In an ideal world, no one would put up with the disrespect and pain of being cheated on (but then, in an ideal world, the person you loved and trusted the most in this world, won’t go cheating on you). However, real life is often messy, and walking out on a cheating spouse may not always be an option. If you do decide to give your relationship another go, do it with complete awareness of the 10 common marriage reconciliation mistakes to avoid after infidelity.
Why, you ask? For one, reconciling the right way can minimize the risk of reliving the trauma of being cheated on a few years down the line. Secondly, it makes sure that you identify, address, and work through whatever issues contributed to your partner’s choice to stray and rebuild a stronger bond rather than just sweep your issues under the carpet and settle for a hollow shell of a relationship that is ready to crumble at the first hint of trouble.
Deciding to forgive a cheating partner and give them another chance is not the hard part. The real challenge starts thereafter. It is almost like beginning a new relationship, albeit with caution and the baggage of hurt and mistrust. Can such marriages get a shot at happiness? For sure! But building trust after cheating takes time and effort. To make the path easier, let’s take a look at 10 common marriage reconciliation mistakes to avoid after infidelity to improve your odds of resting this fresh start on a solid foundation in consultation with psychologist Nandita Rambhia (MSc, Psychology), who specializes in CBT, REBT and couples counseling.
Is Reconciliation After Infidelity Possible?
Is reconciling after infidelity a thing? Is it possible to save a marriage after infidelity? Questions like these often plague the minds of people whose partners have been caught cheating. To answer the questions in one word, yes. Reconciliation is possible but there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Surviving an affair is possible only if both parties involved are willing to make amends and give their relationship another shot. The partner who has been cheated on needs to practice forgiveness while the cheating spouse must accept responsibility for their mistakes and apologize. Even after that, rebuilding trust after infidelity will require a lot of humility, effort, better communication, and patience.
Speaking about whether reconciliation after infidelity is possible, Nandita says, “When a couple begins the marriage reconciliation process in the wake of infidelity, there are a lot of mental blocks that get in the way of their emotional bond, connection with one another, and sexual intimacy. The extent to which these mental blocks impact marriage reconciliation depends on the nature of the infidelity as well as how strong or weak their bond was before the cheating happened and came to light.”
Here are some things that can aid the healing process and make moving forward as a couple easier:
- Practice empathy and follow up on their promises with actions
- Set boundaries and stop taking each other for granted
- Practice vulnerability
- Ask relevant questions after infidelity
- Learn to feel weak and emotional in front of your spouse
- Express your doubts and fears with regards to your marriage
- Learn to communicate your feelings to one another
There are several reasons not to divorce after infidelity, the most important being your love for one another. If cheating was a one-off thing, if you still truly love one another, and are willing to give your marriage another chance and do the hard work, then a reconciliation after cheating is possible.
Related Reading: 10 Questions To Ask Your Unfaithful Spouse
What Percent Of Couples Stay Together After Infidelity?
Finding out about their partner’s infidelity is a person’s worst nightmare come true. While some couples are able to move past it and find reasons not to divorce after infidelity, some are so heartbroken that they decide to end things. As terrible as it sounds, infidelity is incredibly common in marriages across the world.
A study revealed that the most commonly reported and major contributors to divorce were lack of commitment and infidelity. Another study by the Relish Relationship Report claimed that only 15% of couples succeeded in reconciling after infidelity and making their marriage work. However, a 2021 survey found that couples in 24% of marriages that reported cheating stayed together. We agree the numbers are not encouraging but the decision to save a marriage after infidelity rests entirely up to the two individuals involved.
10 Common Marriage Reconciliation Mistakes To Avoid After Infidelity
“Three years ago, when I told Janine I was having an affair, she didn’t want to hear anything I had to say, and immediately wanted to walk out. Initially, she was so shell-shocked that the only communication she had with me was hurling abuses and divorce papers my way,” Jon, a 34-year-old chiropractor, told us.
“I had no idea how to help my wife heal after I cheated. Once a month of separation had passed, she realized she was not averse to having a conversation with me again. One emotional conversation led to another, and just like that, the stages of reconciliation after an affair began unfolding,” he adds.
