There are many articles written about the survival rate of relationships after infidelity. Some are in general positive and these tend to come from those who work in the profession of couple therapy. Other articles show a more negative picture and I think both messages are correct. What is often missing are the factors that contribute to a positive outcome or a negative outcome. I placed the onus on the person who engaged in infidelity. Healing and rebuilding however, is a lifelong process and involves both partners.

A positive outcome: 

A couple remains together and manages to rebuild their relationship. They do have scars, but many good and positive days leading to overall satisfaction and contentment.

A negative outcome:

The couple either separates and divorces or stays together but have a marriage that is full of conflict, pain and hurt and unresolved issues.

Contributing factors to a negative outcome:

  1. They (the betrayer) did not unprovoked end the relationship with the AP.
  2. They did not confess to their spouse all the facts.
  3. They avoided answering questions openly and honestly (use semantics and clever lying techniques).
  4. They avoided all hints and questions of their spouse during the affair.
  5. They treated their spouse poorly during the affair.
  6. They emotionally disconnected from the family and verbally attacked the spouse when questioned.
  7. They perceived the affair as more than sex only (see also 14). Eh, yeah it is, it is involvement in a rather “exciting behaviour”, i.e. deception,  and it is ugly.
  8. They used the word “indifferent” when asked how they felt toward spouse and kids while engaging in adultery.
  9. They played mind-games and got defensive and angry when confronted with conflicting stories.
  10. When caught they kept on lying (justifying, minimising & keeping secrets).
  11. They are not doing THE WORK. The work will be a continues effort starting with breaking off all direct and indirect contact with the AP, coming clean about all, being HUMBLE and taking full responsibility for the wrong doing, working on self, working on the relationship and unconditionally supporting their spouse. They are not fighting for their spouse!
  12. They attend couple sessions, but omit crucial parts of the affair during therapy (token effort).
  13. They had more than one affair and engaged in multiple types of cheating (porn sites, chat sites, sexting, emotional affairs, paid sex) over an extended period of time (miracles happen but the rate of a positive outcome is significantly reduced).
  14. They had a lengthy “love” affair. Those cheaters are the most naive (stupid) people ever! Does anyone with brains really think that a good person gets involved with a married person?
  15. They are impatient and want their grieving and hurting partner to “move on” after less than a year.
  16. They do not listen. No one can multi-task. It is called “divided attention” and it is rude to look at cell-phones etc., when talking to a partner.
  17. They avoid eye-contact; a nasty habit developed through years of lying.
  18. They do not ask their partner what they need (they assume).
  19. They do not prioritise spouse and kids and continue with life/work as “usual”.
  20. They have always treated colleagues and friends different from spouse and kids in the sense that the former get their undivided attention, patience and compliments, while the latter get to see literally their back in the middle of conversation and have to put up with their impatience.
  21. They are not improving their communication skills and do not know what acknowledging and validating means. These are the two crucial ways of responding to a partner in pain.
  22. They tend to lie even when there is no reason for it. Continues lying is the end of any relationship. The behaviour is very hard to change as it seems to be ingrained and their first defense.
  23. They fail to make radical changes to their attitudes and behaviours.
  24. They are arrogant, feel entitled and have features of narcissism (lack of empathy).
  25. They lack genuine respect for others.
  26. They are self-centered.
  27. They do not walk the talk.
  28. They perceive intimacy as sex only.
  29. The spouse of the betrayer feels the changes made “are too little and too late”.
  30. The relationship no longer contains fun and shared activities.
  31. The spouse of the partner who engaged in infidelity has lost hope to be able to have a healthy and satisfying relationship.
  32. The spouse of the partner who engaged in infidelity feels pressured to forgive.
  33. The spouse can no longer look into their partner’s eyes without seeing someone who abused their love and trust.


