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Can a relationship go back to normal after cheating? The brutal truth

Peter Pan syndrome

There’s no getting around it:

Being in a relationship can be one of the most fulfilling experiences you’ll ever have. Your love for each other can provide you with comfort, security, ecstasy, and fulfillment.

But when things go south, this also means that relationships can present you with some of the most challenging experiences you’ll ever encounter.

And you can look no further than encountering this kind of challenge when you find out your partner is having an affair.

The betrayal, the anger, the sadness. It’s a terrible experience.

I know. 5 years ago my partner cheated on me. The emotions I experienced weren’t pretty, and for a period of time, I couldn’t look at my partner in the same way.

I’m guessing that if you’re reading this article, then perhaps you’re in a similar situation to what I was 5 years ago.

And now you want to know: Can a relationship go back to normal after cheating?

I’m here to tell you that it can, but it also depends.

In this article, I’m going to dive into when a relationship can survive infidelity, and how to make it happen.

It’s a big topic, so let’s get started.

1. Accept that it happened and the emotions you’re feeling

Let’s face it: If cheating occurred, then there is a healing process that the one being cheated on needs to go through.

It’s not easy, it takes time, but it is possible. I can vouch for that.

If you’re the one who has been cheated on, then you need to accept how you’re feeling.

It’s the only way you’ll be able to move on.

In fact, this is probably the hardest part.

After all, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably feeling upset, betrayed, and sad. You can’t stop wondering how the hell it happened. Was it your fault? Was it their fault? Was it simply a small mistake?

Yet with such an act of betrayal, you can’t help but question your own self-worth.

But don’t get down. These feelings are perfectly normal for anyone that’s just been cheated on.

Take it from me:

What you don’t want to do is try to ignore it and move on with the relationship. That’s what I did.

But you know what?

Those negative feelings remained, and I couldn’t look at my partner in the same way.

It was only when I accepted that I was hurt and upset that I began the process of moving on.

It’s the only way you and your relationship will be able to move forward.

Now don’t get me wrong:

Accepting how you’re feeling isn’t easy. Negative feelings aren’t fun.

But what helped me was writing down how I was feeling in my journal.

Writing is great for slowing down the mind and processing how you’re feeling.

Give it a try. You’ll be able to express your painful feelings, and in the process, understand them.

Remember: If you don’t process those negative feelings, then you’ll never truly get over the fact that your partner cheated on you.

2. Shed the blame

It’s incredibly common for anyone who has been to cheated on to blame themselves.

Strange, right? You’d think that blame should only be directed at the partner who committed infedlity but it just isn’t the case.

These were the thoughts running through my head when I found out my partner was cheating:

“Wasn’t I good enough?”
“Did my partner want to find someone better?”
“Do I not provide enough excitement in the bedroom?”

These questions made me feel like sh*t, and worst of all, I had no hope of answering them.

But you need to realize that you don’t need to answer those questions.

What your partner chose to do has nothing to do with you. You shouldn’t feel responsible for your partner’s actions. That’s not how it works. And obsessing over what could have been is useless.

It’s happened, and there’s nothing you could do about it. In fact, blaming yourself, your partner or anyone else won’t change anything and it’s just wasted energy.

It’s also important to avoid playing the victim. Don’t wallow in self-pity.

Instead, process those emotions and then look forward to the future of what lies ahead of you and how you’ll make your relationship work (if that’s what you want).

3. Get over the jealously

It’s entirely natural for anyone that’s been cheated on to feel the emotion of jealously.

After all, the person who was supposed to be loyal to you has betrayed the trust with someone else.

I’ll be the first admit that I just couldn’t get this out of my head. Was this person more attractive than me? Better in bed?

But as difficult as the feeling of jealously is, if the relationship is to go back to normal it’s imperative to process it and move on.

It’s just an emotion, and it doesn’t serve any purpose. Jealously certainly doesn’t allow for logic. And jealously can lead to resentment, and as the old adage claims: “Resentment is like a poison you drink yourself, and then wait for the other person to die”.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s important to speak to your partner and work out why they did what they did.

There’s no need to throw your hands in your air and quit the relationship right away.

Ask questions and listen to what really happened. It’s only by understanding what happened that you’ll be able to move on from the feelings of jealously, and most importantly, figure out if it’s worth it to continue the relationship.