Falling out of love after infidelity is not uncommon. Nandita says, “Soon after an affair is discovered, the betrayed spouse may stop feeling anything for the other.” In the throes of heartbreak, reconciling after cheating may seem like an impossible task. However, this loss of feelings and the pain and angst is not necessarily permanent. “Over time, the strong emotions begin to settle down. If a couple’s bond was strong before this setback, they can find a way back to each other,” she adds.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can just erase this chapter from your life and move on. It’s a long, hard road to recovery. But can be made easier if you stay mindful of these 10 common marriage reconciliation mistakes to avoid after infidelity. Hopefully, you will get to move past the cheating. And if not, find some peace of mind and move on from your partner.
1. Making extreme decisions
When you discover you have been cheated upon, it is natural to go through extreme feelings. “Emotions run high after infidelity comes to light and the betrayed spouse may feel overwhelmed by anger, betrayal, and trust issues, which makes it difficult for them to be empathetic toward their cheating partner,” says Nandita.
You might be tempted to act impulsively, like serving a divorce notice or having an affair yourself, or throwing them out of the house. All of these are common marriage reconciliation mistakes that make the road to reconnecting with your spouse that much harder. Take a deep breath when such thoughts consume you.
Even when you are in the process of reconciliation after cheating, do not make any hasty decisions. Give yourself and your relationship time to heal and remember there are several stages of healing after infidelity. Give each other some breathing space until you can gauge your feelings correctly and objectively.
Rose and Stanley were trying to work through a fractured relationship after Rose had an affair with a coworker. Unable to cope with the infidelity pain, Stanley spoke to a lawyer one weekend and had divorce papers served soon after. The couple has two kids, and nothing had been discussed or spoken of. The situation blew up into a huge mess and Stanley regretted his decision later. Of the 10 common marriage reconciliation mistakes to avoid after infidelity, this one might be the most difficult to put a lid on.
Related Reading: 11 Things You Didn’t Know Amount To Cheating In A Relationship
2. Asking too many or too few questions
Yes, this may sound like a bit of a paradox. But both these opposites rank high in the top 10 common marriage reconciliation mistakes to avoid after infidelity. You have the right to ask questions about your partner’s affair and you deserve to know the answers. After all, remaining in denial or pretending that it didn’t happen will only lead to resentment in marriage. It is important to communicate during the process of reconciliation after cheating.
Besides, the reality of what cheating partners go through after their transgressions come to light or how cheaters feel about themselves often gets overlooked in situations like this. As the spouse who has been cheated on, you may be so overwhelmed by your pain and misery that you may not even spare a thought about how your partner is feeling. Asking the right questions can bridge that gap and make space for empathy in your connection.
“There will be times when the betrayed partner will want to know everything about the affair and there will be phases where they’d not want to hear a thing about what went down and how. Both these responses are natural and can appear in tandem. However, it is essential to be able to strike a balance and seek information on a need-to-know basis,” says Nandita.
Remember, you do not need to know everything about it. Spare yourself the agony of going into intimate details. Sometimes, the thought of your partner with another person, the places they may have visited, and the intimacy they might have shared will prevent you from moving forward. You might just get stuck at one point – certainly not a desirable place to be in. To save a marriage after infidelity and lies is hard enough, don’t add to the pain.
3. Seeking revenge
Most experts say that there are four to six infidelity recovery stages that a person goes through after discovering they have been cheated on. You go through the whole nine yards of grief, denial, anger, and bargaining before you get to the point of acceptance and can even begin to think about reconnecting with your spouse.
While each stage is difficult and has its own set of challenges, anger can be the most precarious. You must take conscious steps to stop yourself from going down the rabbit hole of taking revenge on your partner. You might even think of having an affair yourself. But know that such thoughts are self-destructive. You will only end up hurting yourself. Move past this urge to get even because if you don’t, you will never be able to bounce back.
“There will come a stage where you’d feel that you can’t stand the hurt and the pain anymore and you’d want to do something about it. Make sure that you choose a path that takes you a step closer to accepting that infidelity happened and deciding where you want to go from there, and not go down the road of revenge that will only contribute to the negativity and stall your healing process,” advises Nandita.
