Can Couples Heal from Infidelity?
Over the last 25 years, I've worked with hundreds of couples suffering through and trying to heal from infidelity. Obviously, this is an excruciating trauma to recover from, but I sincerely believe it's doable if both people – especially the person who cheated - are willing to do the work. Relationships actually have the potential to end up healthier than they’ve ever been when couples successfully navigate the healing process.
Sadly, infidelity is fairly common. Though it’s challenging to get accurate data on the frequency of something as personal and private as cheating, it appears that infidelity occurs in somewhere around 20% of marriages. Not surprisingly, the frequency is even higher in non-married relationships. The data also shows that men are about twice as likely to be unfaithful as women are. These numbers are consistent with what I’ve seen in my psychotherapy practice and what I hear from other therapists who work with infidelity.
The Internet and the proliferation of social media have provided new ways for people to connect with affair partners and new ways to violate the boundaries of their relationships. Over the last decade, I’ve seen more and more couples dealing with infidelity that began through connections on Facebook or other social media platforms. I’ve had dozens of clients who began an emotional or physical affair with an ex-lover they reconnected with on Facebook or Instagram.
Couples can Heal from Infidelity
The good news is that couples absolutely can recover and heal from infidelity. Data on
what percentage of couples recover and heal from infidelity is hard to find, but what I
and many couples therapists see in their practices is that at least 50% of couples can
heal from cheating. I’ve seen couples truly recover from horrifically devastating
infidelity. Many couples ultimately look back on the infidelity as the catalyst that made
them work on their relationship and turn it into something better than it had ever been
I can never predict which couples will make it and which won’t, but over the years
I’ve learned what indicators give couples the best chance. What’s most crucial is that
both people want to work on the relationship and are willing to be honest and, more
importantly, uncomfortable. Coming clean about all the breaches of trust that have
occurred – even if this turns out to be a dealbreaker for the betrayed partner – is
essential for healing. The unfaithful partner has to be willing to take this risk. When I
work with couples where the cheater adamantly refuses to be open and honest
about what he’s done or refuses to open the books so to speak (allow his partner to
see texts, emails, social media, etc.), I don’t think the couple has much of a chance.
Another strong indicator of success is the willingness of the betrayed partner to insist on
getting professional help. After an affair comes to light, some couples have an initial
period where the relationship changes dramatically for a while. They experience
increased closeness and intimacy. But this will not last without addressing and working
through the affair and what led to it. Although this renaissance of romance is wonderful,
it takes some ongoing work to keep from falling back into the same patterns that
allowed the affair to occur in the first place.
Sometimes Infidelity is part of Sex Addiction
Not all cheaters are sex addicts, but many are. As an expert in both infidelity and sex
addiction, I can help couples figure out if the infidelity is symptomatic of a sex addiction.
If it is, there is still hope as long as the addict is willing to do the work – on both
recovering from the addiction and healing the relationship. Again, if both people are
willing to do the work, they can end up in a happier and healthier place
than they’ve ever been.
There really is hope for couples who want to heal from infidelity.
For more information, visit my Infidelity Counseling page.
Feel free to contact me with any questions.