Can A Relationship Survive Cheating?

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Can a Relationship Survive Cheating?

People cheat. It happens all the time. Society likes to think that it only happens when you’re young but that’s not the truth. Cheating does not discriminate – the young, middle-aged, and old are at-risk for its disheartening effects. Your age, socioeconomic status, or educational background can’t protect you from it either!

On top of that, it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or man; you are equally likely to cheat, regardless of your gender. And, about 50% of women and 50% of men are likely to confess within 7 days of the offense.

You’re not alone

The truth is most people have cheated and/or have been cheated on at least once in their lives. Many more have been cheated on several times in their lives. Yes, this tends to occur more during your younger years, teens through young adulthood, but it can happen in any life stage. And, it can be extremely painful and jolting.

Research indicates that infidelity happens a lot. In fact, the American Psychological Association (APA) reported that infidelity accounts for approximately 20% of American divorces. According to a 2013 study, 88% of the time at least one partner cited “cheating” as a determining factor in seeking a divorce. The APA also noted that at least 40% of divorced individuals admitted having multiple affairs.

Research suggests that approximately 46% of adults are bonafide “cheaters”  and only half are bold enough to actually admit their indiscretion(s) to their unsuspecting partners.

Did researchers find any surprises from surveying adults on infidelity? Yes! The biggest surprise was in marital status. Approximately 52% of the participants who were not married told their significant other about the betrayal about a week after it happened.

However, only about 29% of married respondents confessed to their partners within that same timeframe. Therefore, researchers concluded that it typically takes married adults longer to admit affair(s) to their loved ones. In fact, 48% of married respondents waited at least six months to tell their spouses while only 20% of respondents in a relationship waited that long to tell their partners they cheated.   

How to help your relationship survive cheating

Can a relationship survive cheating? Well, it depends on what you do next.

The typical first reaction is typically to throw in the towel and say, “I quit!” The next reaction? Lots of tears and anger. The third reaction? Longing. You’ve thrown your partner to the curb because he or she “messed up.” But, now you regret it. Why? Because your partner has mostly been good to you.

Your ex was always there for you, made you feel good about yourself, supported you in all your endeavors, fixed you soup when you were sick, and told you that you were loved you when you felt alone in the world. Now, all of that is gone and you miss it. Did you make a mistake? Would your relationship have survived if you hadn’t made an in-the-moment decision to end it?

Because there will most likely be deep-seated emotional pain, unrelenting heartbreak, and significant mistrust with a hefty dose of temporary hate and feelings of hopelessness, repairing a damaged relationship will take time and lots of effort. It will also take honesty, “rawness,” respect, communication (having those really hard conversations), effort, commitment, and a plan – a “repair plan.” It may also involve individual and couple counseling sessions, especially if the hurt and mistrust run too deep for one or both partners. It won’t be easy. But, it is still possible.  

Relationships Can Survive Cheating, But Not Always

So, can your relationship survive cheating? Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Was it a one-time thing? Or, did it occur multiple times? Because this is important for determining if your relationship is “salvageable.”
  2. Did the cheating occur at the beginning of your relationship or many years into it? Because, once again, this is incredibly important.
  3. Did your partner just make a stupid mistake out of curiosity or inebriation or was he or she well-aware of his or her actions? Because this makes a difference.
  4. Did your significant other say he or she is in love with the other person? Yikes!
  5. Was your relationship already on its last leg before you and/or your spouse did the “unthinkable?” Maybe, the cheating was a “way out.”
  6. Lastly, do you love your partner, and did he or she treat you well before the indiscretion? Because, although you may want to dismiss this, your partner’s previous behavior may be indicative of his or her true character.

So, can your relationship survive cheating? It can with the right steps. It will take unconditional love, patience, effort, and forgiveness. It will also take time – sometimes lots of time. The good news is approximately 30% of relationships survive after infidelity. Invest your time and energy in identifying the root cause of it so you can address it and move forward with your lives – together or apart.

Actionable Steps



Do your research

When I say “do your research” I am referring to talking to your partner and trying to identify what led up to the cheating. Ask the hard questions, even if it breaks your heart. If you know why it happened, it can help you gain clarity and heal. So, ask but refrain from blaming. If you come to your partner like a bulldog, he or she will either become defensive or walk away from you without providing any answers. Try to keep your cool so you can figure out the root cause.

Note: If your partner shuts-down on you and refuses to answer your questions, research why people cheat. Look online for articles, ask friends and family, and/or purchase books on the topic.



You’ve been hurt, it is okay to mourn. It doesn’t matter why the infidelity occurred; it is still important to mourn. Mourn the partner, relationship, and life you thought you had because you’ll be unable to heal if you don’t grieve what you have lost. It doesn’t matter if you were the one cheated or if you did the cheating, you’ve lost something. Cry, vent, scream, kick, and/or take time for yourself so you can properly go through the grieving process.

Note: Mourning will help you say goodbye to your old relationship and let go of the past. This will let you embrace the new one relationship and forgive your partner for betraying you. Remember, forgiveness is more about you than the other person.


Listen even when it’s painful

To understand why your partner cheated, you’ll need to listen, even when if it’s painful. After you’ve had time to really process what happened, schedule time to talk to your partner. Try to select a location that feels comfortable for both of you, preferably a semi-private place like a coffee shop on a weekday or at your local park. This will be tough but it is necessary to determine if your relationship can survive.

Stay calm and be respectful, even if you really want to tear his or her head off. You will not get answers that way. Keep your composure and listenreally listen to what your partner has to say. After he or she has finished speaking, share with him or her how you feel. Ask your partner to listen to you with the same level of respect.


Don’t make hasty decisions

The worst thing you can do in this situation is to make a hasty decision about your relationship. Take time to really evaluate it and decide what you want to do before you throw away a good relationship out of anger and hurt. Make a list of the pros and cons and reflect on what led to the transgression and whether implementing changes can save it.

If you are unsure of what to do, hold off on calling it quits and make plans to see a counselor. In other words, don’t do anything you may regret until you have had ample time to think it through. 


Spend time together

A good way to determine if your relationship can and will survive is to spend time together. The truth is there can be no real healing if one or both of you has already “checked out.” After the initial hurt, pain, and shame (on the part of the cheater) has subsided, start spending time together again.

Keep in mind that it may be a while before you or your partner feels comfortable enough to be in the same room together. Once you can tolerate each other without animosity, schedule “quality time” with each other doing things you used to enjoy such as going out to eat, to the park, rock-climbing, bowling, mini-golfing, cooking, watching Netflix, etc.

Note: Couples who spend time together doing things they share in common are more likely to recover from infidelity than those who completely shut themselves off from each other. Make an earnest effort to “rediscover” some of the things you used to enjoy together. 


Seek help

Lastly, if the suggestions in this article don’t appear to be helping and you really want to see if your relationship can be repaired, seek help with a “relationship expert” (i.e. couples counselor, marriage and family therapist, relationship psychologist, etc.). Check out one of our Guide Coaches. Sometimes couples need a little extra help to get back-on-track after infidelity. This is especially true for younger couples who *typically* have fewer life experiences at this stage of their lives.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help from a professional. It doesn’t signify that you are “weak,” incapable of solving your own problems or dealing with your own issues. Rather, seeking help is a sign of strength because it takes courage to share your concerns, experiences, emotion, and heartache with someone else. It also takes gusto to consider helping your relationship survive cheating.

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