When a person gets married, they hope to ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. That’s how all the Disney movies and romantic comedies portray marriage, right?
But unfortunately, for many people, it doesn’t work out that way.
Most couples start out crazy in love, and they think that feeling will last forever.
Even if they know that feeling of infatuation may wear off, they at least expect to have a loyal partner by their side for the rest of our lives.
Sure, some couples do live happily ever after. There are little old couples walking around hand-in-hand just as in love as the day they met.
But for many, that is not their story.
If a marriage goes downhill over the years, there can be many reasons.
It could simply be because they have grown apart, or because they focused too much on raising children and forgot to nurture each other.
Or, it could be the reason many people dread the most – cheating.
What is Cheating?
This may seem like an obvious question, but in today’s world, it is not as clear-cut.
Usually, people think of physical indiscretions when they think of cheating. This could be anything from hand-holding to kissing to full-out sex.
That’s the easy way to describe cheating.
But there’s another kind of cheating where there is a little more gray area, and that is emotional cheating.
The problem with emotional cheating is that many people have different standards for it, which we will discuss in a moment.
Regardless, most people expect their partner to remain emotionally loyal to them, and to not get too close to another person.
The Gray Area
Here are some examples of behaviors that might fall into the “gray area” for some people. In other words, some people might consider these cheating, while others may not.
- Flirting or romantically teasing another person
- Talking to or meeting with your ex(es)
- Texting other people too much
- Touching or grabbing other people
- Buying presents for other people
- Going out with others too often
- Talking to a person (or people) online too often
- Engaging in pornography
- Going out on a “date” (or date-like activity) with someone else
- Going to clubs and dancing/grinding with other people
- Asking other people for their phone numbers
As you can see, some of these are worse than others.
Some people might not care about the above behaviors (or even notice), while others might see them as all-out cheating.
It’s all a matter of perspective.
Even if these don’t involve any sort of physical contact, many people do consider these things a betrayal to their relationships, and thus, “cheating.”
Signs of Cheating
If you suspect that you have a cheating spouse, how can you catch them? How can you know for sure that it’s not just “all in your head?”
That’s a huge issue for many people. They go back and forth about it.
Sometimes they think their mind is playing tricks on them, but other times, they are totally convinced that their spouse is cheating.
The best thing to do is to keep a record of their behaviors. Record the dates, times, and any other relevant information.
This serves two purposes: first, it helps you put it into perspective and realize that it’s not all in your head.
Second, when you finally confront your cheating spouse, you have “evidence” to present them with.
If you don’t have that, they might try to play mind games with you and deny their behaviors, making you think that you’re just making it all up.
Here are some pretty common signs that you might have a cheating spouse:
- They are hiding their phone from you or guarding it particularly well (especially if this is a change from past behavior)
- They start dressing better or losing weight (the assumption is that they are trying to impress someone else)
- There are frequent times when they are “unavailable” and you can’t reach them
- There’s no more intimacy in your relationship, or it has decreased suddenly
- If you question if they’re cheating, they get emotional and accuse you of being crazy
- They “overshare” and give an abnormal amount of details about their whereabouts or what they are doing (liars tend to give too much information)
- They’re going out with “friends” more than usual
- They’re “working late” more than normal
These are just a few of the countless signs that someone is cheating.
Each person is different, so if you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, but it’s not on the list above, then pay attention to that. Our gut feelings are usually right.
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Can a Marriage Survive Cheating?
So, let’s say that you catch your spouse cheating. Maybe she or he admitted to the cheating, or maybe not.
Regardless, most people wonder if a marriage can ever survive cheating.
This is not an easy question to answer, because each individual and couple has their own limits and standards.
For example, I know some people who would not tolerate even the smallest indiscretion and would be asking for a divorce right away.
But then, there are others who will tolerate way more than they should.
It all comes down to your own standards and boundaries.
The Social Exchange Theory
There is a theory of interpersonal communication called the Social Exchange Theory.
In essence, is says that we weigh rewards against the costs of being in a relationship. We will stay in a relationship as long as the rewards outweigh the costs.
However, once the costs outweigh the rewards, then we will leave the relationship.
The problem is, what qualifies as a “reward” and what qualifies as a “cost?” It’s different for everyone.
Sure, a couple can stay married after one (or both) of them cheats.
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However, does that mean they will be happy and that it won’t happen again? No, of course not.
I think when most people ask the question of whether or not a marriage can survive cheating, what they are really asking is:
Can the couple go back to how they were in the beginning and be happy again?
It can happen, but it’s relatively rare. In order for the couple to get back to a truly happy, loving, and healthy relationship, several things need to happen:
First, the cheating spouse needs to really, really, really understand the pain that s/he caused their spouse.
And the other spouse needs to know that the cheating spouse is very, very remorseful – so much so that they will never do it again!
Second, the cheating spouse needs to be patient with their partner.
Getting over a betrayal such as cheating does not happen overnight. It takes a long time.
Third, the cheating spouse needs to prove themselves again.
They have to have consistent, trustworthy behavior over a long period of time in order for their partner to trust them again.
Finally, going to therapy will certainly help the couple move forward. Many couples simply can’t do it by themselves, and that’s okay.
Read more about understanding your partner’s actions: Why Your Partner May Be Cheating
Rebuilding Trust After Cheating
As I just mentioned, finding a good therapist will definitely help when you are in the trust-rebuilding process.
In addition to that, here are some other steps that can be taken in order to try to restore the bond you once had with your partner:
- Keep the lines of communication open at all times.
- Share passwords to phones, computers, and email and social media accounts.
- Always be available when your partner calls or texts.
- Spend quality time together going on dates and getting to know each other again.
- The cheating spouse needs to continually acknowledge their indiscretion and take responsibility.
- The cheating spouse also needs to stay true to their word and keep promises.
- Put your partner’s needs before your own.
- Both people need to be able to openly share their emotions and thoughts with one another.
Finding out that you have a cheating spouse is not something that anyone ever wants to deal with.
However, it does happen, and it is worth it to know how to move forward if it happens to you.
The bottom line is this: do you want to try to work it out or not? Sometimes it’s best to step away, separate, and move on with your life.
But in other circumstances, the relationship can recover, and you may be able to build it into something even stronger down the road.