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Has Your Significant Other Cheated? Here’s What To Do Next

Infidelity in long terms relationships is, unfortunately, quite a common occurrence. There are many complex reasons why it happens and not one path to deal with it.

Here, though, are some general thoughts I have about this after many years of working with this issue in my practice.

First of all, once, the infidelity has been discovered, it is best to “come clean” and have as full a disclosure about the other relationship(s) as possible. It makes the cheating partner ultimately feel like they can be honest and real and there is often a sense of relief after initial feelings of shame and humiliation. It also allows the “injured” partner a sense of truth and understanding of a new reality, which is the start of understanding and coping with what happened. Not having complete honesty is problematic as the “injured” partner will typically continue to search and investigate, which they feel they need to do for themselves and if, ultimately, new information comes out, it is very damaging to the recovery of the trust and therefore, the relationship. I cannot stress this point enough as I have seen many couples, seemingly, recovering from the affair only to be derailed when new information comes out. This often causes irreparable damage.

The next major issue is whether the partner who “cheated” is willing to stop the “other” relationship. For most, this is the most important and deciding factor in continuing the primary relationship or not. For some who are cheating, this is not a difficult decision to make and for some it is. If there is a goal or assumption of a monogamous relationship, most couples cannot really be in a meaningful couples therapy if the affair continues, whether it is known or not. Trust cannot be rebuilt and safety cannot be established if there is another relationship going on in secret or if it is known.

The next step is to seek professional marriage counseling to understand what lead to the affair, provided there is a willingness to stop it and refocus on the relationship. Most of the time in my experience it is a relationship as well as an individual issue. It may be difficult for a couple to navigate all the difficult feelings and realities in an honest and productive manner as these situations are extremely painful and shocking.