How to Deal with Infidelity in Your Relationship

Published on: 05 Jan 2022
Clinically Reviewed by Cynthia V. Catchings LCSW-S
woman holding another woman's shoulder

Given the fact that 4 out of 10 marriages face one partner’s infidelity, it’s something worth talking about. When one partner is unfaithful, it can cause intense emotional pain and shake the foundation of a marriage or relationship. Infidelity is one of the most challenging problems couples will ever address. However, when both partners are committed to fully healing, relationships can survive, and sometimes, the journey might actually result in deeper emotional intimacy and a stronger relationship.

Here, we’re looking at what researchers and relationship experts have learned about how to deal with infidelity in a relationship and if attending relationship counseling online can help. We’re offering smart tips on learning how to forgive your partner and move past their transgression or cheating, if that’s what you’re choosing to do.

What is infidelity?

Infidelity includes adultery, but it’s more than just that. It can also be defined as a failure to meet a moral obligation. Couples can have different ideas about what specifically constitutes infidelity. Often, it’s not one single, clearly defined act.

Examples of non-sexual infidelity and emotional cheating can include:

  • Sending sexual or erotic texts to someone else
  • Developing deep, intimate bonds with another person
  • Maintaining profiles on online dating sites
  • Sending nude pictures to someone
  • Engaging in routine flirtation
  • Imagining someone else during sex
  • Hanging out with an ex-partner
  • Hiding finances from other people in the relationship

Essentially, infidelity is any disloyal act that betrays a partner’s trust, as long as that trust is founded on realistic expectations. 

What causes infidelity?

Affairs and infidelity happen in both troubled and happy relationships. Various factors can contribute to unfaithfulness, including:

  • Extended periods of separation
  • Addiction — gambling, drug, alcohol, or sex
  • Imbalanced giving and taking in a relationship
  • Lacking dedication in showing affection to one another
  • Lacking communication about emotional & sexual needs
  • Major life events that change the relationship, like transitioning into parenthood
  • Mental health conditions like bipolar disorder & chronic depression
  • Chronic health conditions, especially those that cause physical disability
  • Financial issues like loans, medical debt, or credit card debt 

Fear of conflict, fear of intimacy, and personal dissatisfaction can also be factors that result in infidelity.

Does Infidelity Pain Ever Go Away?

Trusting your partner is all about feeling safe with them. Broken promises, outright lies, and sexual infidelity can severely damage trust, and it can take a long time to get past that pain.

Understanding how to get over infidelity has a lot to do with forgiveness. We’re not talking about the type of forgiveness that’s simply spoken. It’s more like the type that fully resonates within you. Getting past the intense pain of infidelity will be difficult, but it’s essential for your own healing. Like a marriage that endures the test of time, intimate relationships require the capacity to let go of a partner’s mistakes and transgressions.

Some mistakes are too hurtful to forgive, and the marriage must end, but forgiveness can still be valuable for your own personal well-being. However, in many cases, infidelity is something that a dedicated couple can overcome — if both parties are committed to the healing process and rebuilding trust that’s been broken.

How long does it take to get over infidelity?

How long getting over infidelity takes is relevant to the specific act (or acts) that occurred. Certainly, a single incident of unfaithfulness can be easier to forgive than years of repeated infidelity would likely be. For some, forgiving casual flirtation is easier than forgiving a long-term extramarital affair. No one is required to get over infidelity and it’s a personal choice to that person or people on whether they’re comfortable starting that journey. 

“Infidelity is one of the hardest experiences that a partnership can endure, similar to grief and loss, so it is fair to expect that our emotions will feel as though they are undulating, rising just as quickly as they fall. Embracing where we are is essential to our healing.”

Talkspace Therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC

The length of time required to get over a partner’s infidelity depends on five key factors. Recovering from the trauma of infidelity can happen as soon as both partners are dedicated to:

  1. Demonstrating a sincere commitment to healing
  2. Working toward rebuilding the relationship
  3. Understanding the details of the infidelity
  4. Making efforts to rebuild trust
  5. Letting go of anger and resentment

Each of these factors needs to happen for a couple to fully move past infidelity. There are various techniques that can help you learn how to get over infidelity and how to control anger in a relationship.

