10 Steps to Coping with Infidelity

Adultery and Divorce
coping with infidelity
An affair is an opportunity to legitimately press the pause button on the relationship

Many couples remain married despite infidelity and this is often celebrated as marital success by both the infidelity support community and marital therapists.

What is discussed less often is the quality and nature of the post-infidelity marriage – unfortunately many are little more than Divorce Avoidance Plans, not successful Happy Ever After Reconciliations.

The traditional approach to coping with infidelity might initially prevent divorce but the long-term outlook for the relationship isn’t encouraging.

In our experience, the traditional approach itself is directly responsible for the widespread failure of post-affair reconciliation attempts.

We must stop promoting reconciliation as ‘the successful’ outcome and instead recognise that cheater and marriage-centric strategies are responsible for promoting divorce avoidance despite dysfunction, abuse, or incompatibility.

An affair is an opportunity to legitimately press the pause button on the relationship, creating space to devise a rational, informed and authentic strategy to avoid unhealthy emotional ricocheting.

We should stress that infidelity is not gender specific, and these steps equally apply to faithful spouses of either gender.


1. Protect Yourself

Most faithful spouses feel out of control and fearful when they discover an affair and there are basic steps that are necessary to protect yourself and regain some stability:

  1. Get tested for STIs and make a condom mandatory.
  2. Seek legal counsel to understand your risks, entitlements, and liabilities (take advantage of free consultations).
  3. Take inventory of assets and make copies of important documents and financial records.
  4. Ensure that you have sole access to a financial cushion – cheaters can quickly become unreasonable, ugly, and retributive, often using financial muscle regardless of how that affects their family/children.

Affair discovery commonly precipitates abusive, manipulative, and callous behaviour but there are also correlations between violence and accusations of infidelity – keep yourself and your children safe.

2. Get Support

Having a good support network around you is important. Joining a chat room and support forum like ours at Infidelity Help Group can be a lifeline. Don’t rely on friends or family to give informed infidelity advice.

3. Understand Infidelity

coping with infidelity
Affairs are not the product of bad marriages.

Firstly, understand that affairs are not the product of bad marriages or faults in the faithful spouse. You didn’t cause the affair, you didn’t drive them to it, you couldn’t have stopped it, and you didn’t deserve it.

Affairs are similarly not caused by sex addiction, altered brain chemistry, or midlife crisis. Identifying the cheater’s behavioural patterns, understanding their core character, and observing their responses can help you make good, informed decisions for your future.

It can be difficult for the faithful spouse to accept that cheating is a symptom of larger behavioural patterns because many are reluctant to admit that they have tolerated, ignored, or justified abuse prior to the affair.

4. Disengage From Their Manipulations

Resist the temptation to engage in lengthy discussions about the affair and marriage. Instead, disengage from drama and firmly communicate that:

  1. You will not be a convenient fall-back position.
  2. Their affair changed the dynamic of the marriage and your participation in it.
  3. You will take the necessary steps to protect yourself from further harm.
  4. It is incumbent on them to address whatever internal issues created their affair.

If you wish to reconcile be explicit that until you observe evidence of changed thinking you will be moving your own life forward towards your own goals, without them.

Be mindful that cheaters feel entitled to control and manipulate for their own benefit and preferred outcome. An angry/negative reaction can indicate that your approach has frustrated their cheater-centric agenda.

5. Stop Trying to Manage It

Faithful spouses are often codependent ‘fixers’ but declaring your love and promising to change will backfire.

If you want evidence of your cheater’s authentic intent to reconcile, your meddling is counter-productive. Stop ‘guiding’ them to books, articles, or therapy – if their motivation is genuine, they will feel frustrated, bombarded and controlled.

The more you direct, control, or manage reconciliation the more you will feel resentful, devalued, and let down in the long run.

6. Avoid Marital Therapy

It’s tempting to rush off to marital counselling but marital therapy does not facilitate the personal change necessary for reconciliation. Instead, it gives the cheater a platform to deflect blame and teaches them how to further manipulate you.

7. Identify Your Goals

Many people lose their individual identity to their marriage. Be independent, resourceful, and fearless.

Don’t make your happiness contingent on your cheater’s choices.

Take inventory of your life and identify goals and dreams for yourself that are yours alone and within your own control.

8. Be Open to Divorce

coping with infidelity
Don’t stand, waiting for your spouse’s affair to end.

Most faithful spouses will doggedly attempt to engineer reconciliation, entirely unwilling to accept that this may be the worst outcome for their children, their cheater, and themselves.


  1. Holding reconciliation as the only successful outcome: unhealthy relationships aren’t successful reconciliations.
  2. Justifying and defending your cheater: infidelity is indefensible.
  3. Rationalising why you have to fix it: it’s controlling and unhealthy.
  4. Insisting on marital therapy: the marriage didn’t cause the affair.
  5. Claiming that ‘staying for the kids’ is selfless: it’s misguided.
  6. Holding ‘marriage’ or an ‘intact family’ as your goal: you can’t choose this for someone else.
  7. Rationalising why this advice doesn’t apply to you: it does.

9. Act, Act, Act

Discovering your spouse’s infidelity can freeze you in inaction, but doing nothing is the worst thing you can do.

