When a Partner Cheats, Do You Stay or Do You Go?

Emily Stroia
Oct 10, 2020 · 4 min read
Photo by Nathan McBride on Unsplash

Cheating is a complicated subject. There are many layers to what defines infidelity in a relationship. Most often it’s assumed a partner in the relationship had sex with another person outside of the relationship. While cheating is often assumed to be a physical act you hear of relationships ending over discovered secret sexual text messages, random exes popping up, and porn subscriptions.

Each couple has their own idea of commitment and what constitutes infidelity in the relationship.

Marriage vows state that you will be committed through thick and thin. But what happens if someone in the relationship cheats? Suddenly the vow of commitment is broken and the relationship is over.

When you sign up for a relationship it seems like cheating is the ultimate form of betrayal and a deal breaker.

For a long time I considered cheating to be the end-all for me. I’ve been cheated on several times and what ultimately hurt most for me was the sense of betrayal more than the infidelity itself. I’ve come to realize that the act of cheating itself while hurtful isn’t a deal breaker for me.

I also realized that staying in a relationship after being cheated on was at the time a sense of self-betrayal because deep down I knew I deserved better but I didn’t exactly believe it then.

Infidelity is hard to recover from and building trust again takes time. Ultimately you’re left with the question, do you stay or do you go?

Its an important to ask because obviously you’re invested in the person and the relationship but you also don’t want to be betrayed again.

No one is perfect and the monogamy culture itself is fairly new. Evolutionary speaking we see humans becoming monogamous to protect their offspring, assets and health.

Finding the one for “love” itself has emerged only recently starting around the 1700s. This concept of a happily ever after and being committed to each other is idealistic when we consider the idea of commitment in the bigger picture.

Personally I don’t think we can be everything for each other all the time. We are human. We will feel attraction and desire possibly for someone other than our “person”. We can make jokes about sexual fantasies with celebrities, music artists and idols but the reality is it’s totally normal to feel attracted and fantasize about strangers.

Does it mean you aren’t committed to your partner? Does it mean you are cheating or want to cheat? My partner and I share openly that we might find someone hot but it doesn’t mean we want to walk away from each other or cheat.

I once dated a polygamous couple and while they are committed to each other as primary partners they realized monogamy was a big request to hold up in the relationship. To them, it wasn’t realistic and they found their own “happy” being together while having the opportunity to explore attraction outside of the relationship. I’m not advocating for this but I did learn something really valuable from that relationship. You can’t be everything for one another.

There is a lot to consider to either working to restore trust in the relationship or end it. You might think you did something to cause the cheating to happen. You might wonder what drove your partner to cheat in the first place. Could it be that your partner has a personal issue that may have nothing to do with the relationship? Could it be your partner is unhappy and out of a moment of desperation or sadness found someone else’s attention exciting?

There are a lot of reasons behind why someone cheats and none of them are an excuse to betray your trust. Every day we see tons of stories of couples working it out after cheating and the relationship stronger as a result. It’s possible your bond could be stronger. It’s possible you could feel closer together.

It’s also possible you try to work it out and the relationship doesn’t heal. It might also help you realize the person just may not be the right fit for you after all.

The factors to consider in deciding to work it out or walk away might look like:

  • Opportunity to get help like counseling
  • Allowing grace for mistakes and realizing no one is perfect
  • Conscious conversations around underlying root issues
  • Considering the bigger picture together and how you can work together to heal and grow
  • Trusting your intuition and wise voice

Walking away might bring you peace. It might bring you regret. Staying could also bring you peace or regret.

(If your relationship itself has a history of cheating along with other forms of hurt like manipulation, control, lying these are signs of a toxic relationship.)

No relationship is perfect and infidelity can happen with any relationship you have. There are no guarantees but I think if you can find someone who is willing to work with you in your mistakes and vice versa that’s gold.

Relationships are not black and white. It’s a lot of pressure to be everything for one another but the greatest gift you can be is your partner’s friend.

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Emily Stroia

Written by

Self-help & mental health writer. Can't do small talk. Mama. Yogi. Coffee lover. Nature explorer. Get my free meditation mini-course here: www.emilystroia.com

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

Emily Stroia

Written by

Self-help & mental health writer. Can't do small talk. Mama. Yogi. Coffee lover. Nature explorer. Get my free meditation mini-course here: www.emilystroia.com

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

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