Tips for Overcoming Infidelity in Your Relationship

Getting over infidelity requires patience, commitment, reevaluation of your relationship, a lot of thinking, and most of all, forgiveness.

Forgiveness is key

Holding onto past disappointment, hurt, betrayal, anger, and insensitivity are toxic to your (and your relationship’s) well-being. Nursing your pain from infidelity for too long can cause feelings of chronic anger, bitterness, and even hate.

These negative emotions are incredibly harmful to your health and happiness, not to mention a waste of your energy and time.

Not being able to forgive wears you down, both mentally and physically. Harboring resentment will chip away at your peacefulness and destroy the foundation of your current committed relationship, and you’ll also run the risk of ruining future ones, as well.

Research shows us that forgiveness offers several benefits. It can contribute to:

  • Improving sleep
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Reducing the risk of a heart attack
  • Lowering LDL cholesterol levels
  • Reducing systemic pain & inflammation

Studies also show that practicing intentional forgiveness lowers levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Decide to forgive your partner

It’s important to make a conscious decision to forgive your partner’s infidelity. It’s a choice to go forward with amending your relationship. It’s equally important that your partner is genuinely sorry for their behavior and is fully committed to restoring the integrity of the relationship.

Be prepared for bad thoughts

If you decide to work through your partner’s infidelity, you should probably be prepared for flashes of hurtful images piercing through your mind. Find your peaceful place. Train your mind to let go of negative thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations.

Don’t use your partner’s infidelity as ammunition

If your honest goal is to forgive your partner and move past their infidelity, then you must allow them to move past it too. Don’t use their mistake as a weapon against them. Resist the urge to bring up their act in future arguments or conversations. This will only keep the pain raw and alive and disrupt your happiness.

Understand that you may never understand

Accept that you may never understand the reasons behind your partner’s infidelity. Of course, your capacity to deal with this will depend a lot on your partner’s dedication to not repeating their terrible mistake. Remember that forgiving someone is different than condoning what they did. Be patient with yourself and remember the goal.

Don’t seek retribution

“Revenge sex” is generally never a good idea. It’ll only act to extend and expand the negative emotions you’re already dealing with, usually on both sides. It also most likely won’t help you feel better anyway.

How Do I Let Go of Pain Caused by Infidelity?

Figuring out how to get over infidelity takes dedication and patience — on the part of both partners. Work together to hold on to the big picture of your lives and future goals. Getting through this rough time is only possible if each of you makes a firm, enduring commitment.

“Conceptualizing infidelity like a Jenga tower can be helpful. Thinking of infidelity as though your partnership is missing a few blocks rather than having a tower that has crashed down. We are treating the removed blocks, acknowledging them, embracing the feelings, and then working together to rebuild intimacy. Sometimes carving out space for the partnership, itself, can be the first step.”

Talkspace Therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC

If you find yourself unable to forgive your partner’s infidelity, consider seeking the help of a professional relationship or family therapist. They can teach you various methods for letting go of the hurt and moving forward in life. Then you’ll be able to decide if you want to try and either rebuild your romantic relationship into something stronger or if you’re ready to work on beginning to heal from your pain so you can move on to the type of loving, supportive, healthy relationship you deserve. If there’s one thing to know for sure, it’s that once you put in the work and heal, you’ll be able to fully trust and commit once again. 

Sources:

1. Haltzman D. Can Infidelity Make A Relationship Better?. 2013. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=195533059. Accessed December 9, 2021.

2. Winek J, Craven P. Healing Rituals for Couples Recovering from Adultery. Contemporary Family Therapy. 2003;25(3):249-266. doi:10.1023/a:1024518719817. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FA%3A1024518719817. Accessed December 9, 2021.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

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