A Survival Guide to Staying with Someone Who Cheated

Infidelity—cheating on a spouse or partner—can deal a fatal blow to relationships. But, it’s not an uncommon reality for many couples.

A 2018 study determined that 20% of men and 13% of women reported cheating on their spouses. So, if you’ve just discovered your partner’s affair, you’re not alone. 

Should you stay with someone who cheated on you? The choice to stay after infidelity is a personal one, and the justifications and outcomes will look different for every couple. 

In this article, we’ll explore a few common reasons—positive and negative—that someone might stay with their partner after infidelity and flesh out some common outcomes of remaining with a cheating partner. 

While you may not find a scenario that fits your circumstances exactly, the advice below could still help you determine whether to stay or go. 

10 Reasons to Stay with Someone Who Cheated on You (Good or Bad)

There are a variety of reasons why someone might stay with a partner who cheated on them. Not all of them are positive, but no relationship is perfect. Let’s explore some common justifications for sticking it out after an infidelity incident. 

1. You Love Them Too Much!

Let’s face it—some transgressions are forgivable, and others are not. But, this metric is dependent upon a variety of factors like:

  • How much you love your partner
  • The duration of the relationship
  • Past infidelities
  • Outside opinions from family and friends

You may find that, after discovering your partner’s infidelity, you love them enough to forgive their mistakes. This reaction might sound like a romantic cliche, which is slightly true.

If you feel like you’re too in love with your spouse to leave them after they cheat on you, remember that your sentiments are just that—emotional responses to an emotionally charged situation. Before making any major decisions, investigate your love for your partner and try to find an additional justification for staying or leaving. 

2. You Believe in Second Chances

Perhaps you’re a big believer in second chances. Everyone makes mistakes, even people who have been married for decades. If you’re prone to giving people the benefit of the doubt or use a three-strike system to determine guilt, you may choose to give your cheating partner another chance. 

But, even if you commonly give people a chance to right their wrongs, remember that not every conflict is created equal. If you ask your cousin to bring cranberry sauce to Thanksgiving dinner and they fail to do so, a second chance is probably an appropriate response.

However, cheating is a conflict of a significantly higher magnitude. Before considering your second chance policy, think about how you’ll feel if history repeats itself. 

Read More: 13 Types of Affairs Everyone In a Troubled Relationship Should Know

3. They Truly Regret Cheating

It’s possible that your partner truly, genuinely regrets cheating on you. While it may be hard to tell whether or not they’re telling the truth after a major transgression, their response to healthy boundaries set after the affair may give you an insight into whether or not they feel remorse.

picture of a man regretting cheating on his wife

If you decide to stay with a cheating partner who shows genuine guilt, consider setting some of the following boundaries:

  • Committing to regular relationship counseling
  • Splitting household or child-rearing duties more evenly
  • Creating a standing appointment for a date night or alone time with your partner
  • Asking for a “cone of silence” about the infidelity—asking your partner not to tell family or friends
  • Regular check-ins via phone, text, or email while you’re apart during the day

Setting boundaries achieves three key goals:

  1. It allows your partner to regain your trust.
  2. It allows you to observe your partner’s commitment to your boundaries, which may indicate their desire to stay in the relationship or their guilt (or lack thereof) about the affair.
  3. It prevents and reduces resentment between partners by setting clearly defined expectations for the relationship.

While you might have set some of these boundaries earlier in your relationship, it’s time to reinstate them. If you’ve been cheated on, your relationship may be at rock bottom, and it’ll take effort to rebuild a strong foundation. 

4. They Know Your Deepest Secrets

Are you scared your partner will share your secrets if you end the relationship after infidelity? If so, this could point to two major issues:

  1. You could be keeping critical secrets from people you care about, which wears on your physical, mental, and social health.
  2. Your partner uses private information to coerce you into staying in the relationship despite their infidelity, which is a form of intimate partner abuse

If fear of your secrets getting out is your gut reaction to ending your relationship with an unfaithful partner, investigate what you can do to fix the problem. If secrets are standing in the way of your freedom, it may be time to come clean to that family member, friend, or coworker about your mistakes. 

If your partner is blackmailing you by threatening to share private information or photos of you if you leave them, you’re likely stuck in an abusive relationship. If this is the case, do the following as soon as possible:

  1. Find a trusted supporter who won’t share anything with your partner.
  2. Reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which can connect you with no- or low-cost legal support and help you make an escape plan.
  3. Gather as much physical blackmail material as you can, along with your identifying documents, valuables, and a small bag of clothing to take with you when you enact your escape plan. 

Leaving a verbally or psychologically abusive relationship can be as difficult as escaping physical violence. If you’re being blackmailed or coerced into staying with your partner despite their cheating, get help as soon as possible. 

5. No One Treats You the Same Way as Them

Perhaps you’re willing to stay with a cheating partner because no one else has ever treated you as well as your partner does. Perhaps you’ve had unpleasant experiences in relationships in the past, this is your first romantic partnership, or you recently moved away from your main circle of family and friends. 

