CL Grant has authored many relationship books, including "30 Day No Contact Rule," "The Reality of Being the Other Woman," and "Ex Addict."
Infidelity is the ultimate betrayal in a relationship. Data from the General Social Survey indicates that 16% of those surveyed reported having sex with someone who was not their spouse. However, the true figure is likely to be higher, as not everyone will be prepared to admit being an adulterer.
Discovering that your partner or spouse has been unfaithful cuts deep and leaves scars that can last a lifetime. Most relationships will never the same again, so why would anyone ever consider trusting a cheater?
Even though emotions will be running high, it is important not to act on impulse. Your life is in turmoil. You need to allow yourself time and space to process what has happened. The last thing you want to do is to make a decision that you will later come to regret.
Staying With an Unfaithful Spouse
While walking away may seem the most obvious course of action, it is not always the best or right solution for the wronged party. You may not be prepared to give up on your relationship and may be willing to stay and try to work things out. You may worry that you will not find anyone else and will live the rest of your life alone.
Perhaps you are so heavily invested in a relationship that you may feel that there is no alternative for you, but to forgive the adultery. Having young children or financial burdens can also prevent you from leaving your cheating spouse.
Even in this so-called ‘modern age,’ there are still many wives who are financially dependent upon their husbands and have no independent income of their own. Similarly, many dads find themselves in the same situation.
They may not wish to walk away from the security of their home and a lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. They may fear the reality of living on their own. Whatever the reason, there are many husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends who are prepared to forgive.
There may even be some acknowledgement from the wronged partner that there were problems in the relationship and that both parties should have been making more of an effort to work through these.
So what happens if you discover that your partner has cheated on you?
Could you forgive and forget?
Why Do People Stray in a Relationship?
Whenever one partner strays in a relationship, the first question inevitably asked is, why?
Most extramarital affairs arise due to some element of marital discord. Nonetheless, they can also occur in seemingly happy relationships.
While there are a variety of reasons why people have affairs, there are some common reasons, as shown below:
- No longer being in love with your partner
- Falling in love with someone else
- Not being sexually satisfied
- Partners having different sexual needs
- Desiring sexual encounters with others
- Lacking total commitment to present relationship
- Lacking emotional satisfaction with current partner
- Having low self-esteem or feeling insecure in the relationship
As shown above, there is no right or wrong answer. The causes of infidelity are varied and will differ for each couple.
Do Cheaters Feel Guilty?
Despite cheaters committing the ultimate sin of adultery, most people who cheat show no remorse and seek to justify their infidelity. Sometimes this is to try and prove to their partner that they are worthy of a second chance and other times it may be because they are deluded and in denial. Also, when we’ve done something that we know to be reprehensible, it is human nature to look for excuses to explain that behavior away.
The degree of culpability acknowledged by the cheater will vary. 50/50 if he thinks you are as much to blame as he is. Zero if the cheater is a narcissist. He will accept no responsibility for his actions. It was all your fault. Cheaters rarely accept that they are entirely to blame.
* The male gender is used simply for ease of reading.
Types of Adulterers in a Relationship
Adulterers can crudely be assessed as falling into two broad categories:
The habitual cheater and the accidental cheater.
The Habitual Cheater
The Habitual Cheater tends to unfaithful, simply because he can. He is a repeat offender and unlikely to change his habits. His thrill-seeking deception is often fueled by adrenaline, lust and sex.
He may also display narcissistic personality disorder symptoms and refuse to accept any responsibility for his behavior. He does not form a strong bond with his lovers, as he knows the affairs will be short-lived.
Indeed, he may even have more than one lover at the same time. When the novelty wears off, or his lover doesn’t give him the adoration he needs, he will dump her for someone else.
Because the affair meant so little to him, aside from sex and making him feel good, then it may initially seem an easier betrayal to forgive.
However, be warned. Habitual adulterers don’t stay on the straight and narrow for very long. He needs his fix and rarely regret his affairs. He merely regrets being found out!
The Accidental Cheater
The accidental cheater doesn’t necessarily set out to commit adultery. Sometimes it can be something as simple as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is often going through a rough patch in his relationship. There may be no intimacy or sexual interaction with his partner. He may be feeling extremely lonely. Then someone comes along who listens to his problems and makes him feel desirable and worthwhile again.
When the realization sets in that he has jeopardized his relationship, he often experiences severe remorse for the unnecessary suffering that his transgression has caused. He usually feels extremely guilty for his actions and may even have tried to end the adulterous affair. If he could turn back the clock, he would.
There may even be some acknowledgement from the wronged party that there were problems in the relationship and that both parties should have been making more of an effort.
