Many relationships can survive an affair, but most of them don't. No matter how much you love your partner, there may be some issues that are just too big to get past.
If you've been trying to heal your relationship after an affair with little or no effect, you should know when to walk away after infidelity.
13 Signs Your Relationship Is Over After Cheating
Below are 13 of the biggest signs that your relationship is over after your partner has been unfaithful. While just one of these signs may not be enough for you to call it quits, more than a couple are good indicators to help you know when to walk away after infidelity.
1. Avoiding Responsibility and Places Blame
When someone cheats, it often leaves them with an overwhelming sense of guilt. People deal with guilt in all sorts of ways. Some are apologetic and try to make things up to the person they've wronged. Others don't want to deal with the guilt, and instead, try to place the blame on the other person.
Your guilty partner may try to convince themself and you that the fault isn't entirely theirs; they may start recalling mistakes you've made and ways you've damaged the relationship. In some situations, they're gaslighting you. They're making up things that never happened.
In other situations, you may have done some things to put a strain on your relationship – in many struggling relationships: both parties are at least partially to blame. However, your role in the relationship doesn't excuse cheating. Your partner shouldn't try to blame you, no matter what you've done.
What Your Partner May Say
Your partner may say that you drove them to have an affair. They may tell you it's all your fault or try to get you to take some of the blame – in other cases, they may say the other person was at fault that they convinced them to do it.
Sometimes, your partner won't blame anyone, but they'll refuse to take responsibility. They may say they were drinking or stressed at work, or they may say it just happened, and they had no control.
2. Lack of Remorse
For most people, the act of cheating comes with a massive amount of guilt, especially if the person cares about their partner. Most people don't set out to cheat but make a series of bad choices that lead them to infidelity. Whether they cheat once or carry on an affair, they feel terrible about what they're doing.
You can tell a lot about how your partner feels about their indiscretions based on how they apologize. A true apology is more than just the words “I'm sorry.” They'll be able to describe what they did wrong and acknowledge how it was hurtful.
If they only say they're sorry and use a tone that doesn't sound remorseful, they probably don't feel bad about hurting you. If this is their attitude, then they'll cheat again.
Regret vs. Remorse
If your partner doesn't show any remorse, it may be time to move on. Do you feel like they're truly sorry, or only sorry because they got caught? There's a difference between regret and remorse. Regret can encompass a lot of emotions. Your partner may regret cheating because it hurt you. But, they may also regret cheating because they're now suffering because of it.
When a person feels true remorse, they're focused on the other person and not their feelings. They're concerned about how cheating has hurt their partner and other people in their lives. They understand the severity of what they did and truly feel bad about it.
3. Staying in Contact With the Other Person
For a relationship to be repaired after infidelity, your partner must cut all contact with the other person. Even if the person was a friend or coworker before the cheating occurred, things can never go back to what they were before.
If your partner is truly remorseful and dedicated to rebuilding your relationship, they won't just be willing to sever all contact with their affair partner – they'll understand that it has to happen if the two of you have a chance.
On the flip side, if they insist on staying in contact with the other person, even if they promise that they'll remain friends, that's a huge red flag. It's hard to stay just friends after having an affair, and your partner is keeping temptation in their life.
4. Unwilling to Work on the Relationship
Often, once a person is caught cheating or confesses to an affair, they have a strong desire for things to return to how they were before the affair. They want to pretend that nothing ever happened and don't want to discuss anything.
While their intentions may be pure, it takes considerable effort to repair a relationship after infidelity. If your partner thinks your relationship can return to what it was before, then they're naive, and your chances of success are low. Relationship expert Esther Perel says your relationship can never be what it was, but you can start a new relationship.
On the other hand, your partner may not care enough to repair the relationship. They may not want to break up, but they may not want to put in the work it takes to fix things. If they are unwilling, that's a good sign that things are over; otherwise, you're going to be miserable and stuck in a broken relationship.
5. Continuing to Lie
A lot of lying goes on during an affair, especially if it's been going on for a while. As the saying goes, one lie leads to another, and it turns out the saying is true. According to a scientific study, lying alters a person's brain so that lying gets easier the more they do it. They get bolder and tell even bigger lies.
Even once cheating has been revealed and the truth is out there, the person who cheated may still be tempted to lie. Your partner may have a compulsion that they can't control, or they may not be entirely truthful about the extent of their infidelity.
Regardless, if your partner continues to lie, your relationship won't survive. If they can't control their lying, then they'll need to seek help from a therapist if they want to work on that problem. If they refuse, then you won't be able to trust them.
6. Cheating Continues
If there's one dealbreaker on this list, it's if the cheating continues. A relationship may be able to bounce back after an affair, but not after ongoing or serial infidelity. If your partner continues their affair with the cheating partner, then it has to be over. You can't let them disrespect you in that way. If they can't quit, it's obvious they no longer want to be in a relationship.
Sometimes your partner plans to stop cheating but winds up being unfaithful again. There's a scientific reason behind this behavior. When a person cheats, it alters their brain chemistry. They often get addicted to the rush they get from being with someone new and the danger from sneaking around.
Unfortunately, this feeling will fade. Whether the person stays with their original partner or starts a relationship with their affair partner, the high will wear off. People often wind up cheating again, because they now crave that feeling and a regular, monogamous relationship is no longer enough.