4. If the relationship is to go back to normal, you need to forgive them

Whether you like it or not, the moment you discover that your partner has cheated on you, you are now on a new path – a new path of forgiveness.

And I’ll be honest: The idea of forgiving them seems ridiculous, particularly if they haven’t truly apologized to you, or shown no signs of remorse or regret.

No one deserves to be cheated on, for whatever reason.

Cheating is the ultimate betrayal – we place all our love and time into the person we choose, and they pay us back by deceiving us, lying to us, and giving part of themselves to another person.

This is something I simply couldn’t bear doing. After all, my partner made a huge mistake and I believed that they should pay for it.

But looking back, it was only when I forgave their actions that our relationship began to move forward again.

5. Does your partner deserve a second chance? Knowing when the relationship can go back to normal

You can forgive your partner without offering them a second chance, and simply letting the relationship end.

But for most people who find themselves cheated on, you won’t want the relationship to end.

It will hurt for a long time, but your partner is still the person you fell in love with. So do they deserve a second chance at the relationship?

Consider the possible red flags first before deciding to give them a second chance:

  • They cheated on you with an ex-partner, meaning there were some old feelings involved
  • They cheated on you in a long-term affair rather than a one-night stand
  • They haven’t exactly apologized to you, and haven’t shown any true remorse
  • They cheated early into the relationship
  • They have a history of controlling, abusive, or jealous behavior, meaning they have been projecting themselves onto you
  • This isn’t the first time they have cheated or lied to you

Every relationship can be saved, but the question you have to ask yourself is: does it deserve to be saved?

Your sanity and happiness are more important than your relationship with your partner.

Don’t forgive them for the wrong reasons, or else you will find yourself living in a state of unhappiness for years. Some of these wrong reasons include:

  • You want to forgive them because you’ve been together for so long. This is called the “sunk cost” dilemma – you don’t want all the time you’ve spent together to be wasted, so you would rather stay together instead of throwing the relationship away.
  • You want to forgive them because you’ve also cheated on them, or hurt them in other ways. While this can certainly influence your decision on whether to forgive them or not, it shouldn’t be the only factor. Do you really want every part of your relationship to be solved in an eye-for-an-eye scenario?
  • You want to forgive them because you have kids. You love your kids, and the last thing you want to give them is a broken home. But if the alternative is an unhappy set of parents, is that really better?
  • You want to forgive them because your social circles are tied together. After years of building lives together, all your friends know you as a couple. You are afraid that if you broke up, you would force all your friends to pick sides, or worse, you would lose all your friends. But that’s just a chance you might have to take.

To Forgive or Not to Forgive? The Forgiveness Questionnaire

When you are deciding on whether or not to forgive your partner for cheating on you, there are 10 important questions you have to ask yourself. These are as follows:

1) Has your partner apologized, and was their apology sincere?

2) Does your partner truly understand how much hurt they have caused you?

3) Is this the first time your partner has cheated?

4) Do you believe you could ever trust your partner again?

5) Will you truly forgive your partner, or will you remind them of the infidelity whenever you have a disagreement?

6) Is there anyone else that depends on your relationship? Kids, family, friends?

7) Are you and your partner both willing to put the work in to resolve your conflicts and fix whatever led to the cheating?

8) Who did your partner cheat on you with? Was it a one-night stand, or a long-term affair with an ex?

9) Has your partner accepted their unfaithfulness towards you?

10) Can you ever be happy with your partner again?

6. Talk with your partner

This is probably the most crucial step if your relationship is to survive infidelity and go back to normal.

This is especially the case if you don’t know whether to continue the relationship.

First, you’ll want to gather all the available information. Do you have proof that your partner cheated? Without proof, you will look like a distrusting fool.

And before you talk with your partner, try to figure out what you really want. Do you want to stay together with your partner? Are you not sure?

If you’re not sure, and you want to get clarity about what your partner did and whether they feel remorse, then your goal is to gather information so you can decide what to do.

You obviously need to plan for this discussion and make sure that you’re in a private place where you can actually talk without a filter.

The hard part about this is that you need to try and listen to what your partner has to say about why they cheating.

“Cheating doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and it’s crucial to be honest about your part in the relationship,” relationship expert April Masini told Bustle.

