After Infidelity: Should You Stay, or Should You Go?
Before you decide, ask yourself these 14 questions.
Posted Apr 05, 2021 | Reviewed by Davia Sills
- Many relationships are worth saving, despite infidelity, but the restoration of relationship trust is paramount.
- Since you and your partner will never be 100 percent in alignment, it's important to set realistic expectations.
- Asking yourself these questions can help you decide whether your relationship can recover, or if you and your partner are better off going your separate ways.
Without question, cheating is the most painful of betrayals. That said, many relationships do survive the trauma of infidelity, with couples sometimes developing more vulnerability and intimacy than ever. Other times, however, trust and relationship safety cannot be restored, the pain of betrayal is simply too much to overcome, or the relationship just wasn’t that great to begin with.
But how do you know where you and your relationship fall on the “stay or go” spectrum? Answering the following 14 questions can help you gain some clarity.
1. Do you enjoy spending time together?
One of the primary reasons for being in a long-term romantic partnership is that it’s fun and enjoyable. If you have come to genuinely dislike (or no longer appreciate) time spent with your partner, that’s an obvious red flag.
2. Do you trust each other?
Trust is a key element in a healthy relationship. If two people trust each other, if they know they have each other’s backs no matter what, that’s a solid relationship foundation. Of course, infidelity has decimated relationship trust, so the real question here is whether that trust can be rebuilt.
3. Do you play well together?
If you and your partner have at least a few common interests—hobbies and activities that you can enjoy together—that’s a strong indicator of a relationship worth saving, especially if those interests are an important area of life for one or both of you.
4. Do you share core values and beliefs?
You and your partner are not going to agree on every little thing, nor should you, but to make the relationship work over the long haul, you need at least a little common ground regarding things like religion, politics, finances, education, and raising kids.
5. Do you have kids?
Children are not the only reason to stay in a relationship, but they’re a darn good one. After all, no matter how much you struggle with your partner, you’re going to love your children, and you will always keep their welfare in mind.
6. Do you and your partner usually find a way to resolve disagreements?
In any intimate relationship, conflict is inevitable. It is also useful because it helps us to define our boundaries. In healthy relationships, arguments and disagreements are actually growth opportunities: chances to learn patience, empathy, and new ways of thinking and relating.
7. Are you free to be your own person?
As stated above, good relationships are built on commonality. But too much closeness and agreement can feel smothering and enmeshed. The best relationships involve separate people with separate identities, with each person free to think and act as he or she sees fit (within certain mutually agreed-upon limits).
8. Do you respect each other?
If you and your partner each bring something special and meaningful to the relationship, then it is much easier to respect each other’s opinions, interests, beliefs, and contributions. If, however, the relationship is drastically unequal, with one person running the show at all times, you will probably continue to struggle.
9. Do you still enjoy sex with each other?
OK, you’re probably well past the puppy-love stage when you first started dating and having sex. So the question here is more about whether you feel a continuing spark of sexual attraction to your partner and if you enjoy the physical intimacy that the two of you still have (or that you were having before the discovery of the cheating).
10. Does your partner support you emotionally?
If you think that your partner is not there for you when the going gets tough or that your partner expresses constant disagreement, dismissal, negativity, criticism, control, or indifference toward your thoughts, beliefs, goals, desires, or activities (aside from your sexual infidelity), that’s a definite red flag.
11. Does your relationship roll with the punches?
It is important for both you and your partner to understand that a relationship is not stagnant. If growth occurs or is sought, and both parties accept and even cheer that, then there is a great foundation on which to rebuild. Conversely, the more resistance to change there is, the tougher it will be to heal your relationship.
12. Are your relationship expectations realistic?
No person or relationship is perfect. If either you or your partner consistently expects the other to look and act in a certain way, then disappointment is inevitable. In a healthy relationship, both partners accept and respect each other, warts and all.
13. Have you done this before?
Do you have a history of ending relationships because of cheating? If so, no matter how you feel about your current partner, it’s probably time to take a look at your thoughts and behaviors regarding long-term commitment.
14. Are you both invested in saving the relationship?
It takes two to tango. If you want to keep your relationship alive, but your partner seems determined to end it, there is little you can do about that. If the desire to save your relationship is one-sided, then there really is no relationship to save.
There are no set rules for determining when a relationship is or is not worth saving. Ultimately, you must decide this matter for yourself. That said, if you find that you’ve answered yes to more than a few of the 14 questions presented above, then you’ve probably got something that is worth the effort.