When To Walk Away After Infidelity

by Alexandra CraciunJune 7, 2021

Infidelity can be a harrowing experience that usually leaves you in a bad place, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to stay in your current relationship or if you want to walk away.

However, a little bit of guidance can’t possibly hurt.

Most of the time, love isn’t enough to maintain a relationship.

When people fail to save the relationship, it’s not surprising to discover that they have dealt with other issues, to begin with. An affair is not only an affair.

Note: Alexandra is a professional Psychotherapist with specialized knowledge in relationships.

– Worried Lovers

Why it’s important to know when to stay or when to leave.

Life throws many struggles and hardships our way. Therefore, who we have next to us during those times is of the utmost importance.

Relationships are one aspect of our life that should provide comfort and make us feel accepted and validated. If everything else fails, we can always find comfort in love.

I’m a big proponent of working through problems in a relationship. But couples must acknowledge their limitations and know when to let go. Not before trying their best, of course.

So what can we say about couples that can’t recover?

Signs that your relationship is no longer salvageable

If your relationship is showing some of the signs below, then you should consider leaving.

They’re indicators that your relationship is headed towards its ending and has gone beyond the point of no return.

1.   Your partner doesn’t take accountability for the cheating

When your partner doesn’t acknowledge his/her wrongs, your relationship suffers. Intimacy, love, and affection start to dissolve and slowly slip away.

Rebuilding trust requires transparency.

All hopes of ever regaining the love die the moment your partner begins justifying the deed, shifting blame, or even taking pride in his infidelity, and that indicates that it’s a good time to walk away.

Blaming happens because of the intense feelings of guilt that the transgressor is experiencing. Justifying is meant to be used as a way to rationalize the affair.

2.   Your partner didn’t break ties with the other person.

If your partner hasn’t eliminated the affair from their life, there’s nothing else to do. They have to cut ties with the other person for good.

Deciding to follow the same path only adds to the frustration, not to mention how much hurt it causes.

If they want to give the relationship a shot, they must eliminate the factor that started all the hardship in the first place. Further justifying the refusal to do that adds more fuel to the fire.

And if they think that lying about breaking ties is an option, maybe their emotional maturity needs some adjusting.

The more you try to deceive your partner and hide an affair, the harder it will be to repair the damage.

3.   Your partner refuses to go to counseling with you.

The first thing I would recommend to any struggling couple is counseling.

It’s harder to see your relationship dynamic from the inside, especially when you’re too engulfed in your pain. Reality fades, and that becomes all you see.

I can’t emphasize how life-changing and liberating couples counseling can be – whatever the outcome may be.

Working through the trauma and managing the negative emotions is essential for being able to move on.

But if your partner is unwilling to take the risk or thinks that it’s silly, then you may have a lot more on your hands.

Therapy ensures that both partners work together towards a common goal. Nobody should carry an entire relationship on their back.

4.   The four horsemen of a relationship’s apocalypse.

When the four horsemen of the Apocalypse show up, you know it’s trouble!

If these situations occur too frequently, there are ways to counteract them. But first, you must learn to recognize them.

Say hello to:

Criticism 

Constantly criticizing your partner for whatever reason is going to hurt your relationship.

I know this can spiral out of control easily, as infidelity can be the perfect trigger for criticism, and nothing makes a person want to walk away more than constant criticism.

The solution? Replace criticism with non-aggressive yet honest, constructive feedback.

Contempt

Contempt entails disrespect. One of the people’s core needs is to feel loved and respected, and contempt completely dismisses all of that.

When one partner is using contempt, it can look like they are truly mean. The wounds caused by it take longer to heal, and the effects are more skin deep.

Defensiveness

Typically, people are defensive when they feel attacked or criticized in one way or another.

In a nutshell, being defensive means shifting the blame on your partner.

Stonewalling

A partner usually stonewalls when flooding happens, and it is generally a response to contempt.

Stonewalling involves withdrawing from the conversation and avoiding the partner at all costs.

The bad news is that when it happens frequently, stonewalling can make it hard to take a relationship right back on its track.

5.    When thinking back on your relationship, you change history.

Sometimes couples struggle with all kinds of things. However, most of the time, they can think about the things that brought them together and see good qualities in each other.

When you start rewriting the history in your head, you begin noticing bad things that you otherwise didn’t even see.

For example:

You may have thought about the first time you met your partner with fondness before, but now you start picking up on all the negative things – details that all of a sudden seem undesirable or inappropriate.

It almost seems that it was never ok, to begin with. Funny how our minds work.

6.   The ratio of positive to negative interactions is 5:1

At every negative interaction, you need five positive interactions to balance things out. This is called the magic ratio.

As every social science scholar will tell you, bad is stronger than good. This rings true when it comes to everything and anything!

While it may be hard to do, you need more positive interactions to surpass one negative event.

That seems difficult when all you seem to do is fight all the time.

However, how you fight is way more important than eliminating it – which is not realistic.

If you can soften the blow of an argument with humor, affection, or by taking time to process what you feel, then you’re on the right track.

7.   Feeling physically ill.

Flooding can happen in an intensely negative relationship, and it can manifest itself in different ways (e.g., increased heart rate during an interaction).

Furthermore, it seems that men are more prone to flooding than women.

If you’re experiencing physiological symptoms every time you see your partner, then it might be time to understand why.

Feeling emotionally and physically drained is often a sign that you should take a break. If you need it, ask your partner for it.

In this situation, your partner must be empathetic and understanding. If they don’t soothe you somehow, you must do some serious thinking.  

8.   You can’t attune to your partner.

One or both partners aren’t able to attune to each other. This usually happens when all the other points are present, as they’re all interconnected and interdependent.

Once you’re stuck in a loop, it’s hard to find a way out. If you can’t attune, you won’t heal either.

Sometimes attunement is impossible because one partner is blind-sighted by their suffering and can’t see the whole picture.

How often do people separate or divorce after experiencing infidelity?

There are a lot of ways to predict divorce very accurately.

Nowadays, the percentage of divorce rates in married couples is constantly on the rise.

About 20-40% of couples in the US divorce because of infidelity.

 The American Psychological Association conducted a study that showed 53% of married couples that attended counseling after dealing with infidelity, ended up divorcing after five years.

Compared to 23% of people that didn’t experience it.

That means that after infidelity, some people won’t walk away from the relationship.

While the percentage of divorce is significant, it also shows one thing – couples can recover after an affair!

That is good news, but for some, that’s not the case. And that’s okay.

Final thoughts

Seeing your shared history in a positive light fosters admiration and fondness, solidifies, and further strengthens the relationship.

Ultimately, it is up to you and your partner to decide if you should stay together or not. 

The sad part is that sometimes couples that love each other deeply end up having upsetting conflicts because of the infidelity.

Fortunately, when both partners still foster positive feelings for each other while also seeing the good in their relationship, the odds are in their favor.

Things are more nuanced than they might seem at first sight.

There is wisdom in letting go, as much as there is wisdom in working through the struggle. Neither option is wrong, as long as it honors both you and your partner.

I hope you find your power – to leave or to stay.

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