Is it possible for a couple to overcome cheating if it only happened once?

My fiancé and I have been together for 3 years and our relationship has always been good. The only issue we had was that he felt like he wasn't getting enough sexual attention from me.

I recently found out he cheated on me with another women. He says he wants his family back but I'm confused on what to do. Is it possible for us to get past the cheating, or should I just move on?

Anna McElearney
Anna McElearney
Helping Couples Build Stronger Relationships

Hello. Thank you for your question. Many couples that experience infidelity in their relationship face this important question - "is it possible for us to get past the cheating, or should I just move on?" 

Deciding to stay or leave is such a personal decision, one that only you can make.

When an affair is disclosed or found out, it can have a traumatic impact on the betrayed partner. The betrayed partner might be overwhelmed by intrusive thoughts - Wanting answers to specific questions - Wanting details. And the partner that had the affair might be feeling overwhelm around "Will their partner ever forgive them?" "Will they trust them again?" "How long will it take to regain their trust again?" 

While it is possible for couples to get past the cheating, it does take a commitment from each partner to do the work needed. Because of the complexities cheating has on the bond couples have with each other, I would recommend seeing a couple therapist that specializes in working with the issue of infidelity. When infidelity happens, there are usually a number of secrets that accompany it, and this can be incredibly difficult for couples to work through on their own. 

 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW

Definitely yes, it is possible for a couple to trust each other again and become close with each other.

Since your trust was broken, your fiancé would need to earn back your belief that he is faithful to you.

Do you feel he empathizes with how you felt to find out about his cheating?

Before you have this question answered, based on what you write there is a sense of your own doubt as to whether you are with the right partner.

Before you and he address regaining your trust, first decide if you'd like to work on this.

Ask yourself if the sexual attention he felt he wasn't getting from you was bc you're not as interested in him as you imagine or once felt in the past.

If each of you sincerely wants to be together, it is possible to talk about your respective needs and help the other person feel safe again with the other.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Marissa Talarico
Marissa Talarico
Sex and Relationship counseling

As a relationship therapist I work with couples all the time that are in the repair phase of their relationship after infidelity. The short answer to this, is not only is it possible to have a satisfying and fullfilling relationship after infidelity, it happens more often that we may know. The current rate of infidelity is high, while it's not important to go into many reasons, it mau be important to know you aren't alone in this! My biggest suggestion for you would be to seek out a professional counselor that specializes in working with couples healing from infidelity. Best of luck!

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Toni Genovese
Toni Genovese
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Betrayal in a relationship can be one of the most difficult things a relationship can sustain. Sometimes feelings about the betrayal may also trigger past wounds. The fact that "it only happened once" may not make it any easier to move forward. I highly recommend working with a mental health professional who has experience working around the issue of infidelity. Together, you can work on healing the wounds and moving forward. I do believe it is possible to move forward, if both partners are ready and willing to do the work to move forward together and create a new vision for their relationship. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Lauren Ostrowski, MA, LPC, NCC, DCC, CCTP
Lauren Ostrowski, MA, LPC, NCC, DCC, CCTP
I tailor my therapeutic approach to each client's strengths and goals

Finding out about an affair is quite an emotional experience. It's usually jarring. I encourage you to give yourself some compassion about emotions that you have.

You asked whether it is possible to get past the cheating and the answer is that it can be. It depends on many factors.

I would recommend that you see a therapist who specializes in working with couples. There are certain ways that both of you could learn more about yourselves and each other that may actually serve to make your relationship stronger. Sometimes there are motivations for having an affair that can be discussed in therapy in a way that you become more aware of what each other is experiencing and where you want to go from here. It could be that learning to communicate differently would be helpful.

Regarding whether you should "just move on," I recommend talking about with a therapist as well. At the very least, you can discuss more about what you are thinking and feeling and what your choices are as far as where you want to go from here.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal, as if you want to hurt or kill yourself or someone else, or are in crisis, call 800-273-8255 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), call 911, or proceed to your local emergency room.
Philip Kolba
Philip Kolba
Relationship Counselor

It's possible but challenging. Both partners need to be feel motivated enough to repair the relationship and dedicated to the work needed to address whatever underlying issues led to the serious breach of trust. For some people, cheating is an absolute deal breaker—for others, the context of the cheating allows them to see it as a mistake that they can forgive their partner for. So it depends on how you feel about the relationship and whether you want to put in the work to repair it.