If your partner’s seemingly stellar treatment of you motivates you to stay, unpack this response. Ask yourself:

  • Is my partner actually the only person who treats me well?
  • Can I meet my relationship needs elsewhere?
    • Can I seek sexual fulfillment with a different person?
    • Is it possible that someone else could provide me emotional support?
    • Can I expand my horizons to make platonic friends for social fulfillment?
  • If my partner cheated on me, are they really treating me as well as I deserve to be treated?

As you’ve probably guessed, the answer to the last question, no matter the circumstances, is a resounding “No!” Even if you feel like no one else treats you well, there will always be an opportunity to make new friends, establish a new support system, or even find a new romantic partner. 

Read More: 21 Signs of a Married Man in Love with Another Woman

6. You Are Financially Depending on Them

If you’re financially dependent upon your partner, discovering that they’ve had an affair can be especially heartbreaking. If your first instinct is to leave the relationship, financially depending on them could tether you to a toxic partnership and convince you to stick it out. 

picture of a woman being financially dependant on her husband

But, where there’s a will, there’s a way. You likely weren’t always financially dependent upon your partner, and there can be a future where you regain financial independence. If you’re ready to leave, it’s time to make a plan:

  • Do you have your own bank account? If not, open one and start saving money for yourself. 
  • Explore your housing options—and swallow your pride. Don’t be afraid to ask family and friends to sleep on their couches until you get back on your feet.
  • Start looking for jobs or ask for a raise at your current job. If you’re a gig worker, start picking up shifts to earn extra money.

While you don’t have to have a perfect plan before you leave, doing as much prep work as you can while you still have access to your partner’s resources will ease the pain of the transition.

7. You Have Family Ties

If you have a close relationship with your partner’s family, or if you and your partner have children together, it can be significantly more difficult to break up with them due to infidelity. But remember to use your rational brain when deciding to stay or go. 

Yes, your children’s lives will be significantly altered by their parents’ separation, but plenty of separated or divorced couples co-parent effectively and raise normal, emotionally healthy children. 

And yes, you may have a close relationship with your partner’s siblings, but is that relationship important enough to continue suffering in your romantic relationship? Or, could the relationship continue despite a breakup?

Before deciding to stay together for the kids—or the in-laws—remember that not every relationship is meant to last (platonic ones included).

8. You Are In Business Together

If you’re in business with your unfaithful partner, extricating yourself from their life is going to be painful and disruptive for your personal life and your company. Before making a decision, imagine three possible scenarios:

  1. You’ve decided to give your partner a second (or third, or fourth…) chance after an indiscretion. You remain in business together, but can you trust them to be a good romantic or business partner anymore?
  2. You’ve asked your partner to separate romantically but remain business partners. Are you willing to make a significant time investment in boundary-setting and healthy communication protocol? Can you handle seeing your partner with another person at the office holiday party next month?
  3. You’ve separated from your partner romantically and decided to part ways from the company. Are you ready to strike out on your own?

All of the above scenarios are feasible, but none of them is easy to achieve. But, if you choose to stay with your partner romantically, in business, or both, remember that you can always change your mind in the future. 

9. You Have Low Self-Esteem

Do you often feel like you’re lucky to have the partner you do because you’re not as attractive, funny, outgoing, or financially successful as they are? You might be struggling with low self-esteem. 

Staying with someone just to maintain your own sense of self-worth is an objectively terrible idea. If your partner has a manipulative personality and knows that you struggle with low self-esteem, they could coerce you into staying despite their transgressions. 

To avoid victimhood, you need to ditch codependency and end the relationship after a cheating incident. While you may not have seen the red flags at the beginning of the relationship, cheating and low self-esteem combine to create a giant red exit sign. 

After ending the relationship, it’s time to seek individual counseling. You’re worthy of healthy and fair treatment, and treating yourself with the respect you deserve is the first step to discovering your self-worth. 

Read More: 11 Signs He Will Cheat Again

10. You Are Okay with Them Cheating

After your partner reveals their infidelity, you may be surprised to feel ambivalent or even positive about them cheating. Every emotional response is valid, but you should dig deeper into your acceptance. 

picture of a woman being ok with her husband cheating on her

Perhaps you’ve been considering asking your partner about a non-traditional relationship style for a while, and the cheating incident is the kick in the pants you need to finally have the conversation. Not all relationships are monogamous, and this incident might be an opportunity to experiment with:

  • Swinging
  • An open relationship
  • Polyamory
  • Multiple-partner sex
  • Seeking friends with benefits

If any of this is true for you, it’s time to put on your communication cap and investigate your own needs and the needs of your partner. 

9 Common Negative Outcomes After Staying with Someone Who Cheated

Even if you decide to stick it out with your partner for any of the reasons above, the outcome isn’t always positive. Some relationships flourish after recovering from infidelity, some temporarily recover, and others never find the peace of the past. Let’s explore several potential outcomes of staying with an unfaithful partner. 

1. You Might Not Be in Love Anymore

After putting effort into relationship counseling, setting healthy boundaries, and making every possible attempt to reestablish trust, you might discover that you’re simply not in love with your spouse anymore. 

All relationships take hard work from both partners. Even if you’re willing to do the work, or you already have, sometimes the love just isn’t there anymore. Whether love faded as a result of infidelity or simply fizzled out with time, it’s nearly impossible to create a romantic spark out of thin air. 

