Learning your partner has cheated on you is a woozy blow to the gut. Can a committed, long-term relationship really survive an affair? Without a doubt. In fact, many relationships come back from infidelity stronger than ever. Affairs bring issues long swept beneath the relationship rug out into the light of day. How you deal with these issues is crucial. Genuinely working through and moving beyond an affair requires both parties accept responsibility for the state of the relationship.
The first question to ask is this: Should your relationship survive? If your partner has cheated on you before, this may be a pattern. Serial cheaters don’t change. If your partner is a serial cheater, you should leave–or accept that he or she is going to cheat on you repeatedly in the future. That’s you taking responsibility. Fooling yourself into thinking your habitually dishonest partner is going to turn over a new leaf and start telling the truth is just that: fooling yourself.
If your partner isn’t a repeat offender, what is your responsibility? Can you let go of self-righteousness? The key is not to focus on “forgiveness” so much as improving the relationship. This means working on yourself, being 100% honest with yourself. If you can set your ego aside, if you can give up your “right” to point fingers, an affair can be a powerful wakeup call. But if nothing changes other than the unfaithful partner being “in trouble,” then the same thing is even more likely to happen again down the road.