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“My Spouse is Cheating, What Should I Do About It?”

You never thought it would happen to you but you can’t deny it any more. Your spouse betrayed you and broke your heart.

Your spouse has been revealed as a cheater and you’re wondering what to do.

Can you rebuild things and live happily ever after or is it impossible to recover from cheating?

As problematic as it is, cheating is surprisingly common, and it is possible to move forward in a relationship after working through infidelity.

infidelityHow big is the problem?

You’re not alone. As many as 23% of men have been sexually unfaithful in a relationship (not necessarily marriage).

The most common risk factors are access to other willing sexual partners and a high sex drive (basically, how likely he is to be around someone who will have sex with him and how often he may be looking for sex). It’s a pretty disheartening statistic.

However, the number isn’t much different for women. According to the same source, 19% of women have cheated.

Women more often cheat because of relationship incompatibility and dissatisfaction rather than arousal but the effect is likely the same–infidelity damages relationships.

So how do you respond if you’ve uncovered infidelity in your marriage?

The quick answer is, no one can really answer that for someone else. But psychologists, counselors, and other researchers have put a lot of time and effort into questions like this and there are some facts that can help  with the decision. These are a strange mix of troubling, encouraging, and challenging.

RELATED: The 3 Most Common Reasons For Breaking Up

arguing parents1. The end of the affair isn’t the end of the problems

The leading causes of divorce are not infidelity but rather problems with communication, incompatibility, and money.

As mentioned above, the causes of infidelity can vary and affairs can happen even with otherwise “happy” marriages.

Nonetheless, in most cases, even when the cheating has ceased there will be distrust and anger and other unresolved problems that predated the affair.

2. Change will require both honesty and forgiveness

One of the fundamental attributes of an affair is secrecy Infidelity cannot exist without secrecy and a strong marriage cannot exist without honesty.

It is important for both partners to be open and honest about their feelings, beliefs, hurt, and needs.

If you can’t forgive, you can’t move forward.

This can be helped by participating in couple’s therapy in which a neutral third party can help each partner express themselves in respectful and healthy ways.

However, honesty alone is not enough. True change and reconciliation requires forgiveness. This can be incredibly difficult and is not a one time event but rather a process. It will likely also take time even to decide whether reconciliation of the relationship is desired.

3. It is possible for marriage to recovercheating apology

While sexual or emotional infidelity can be devastating to both parties and the marriage, marriages can also be repaired.

While statistics are hard to come by and experts disagree, there is consensus that an affair is not a guarantee of divorce. Recovery is likely to be a hard process and may even take years, but it is by no means out of the question.

4. In many cases, divorce can lead to increased happiness

This is not something that is often discussed but in some cases divorce can be a better step for ones mental health than continued marriage.

As with most conclusions based on a large group of people, it is impossible to determine whether a particular person will be happier after divorce.

RELATED: Can Cheaters Really Change?

The important message is that divorce is not  necessarily the the only road to happiness.

As in so many problems in life, there are no easy answers when it comes to how to respond to cheating. There are too many details that, from the outside, can never be completely accounted for. But if you keep in mind these four points it may help you to feel the freedom to pursue the path that is right for you.

  • Desperate Housewives? Communication Difficulties and the Dynamics of Marital (un)Happiness. By: Thompson, P. Economic Journal. Oct2008, Vol. 118 Issue 532, p1640-1669.
  • Do divorcing couples become happier by breaking up? By: Gardner, J.; Oswald, A. J. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society). Apr2006, Vol. 169 Issue 2, p319-336.
  • Managing Hurt and Disappointment: Improving Communication of Reproach and Apology. By: Miller, A. J.; Worthington Jr., E.; Hook, J.; Davis, D.; Gartner, A.; Frohne, N. Journal of Mental Health Counseling. Apr2013, Vol. 35 Issue 2, p108-123
  • Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces. By: Stevenson, Betsey; Wolfers, Justin. Journal of Economic Perspectives. Spring2007, Vol. 21 Issue 2, p27-52.