting relationship will cease to continue. You experience tremendous sadness, and anger. Your anger can be towards your cheating partner and sometimes towards yourself. This is usually when you start losing hope and you consider ending it.
However, what will not happen to you is you won’t stop loving your partner. Even though they betrayed your trust and tainted your relationship, you most likely continue to love them. This is the reason why most people move away from previous declarations about infidelity. People tend to abandon statements like “If my partner cheats that would be the end of our relationship” after they experience infidelity. I believe they say it before infidelity happens because they really believe it will be the end mark of their relationship. But, what we really don’t consider is the fact that infidelity doesn’t necessarily stop us from loving our partners and wanting to be with them.
If you’re considering staying after infidelity, it’s probably because you still love your partner and you want to be with them. And this is perfectly okay! There’s nothing wrong with you. You may share life events, children, memories, special moments, etc. These make your relationship worth saving and this is why you consider staying. This is why you don’t want to give it up. Now let’s see how it makes sense to stay.
Does staying in a relationship after infidelity really make sense?
Here are some facts that may shed some light:
- Infidelity affects 1 in every 2.7 couples and most (65%-70%) stay together after.
- Most partners engaged in infidelity actually want to stay in their relationships.
- There’s a great potential to have a stronger marriage/relationship after infidelity than before.
Staying after infidelity makes sense if you understand that you both are ready to go into a process. This process requires strength, hope, and mainly the ability to change. You have the potential to recover and be happy in your relationship again, but it will not happen in a day or two. It may take months and during the healing process, you will probably experience ups and downs.
What can you do to start the healing process right?
I have created a free guide for couples who want to heal after infidelity but are not sure how or where to begin. This free and actionable guide will walk you through the 5 most common mistakes couples make after infidelity, and what you can do instead even if you’ve already made some of the mistakes.
Click the image below to get instant access to the guide and start your roadmap to healing in the aftermath of infidelity.
I hope the information here helps make some sense of the conflicting thoughts and feelings you may have about the situation right now. For more support feel free to join my FB group – It’s Okay to Stay – Healing After Infidelity – where you can ask for and get support from community members who have been through infidelity and chose to stay with their partners and rebuild the relationship. Click here to join.