7. Not Having Sex Anymore
When you first find out about your partner's infidelity, you likely have no desire to have sex with them. You're likely to be hurt, angry, and distrustful to be able to be intimate with them. Conversely, you may have a strong desire for your partner. You may be dealing with jealousy or just need to reaffirm the relationship.
However, if the two of you are no longer having sex, then that's a bad sign. It could mean that your partner is no longer sexually interested in you. If you're the one avoiding sex, your trust may be too broken for you to desire intimacy.
Either way, if your sex life is dead and doesn't get better after a while, it's a good sign that it's time to end things. If you can't rekindle your romantic relationship, there isn't much point in staying in the relationship. If there's no desire, your partner may be tempted to cheat again.
8. Constantly Being Reminded of Cheating
You're not going to get over your partner cheating in a few weeks or even a few months. Experts say that it takes at least a year, but usually, two years for a relationship to fully recover (if it recovers at all).
That said, you may not be able to look at your partner and not think about what happened. This feeling is expected at the beginning and likely lasts for quite a while. However, it should go away or at least lessen at some point if things are to work out. You should start to remember some of the things you love about your partner and why you want to be with them.
If all you can think about is their infidelity every time you're with them, then you're not happy in the relationship. They've either hurt you beyond repair or you just can't move past what they did. There's nothing wrong with this feeling. Cheating is one of the hardest things to overcome, and if you can't get over it, then it's time to move on and find someone who'll make you happy.
9. Unresolved Anger
Anger, sometimes outright rage, is one of the first feelings many people have after finding out their partner has been unfaithful – being hurt, embarrassed, or experiencing other emotions tend to come later. It's only natural to be angry. The person you loved and trusted has stomped all over everything the two of you had.
As you work to repair the relationship, your feelings of anger should dissipate. That's not to say you won't feel bursts of anger from time to time, but it should no longer be overwhelming and all-consuming.
If the anger doesn't subside at some point, that's not good for you or your relationship. It's hard for your relationship to move forward and recover if all you feel is anger. It's no fault of yours, as you have every right to be angry. But if you can't move past the pain and anger, then it's time to end the relationship because you're not going to be happy.
10. No Respect
Being cheated on is the ultimate form of disrespect. Even if your partner says it had nothing to do with you, there's no denying that you've been mistreated. After your partner has lied, made excuses, and been with someone else – you may feel stupid for trusting them.
But you have no reason to feel stupid because you weren't the one cheating. It's not your fault that you gave your heart to someone who couldn't be faithful. Respect is a part of any relationship. If you feel like your partner disrespects you, it may be hard for you to move past that.
Respect Is a Two-Way Street
Sometimes it's not you that feels disrespected, and instead, you've lost respect for your partner. It's hard to respect someone who has done something so awful. You can't build a relationship with someone you don't respect either.
If there's no chance of your partner earning your respect back, it may be best to let things go.
If you're partner truly wants to repair your relationship after cheating, they'll do everything to fix things. They'll apologize and go out of their way to do nice things for you. They'll be completely open and honest. They'll be willing to do whatever it takes, even attend couple's counseling.
If on the other hand, they seem indifferent, then it's likely they are no longer invested in the relationship. It's also likely that they may be inclined to cheat again. If they have no interest in working on your relations, you need to cut your losses.
When You're Indifferent
In some cases, you may be the one feeling indifferent. Sometimes, an affair can take away your feelings for your partner. You may find you have no interest in working on the relationship and that many of the feelings you once had are gone.
You're not at fault if you feel this way; as the wronged party, it's up to you to decide if you want to forgive and move forward or you want out. If the feelings are no longer there and there's no sign of them coming back, the relationship may be over.
12. Trying to Heal Had Little Effect
Sometimes you and your partner give it your all, but it still doesn't work out. You're not outside of the norm because only 16% of couples can make it after infidelity, so it's not something that everyone can overcome.
If you and your partner have talked things through and maybe even tried counseling, you've done what you can for your relationship. If you still feel hurt and angry, or you simply no longer have romantic feelings for your partner, then there's no point in staying in a relationship where you're unhappy.
It can take two years or more for a relationship to heal after an affair. However, it's up to you whether you want to put that much time and see if your relationship heals. If you'd rather move on, that's your prerogative.
13. Relationship Isn't Enjoyable Anymore
Sometimes you and your partner return to a place of love, mutual respect, and even trust. Even if things are better, you may find you're no longer happy. While everything may seem okay, your relationship simply no longer brings you joy.
When your partner cheats, it's not your responsibility to stay with them and fix things. You don't have to give up that much of your life if you don't want to. If you're unhappy in the relationship, then there's little you or your partner can do about that.
Your relationship will be different after an affair, but that's not to say it has to be bad. Many couples even find that their relationship is stronger after infidelity. However, if you no longer have feelings of happiness with your partner, then it's fine to end things and look for someone new.
It's devastating when the person you love cheats on you, but it can be even harder to know when to walk away after infidelity. However, if the relationship is no longer worth salvaging and the person isn't the same person you fell in love with, it's time to cut your losses. Better things are coming your way.
Lauren Cook-McKay is the Vice President of Marketing at DivorceAnswers.com. She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) from the University of San Diego and applies her training in private practice to helping couples struggling in their marriage. She believes there is hope in all marriages and strives to provide therapy to couples that will lead them back towards a loving marriage, or an amicable divorce that brings peace and closure.