The Most Important Question To Ask Yourself After Your Spouse Cheats

Do you want your marriage to continue?

Woman staring inquisitively at husband amidst cheating YakobchukOlena | Canva

Many people in long-term relationships and marriages live in fear of infidelity. They stay on constant alert for signs of cheating with another woman or man. Many sources explain the reasons why men and women cheat, as well as tips on how to fix your broken relationship or save your marriage after finding evidence that your husband or wife is having an affair. But how do you decide what to do about it and whether you should get a divorce or forgive your spouse not they've been caught cheating?


Increasing your knowledge about the many dimensions of infidelity can help empower you to have the kind of marriage you desire after one spouse has cheated. It's important to find out the specific reasons this betrayal happened, who they cheated with, and the nature of the affair, i.e., whether it's emotional, physical, or a combination of the two. While dissatisfaction is certainly one of the multitudes of reasons why people cheat, the primary reason cited by both men and women is emotional dissatisfaction, identifying issues such as not feeling desired or appreciated, a lack of communication, or feeling as though they have differing values. Nonetheless, if you're one of the people whose husband or wife has been caught cheating, here are the most important questions to ask yourself before deciding whether to divorce or forgive your partner.


RELATED: 'I'm Glad I Walked In On My Husband Cheating' — Woman Reveals Surprising Reaction To Husband's Infidelity

Here are the most important questions to ask yourself after catching your spouse cheating:

1. Does your spouse have a parent and/or close friends who have cheated?

If the answer is yes, don't underestimate how this influences your spouse. A message can get internalized that cheating is acceptable or just a part of "everyday life." You also want to watch for your partner spending time, especially nights out, with known cheaters. It wouldn't be a good idea to try to entirely control your spouse, but he or she should be responsive to your concerns. If this behavior continues, a cheater will be at risk for ongoing improprieties.

2. Is your spouse good at compartmentalizing?

"Compartmentalization" is a defense mechanism that people use to separate internally conflicting thoughts from one another. People generally tend to compartmentalize parts of their lives so they can better control them and cope with life's stressors. For example, we may act a certain way at our jobs, another way with friends, and yet a different way with family. If your spouse tends to compartmentalize, this could be a serious red flag. Many successful people use compartmentalization to get ahead, but unfortunately, sociopaths are also known to be exceptionally good at compartmentalizing. This isn't to say that your spouse is a sociopath; however, you need to understand what mechanisms allow someone to be intimate with their co-worker at a desk at the office, then sit with you at the dinner table and act as if everything is perfectly normal.

@raw_motivations Replying to @christineellen27 often people with compartmentalize to avoid pain and discomfort. #narcissists ♬ original sound -

RELATED: If You Cheat On Someone, You Want To End It With That Person


3. Do they exhibit enough guilt and genuine remorse for the affair?

From what I've seen in my practice treating many couples over many years, most cheaters really do feel guilty and remorseful about their affairs. However, this will not necessarily stop the cheating behavior. Some people don't feel the least bit regretful; some may see the affair as the justifiable ramifications of a bad marriage. If your partner falls in the "not feeling remorseful" category, taking him or her back is ill-advised. The cheater must see their fault or this person will never be able to connect with you emotionally and honestly. Even with a "bad marriage," the accountability was still on your partner to problem-solve appropriately (seek therapy, talk to clergy). You should also hear the person verbalize sincere, genuine, and copious apologies.

RELATED: 8 Subtle Ways Men Change When They're Cheating — And Afraid Of Being Caught

4. Are you completely certain that the affair is over?

If your spouse remains involved with the other person on any level, then it isn't completely over and you will never be able to move forward. There cannot be any contact. No Facebook friendship, no texts, no phone calls, no working together, no anything. Your spouse should be able to prove this to you beyond any doubt by being utterly transparent.

5. Is your relationship damaged beyond repair from this affair?

In some cases, it isn't advisable to take back a cheater. If you aren't married and don't have children together, it may be best to go your separate ways after an affair. In addition, be warned that some people will continue to cheat whether or not they're satisfied with their marriage. If this is the case, such a person is likely unable to stay faithful. It's also imperative to find out if the cheating is a one-time affair or a pattern of multiple affairs.

@drkathynickerson Replying to @melissajohnson6717 yes, a long-term marriage can survive multiple affairs. Here's how to start making things better. And if you'd like more detailed steps, please check out my book on Amazon, the courage to stay. #affair #infidelity #affairrecovery #affairs #cheatinghusbands #cheatingspouses #relationshipproblemssolved #infidelityrecovery #affaire #infidelityinamarriage ♬ original sound - Dr Kathy Nickerson

It's possible to rebound from an affair and have a happy marriage. If you're able to sift through the concerns listed and decide to work it out, it's highly suggested that you pursue therapy together to work through the unfaithfulness. The goals of therapy should be to work on forgiveness, rebuild trust, and create a strong emotional connection. Also, each person should be able to discuss their thoughts and feelings clearly and openly in regards to the transgression. If you do decide to take back a spouse after an affair, you must make a conscious decision to move forward and not remain stuck in that space between being bitter and forgiving. Only then can your marriage recover from infidelity.

RELATED: My Emotional Affair Destroyed My Marriage — Why I Did It Anyway


Dr. Marni Feuerman is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice, relationship expert, and author of Ghosted and Breadcrumbed: Stop Falling for Unavailable Men and Get Smart about Healthy Relationships.