Although the accidental cheater is unlikely to stray again, the main obstacle to overcome is the emotional bond that he has formed with his lover. Surprisingly, this spouse can be the most difficult to forgive.
This type of infidelity can sometimes feel more of a betrayal, due to the strong emotional connection that is formed between the two lovers. This relationship is not just all about sex.
Ultimately, this type of philanderer may be unwilling or unable to give up their lover.
Can an Adulterer Change?
This naturally depends upon the individual and the circumstances surrounding the infidelity. For some people, when boundaries are crossed there is no going back.
Once a cheater, always a cheater!
To successfully change, and some do, an unfaithful partner must genuinely want to stop his philandering ways.
Never use emotional blackmail to entice him to do something, that he does not truly want do. It will only backfire on you. He must also hold himself accountable for his behavior and not be harboring the view that none of it was his fault.
He must honestly feel remorseful for his betrayal and must still desire to have you as his long term partner.
Ultimately, he must want to change.
Rebuilding Trust in a Relationship After an Affair
Trust is an essential element of any healthy relationship. The moment a partner strays, that trust evaporates. Love can be killed in the blink of an eye. Everything changes.
Many couples are unable to survive infidelity. No matter how hard you try, there will always be that nagging doubt at the back of your mind that your partner is not telling the truth. You need to know where he is at all times. These doubts consume you and cause anxiety and irrational thoughts. This, in turn, can lead to paranoia, which is not a healthy basis for any relationship.
Rebuilding that trust is no mean feat. It takes a considerable length of time. Years possibly. You want to believe your partner but you can’t. You are instinctively suspicious.
If a couple is committed to making their relationship work, then it is possible to rebuild trust following an affair. But rebuilding that trust is no stroll in the park. It is a tremendously rocky road that will have its highs and lows.
The cheater must also be willing to understand the needs, concerns and fears of his partner. This will mean continual reassurance and discussing intimate details of the affair, no matter how uncomfortable this may be.
Professional relationship counselling may also be advisable if the trust is to be regained in the relationship.
In a nutshell, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you love him?
- Do you want him?
- Can you forgive him?
- Can you trust him?
If, after a reasonable time, you are unable to answer ‘yes’ to all of the above, then it may be better for you to move on.
Just ensure that the decision is the right one for you and talk it through with a counselor first.
- General Social Survey.(2010 - 2016). Retrieved August 14, 2019.
- Institute for Family Studies (2018). Who Cheats More? The Demographics of Cheating in America. Retrieved August 14, 2019.
- Knopp, K., Scott, S.B., Ritchie, L.L., Rhoades, G.K., Markman, H.J., & Stanley, S.M. (2017). Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater? Serial Infidelity Across Subsequent Relationships. Retrieved August 14, 2019.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 C L Grant
Ryan Smith on October 04, 2012:
Thumbs up! Very good read.
dashingscorpio from Chicago on October 03, 2012:
Very interesting hub!
Actually your statement "most people who cheat seek to justify their infidelity" would apply to anything a person decides to do. Everyone "justifies" or offers reasons why they elected to do something. I suspect the goal of any cheater is to hold onto what is good in her/his primary relationship while fulfilling other needs on the side. I tend to believe cheaters fall into three basic groups. 1. The Incessant Cheater (bores easily, flirts a lot, charming, believes "variety is the spice of life") and most likely has never been faithful in their life.
2. The Unbelievable Opportunity Cheater (what you called the accidental cheater) This person did not set out to cheat however an opportunity presented itself to possibly be with someone out of their league, someone they've had a crush on, or someone with notoriety that gave them unexpected attention and made them self available. Often times this type of cheater is riddled with guilt so much so that they may confess to their mate down the road to relieve themselves.
3. The Discontented Cheater (This person truly believes they are justified in seeking other options) There is sexual incompatibility, feel taken for granted, not being made to feel special/loved, verbal or physical abuse. Either way it won’t take much showering of attention by a stranger to put a smile on their face or in their heart.
Some people who have been betrayed by cheaters will sometimes try to work things out if they truly believe (their neglect) impacted their mate’s choices to some degree. However it is worth noting that any cheater who is caught is going to cling to the “Discontented Cheater” profile because it is the most sympathetic of the three. Only the betrayed person can determine if there is any merit.
Finally I might add there are some people that elect to stay with cheaters because they are (“in love” with them). Clearly Hilary Clinton for example is well off enough to have divorced Bill Clinton after his scandals. New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s wife stayed with him after the prostitute scandal. More recently actors Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are said to be getting back together after Kristen cheated. Ironically they aren’t even married and are both financially independent.
I’ve known men who stayed to raise kids their significant other conceived during an affair! I suppose one can never underestimate the blinding power of love one has for their mate.