How to reply to a companion’s infidelity

Studies show that 20 percent or more of men will be unfaithful to their spouse or love interest at some point in their lives. For women, the statistic is 15 percent. These are conservative estimates, with some reports of infidelity being much higher.

Also, someone who has been unfaithful once is three times more likely than others to become a “repeat offender.” That makes sense. If you’re willing to break the promise you once made, you’ve proven yourself to be one of those willing to go astray.

Clearly, as a general rule, this person is at greater risk of breaking promises in the future.

Very often infidelity means the end of a relationship. In fact, in most cases this is the case. Still, it’s worth noting that some remarkable couples manage to mend their relationships and move forward in life.

That’s the exception, not the rule.

When your spouse or love interest is unfaithful

If you’re in a romantic relationship (married or single) and your partner is unfaithful, you’re at a crossroads: stay in the relationship and try to make it work, or break up with the person who made it ? cheated on you?

Of course, there are many different things to consider when making this decision. Are you married? Do you have children? Has the person who cheated been under unusual stress and behaved in a way that is against their character? Are there financial reasons to stay in the relationship?

Everyone and every relationship is slightly different. The details of your relationship need careful consideration.

But in the end there is one unchangeable fact that cannot be explained away. Your partner broke your trust. Made the decision to betray you.

Infidelity is no accident. It’s not a mistake at all that can be excused with “Oh, I forgot” or “I didn’t know what I was doing”. Someone may forget to bring milk home from the store, but forgetting that you are in a committed relationship is a whole different story. You can’t be so casual about infidelity. “Oops honey, look what I accidentally did: I ended up sleeping with my co-worker. Boy was I surprised when I found out what I had done.”

nope The one who is unfaithful may say that he or she did not plan it and never intended it to happen. But that’s not 100 percent true: They might not have pulled out a chart and spent hours developing a detailed “infidelity master plan,” but they were certainly aware of the type of relationship that was developing with the person they were with have cheated.

This is true regardless of whether the relationship grew over the course of a single evening or over the course of months. Failing to withdraw when the relationship got too intimate is a sign of planning.

Some planning is about taking action, other planning is about deciding not to stop something that is unfolding. If you want to lose weight but don’t mind if the waitress brings you a big piece of cake, then plan on breaking your diet. You could tell the waitress you don’t want dessert and have her remove the cake. But if you drop it and then pick up a fork, you’ve made a plan. It’s an impromptu plan that doesn’t require much forethought, but it’s still a course of action you’ve decided to take. Not removing the cake and then picking up a fork reflects the planning at that moment.

So does the person who cheats and then claims, “It just happened; I never planned it to happen” is just an excuse.

There are numerous starting points on the path to infidelity. The unfaithful partners who claim otherwise are just hanging around to avoid responsibility.

What to do

While there is no one-size-fits-all best answer to infidelity, there is a one-size-fits-the-most-everybody.

In general, the best course of action is twofold: forgive and then move on—separately.

Why choose this approach? Think of it this way: a person who has cheated is more likely than most other people to cheat again. Also, consider what was mentioned earlier: Even when people try their best, most relationships don’t survive infidelity. Living with someone who has betrayed your trust can create a level of caution and longstanding resentment that is antithetical to a deeply satisfying long-term relationship.

Some will consider the advice just given, ponder it, and think it wise. They will then proceed to discard it entirely. Saying goodbye hurts. Sometimes it feels too much to bear. Or maybe, despite this flaw, the unfaithful partner will be viewed as “the best” you will ever find. It may also make the unfaithful partner seem vulnerable and evoke pity. Or there are children involved who would be devastated by a divorce or separation.

The reasons for staying are endless and often lead to people staying. For many, staying in a relationship, even a badly broken one, feels less painful in the short term than leaving and starting over.

More often than not, the decision to stay only adds to the grief and simply delays the inevitable breakup.

If you decide to stay

If you decide to stay in the relationship and are trying to work things out, there are a few principles to keep in mind to give yourself the best possible chance of success.

1. Enter couples counseling immediately. If your relationship were a patient going to the hospital, the emergency room would be your first port of call. There are serious problems that need to be fixed. Go to a marriage counselor.

However, one caveat is in order: some therapists like to ask the faithful member of the couple, “What was your role in pushing your partner away?” If that’s a question your therapist asks in the first few sessions, stand up and walk away out the door. Yes, you may have played a role in creating friction or unhappiness in your relationship. So what? That’s a problem to deal with on the street. If your spouse or partner got angry and stuck a knife in your leg, you would expect the doctor in the ER to be like, “Hey, what was your role in provoking this attack?” No.

Later in therapy, after the unfaithful partner has taken full responsibility and some semblance of stability has returned, this question can arise and be helpfully addressed. But when addressed early in therapy, it simply provides an escape door for the guilty partner. It makes it easier for him or her to avoid taking responsibility.

If you hope to rebuild your relationship, trust needs to be restored. This will be impossible if the person who violated that trust does not take responsibility for their actions.

2. Don’t rush the process. Reconciliation takes time, sometimes years. If you’re the one who ended the relationship, then you’ll also be the one who needs the most patience. That doesn’t mean you become a doormat, but you do need to acknowledge that you’ve proven unreliable and selfish in your spouse’s (or partner’s) perspective. They will want reassurance that trusting you again will not open them up to a repeat performance. When it comes to infidelity, encores are frowned upon.

If this upsets you, get over it. You broke it, so it’s yours. Give the process time. Lots of it.

3. Realize that many relationships never fully recover. They may reform enough to enjoy a comfortable sense of harmony but never again experience the kind of passionate intimacy known in the past.

Others will find that the best they can do is make a tenuous peace with one another that is neither satisfying nor intolerable. The relationship becomes “comfortable” but unfulfilling.

The least happy are those who remain in a relationship riddled with constant bitterness and resentment — an endless struggle between two people who loved each other dearly in the past but are now left in the ashes of that once satisfying romance.

If your relationship falls into one of these categories, you must be willing to ask yourself if this is the best way to live your life. If not, it’s time to consider an amicable breakup.


Infidelity isn’t the norm, but it’s not uncommon either. When a partner decides to be unfaithful, it’s important to take a step back and carefully consider how to respond. The decision that needs to be made boils down to leaving the relationship or trying to save it.

No solution works for everyone. Although some couples are able to move forward and rebuild a beautiful relationship, most are not.

For the majority of couples, the best thing is to forgive and move on with life – apart. Who knows? You can finally make a wonderful friendship.

Whichever path you choose, it’s important to put things in perspective. Despite the immediate pain that infidelity causes, it doesn’t have to be the defining event of your life. Many, if not most, of the goals in life that once excited you remain to be pursued.

It will take time, but with persistence you will find your feet again and you may find that this experience, unwanted as it may be, has made you stronger and more resilient.

Facebook image: Dmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock

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