The consequences of infidelity: Should I forgive my spouse? It’s hard to think of something more devastating than learning that your spouse has cheated on you. The one person you thought you could trust above anyone in the world has betrayed that trust, leaving you to doubt not just your relationship, but your own desirability as a partner. It’s important not to blame yourself for your partner’s infidelity, and to take proper care of yourself emotionally.
A big part of this self-care is deciding whether to leave your partner or try to put your relationship back together. By taking the time to understand why your partner cheated and what you can expect of them in the future, you can determine whether your relationship is worth salvaging. Only once you have made this decision can you move forward with your life and lay a foundation for future happiness.
Whether your partner told you about their tryst or you found out about it on your own, it’s important to learn as much as possible about how they were cheating on you. The more information you have, the easier it is to decide what their infidelity meant to your relationship and whether they are likely to do it again. Consider:
- Why They Cheated–Although it can be hard to know your partner’s specific motivations for cheating, get a sense of what led them to have an affair in the first place. Was it simply a desire for sexual satisfaction? Did they have an emotional connection with someone else that became a physical connection? Or were they motivated by a sense of narcissism or a desire for power? In general, narcissistic or power-hungry cheaters are more likely to betray you again, and may even be dangerous, so you shouldn’t try to patch up a relationship with them.
- Whom They Cheated With–Did your partner cheat with multiple people? Or did they only sleep with one person? If it was just one person, did they sleep with them once or multiple times, and was there any emotional connection there?
- How Long They Cheated–Did your partner cheat on you just once or multiple times over a long period? In general, the longer and more often they cheated, the greater the odds that they will do so again.
None of these questions should determine whether you give your partner a second chance. Different people will weigh each factor differently; some won’t be able to forgive their spouse for cheating once, while others will forgive them even for multiple long-term affairs. But whatever your inclinations are, the more you know about their affair, the easier it is to make a decision that reflects your needs and desires going forward.
Moving Forward from Forgiveness
In addition to thinking about the circumstances of your partner’s infidelity, you should consider what it would take for the two of you to patch up your relationship. This tends to include:
- Improving Communication–Infidelity is frequently the result of poor communication between you and your partner, so moving forward almost always involves improving that communication. Think about how you and your partner might be able to better discuss your needs, desires, and insecurities. Then consider whether your partner would be willing to take these steps; if not, any attempt to repair your relationship will likely fail.
- Addressing Underlying Issues–Besides poor communication, there are often other underlying issues that can lead to infidelity. These include feelings of inadequacy, isolation, powerlessness, and other issues, both for you and for your partner. Consider what you would have to do to work through these issues, whether you’re willing to do that work, and whether or not your partner would do it.
- Maximizing Health–Sometimes, cheating is connected to health problems, including mental illness, substance abuse, and sexual addiction. If this is the case, your partner will likely need to seek treatment for these issues, both to prevent them from cheating again and for the sake of their own well-being. Consider whether your partner will be willing to seek treatment if this is the case.
When assessing whether your partner will take the steps necessary to heal your relationship, take their previous behavior into account. Have they made a real effort to improve themselves and solve past relationship problems? If not, they probably won’t be willing to now, suggesting that it’s not worth trying to move forward with your marriage.
Accurate Information from a Licensed Investigator
Before you can decide whether to forgive your partner, you need to know for sure that they aren’t continuing to cheat on you. As New York City private investigator Darrin Giglio puts it, “Suspicion can be corrosive to your life. If you suspect your partner is cheating, gather the information you need to know for sure. Only then will you have the clarity and peace of mind to move forward.”
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