Related Reading: What Is Revenge Cheating? 7 Things To Know
4. Being paranoid that they will cheat again
Yes, once you’ve experienced infidelity, rebuilding trust can be one of the biggest challenges in your path as a couple. However, you have to find a way to get past these trust issues. One of the 10 most common reconciliation mistakes to avoid after infidelity is to get overly suspicious of your partner. If you want to forgive your spouse and move forward together as a couple, do it wholeheartedly, or don’t do it at all.
Your paranoia about the possibility of them cheating again is going to lead you both nowhere. If they have to cheat, they will. So stop looking through their phones, peeking through their stuff, or spying on them. Your doubts and fears are valid but acting paranoid will only deteriorate the situation. You should set boundaries to prevent emotional affairs or even physical ones, but those rules are to protect you, not to wreck whatever chances you have at happiness.
5. Failure to set boundaries
While we are on the subject, know that a failure to set boundaries ranks high in the top 10 reconciliation mistakes to avoid after cheating. When you decide to take back an adulterous spouse, set the terms and conditions clear. Nandita advises, “Boundaries are integral to the marriage reconciliation process. So, sit with your partner and set healthy relationship boundaries. More importantly, honor them, no matter what. If either partner, especially the one who cheated, oversteps these boundaries, it can stir up insecurities and trust issues all over again.”
Boundaries in the relationship can look something like this:
- When you flirt with others, it makes me feel disrespected. I expect you not to do it anymore
- If you’re running late, I expect to be informed
- I’d appreciate it if you can keep me apprised of your whereabouts during the day
- While I promise not to snoop on your phone, I’d like us to share passwords for sake of transparency
Communicate your needs and fears frankly. Read the riot act before you get back together but once you do, learn to trust and not be too doubtful. Failure to set boundaries in the relationship was perhaps one of the reasons things went bad in the first place, so do not repeat that mistake. This is a major step in the stages of healing after infidelity.
Related Reading: Why A Cheating Person Shows No Remorse – 17 Astonishing Reasons
6. Attacking your spouse emotionally
Agreed, staying in a marriage that is teetering on the edge is hard, but remember, it’s you who has decided to reconcile. If you truly want to give your marriage a shot at survival, do not indulge in emotional attacks. Do not play the blame game or bring up past issues. This does not mean that you can’t bring up the issues that are bothering you or share your fears and apprehensions, but you must do it in a respectful and caring way.
Not knowing what to say to someone who has hurt you and how to say it is one of the most common reconciliation mistakes to avoid after infidelity. Even if you haven’t gotten over the pain your spouse caused you, lashing out, hurling barbs and jibes, posting cryptic social media messages, giving them the silent treatment, and shooting passive-aggressive digs to make them feel worse won’t help you heal.
If you keep berating your partner every chance you get, you’ll never be able to establish transparency after cheating. They may even be discouraged from telling you things in the future, which will only damage your relationship further. It’s a terrible thing to do. If you still feel awful, confront them directly and seek a remedy but do not try these below-the-belt tactics that cause nothing but more stress. Avoid them at all costs if you want to save a marriage after infidelity.
7. Confronting the person they cheated with
Should you confront the other woman or man? This dilemma is one of the most challenging aspects of your journey to recovering from the setback of infidelity. It might be very tempting to ask your spouse’s affair partner about their relationship or you may want to flaunt how you ‘won’ back your partner from the lover. But other than satisfying your ego, it is not going to serve any purpose. In fact, it may just worsen things since the possibility of the encounter turning ugly is so high.
Among all the reconciliation mistakes to avoid after cheating, this one is the worst. Seeking closure is one of the important stages of healing after infidelity but you are not going to get that by asking for an explanation from the “other” person. Building up a marriage after infidelity is no mean feat, and this encounter can erase the progress you have made so far. Unless it is absolutely unavoidable – for instance, if the person your spouse cheated with is someone you know and have to interact with frequently – this showdown is best avoided.
When Dana realized her husband, Chris, had an affair, she started stalking the other woman. She even started waiting outside her house at times to see what she really looked like. When Chris found out, he said he couldn’t handle Dana’s behavior, and they eventually separated. “I tried to salvage the situation but Dana just wanted to hurt the person I was having an affair with. I couldn’t understand how to help my wife heal after I cheated, and it seemed like she didn’t want to heal either,” Chris told us.
