By Divorce.com staff
Updated Oct 28, 2022
This article covers signs that it might be time to leave your unfaithful spouse.
Cheating is undeniably one of the most difficult things you and your spouse could ever face. If your marriage has been through it, you’re all too familiar with the anxiety, anger, and devastation that often follow.
This whirlwind of negative emotions isn’t helped by the fact that it’s sometimes really hard to figure out when to walk away after infidelity.
In fact, that’s a difficult call to make in all kinds of marital betrayals. After all, infidelity doesn’t always look like a plain old adulterous affair. Maybe your spouse had an emotional affair.
Maybe you’ve even been a victim of financial infidelity. Whatever you’re going through, there are big decisions to be made. Divorce is a scary prospect, but sometimes it’s just the right thing to do.
You probably still have love for your spouse, but is love enough?
Let’s talk about seven specific signs that you might be better off moving on from a cheater instead of sticking it out.
Most Common Signs to Walk Away After Infidelity
These are seven signs that it might be time to walk away from your relationship if infidelity has occurred:
- Your partner doesn’t apologize
- Your spouse doesn’t want to get counselling
- Your partner doesn’t show a desire to put in the work
- They are still in touch with the person they cheated on you with
- Your partner doesn’t seem to commit to the relationship
- They lie all the time
- Your partner won’t take responsibility and instead blames other people
1. Your Partner Doesn't Apologize
If your spouse betrays you this way but then refuses to express remorse, they’re basically telling you that the marriage is over.
Even if they don’t think cheating is such a grave relationship sin, they should still be concerned enough about your feelings to apologize.
Words are free, and if they can’t find the will to say they’re sorry, you have no reason to believe that your relationship will get any better in the future.
It’s looking more and more like your partner might not be such a good person, and you should get out before they hurt you again.
2. Your Spouse Doesn’t Want to Get Counseling
When it comes to saving your relations, marriage counselling is your single greatest resource. If your partner refuses to try it, you have a big problem on your hands.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are reasons that cheaters avoid couples therapy besides just apathy. Many people (especially men) aren’t used to talking about their feelings, but it can also get a lot more complicated.
For instance, if your cheating spouse is religious and believes that adultery goes against God’s word, they might feel it’s trivial to talk to a therapist before they get right with God. That’s why you might have to do a bit of probing to find out exactly the issue.
If you’ve gotten to the bottom of it, but your unfaithful spouse still won’t budge, then your hope of getting through this rough patch is greatly diminished.
We encourage you to look into professional help for yourself at that point to avoid some of the biggest mistakes that newly separated people make.
3. Your Partner Doesn’t Show Desire to Put in the Work
Maybe your spouse agreed to attend therapy with you, but you can tell that they’re only giving you lip service. Even the best therapist can’t help a couple recover from cheating if both parties aren’t willing to open up.
If you’re stuck with a spouse who has been going through the motions since their affair came to light, then it’s probably time to get unstuck.
4. They are Still in Touch with the Person They Cheated on You With
This scenario is the epitome of adding insult to injury. Your partner owns up to an affair, insists it’s over, and then thinks that their (supposedly) former lover makes for an appropriate friend.
Even if the affair really is over, this behavior demonstrates an incredible lack of respect for you and your feelings, and you shouldn’t stand for it. You’ve been traumatized by this affair, and you shouldn’t have to be reminded of it constantly.
Calling it quits with your spouse because they maintain contact with the person they cheated on you with doesn’t make you jealous; it makes you sane.
5. Your Partner Doesn’t Seem Committed to the Relationship
Since their cheating came to light, maybe your partner has been responsive to all of your suggestions for how to repair your marriage, but they haven’t come up with any ideas of their own.
Someone who wants to work through things should seem enthusiastic and engaged with the healing process; passively going along isn’t enough. If your partner doesn’t seem completely committed to making things work, things won’t work.
If you find yourself pulling all of the relationship weight, it’s time to unburden yourself and find someone who thinks you’re worth the effort.
6. They Lie All The Time
We all know the cliché that comes up whenever a married man cheats on his wife: “once a cheater, always a cheater.”
In truth, that isn’t really always the case, but if there is a pattern of dishonesty and deceit in your marriage, you probably won’t ever be able to trust your spouse, and it’s time to save yourself the angst.
This holds true even if your partner doesn’t seem to be lying about anything that important anymore. Once your trust is eroded by an affair, even small lies can be really triggering because they remind you of the betrayal you experienced.
This doesn’t give you any opportunity to rebuild trust and move on together. That’s why repeated dishonesty might be a reason to get divorced and start over with somebody else.
7. The Cheater Won’t Take Responsibility and Instead Blames Others
It’s obviously true that cheating doesn’t emerge out of thin air. We’re all products of our childhood, and we all have the capacity to act out when we feel dissatisfied.
However, your relationship might not be worth saving if your spouse points to other people to justify why they cheated.
This behavior is particularly despicable if you’re the person that your spouse is blaming for their infidelity. They put you through one of the most painful experiences of your life, and now they’re telling you that it was your fault?!