“It’s easy to play victim, but more often than not, the cheating happened because the cheater felt neglected or mistreated or not valued. That doesn’t excuse that person’s behavior, but it explains it, and it shows that cheating was a symptom, not the main problem.”

It may sound harsh to hear, but there’s usually a reason for why someone cheats, and that reason needs to be resolved if the relationship is to move on and be successful.

No matter what outcome you’re looking for, talking about your partner’s infidelity is necessary if you are to fix the relationship or if you want to end it with some closure.

“People cheat for different reasons. They may love their partners at the time. Sex addiction, personal insecurity, and payback are just some of the reasons both men and women have extramarital affairs. None of them are good, but understanding why can help,” psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith told Psychology Today.

It’s going to be tough to confront your partner but it’s something you need to talk about if you are to move on with your relationship.

Remember: relationships are a two-way street.

There must be a give-and-take going in both directions. When that breaks down, your partner can feel betrayed as well.

And it is much more difficult to confront the realities of a relationship that have slowly broken down over an extended period of time.

Don’t blame yourself. But hear them out, too.

There are many cheaters out there who cheat just for the fun of it, with little to no remorse for their loyal, caring partner.

But some cheaters have more of a reason and justification for their actions. Although cheating is never right, sometimes it’s not as wrong as you might think.

7. What do you want really?

If a relationship is to survive infidelity, then you need to make that you can commit to the relationship.

If you have significant doubt about the trust you feel for your partner, and you think that it will be almost impossible to overcome, then it’s time to consider whether you want to stay in a relationship.

The truth is, this decision will be different for everyone.

Do you have a young family? Kids? Own a house together?

There are going to be certain situations and concrete ties between both partners where clearly it makes sense to work through the issues.

If the relationship is just at the point of being girlfriend and boyfriend and not much more then it’s going to be easier to walk away and find someone new.

Keep in mind that there’s no right or wrong answer. It’s up to you to figure out if it’s worth it for you to continue with the relationship and move on from infidelity.

Some couples successfully move on from infidelity and create a better, stronger relationship. There’s no doubt about that.

But it takes effort and commitment from both partners to build trust and make the relationship work.

If you’re trying to make the decision right now, here are some questions you can ask yourself if your partner has cheated on you:

1) Do they care that they’ve hurt you? Do they even understand they’ve hurt you? And do they truly regret what they did?
2) Do you know the full extent of their cheating? Have they actually been honest with you about it?
3) Will you be able to move on? Or will the fact they’ve cheated always be in the back of our mind? Will you be able to trust them again?
4) Is it worth saving the relationship? Or is it better to move on?

8. Getting even won’t work

A common reaction from anyone that has been cheated on is to feel the urge to get even by having an affair themselves.

Look, this was the first thought I had when I found out my partner had cheated. It’s probably natural. I wanted to go out to the nearest bar with my friends and try to pick up the first random person that would be interested in me.

Luckily I didn’t. That would be a surefire way to cause more problems in the relationship and most likely finish it.

Getting even is desperate, petty, full of toxic energy, and most importantly, it does nothing to save the relationship.

Irina Firstein, a couple’s therapist, says that getting even may give the vengeful partner a “momentary sense of satisfaction” but that “ultimately it’s not going to move you toward any resolution and will only make things more complicated”.

So if you’ve decided to stick with the relationship, don’t try to get even. It will only keep your anger alive, make the situation more complicated, and make it less likely that your relationship can survive the toxic energy curtailing it

9. Take care of yourself

We spoke about the negative emotions you’re probably experiencing. Something as drastic as infidelity can take a toll on you emotionally and physically.

You might have that nagging feeling constantly in your stomach. Perhaps you can’t help but think about what happened.

I was struggling more than usual. Those pesky emotions aren’t fun.

This is normal but you do need to make sure that you take care of yourself in this turbulent time.

Use journaling to process those emotions and break down what you’re really thinking. Speak to someone you can trust. Make sure you stick to your routine: Getting 8 hours of sleep and exercise.

Taking care of yourself will allow yourself to think clearly and understand what your next steps are.

Remember:

If your relationship is to go back to normal after infidelity then you get through these negative emotions in the background. If you can’t, then those negative emotions will fester and eventually bite you and the relationship in the back down the track.

 

 

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Lachlan Brown

Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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