8. Blaming yourself and feeling guilty
One of the long-term infidelity effects is to blame yourself and feel guilty about whatever happened. You were cheated upon and regardless of the period that the affair carried on, nothing can take away the hurt. However, in some cases, the cheater tries to blame their partner or their bad relationship for straying.
Do not allow them to gaslight you or dent your self-esteem by bullying you. Always remember, no matter what the circumstances, cheating is always a choice and it’s a choice that your partner made, not you. The stages of reconciliation after an affair do NOT include your partner trying to paint a new version of the things that happened, in an attempt to make themselves look like the victim.
“The partner who has cheated needs to take responsibility for their actions, own up to their mistake, and show the will to work toward making things better. In absence of this accountability, rebuilding trust can become an insurmountable challenge,” says Nandita. While it is all right to introspect and look at your part in weakening your relationship, do not let it affect your sense of self.
Related Reading: How To Break The Vicious Betrayed Spouse Cycle
9. Bringing the children into the drama
Infidelity can be tough on everyone but never make the mistake of dragging children into your marital problems. Sometimes, when an affair is exposed and you are unwilling to let go of your spouse, it can be tempting to use children as pawns to guilt your partner into staying. Some people even use their kids to punish their unfaithful partners by denying them access or threatening to shame them in front of the family.
These manipulative acts point to an intention of taking revenge, not rebuilding the relationship. Your partner should want to stay with you because they truly regret cheating and are willing to make amends, not out of guilt or to protect the children from getting hurt. Not knowing when to walk away after infidelity and guilt-tripping your partner into staying in a relationship they are no longer invested in is one of the most common marriage reconciliation mistakes.
Such a broken, incomplete relationship can never be the basis of a happy family. All your efforts to save a marriage after infidelity will be in vain if either of you is not invested in the process of reconciliation. No to mention the emotional trauma suffered by the children who are being used as bait. If you need a third party to break the ice or mediate, involve friends or family you can trust. But leave the kids out of it.
10. Not seeking help when you need it
Recovering from an affair or surviving a marriage after infidelity is not easy. If you find you and your partner are stuck or your marriage reconciliation process has hit a snag, seek professional help. When you decide to get back together with your unfaithful spouse, you need counseling to chart the road ahead.
You need to take care of your emotions and feelings. Depending on the nature of the affair – whether it was a one-night stand or a long-term emotional relationship – your cheating partner too would have their own share of struggles. Remember that you are at a vulnerable stage and any missteps can deal a lethal blow to your relationship.
“When communication seems impossible or the hurt and betrayal color all your interactions with one another, couples therapy can be immensely helpful in making you see things in a new light and understand each other’s perspective,” says Nandita. If you’re looking for help figuring out how to reconcile after infidelity, Bonobology’s panel of experienced therapists is here for you.
- Infidelity is a huge setback for any relationship but it is possible to recover from it and reconcile
- The decision to walk away or give your relationship another chance shouldn’t be made when you’re still processing the emotional turmoil of being cheated on
- If you do decide to reconcile, avoid mistakes such as being overly suspicious, not setting boundaries, resorting to emotional attacks, seeking revenge, or blaming yourself for your partner’s actions
- Seeking professional help can be immensely helpful for a couple trying to reconcile after infidelity
They say relationships are like glass that, once broken, will always show a crack. Though the scar remains, that’s not to say that you can’t come out the other end a lot stronger than you were before. Getting out of an affair isn’t easy, nor is forgiving a cheating partner or rebuilding your relationship with them. Getting back together is a slow process that requires time, so expect it to be a tough, bumpy road.
Being cheated upon can change a person in many ways. Firstly, they find it difficult to trust after being betrayed by a partner. You might find it challenging to rebuild trust in your partner or any other person again. You may not even want to reconcile after cheating. It might also result in low self-esteem and self-worth issues.
You can’t generalize the whole ‘once a cheater, always a cheater’ concept. It depends on the personal values of an individual, the circumstances under which they slipped, and the nature of their current relationship.
Being cheated on hurts because it shatters your core belief and trust in a person. You feel let down by someone you love dearly and that causes more hurt than anything else. You also feel bad about being taken for a ride emotionally.
There are many stages of healing after infidelity. Time will heal the pain eventually, but it will take patience, effort, and possibly professional help. It’s also possible that certain scars will always remain, and it’s up to both of you to cope with them in the most gentle way possible.