Relationships after infidelity – how to get over it?

Is it possible to repair relationships after infidelity? How do you get over infidelity? Is this something that can be forgiven at all? In this article, we look at some of the difficult issues surrounding relationships after infidelity, and how to work to try to get over it.

Facts about adultery

It is difficult to give an accurate statistic on infidelity, as many people find it embarrassing to have to admit an affair or a relationship. Furthermore, we find many different definitions of adultery.

Some will define infidelity as only flirting, others as emotional relationships, while others will say it only applies to sex.

The American researchers and psychologists, Todd K. Shackelford and David Buss, (2000) started from a completely different perspective, and rather asked the question: What does it take for the person who has experienced infidelity to want out of the relationship? They looked at different forms of infidelity, and found that there was little difference between the answers from men and women.
What is needed for the person who has experienced infidelity to want out of the relationship: 

  • Discovered that their partner was flirting with someone else: 3% of men and 4% of women would end the relationship.
  • See your partner kissing someone else: 20% of men and 21% of women would end the relationship.
  • The partner has agreed on a romantic meeting with someone else: 36% of men and 37% of women would end the relationship.
  • Finding out that the lover has had intercourse with another person: 49% for both sexes would end the relationship.
  • Discover that the partner has had a long-term and serious relationship, including intercourse, over time: 67% of men and 69% of women would end the relationship.

The reason for cheating can vary. Some researchers believe that there is a difference between men’s and women’s reasons for being unfaithful. At the same time, further research supports Shackelford and Buss’s findings, where we see that when it comes to forgiveness, it is pretty much the same for both sexes:

A study carried out at NTNU shows that in two different situations that included adultery, 92 couples were relatively in agreement about the consequences. If it had been infidelity with only sex, or infidelity with both sex and feelings, the majority of participants would not have forgiven their partner. That is to say, once the infidelity has happened, men and women agree that it takes some time to forgive. Still, the figures from both Shackelford & Buss, as well as NTNU, show that some are open to forgiveness. Furthermore, we can look at what it takes for someone to choose to try to forgive, and whether a relationship after infidelity can work.

What does it take to forgive adultery?

Psychological specialist, Anne Karin Arvola, writes on that the circumstances of the infidelity are decisive for how to handle the situation. Furthermore, she explains that it is important because it can vary greatly from relationship to relationship.

Based on the circumstances, you should make a choice whether you want to try to save the relationship or not. You can also make an active and conscious choice to try to rebuild trust in the relationship.

It is common to feel grief after infidelity. It is important to allow yourself to feel the range of emotions that will come during such a time. A decision as big as ending or staying in a relationship should not be made in a fit of emotion, but needs time to mature. Therefore, such a decision must not be rushed, and rather be taken when you feel more calm and have gained a little more distance from the situation.

What you can do to try to get over infidelity:

  1. Have time and patience
    It is important that those who have experienced that their partner has been unfaithful have time. Furthermore, it is important to recognize for both that this is work that will take some time. It is a process that requires patience and understanding, and it is often something that you constantly have to remind each other of.
  2. Communicate with each other 
    We have previously written about “The secret of a happy couple’s relationship”, where it is emphasized how important it is to talk together. When a couple has experienced infidelity, and wants to try to put it behind them, there are some things that might be good to talk about. Why did the person feel the need to cheat? Have you drifted apart as a couple? Was it a search for attention, or did the act come from frustration, boredom, anger or other things?

By starting at that end, one can work on the problems that exist in the relationship and find out what requires their attention. It is also important to be honest about how you feel. If you are unable to forgive the infidelity, then it is important not to pretend that you have done it. This can lead to more damage, where the person who was unfaithful is indirectly punished, consciously or unconsciously. Trust will then be difficult to build.

  1. Focus on a new time and a new start
    It is not expected that one will be able to forget the infidelity. But if you as a couple choose to try to move on, you have the opportunity to start again. Get to know each other again and find out who you want to be as a couple. There can still be some uncertainty after infidelity. It is therefore important that both parties try a little extra to show that they appreciate each other, and that their partner is loved and valued.
  2. Understand jealousy and where it comes from
    Psychologist, Arne Repål, writes in his book “Jealousy” about, among other things, infidelity and reactions afterwards. He emphasizes that there will be increased vigilance and uncertainty after infidelity, and that this often takes the form of jealousy. Jealousy often comes from actual events, and it is important to understand that this is something that takes time to work through.

But the jealousy can become excessive in that it lasts for a long time and comes from situations that have nothing to do with the infidelity. Then it can eat away at the trust you are trying to build in the relationship. Repål then mentions some critical questions you can ask yourself, in order to reverse the negative thoughts and feelings:

– Are there concrete events that trigger the jealousy now?
– Is there anything your partner can do to help you, and to reduce your feelings of jealousy?
– It is ok to be jealous after experiencing infidelity, but what is the basis for the jealousy that is here and now?

  1. Consider getting help to build trust again
    In order to cope with infidelity, and to rebuild the relationship, it is important to be critical of your own thoughts and feelings. Psychologist and researcher at NTNU, Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, emphasizes that “our feelings are often appropriate, but that does not make them a source of truth”. It can therefore often help to have someone who sees the situation objectively, and can guide you as a couple through a challenging period.

Relationships after infidelity – Is it possible to get over it?

Not all couples will survive infidelity, and for some the best solution is to go their separate ways. In any case, it is important that both parties accept that the infidelity happened, and then work through the incident individually. It is easy to take such events into new situations. It is therefore important to process the situation to avoid it affecting future relationships. We have previously written about how to get rid of jealousy. Here we explain different types of jealousy and how this can affect you and the relationships you are in.

As we see in the article here, it may still be possible to continue a relationship after infidelity. But it will require time, work, patience and communication. In addition to reflection and evaluation of one’s own thoughts and actions.

The person who was deceived must be able to put it behind them. At the same time, both parties must be able to feel valued again, and together you must build trust piece by piece.