Don’t stand, waiting for your spouse’s affair to end. The longer you don’t act, tolerating or justifying their affair, the more it minimises the cheater’s unethical behaviour and normalises their new dynamic with both you and their affair partner.

Even if you don’t file, you must respond to the new reality you’re facing. Doing nothing is a tacit agreement to a unilateral open marriage now or in the future. Your inaction and scrambling to win back your cheater and make them happy doesn’t present them with consequences to their actions – it rewards them.

Don’t wait around unhappy, pining, your self-worth shattered. Start your own life in your own right, making new friends and enjoying new interests that are solely yours.

Be brave, be fun, be interesting – your cheater’s affair has highlighted how tenuous marriage can be so don’t make it your whole life. When your entire identity is tied up in your marriage and your marriage ends, where does that leave you?

10. See the Upside

If the affair does result in a divorce, understand that divorcing a cheater DOES have an upside, despite the challenges it brings.

The affair might have motivated you to lose weight, get a degree, move closer to friends and family, or get more involved in your community. All of these are positive things that you likely wouldn’t have done without the affair.

Truly understand the value of your freedom and celebrate the benefits of no longer having to walk on egg-shells to keep someone else happy. Create a peaceful, content life for you and your children, and nurture the relationships with those who treat you with love and respect.

Don’t idealise reconciliation because most reconciliations aren’t happy and most cheaters are selfish, entitled, and lazy.

Infidelity Help Group offers free support and education for those whose lives have been affected by infidelity. We are secular advocates of self-esteem, self-worth, personal goals, and self-empowerment.
Email: wayfarer@infidelityhelpgroup.com


  1. I’m very curious about point 6 – Avoid Marital Therapy. Is this something that you would actively discourage couples affected by infidelity to do? Is it not possible that it can indeed help in some cases?

    • Hi Tunzaspirit

      Yes, I would actively discourage marital therapy in the immediate aftermath of an affair.

      You didn’t cause the affair – so why are you in therapy learning how to ‘prevent’ another one? The marriage didn’t cause the affair – so how can marital therapy fix it? Poor communication didn’t cause the affair – so how does learning improved communication in marital therapy stop another one from happening?

      Marital counselling presupposes that the issues being addressed are ‘couple issues’. Infidelity is NOT a shared issue – it is owned entirely by the cheater. Yes, there may have been issues within the marriage, but the affair was caused by the cheater’s internal issues, not any imperfections in the marriage. If affairs were caused by imperfect marriages and/or spouses, you would both be having affairs!

      It’s important to understand that cheating is a mindset of entitlement, self satisfaction and unethical behaviour. Cheaters feel entitled to continue to deceive and manipulate (trickle truth is a common post-affair problem) to preserve their lifestyle despite their behaviour and to avoid any material consequence to their choices.

      Marital therapy with a cheater who has not made changes to their world view and personal narrative can essentially teach the cheater what to say and do to keep their faithful spouse firmly in place, hushed up and ‘getting over it’. What it doesn’t do is address the internal non-marital thinking that the cheater employed to give themselves permission to cheat in the first place.

      You might be interested in this article:What Therapy Teaches Cheaters

      It’s worth nothing that marital therapy is a business that requires dysfunctional relationships in order to survive. Neither the cheater nor the faithful spouse are encouraged to identify or pursue alternatives to the marital relationship, because the industry requires that fear and convention keep people trying to work though dysfunction. It is rare for a marital therapist to encourage either party to pursue their personal goals and dreams for themselves if those goals and dreams potentially lead them away from the marriage, and the therapist’s service.

      If a cheater requires guidance to help them address their own issues, I would recommend that they seek individual psychotherapy. The faithful spouse can use this time to observe if there is authentic, clear, and sustained change in the cheater’s fundamental thinking and ethical framework. Only when the cheater has addressed this can there be any meaningful work on the marriage – so marital therapy is an option for much later on in the process.

      You asked if it was possible for marital therapy to help in some cases. I would agree that marital therapy can help encourage a Divorce Avoidance Plan.

      In our experience, Divorce Avoidance Plans always result in an unfulfilled, miserable, and distrustful faithful spouse who feels:
      1. That the cheater has really changed – they haven’t at their, core because marital therapy isn’t about the cheater at itscore.
      2. That the cheater hasn’t truly held themselves accountable and hasn’t personally driven marital repair – they haven’t because marital therapy seeks to ‘share’ blame and responsibility for repair between the cheater, the marriage, and the faithful spouse.

      We typically see faithful spouses in Divorce Avoidance Plans frustrated and confused, desperate for marital therapy to work. They might limp along in a dissatisfying marriage for years, applying more plasters to the cracks, even when they become chasms. Many hold their fundamental deal breaker as another affair – when the real deal breaker should be the cheater’s lack of change.

      Discontinuing marital therapy feels counter-intuitive, I know. Many hope that therapy can keep their marriage together, which it might well do for a time. That hope, fuelled by fear of change and strong emotional ties to the cheater can result in a desperate investment in and commitment to marital therapy.

      I want better for you than a Divorce Avoidance Plan – but I also understand that removing marital support exposes the cheater’s real thinking and lack of personal motivation to change – and that’s when things get risky.

      I wish you well through this process.

      ~ Wayfarer

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