If that’s the message that you’re receiving, then your spouse is treating you with a level of hostility that precludes reconciliation.
However, this might be a dealbreaker no matter who they say is to blame. If your partner insists that it wasn’t their fault that they cheated, they’re telling you that there isn’t anything they can do to prevent it from happening again.
Until they take responsibility, you’ll never get the peace of mind you need to move on with your life.
Now that you’ve thought about whether your relationship can or should survive infidelity let's address some of the facts. The collective wisdom of those who have been in your position before can give you insight into possible next steps.
Maybe you’ll even understand where you and your spouse fit into the bigger picture.
Can a Marriage Survive After Infidelity?
Infidelity is one reason some marriages end in divorce. When a spouse’s partner cheats on them, it can cause a lot of heartache and grief, and some couples don’t know how to move past the affair. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the marriage is doomed or will lead to a divorce.
Above are seven reasons why some partners should walk away from their spouse after infidelity has occurred. The reasons above should not be taken lightly; partners who have been cheated on should really hone into their wants and needs in the marriage and see if it is salvageable.
If both partners are truly willing to commit to the healing process and work on communicating and fixing things in the relationship, then ultimately, their marriage can become stronger and possibly lead to a deeper level of intimacy than they had before.
Reasons Not to Divorce After Infidelity
1. Quality of Life
If your spouse is apologetic and truly wants to work on the marriage with you, examining your quality of life might be one reason not to divorce after the affair.
Things to consider are how the divorce will impact other aspects of the relationship, such as money, possessions or even friendships.
Are there things in the relationship you shared that will drastically change if you split up? These things could be hobbies you both enjoyed doing together or social groups.
If there are children involved, maybe consider how divorcing your partner will impact the life of your kids.
Although your quality of life together is something to consider, this is under the assumption that your partner is truly sorry and really does want to work with you on fixing the marriage.
2. Impact Divorce Could Have on the Children
Not every married couple may have kids, but if you do, there is a chance that the divorce could severely impact them and the way they view reality and relationships going forward.
When you split a marriage, especially when children are involved, you split your kids’ home and their time with you and your spouse (or a soon-to-be ex-spouse).
No matter how great you are with your children and how well you try to prepare them for divorce, it still affects them somehow.
This doesn’t mean your children won’t survive or be unable to cope with the divorce, but they are factors to consider when considering getting divorced.
3. Impact on Your Happiness
Getting divorced or separating from your spouse is not easy, especially because of the bond you guys had before the cheating occurred. And while it may be easy to have the mentality that there is plenty of fish in the sea, there are other factors to consider, like how happy your partner made you feel before the infidelity.
If getting divorced will make you unhappy because of the love you have for your partner, maybe consider alternative ways you both can get over the infidelity.
However, if you wish for a divorce, you have the right to get divorced. These are just three factors to consider carefully before parting ways with your partner.
How to Save a Marriage After Infidelity and Lies?
Before you make a decision to get divorced or not after your partner has cheated, take time to process what happened and what was behind the affair.
If you were the unfaithful person in the marriage and want to salvage the marriage, take ownership of your actions, end the affair and seek help from different professionals to communicate possible reasons why the affair occurred properly.
It’s also important to try to restore the trust between you and your partner.
Regardless of who had the affair, there needs to trust in the relationship going forward, or the marriage won’t work.
Try to seek forgiveness from your partner if you were the one who cheated, or try to find healthy ways to forgive your partner and learn how to trust them again if you were cheated on. Just because a spouse cheated doesn’t mean the marriage is doomed.
Lastly, do seek professional help from a counselor or couples therapist if you are willing to work together to have a healthy marriage. Professionals can provide new insight that neither party might have considered.
There are always ways to get your marriage back on track if both parties are willing to accept and forgive what happened.
Trust-building Exercises for Couples After Infidelity:
1. Give Your Partner Tasks to Complete
One way to rebuild trust is to give your partner small tasks to complete. This is a great way to earn back trust because they’ll show you they are reliable and capable of doing things you ask based on whether they complete the tasks.
Obviously, this is a slow process, and you’ll need to start small, but it is something that could help the relationship. Having expectations gives your partner a chance to prove to you that they are willing to commit to the relationship.
However, this is not about manipulating or testing your partner, this is about setting expectations and trusting your partner to see them through.
2. Plan Date Nights
Another good exercise to rebuild trust is to plan date nights. Give up the control and let your partner fully plan a date. It’s a great way for you and your partner to spend quality time together and shows you that you can trust them to take the lead on certain occasions.
If you’re used to always planning quality time together, give your partner a chance to take over date night fully. You’ll be able to spot how reliable they are based on their willingness to plan a date night and the quality of the date they planned.
3. Talk About Your Fears
Another exercise to practice with your spouse is addressing fears or anxieties you both may have in the marriage. A good form of intimacy can only truly happen when both partners are vulnerable and willing to open up to each other.
Talking about fears within the marriage is important to do without shame and will help couples leave the past in the past and move forward.
