Betrayal Can Lead to an Ending or New Beginning

April 22, 2019

A common reason why relationships end is that one partner has cheated on the other. But once revealed, must the transgression lead to a divorce or can it lead to a new beginning?

The short answer is, it depends. It depends on whether the cheater thinks he or she is in love with their paramour, how long the affair has been going on, and most importantly why it happened.

Marital infidelity is widespread. National surveys show that 15 percent of married women and 25 percent of married men have had extramarital affairs. The general belief is that the partner who cheats is unhappy and possibly suffering from a trauma or dysfunction, according Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S, in Psychology Today. Often that is true, he writes, but “not always.”

Weiss suggests reasons why people who are well adjusted and happy in their primary relationship might be willing risk everything to engage in infidelity. Among those reasons are self-exploration, the seductive nature of the transgression, and the allure of lives not lived.

So what does happen when we first discover the “hidden” messages on Facebook, or find charges for sexy lingerie or fine dining on the credit card bill? Emotions run high. How could someone we love have done this to us? We are alternatively devastated and enraged, and rightly so. Sometimes we become obsessed with who it is and where they go. For a while, we can divert ourselves by playing “private investigator” or even hiring one.

But all that information won’t answer the question of “why” it happened. The answer might help us decide whether to stay or to go. Some couples recover from betrayal and others do not. To decide where you want this relationship to be a year from now, or if you want it at all, hold on to these three operating principles.

1) Do not make your decision until you are ready to make it for yourself with all of its consequences, both legal and financial. Recognize that this will, or can be, a learning and maturing experience for you alone.

2) Get some help but preferably from a marriage counselor rather than friends and family. The more people you tell, the more opinions you will receive. Those who love you may tell you to leave, but it should be your choice, not theirs.

3) If you decide to stay, make new ground rules. Insist that your partner stop seeing, communicating with, or even being around “the other.” Speak honestly and fully about the “other” and “the why’s,” preferably with a marriage counselor. Many things are or should be in your “need to know” column. You have a right to know how often this happened, if this the only person you were betrayed with, what promises have been made to “the other,” and the circumstances of the cheating, ranging from drunken carelessness to deliberate and meaningful commitments.

If the answer to WHY is because you BOTH had grown apart but are willing to try to give it a second chance, maybe the relationship can last. If the answer is that one of you is a sex addict or serial cheater, you know in your heart it will not last, but you alone can choose when it will end.

Author Nora Ephon once wrote that you cannot take the temperature of a relationship every day. That is especially true when you are faced with betrayal. Let your heart grieve, but breathe a little before jumping to a conclusion about what has to happen next.

Are you in a relationship where cheating was involved and wonder whether you should stay or go? Call us today for a free consultation at 1-312-853-3000 or email us at

Allen, Glassman & Schatz, LLC