You might feel betrayed and sickened by the thought that they went behind your back. You might be overwhelmed with questions: who, when, where, why? Your fight / flight response might be triggered. You might start to wonder if it’s your fault. You might just feel angry.
No matter how you feel initially,
there will come a time when you will
probably need to answer the question;
what is next?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to moving forward after infidelity. It could depend on a number of variables: whether you feel able to forgive the cheater, whether they apologize and show genuine remorse, the type of affair and the length it went on for, the reasons the affair occurred, or the way you found out.
According to Psychology Today, if a relationship is going to recover after infidelity, the cheater has to admit to feeling guilty and remorseful. Also, the reasons why the infidelity occurred need to be addressed and worked through (perhaps, with the assistance of a counsellor). It may also be important to know that if the people in the relationship choose to stay together because they love each other, they are more likely to be happier than if they stay together for other reasons, such as children or finances.
Basically, a relationship can be repaired after cheating occurred if the cheater is genuinely sorry and regrets the decision to cheat, if the issues which contributed to the cheating are properly addressed and if the people in the relationship still love each other and want to make it work.
Cheating behavior tends to be repetitive thanks to an experience called the “cheater’s high.” According to research, which was published in the scientific journal Nature Neuroscience, the “cheater’s high” occurs when a person cheats and feels more positive feelings than negative feelings. For example, they might feel thrilled by the fact they got away with cheating more than feeling guilty about it.
Further, the study showed that an “adaptation to dishonesty” can occur.
Each time a cheater lied, the emotion centre of the brain (called the amygdala) gave a weaker and weaker response. So, the more the cheater got away with cheating, the less they felt bad about it. According to the co-author of the study, Neil Garrett, “With serial cheaters, it could be the case that they initially felt bad about cheating, but have cheated so much they’ve adapted to their ways and simply don’t feel bad about cheating anymore.” However, he also noted that perhaps, the cheaters weren’t bothered by their cheating behavior in the first place and never actually felt bad about it.
At the end of the day, if someone cheats on you it’s their responsibility to make a change. You may need to work together to repair the relationship and it can be important to address the reasons why the affair occurred in the first place.
However, the decision to not engage in cheating behavior is one that needs to be made by the cheater themselves. Only then can you decide if you want to rebuild the relationship and move forward.