If you're not sure how you feel, counseling can help you resolve the ambiguity, either individually or with your partner. Then, depending on what you decide, a counselor can help you either repair the relationship or decouple from your former partner.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Ashlie Brown
Ashlie Brown
Counselor & Hypnotherapist

I think there are many different directions we could go as far as answering your question.  I think the first and most important question you need to ask yourself is do you truly believe in your heart that you can forgive him and trust him again?  Once you answer that question honestly then you can move in one of two directions.  

First, if you truly love this guy and see yourself being with him long term and for the "long haul", so to speak...and you genuinely want to forgive him and trust him again, that is completely do-able and possible if you both put in the work.  But, there's a greater issue here that needs to be addressed.  You say your relationship is "good", but there's been a sexual disconnect between the two of you and that usually indicates some type of emotional disconnect is at the core.  Would you agree with that, or what are your thoughts?  Were you giving him less sexual attention than you normally do or were you guys never on the same page about sexual needs and having compatible sex drives?  If you are more of an emotional person than he is, you may have been less interested sexually because he hasn't been meeting your emotional needs.  For instance, if you hadn't been feeling loved, cared about, validated, appreciated, cherished, and special to him than you may have felt less connected physically and been less interested.  This is a common issue with couples, and can easily be addressed if the communication in your relationship is strong and you can find a way to express to him your frustrations.  In essence, many women tend to have more emotional needs than men, this is the way we are hard-wired, and there are exceptions to this of course, but if you have been feeling neglected emotionally than your lack of interest in sex is actually completely understandable and NORMAL!  Until he understands this, and can learn to tune into your needs emotionally, you may struggle with feeling you are out of sync emotionally (and sexually).  This leads to you both being frustrated, but if all this is ringing true to you, he seriously probably has no clue what's going on and may not know how you're feeling.  You need to communicate your needs to him; if you are super lost with how to do that, there's an awesome book called The Five Love Languages.  It's not that long, and it's very approachable and easy to apply the concepts to your relationships. Invaluable resource for relationships and truly eye opening; really!!

This is a long post, I'm sorry!  But this is such an important issue that is very common and many people feel lost about how to handle it.  So back to the second direction you can go....you feel very betrayed, you aren't sure if you can ever trust him again and you see yourself perhaps being paranoid forever and never being able to completely get over this.  For instance, if he says he is working late, or if he doesn't call or text right away when he usually does, you may immediately jump to the worst case scenario that he is cheating again.  Of course, it may not be true, he may have legit reasons for his behaviors, but the point is if you are going to be in paranoia-mode OR you just will always be unsure whether he loves you and is committed to you and only you, then the trust may not be able to be re-built.  You need to think long and hard about this, and if you decide you have the capacity to forgive him and rebuild your foundation of trust and honesty, then you need to let him know very explicitly what you need him to do to earn that trust back.  You can't just tell him vaguely "I need to trust you again"; if he wants his family back and he's willing to do the work, you need to line out exactly what he needs to do and he needs to do it.  But, be prepared that he might throw out there that he cheated because he felt you weren't attracted to him anymore (or he tries to put the blame on you somehow because he says you weren't meeting his physical needs)...if he throws that out there, but you weren't showing him the affection because you were frustrated emotionally, then it all starts with you communicating that to him.  Get that book!

In conclusion, if you feel in your heart there is no way you will be able to trust him again and you will always wonder if he's cheating when his behavior isn't spot on, you will be a nervous wreck and perhaps cutting your losses now would spare you the continued heartache.  There is certainly a way to work through this, but you both have to be motivated and you have to get to the source of why the cheating happened in the first place.  Rebuilding trust can be a long process, maybe even years, and for some people, they may never be able to fully trust and let go of the past.  I truly recommend starting with the book, and then going from there.  If you decide you want to stay with him, you would really benefit from couples counseling, as it sounds like a professional could help you strengthen your communication and ability to trust again.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Marissa Talarico
Marissa Talarico
Sex and Relationship counseling

First off, let's start with really validating the potential emotional pain you are feeling right now. There is generally no lack of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, sadness, and anger. These are all normal emotions and being allowed to feel them is the beginning of the healing process. It might be helpful to talk about these feeling with your fiancé, a friend or a counselor.


Now to get to your primary question. Can a relationship move past infidelity? The short answer is yes. A bit longer of an explanation is that is sounds like you and your fiancé had pieces of a solid foundation to base a relationship on. For many couples they encounter a primary challenge, sometimes that's money, or parenting and for some it's sexuality. If you and your fiancé are both committed to balancing the positive aspects of your relationship while improving the challenges than it's definitely possible to move past this. This is not an easy process and for many couples takes months or years of healing while engaging in relationship counseling. 


Good luck to you and your continues healing and growth!

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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