How to tell if your relationship is worth saving after they cheated

Infidelity is unfortunately a common issue faced by countless couples.

But since no person or relationship is exactly the same, cheating is a nuanced issue.

Sure, it might be easy to just call all cheaters garbage and wash your hands of anyone who dares be unfaithful to you. It might even be the right call.

On this week’s episode of’s podcast, Smut Drop, host Miranda Kane chats to Jenni Rochelle, coach, mentor and thought leader in the field of betrayal trauma.

Jenni says: ‘We talk about betrayal, but we don’t really understand how significant it is to our hearts, our bodies… we can’t really just get over it.’

She says we heal from trauma in phases. The first phase is ‘safety and security’ and is about putting ‘physical and emotional boundaries’ in place. The next phase is ‘remembrance and mourning,’ where we look at the history of our relationships, and notice patterns.

And the third and final stage is ‘reconnection’. Jenni explains: ‘We start to reconnect with ourselves, friends and family members, because when you’ve been betrayed it’s so isolating, there’s so much shame around it.’

Jenni says if we go through these phases, we’re learning to trust ourselves, and be better able to recognise red flags.

But how do you know if your relationship is actually worth fighting for after you’ve been betrayed?

Counselling Directory member Dr Daniela Hecht tells us that, while discovering a partner’s infidelity is ‘probably one of the most painful experiences you go through in a relationship’, there are questions you should ask yourself before you throw in the towel.

She says: ‘Before you call it quits, it might be helpful to look a bit further into your shared past and your relationship thus far.

‘Have you noticed anything different lately? Has either one of you changed, becoming less involved in each other’s lives?

‘Has there been pressure on one or both of you, and how has your communication been?  Has your relationship suffered in any way?

‘How did you feel towards your partner before you found out and now? How do they feel towards you?

‘What has been their reasoning for cheating? What did it mean for them – was it a fling, only physical, or something meaningful?

‘And finally, would you like to make it work again and, does your partner?

‘Of course it makes sense that you feel betrayed, angry, devastated and hurt, but trying to answer those questions might help you to make a decision that doesn’t feel impulsive or reactive. On top of that, it may help you to look further into your relationship if you decide to work it out and explore how you would like to be as a couple in the future.’

Briony Leo, PHD, head coach at relationship coaching and self-care app Relish, tells us: ‘Some things to consider might be whether this is a pattern of behavior (ie. have they been hiding things from you and not forthcoming about other things), whether they have broken off contact with the person or are continuing to have them in their lives (even if they are no longer involved, this may represent a lack of respect or awareness of your concerns), and whether you can imagine a future with them (as perhaps a relationship that was not fulfilling or happy may not quite be worth fighting for and repairing).

‘It is useful to also to reflect on whether the “pros” outweigh the “cons” in the relationship – whether you may be able to move past this, or whether you get a sense that this is something that is going to define your relationship and impact you significantly in years to come.

‘It can be useful to have couples therapy or coaching after an event like this to help both people to process what has happened and what this means for them.’ 

It’s worth also assessing whether the relationship was already dead, with cheating just the final nail in the coffin.

Dr Daniela highlights some red flags to keep in mind when deciding whether to give your partner another chance, telling us: ‘Your partner might not be remorseful or worse gaslight you into believing it was your fault.

‘They may not be truthful or forthcoming once you find out or worse, this isn’t the first time they cheated.’

Rebuilding trust will be hugely important, but you have to work out if this is someone who deserves to be trusted.

It’s all very well and good deciding to give your partner another chance, but rebuilding trust is easier said than done.

Dr Daniela says that broken trust is difficult to repair, but not impossible.

She tells us: ‘If you are the partner who has been betrayed it might help you to feel that your partner is truly remorseful and regrets their actions.

‘Although you may not want to hear it, it may help to try and understand why your partner has cheated in the first place. Depending on what the reason is it might become easier to regain trust.

‘It may also help you to tell your partner how you feel, what it meant for you to find out that they cheated and what it felt like. If you need space to process then ask for it. If your partner wants to be with you then tell them what you need to allow you to trust them again.

‘Trying to repair a relationship after a betrayal is hard, so both of you need to be committed to wanting to make it work and should agree on why you want to make it work, together. Hear each other and help each other heal, find your way back to each other and commit yourselves to your relationship.

‘Once you agree to give your partner another chance you will have to find a way to forgive, for both of you and move on towards a healthy, nurturing and fulfilling relationship.’

After infidelity, a relationship cannot just continue with nothing changing.

Cheating should be a wake-up call – either to realise the relationship isn’t working and leave, or to make some changes.

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