Speak with a counselor or therapist about how you both can communicate openly and honestly without feeling you’re being judged or your feelings are being rejected.
What are the divorce statistics after infidelity?
After an affair partner's trust is eroded, but that doesn’t always mean immediate divorce. A study conducted by the American Psychological Association showed that among married couples who experienced infidelity but then underwent couples therapy, 53% were divorced after 5 years.
By comparison, only 23% of couples who did not experience an affair were divorced after 5 years, which is a huge disparity. Still, these numbers show that marital infidelity is not a relationship death sentence.
Interestingly, in heterosexual partnerships, whether it’s the man or the woman who does the cheating seems to have a big impact. In a survey conducted by Health Testing Centers, 20% of cheating women and only 10% of cheating men reported that they were still in the relationship in which the affair occurred.
Thus, it’s possible that you’re more likely to reconcile if it’s the husband’s affair as opposed to the wife’s. The survey results don’t indicate whether this is because the men were more prone to forgiveness or if the women were just better at hiding the fact that they were cheating.
Unfortunately, the statistics also show that a husband’s infidelity is much more likely to occur than his wife’s. While only 13% of women surveyed by the Institute for Family Studies reported cheating on their spouse, 20% of men admitted that they had been unfaithful. This leaves a lot of marriages at risk.
It’s important to remember that you are not a statistic, and your results may vary. Ultimately, it is up to you and your husband or wife to decide whether you will be able to survive this betrayal, find forgiveness, and preserve your marriage.
How long does a marriage last after infidelity?
Actually, the answer depends largely on whether or not the extramarital affair comes to light. Remember the APA study we talked about in the last question? While overall, 53% of the couples who experienced infidelity had filed for divorce by the five-year mark, the breakdown between secret and revealed infidelity was stark.
Five years after undergoing therapy, only 43% of couples who revealed and worked through their past indiscretions had opted for divorce, while a whopping 80% of couples whose marriages contained secret affairs were no longer together.
On the surface, these numbers seem a little bit surprising. After all, if the betrayed partner doesn’t know about their spouse’s infidelity, it can’t hurt them, right? Wrong. As it turns out, lies and deceit don’t exactly make for a healthy relationship.
Furthermore, when a cheating spouse admits to an affair, it usually means that the affair is over. By confessing to the infidelity, the unfaithful partner is often indicating that they are ready to live their life in a committed relationship once again.
If their spouse can find forgiveness and move on, then there might be a lot of hope for the relationship.
What are the stages of healing after infidelity?
Every betrayed spouse has experienced some level of grief after learning of their partner’s infidelity. Luckily, there is an art to affair recovery, and there is a recipe for feeling better, forgiving your partner, and moving on with your life.
Currently, the Gottman Institute (founded by relationship expert Dr. John Gottman) is beginning a randomized clinical trial to test the effectiveness of what they call the Trust Revival Method, in which the stages of healing from an affair are described as Atonement, Attunement, and Attachment.
In the Atonement stage, the betrayed partner has an opportunity to express their feelings and ask questions about the affair, and the cheating partner is encouraged to really hear them, answer honestly, and express remorse.
In the Attunement stage, both members of the relationship work together to analyze what went wrong and outline better ways of dealing with each other. Finally, in the Attachment stage, the parties work on bonding and rebuilding their relationship.
No two couples are the same, so your road to recovery is very individual to you. However, this strategy can go a long way toward healing and moving on with your life.
Should you stay married after infidelity?
If this article has taught you anything, it’s that only you can decide when to walk away after infidelity. If you think a little extra wisdom from the experts will help, then check out these great TED Talks that we recommend for anyone considering divorce.
Then, look deeply into your own feelings, talk openly with your partner, and decide whether you’re already living in a broken marriage or the love is still alive.
What are the stages of anger after infidelity?
There are five possible stages of anger after a spouse has an affair:
- Denial – The emotion you feel when you finally understand that you’ve been cheated on is shock. It might be hard to accept the fact that your spouse has cheated, and you might be thinking of excuses or justifications for their actions.
- Anger – After denial fades, the realization that you were cheated on suddenly begins to make one angry. Anger is normal and is an emotion that is healthy to feel and express after being cheated on. However, you should never act on revenge urges because you will only hurt yourself and others in the long run. Find healthy ways to cope with feeling angry
- Bargaining – It’s very common for the partner who was cheated on to start bargaining in the marriage to salvage it. It’s an attempt to avoid an unwanted future, and the cheating partner might bargain in an attempt to save the relationship. If you’ve been cheated on, be sure to exercise full caution when your partner tries to bargain or downplay the affair. Use your wise judgement and feel out if they’re being genuine or not.
- Depression – It’s natural for the party who got cheated on to fall into a depression after finding out. Different people have different ways of coping with their emotions, but it would be wise to seek professional help if this is the case.
- Acceptance – The final stage of grief after infidelity is acceptance. Accept the fact that you’ve been cheated on so you can either walk away from an unfaithful partner or try to find solutions to save the marriage. Visiting a marriage counselor could help you guys grow in the relationship if it is something both parties are willing to do.