Has your partner cheated on you over and over and over? Are you wondering about surviving repeated infidelity and whether it’s time for you to stay in or get out of the relationship?
Whether your partner has cheated on you once or cheated on you multiple times, your pain is real and your feelings are overwhelming. Asking yourself how you are going to get through this is really important.
There are a few questions that you can ask yourself to help you make the decision about whether you should stay or you should go.
1. Is your partner truly remorseful?
Surviving repeated infidelity and keeping your relationship intact is harder than if the infidelity is a one-time thing, but there is one element that is essential as the first step to get past both kinds of affairs: remorse.
If your partner is fooling around on you over and over and over, then it’s important that they accept responsibility for their actions.
Do they truly show you remorse and acknowledge that what they did was wrong and how much they hurt you? Or do they try to put some (or all) of the blame back on you – that you were ignoring them or not having sex with them or some other sort of excuse that lets them off the hook?
If your partner can’t or won’t acknowledge their responsibility for the affair, then it is very possible that it will happen again. Even if it doesn’t happen again, the rest of your relationship could involve them blaming you for their actions.
Take a good, hard look at your partner. Do you want to spend the rest of your life with someone who isn’t willing to take responsibility for their actions and the pain they caused you? If not, perhaps it’s time for you to go.
2. Is your partner willing to get help?
Serial infidelity is not something that happens in a void. People who fool around over and over are people who are struggling with who they are in some way.
People who have a single affair don’t generally set out to have an affair. There is something missing in their marriage, maybe something they aren’t even aware of. And then they meet someone, maybe at work, someone who is having the same experiences as them, and they strike up a friendship. As the friendship grows, so do the feelings between the two of them. Eventually, this connection can lead to an affair.
People who cheat more than once on their partner, either one at a time or perhaps with multiple other partners, are generally people who set out to have an affair. And the reasons that they set out to have the affairs are many.
Perhaps they are feeling unhappy in their primary relationship and seek someone who understands them. Perhaps they want more sex then they are getting in their current relationship. Perhaps they need to have sex with more than one person to feel good about themselves. Perhaps they have abandonment issues that make them need to leave the person they are with so that they aren’t left. Perhaps they are struggling with trust issues and don’t believe that anyone could be faithful to them.
The list of reasons why someone cheats repeatedly is endless, but what is important for deciding whether to stay or go is whether your person is willing to take a good, hard look at why they cheat repeatedly and agree to get some help to manage it.
I do believe that relationship counseling can help move the relationship towards a resolution, but I think that it’s essential that the cheater gets some help to understand and deal with the source of their cheating.
So, if your person is willing to get help, then perhaps staying, at least for now, is a good idea.
3. Do you still like your partner?
An important question to ask about surviving repeated infidelity is whether or not you still like your person.
I have a client whose husband cheated on her. She was so very angry and we talked a lot about her anger and sense of betrayal. And then one day I asked her, “Do you still like your husband? I know you are angry with him, but do you still like him?”
My client didn’t have a clear answer about that, but we worked through it and she decided that yes, while she was angry, she still liked and loved her husband.
I know many partners of cheaters who do not like their person after they cheat. They feel hurt and anger, and they also feel hatred. That hatred is hard to overcome, no matter how much therapy a couple attends. For others, love stays in spite of the betrayal.
So, ask yourself: Do you still like your partner? If not, then perhaps it’s time to walk away.
4. Can you forgive and move on?
An essential part of surviving repeated infidelity is not about your partner but about you. Can you forgive and move on?
There are two people to forgive in the aftermath of infidelity – your partner, of course, but also yourself. Yes, yourself.
For many of us who are cheated on, we are left with a tremendous amount of self-loathing. How could we have missed the signs? Why were we not good enough? Was it our body or our face or our personality or our lack of good sexual techniques that sent our partner out to find someone else? And if your partner cheated on you repeatedly, the self-loathing could be magnified.
It is important that we not only forgive our partners for their infidelity but also forgive ourselves for any perceived shortcomings that we might be holding on to.
5. Can you see yourself finding a new connection?
I know that right now you are feeling angry and wondering if you could possibly ever actually connect with your partner again. Perhaps you are feeling insecure that you could never give them what they got from their lover. Perhaps you don’t know if you could possibly trust them or see them in the same way again.
An important consideration as to whether you should stay or go is whether or not you can see yourself being able to form a new connection with your partner, one that might be different from the connection that you had before.
One of things that happen after affairs is that the original couple gets shattered. The bedrock that held the couple together, the love, the little inside jokes, the patterns and routines, are all gone, and the couple must reinvent their relationship to make it different from what it was that opened it up to infidelity so that it can survive.
Are you and your partner willing to do that? Do you both see a path to finding each other again? To establishing a new path so that you can grow stronger together and build a new relationship full of love and trust.
It might be difficult, but if you can do it, you might just be successful in surviving repeated infidelity.
Surviving repeated infidelity can be a big struggle, bigger even than surviving a one-time affair.
Asking yourself and your partner the tough questions will give you the answers you need as to whether you should stay or you should go. All of these things are important to take into account when figuring out what your next steps are.
This won’t be easy, but I can promise you that you will survive it!