Can You Really Recover From A Cheating Partner?

Can You Really Recover From Cheating Partner

There aren’t real strong numbers on what percentage of marriages are affected by infidelity. In the past, I’ve heard numbers from 20-30%. Other unverifiable internet research pegs the number closer to 50%. I think that’s on the high end and is often cited by people who don’t believe in happy marriages, but that’s neither here nor there.

No matter how you slice it, a LOT of people cheat on their spouses. The question is whether infidelity should immediately signify the end of a relationship. I suspect many readers will reflexively think it does. I, on the other hand, do not. Neither does relationship therapist Molly O’Shea, recently cited in the NY Times.

O’Shea specializes in this sort of marriage counseling, which routinely takes a year or more of effort. In order to put the relationship back together, O’Shea cites a couple things which I think are worth sharing:

1. “She asks the person cheated on what it would take to regain trust and what the cheating spouse can do to prove the affair was a mistake. “Usually the person who has been cheated on says, ‘I don’t know what I need’ and ‘nothing is going to help,’ ” Ms. O’Shea said. “They’re just so angry.”

Because of this anger and mistrust, suspicion continues to linger way beyond the initial incident, including becoming upset each time the unfaithful spouse doesn’t answer the phone.

2. “People who have cheated need to affirm their partner’s feelings, sympathize and put up with a lot of justifiable anger.”

No matter how you slice it, a LOT of people cheat on their spouses. The question is whether infidelity should immediately signify the end of a relationship.

That’s not just about cheating. That’s Relationships 101. When my wife gets annoyed that I forgot to throw out the garbage, I can’t tell her to shut up because she’s being ridiculous. Literally the only thing I can do – the only constructive thing I can do – is to OWN my mistake, take the heat, and vow to do better the next time around.

We all put up with a lot of bullshit in relationships. The best couples are the ones who OWN their behavior. Women can put up with an occasionally selfish guy if he admits it and tries to work on it. Men can put up with a little crazy emotional behavior from a woman, as long as she calms down fast and admits she flew off the handle. What no one can deal with is the crazy person who insists she’s being sane – or the cheater who blames his wife for his cheating.

That’s no way to heal things – even according to the couples therapist. Concludes the NYT piece, “While intense therapy may help rebuild the relationship, rarely do couples regain complete trust. “You forgive, but you don’t forget,” says Ms. O’Shea.

Would you be able to forgive a partner who cheated? Or would you end the relationship on the spot? I think there’s a huge difference between, “I got drunk on a business trip and it happened and I’m horrified and I’ll never do it again” vs. “I’ve been having a two-year relationship with someone else and I think I’m in love with her.” The former can be saved if both parties want it. The latter is a systematic, long-term lie, which means you’re married to a systematic long-term liar.

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  1. 61

    I just found out that my husband cheated on me.  I am completely devastated.  I never thought he was the type to do something like this.  I suspected that something was going on and only after I had solid proof did he confess.  I don’t think I will ever get over this.

  2. 62

    I don’t think we ever get over major life altering events. These kinds of things change us in major ways, some good, some bad. While the shock and debilitating pain will fade over time, there may occasionally come a memory that will make you sad even long after your life is happier again. It just won’t ruin your day. And that’s ok.

    I would highly recommend, Chump Lady’s blog and Divorce Minister’s blog.

    I don’t know how long ago this was or if your husband wants to reconcile, but I would caution you to only consider reconciliation if your husband’s actions show he is truly sorry and truly serious about reconciliation. If his actions show that he isn’t really sorry, remember that there are other people out there who are honest and loyal and who can deal with life without needing to have affairs. And you deserve that loyalty whether from your husband or from someone else.

  3. 63

    Today is the one year anniversary of my wife cheating on me.  She was on a vacation for a few weeks and found some surfer hunk to have four sessions with.  Thanks didn’t stack up and the truth came out.  Come to find out, she had cheated before through our 25 years.  There was the guy at work when we were just married.  There was her old boss that she screwed.  There were the flirty dance nights when she was “out with the girls”.  There was the group of navy guys she made out with in San Diego one time.  To top all this off, that old boss I mentioned, well he just might be the father of our son, but she is not positive… just a little sketchy on the timing.

    I can hear you now… pretty cut and dried right?  Not so fast.  During our 25 years together we have had great marriage.  We supported each other emotionally and as co-parents.  We communicate well and genuinely  love each other.  We have a great time being best friends, traveling, laughing, hanging out with friends, etc.  People have always commented on how well put together we are as a couple.  We respect each other’s perspectives and are open.  I was always a good provider and did not stray or gamble or go out drinking or have a wondering eye.  So what gives?

    As people above have mentioned, you can be the best (or as close as anyone can be) spouse and still, your spouse cheats.  Our marriage was really really good and I would stack it up against some of the best.  So why?  Why did my wife not once, not twice, but several times in our marriage decide that she needed to do that?  After a year of counseling and many gut wrenching days and months I fully understand what happened.  I must admit, I am not surprised.

    My wife had a bad childhood.  I mean pretty bad.  Her Dad was sexually abusive.  Her mom was good at looking the other way and essentially abandoning my wife and her sister.  The family was strife with disfunction.  This was my wife’s formative years.  This is when she was figuring out how the world worked and her world didn’t work well.  She learned as young girl that she had a super power that gave her a sort of high.  She could command attention by being sexual and she could get that “rush”, like crack really, by letting the never ending line of horny guys shower her with “love”.  Her value was based on this “love”.  It is how she measured her worth.  She was wanted. Clinically this is called Love Addiction and Sex Addiction.  Sounds scary.  It is.  My wife was addicted to getting her “crack” fix when the opportunity arose.

