Should We Break Up? How To Know When To Leave A Relationship After Infidelity

There are some important things to consider before jumping into a decision.

Should We Break Up? How To Know When To Leave A Relationship After Infidelity Riccardo Mion via Unsplash

You are filled with shock, horror, disbelief, rage, hurt, and humiliation with a large dollop of guilt and then shame.

You’ve found out that there's been infidelity in your relationship.

Perhaps it was just once, long ago, or perhaps this has been an ongoing, recurrent feature throughout your relationship.

What do you do? How do you proceed? Should you break up?

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Can you walk the line between following your gut instinct and analyzing the situation to shreds?

'Help!' you cry.

Right now, think about the following:

What is considered cheating?

It’s true — there really are different kinds of cheating. It is not all of the same stripe or with the same consequences, so think carefully about what it is you’ve just unearthed.

There’s the (relatively!) straightforward one-night stand.

There is drunken lasciviousness or irresistible temptation or the long-standing affair.

There is plain, hurtful, emotional infidelity, and there is the “just sex” buddy.

If your partner has been involved in a long-term affair, you need to seriously assess if you can ever trust them not to live a double life again. And in this case, the level of hurt inflicted can be so great as to make staying together a somewhat stupid idea.


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Why do people cheat?

You may snigger scornfully at this idea, but do ask your partner why they think they strayed and listen carefully to see if the explanation is at all similar to what you think.

If the difference is huge, this is either because your partner is lying or you are unable to accept the truth or because both of you have a potentially fatal communication gap.

In the event that you can find common ground, try to figure out what factors were at work in the infidelity.

  • As a couple, are you bored?
  • Do you spend a lot of time fighting openly or more quietly mocking or resenting each other?
  • Is there a major issue on which you simply cannot see eye to eye?
  • Is one of you constantly working, ill, or tired, and if so, unable to give the other partner enough quality time or attention?
  • Is your partner a workaholic, spending more time working than is normal and transferring all their emotions to the workplace?
  • Do you talk about things that are important to both of you?
  • Are you in a rut sexually?
  • Do you have different visions for the future?
  • Do you treat each other with respect?
  • Is your partner simply “helpless” in the face of an attractive, available partner?
  • Is there some sort of “punishment” behavior going on?
  • Did you have a part to play in setting the stage for their cheating — ignoring them, being unavailable sexually, putting them down, flirting, etc.? If so, then acknowledge it and see what it says about your own feelings.

This is not about distributing blame or responsibility as much as it is about just knowing how you subconsciously feel about the relationship.


Should we break up?

If the reason your partner strayed has more to do with habits, annoying ones that you display or pleasant ones, such as sex that you’ve gotten out of the routine of, there might be hope for you.

If it is something like “I love you, but I’m not in love with you,” then you have a far stickier problem on your hands.

You’ll need to figure out what kind of cheating you can live with and what is impossible, what you just don’t want to know, and what you’re getting in return for putting up with infidelity.

If it seems like your partner had the affair or encounter with a deliberate eye to hurt you or humiliate you — i.e., with your colleague, in public, etc. — then you might want to just gather yourself with as much dignity as possible and move on.


If you are absolutely going to stay together, then negotiate everything down to the last detail and set out penalties and deal-breakers clearly.

Decide how much forgiveness you are willing to extend, but make it unconditional.

Try not to confuse issues.

If your partner forgets to clean out the refrigerator or do the laundry, do not use those as excuses to bring up their cheating.

The only way this will work is if you can move past negative emotions, such as hurt, anger, and resentment.


Do you remember Hillary in the face of the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, I-did-not-have-sexual-relations-with-that-woman scandal?

Good ol’ Hillary stayed with the President of the United States for reasons that are very visible to us today.

Do you have similar reasons?

If not, pack your bags and walk out with your head held high.

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Alex Wise is a writer who focuses on relationships, dating, and breakups. For more of his relationship content, visit his author profile on The Mind's Journal.