Should You Leave After an Affair?

It's easy to feel caged when deciding what to do after an affair. Public opinion may not lead to the best choice.
It's easy to feel caged when deciding what to do after an affair. Public opinion may not lead to the best choice.

If Your Partner has Cheated, What Should You Do?

“Of course I’d leave someone who cheated on me!” How many times have you said this in the early days of love? Yet when the worst happens and we discover that our partner has had an affair, these words suddenly feel more scary than confident. Whether to stay and salvage the relationship or leave it in the dust is a very personal decision, and common wisdom may not offer the best answer.

Even if we suspected it was happening, finding confirmation of infidelity zaps us like a taser. Our initial reaction is shock. We may try to deny it by creating excuses that minimize the wrongdoing, because we don’t want to feel like we were such bad partners that we couldn’t keep our partner interested. Then rage rears its head and we plan vengeance – which we often envision as a departure that leave our partner feeling guilty and ashamed forever.

In a day or two, we feel moments of calm when we second-guess our decision. Do we really want to give up all that we had in our love relationship? It’s especially complicated married couples or anyone with children or financial entanglements, and we shift back and forth between extremes - leave, stay, leave, stay.

Men and women have to examine these issues from somewhat different perspectives. Despite progress toward sexual equality over the last few decades, sexual discrimination means women typically earn less than men, and receive preference when it comes to custody and child support. Men may be on the hook for a great deal of money, and despite their contributions, women’s standards of living tend to drop sharply after a divorce.

Contrary to popular opinion that it’s shallow to put money ahead of self-esteem, sometimes our lifestyle contributes to how we feel about ourselves. It’s a dirty little secret, perhaps, and rarely spoken aloud, but when there’s a chance of salvaging the relationship and maintaining the status quo, it may well be worth the effort.

Certainly we need to consider the effect of separation on children. Following divorce, many children suffer problems in school, believe they are to blame for the divorce, and wish for their parents to reunite. They also incorporate their parents’ behaviors into their own value systems. Do we want them to learn to cut and run when the going gets tough or to stick it out and make things work?

When infidelity takes place, it’s a sure sign that the relationship went astray in another area. Sometimes the breakdown is due to basic incompatibility – in which case the relationship cannot be recovered no matter how hard we try. When it’s due to a short-term, transient problem, and both partners want to find the closeness they once felt, healing from an affair is not only possible, it can strengthen the couple’s commitment and appreciation for each other.

Peer pressure doesn’t make the decision easier, either. It’s important to evaluate the long-term risks and benefits of each option to make the best choice, no matter what friends and family think.

Here are some questions to ask if you’re faced with making this decision:

- Do I believe my partner will avoid risk factors that led to this?

- What needs was my partner trying to fulfill with this affair? Am I able to take action to meet these needs? Am I willing to undertake the necessary actions?

- How will my standard of living change if I leave?

- Who else will be affected? How?

When our love has been betrayed, it’s difficult to heal. These are the things that create emotional baggage – lifelong unhealthy responses that create problems in our relationships. But they’re not insurmountable if both partners have the right mindset for recovery, no matter what popular opinion would advise.

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Comments 8 comments

SanXuary 4 years ago

Yes you should leave and not even ask for the naughty parts. Consider the victim has done everything right and that is stay married and moving forward. Now you want to step back and do what? Pretend its going to get better?


jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

SanXuary, did you actually read this hub?


SanXuary 4 years ago

Yes I did and once a cheater always a cheater unless they cut their own heads off and start over again. For the person who never cheated does not need any help from what they have done. They do not need excuses, blame or the need to patch up anything. You betrayed them and your family and are entitled to nothing, not even forgiveness. How can anyone go to another person and not solve the problems behind them. They are wasting everyone's time and their life and I do not believe that they are entitled to one more minute of that persons time. I have been with a cheater and I have been with those who betrayed their marriage and who could never put it behind them. I can add up years of wasted time and no they never change until they realize that cheating does not solve their problems. The next victim can not remove your condemnation from the last one. You always have choices and divorce does not require infidelity. Sure there might be a few who prove me wrong but I was answering your question that you placed on this Hub. Absolutely nothing personal, just my opinion, good luck.


jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

I see... The title is hypothetical and the article is supporting that leaving may not always be the right choice, so your post confused me a bit.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

Hello jellygator. You have made very many good points in your article. I was cheated on when I was in my twenties, but we were not married and had no children. I tried to forgive and go forward, but could never trust him again. I always wondered where he was and what he was doing. Luckily I have been married for 25 years now and he has never cheated on me. I do know that if he did, now, circumstances are very different and I would have to really give it a lot of thought. The circumstances are going to have to have a huge impact on the decision. Very good hub! Voted up and interesting. :)


jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

I wrote this hub because of a comment another person made about how social pressures make people think they have to leave, but how that isn't always the right decision, especially after many years of marriage or when children are involved. It'd be pretty tough to recover from an affair, but I do believe that it can be done. I personally did face the decision, and I stayed for a long time and I think we nearly recovered, but couldn't quite make it.


LisaKoski profile image

LisaKoski 4 years ago from WA

You've made a lot of great points here. I like that you make it clear not to give in to peer pressure. It's so easy for those outside the relationship to say to just end it because it seems logical and simple but it really isn't that easy. I also appreciated when you said: "When infidelity takes place, it’s a sure sign that the relationship went astray in another area...When it’s due to a short-term, transient problem, and both partners want to find the closeness they once felt, healing from an affair is not only possible, it can strengthen the couple’s commitment and appreciation for each other."

My boyfriend of about three years cheated on me after the first year of our relationship. It took a lot of going back and forth, breaking up and making up, but in the end we finally stuck it out and our relationship has been stronger since then. Unfortunately, I still get a lot of judgment from friends and family, some of which have gone so far as to stop talking to me, but I'm even happier now and trust him more than I did in the very beginning.


jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

I'm so glad that you found a way to overcome the pain you must have felt. Earlier today I saw an anonymous quote I liked that your post reminded me of: "An obstacle is something you see when you take your eyes off the goal." I think it's easy to focus on the obstacle. Glad you guys were able to find your way back to your goals. Thanks for posting!

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