    Is this an excuse?  No.  But it IS the reason this all happened.  It IS the theme of her discretions.  It is not because we had a bad marriage.  I know, I was there.

    When she came home from her vacation (the surfer one) it was all on the table.  No more lies.  No more secrets.  Total disclosure.  It was hard.  It devastated me.  This is not me.  I am not this person.  This happens to other people.  Not us.

    I had to make a choice.  It’s not one you can read how to make on a blog.  It’s not one you can ask your best friend what you should do.  It is a choice you can only make when you are faced with the enormity of the situation.  I chose to stay.  I loved my wife and she loved me.  She was as devastated, if not more, as I was.  If there was a marriage worth saving, this was one.  I could not bare to throw away so much good just to make a point or to punish her.

    We have worked very hard this year. Spent a ton on some good counseling.  Read a lot and worked through many workbooks.  We did our homework. We are on this.  So how is it you are wondering?  It’s pretty darn good.  It’s not 100% and I may agree with other that it may never be.  But damn, have we come a long way.  I look back at all the different stages we worked through and all the stages it takes to recover from something like this and it has been the hardest thing I have ever done.  What made all this possible is that I absolutely know that she is remorseful.  That she is dedicated to her recovery.  That she is owning every ounce of what she did and that she is unwavering in her dedication to making our marriage recover.  She is all in.  Without that, I couldn’t do it.

    I need to complete my journey this next year.  I still struggle with the last 10% of the recovery.  Kind of like loosing the last 10 pounds on your diet.  They are the hardest to loose.  Likewise, this last portion of this journey is proving to be difficult because I am not really sure what I need now.  My world came crashing down.  Everything I knew turned out to be not true.  What will fix that?  I am working on that.  I liken my state of being to a tall ship.  Picture all the sails and rigging and a nice breeze.  I am sailing along pretty good but if you look close, you will see I am missing all those little sails, the funny small ones on the top and the front.  I need to figure out how to raise them so I can sail to my fullest.

    Time is helping and I hope that time will truly heal these wounds as much as possible.

    1. 63.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Love this story. Thanks for sharing in such detail. I have great respect for how you handled things – particularly that you dug deeper to find out the “why” in your wife’s behaviors instead of just focusing on the “what” (the cheating itself). Hope you pull together and live happily ever after.

  4. 64

    Mine cheated on me when my kids were tween and teen and although I wanted a divorce, I realized  how difficult it would be for my kids. So I gave him a second chance and I caught him again three years later. That was it. I hated every cell in his body and I wanted to eject him from our home. He wouldn’t admit to it either time until I told him I had proof. My advice is to get out the first time, get a pit bull lawyer and get the best settlement you can. I met a great guy who I trust and I wish I had divorced earlier.  Now my ex is getting remarried and will be someone else’s problem. Cheating IS ABUSE!

  5. 65

    My marriage ended when I discovered promiscuous cheating behavior – not one partner, but many.  There were other issues in the marriage but I could not accept that type of disrespect and dishonesty in my marriage.  Obviously divorce is a personal decision and you are right – while cheating is bad, not all cheating is created equal.  But unless there are kids in the picture, to me, cheating is a definite relationship ended.  With kids, there are so many other variables to consider.  I would not take divorce lightly if there are kids.  I wouldn’t take it lightly ever… But with kids, the impact is so much bigger than you and your pride.

    I agree that it would be very hard to overcome a cheating relationship where the unfaithful partner has developed a long term emotional relationship with someone else.  My ex didn’t really do that and to me, it was even more hurtful that he was willing to risk my health and safety to have meaningless sex with strangers while traveling on business.  I guess it is the nature of the deception – allowing infidelity to happen and hiding it.  Plus my ex tried to blame me when I found out.  That definitely added insult to injury!

    I have forgiven him, but I have not forgotten.  I will never forget the pain and humiliation. We are no longer married and I do not regret my decision to end the relationship.  Ultimately a relationship is built on trust and if you don’t have trust, you don’t have anything.  In my case, I couldn’t have taken him back.  Had it been just one time and he was traveling and drunk and he confessed and was contrite, I would have considered it.  But the cheating plus the deception plus the failure to take responsibility plus the abusivr treatment due to his guilt was just too much to handle.

  6. 66

    Five years ago, I caught my wife (now ex-wife) having an affair with another man.  As I researched, I found that she had been cheating on me with him for 2 years prior to me finding out.  I was completely devastated, and I asked her if she wanted to divorce.  She stated that she did not want to divorce and wanted to work on the marriage.  We went into marriage counseling and she lied the whole time and continued with the affair.  After a while, she finally stopped the affair.  But over the following five years, she had (which I found out later) six additional affairs.

    Finally last year, I threw in the towel and filed for divorce.  She did everything she could to make it a bitter divorce.  I tried to be helpful and compassionate, because I really love her.  After we got divorced a few months later we agreed to work together and actually try to rebuild.  We both made an agreement to each other to not date others.  Then over Easter weekend, while I had my son, she sent me text messages stating that she had plans with friends.  I checked on what she said and found that she was lying to me.  On Easter Sunday, I went over to her place to talk.  She had her lover there and had spent the entire weekend with him.

    She continued to lie to me stating that she never had the opportunity to tell me that she was going to sleep with other people.  I now have decided to never trust her again.  I was a fool to ever believe her.  I now am left with nothing but bitter memories and anger to this person.  If she would have only approached me as an adult, I would of at least understood.  She has proven to me that she cares about no one but herself.  I now wish I would have divorced her more than 5 years ago and I really wish I would have NEVER met her.

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