While relationships require commitment, you’re not obligated to stay with a partner whom you no longer love, and leaving a loveless relationship isn’t “quitting.” Remember that you’re doing yourself and your partner a favor when letting a partner go whom you no longer love. 

2. They Can Never Make It Up to You

After your partner cheats on you, you may feel like they’re permanently indebted to you. If you decide to give them a second chance, you could feel a sense of charity or even start to take advantage of their remorse. 

But, if you feel like your partner can never truly make it up to you—no matter how many romantic dinners they arrange, big romantic gestures they pull off, or household chores they do—they probably never will. If you simply can’t overcome your partner’s mistakes, it’s time to pull the plug. 

Read More: How Do Cheaters React When Accused? 13 Ways to Know You’ve Caught Them

3. The Cheating Eats Away at the Future Relationship

Perhaps you and your partner are off to an excellent start in your recovery process. You’re going to counseling, making time for each other, emotionally checking in regularly, and rebuilding trust. You’re slowly, but surely, making progress and making amends. 

While progress is always a positive thing, it doesn’t last forever in some cases. While you might feel like you trust your partner again in your day-to-day lives, perhaps a major decision, family crisis, or even a small incident shakes your trust in them and reminds you of their mistakes. 

picture of a woman frustrated with her bad relationship after being cheated on

Sometimes cheating irreparably breaks a relationship, but the lack of reconciliation doesn’t reveal itself for an extended period. If the infidelity is still eating at you after significant time has passed, you should consider leaving your partner once and for all. 

4. The Damage Cannot Be Undone

You and your partner aren’t the only relevant parties in an infidelity incident. Some affairs can bleed into professional relationships, family structures, and social circles depending on the length of the affair and the cheater’s partner(s). 

If your discovery of your partner’s unfaithfulness becomes public, sometimes the damage is too significant to repair. Perhaps one of the following scenarios reflects your circumstances:

  • Your partner cheated on you with a close friend or someone in your social circle, and you determine that other members of your circle knew about the affair before you did. Suddenly, it’s not just your partner whom you can’t trust—you’re also wary of your friends. 
  • You and your partner are in business together, and your partner cheats with a subordinate employee. The cheating could damage your relationship, and your company might have to conduct a formal investigation if the employee was coerced. 
  • One of your children discovers your partner cheating and reports back to you. This situation could shake your trust and permanently alter your child’s perception of your partner. 

If the damage simply cannot be undone, it’s time to end the relationship. 

5. You Want to Find Someone that You Can Trust

Separating from a partner after a cheating incident provides an opportunity for a clean slate. Being single is an excellent time to reconsider your relationship priorities, take up a new hobby, or investigate your inner self. But, it’s also a chance to find someone you can trust completely.

The trust eroded as a result of an affair is sometimes never recovered. While you may find it difficult to trust future partners at first, remember that trust isn’t automatic—it’s earned. While you’re single, think of how you can shed insecurities and build unbreakable trust with a new partner. 

6. You Never Really Trust Again

Unfortunately, studies show that the old adage is true—once a cheater, always a cheater. People who cheat in relationships are three times more likely to transgress again. Having this thought lingering in the back of your mind might permanently erode your trust in your partner. 

But, it might also create trust issues outside of your romantic life. Perhaps you become stoically self-sufficient, not trusting anyone to provide for you or refusing to ask for help when you need it. If you notice trust issues developing in your professional life or in relationships with your family or friends, it’s time to investigate these trust issues in counseling. 

7. They Were Only Sorry that They Got Caught

If you stay with your partner after they cheat on you, you might discover an unpleasant truth while trying to rebuild your relationship. Perhaps your partner is only sorry that they got caught cheating and not that they cheated in the first place. 

picture of a man only sorry because he was caught cheating by his wife

This revelation is incredibly painful and often discovered in an unpleasant scenario. If your partner is still acting cagey, or if they’re still interacting with their extra-marital paramours, they may simply never change. 

Read More: 25 Cheating Wife Signs or 25 Cheating Husband Signs

8. A Waste of Time and Energy

If your relationship fails after a valiant attempt to repair it after an infidelity incident, you might feel like your efforts were wasted, and that you can never recover the time spent on this relationship. 

This mindset isn’t just fatalistic—it’s usually untrue. Think back to the times in the relationship when you were truly happy. Reflect fondly upon:

  • Your first overnight trip together
  • The first time meeting each other’s families
  • The birth of your children
  • Fun holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries

While the last few tumultuous weeks, months, or years of a relationship can overshadow the good times you had with your partner, keep your chin up and try to focus on the positive elements of the partnership.

9. The Fear of Never Finding Someone Else Wins

If your self-esteem is crippling, you may simply succumb to the thought that you’ll never find someone else and stay with a cheater. 

This outcome is arguably the most unfortunate of staying with a cheater, partially because it’s often a delusion. But, old habits of negative self-talk die hard, and it can be excruciatingly difficult to recognize and act upon your own self-worth. 

If this describes your scenario, counseling is likely the only way to learn to expect the treatment you deserve.