Contributing factors to a positive outcome:

  1. They fight for their spouse because they want to be with them (with thanks to a Blogger I follow).
  2. They confess unprovoked.
  3. They come clean about all. They answer questions patiently.
  4. They take initiative and are actively and pro-actively involved in the recovery process.
  5. They do the work (see above #11).
  6. They take full responsibility of all wrong doing, are humble and patient.
  7. They work on themselves, and allow their partner to heal.
  8. They work on all aspects of the relationship.
  9. They learn to ask open questions, they learn to listen and they learn to communicate effectively.
  10. They make significant changes in behaviour to ensure that they never betray again.
  11. They tend to have engaged in cheating behaviours for a set time and not across the marriage.
  12. They feel that their behaviour was not consistent with their values and feel deep remorse, shame and guilt.
  13. They place their spouse and children on top of the priority list.
  14. They want to be a person of integrity and will do everything to demonstrate that they can be trusted again.
  15. They respect others.
  16. They show empathy.
  17. They know that love means giving!
  18. They learn to make sacrifices.
  19. They work on re-connecting and their spouse acknowledges the efforts.
  20. They acknowledge all their spouse has done for them and show appreciation.
  21. Couples do fun things together.
  22. Both partners openly discuss intimacy, wishes, desires, likes and dislikes.
  23. Intimacy on an emotional and physical level is healing. The betrayer understands that physical intimacy can be a trigger.
  24. Couples work on communication but also take a time-out when tired and overwhelmed.
  25. Couples set time aside to discuss the positives.
  26. Couples make plans together. There is no longer “solo behaviour”.
  27. Both grieve the loss of something beautiful that can never be made undone.
  28. Both understand that they have to become mentally and physically healthy in order to create a healthy relationship.
  29. Both partners have hope and trust that despite all what has happened, they can make it.
  30. The couple is capable to make new memories.
  31. The spouse can also see the “positives” that came out of something so ugly (see post 60: Collateral Beauty).
  32. The person who betrayed demonstrate that they made a lifelong commitment to  help their partner heal.
  33. Both cannot imagine a life without each other.
  34. Both partners will never forget but refuse to become bitter.
  35. Both perceive every day as a new one with options and choices.

21 thoughts on “POST 68: CAN WE DO IT: FACTORS

  1. Very true. And then, for some, even if they mostly ‘get it right’, we still struggle. I think there is a character/personality thing (in both the cheater, but also the betrayed) that can create huge barriers to healing. Even if the cheater does the helpful things. Mine admits he should have confessed. He ended it before I knew, so he should have had the balls to confess. Being told, out of the blue, by his AP, whom I considered a friend until then, was … heartbreaking-humiliating-unbelievable-random-shocking-cowardly-etc. I thought we could mend. That we could build something new. But I never was able to put the load, the triggers, the memories, the sheer disappointment in him, down for any length of time. I admire, SO much, those that can. And do. Their grace and strength. The disappointment in my own set of personality quirks that haven’t allowed me to find a place of peace – yet. Or do those who stay together, even having done, and continuing to do (because, I now believe it is a lifetime of mindfulness and hard work to stay with a cheater) the work, just settle for less? A less ‘true’ love? I don’t think they would say that. But that is what I felt. I love him. I always will. But I will always feel he never loved me enough not to cheat and break me. Despite me knowing now that, of course, this was his shit running him. Nothing to do with ‘loving enough’ or ‘good enough’. Some of this stuff just bangs up so hard against what I was enculturated to believe. And what I saw and experienced in life prior to this happening to us.

    Good post. I hope most who read it are with truly remorseful, hard working individuals, who continue to put the work in to help heal the wounds they created xxx.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Oh wow! The additions have me tearing up a little. Thank you, E. I know you understand. My biggest fear on the night all of this came out, was that I would become embittered. I think there is some bitterness. And I LOATHE that as I worked so hard, so mindfully not to let it in. Rog has always said that I don’t owe him anything. He doesn’t get a fully functional relationship just because he’s doing the right things now. Our past choices affect our futures. Yes, we have agency and can steer the ship to a large degree. But deep emotional hurts create deep troughs and channels that mean that ship often heads back to them for safety’s sake. I am reasonably risk averse. It is a part of me. I identified this early in life, and pushed myself ways to take calculated risks. I just can’t seem to make the maths work when staying with him. I’m not sure which part of the equation I struggle with. All of it. Trusting anyone to be kind. Trusting my own judgement (I now understand that although I never knew about their affair, this was because I was continually convinced that there was nothing going on, my then naturally trusting nature overriding my instincts.) I have seen and picked a lot of cheaters, a lot of disloyalty and disordered behaviour in others over this lifetime. I trusted my instincts. Until this. When he had me COMPLETELY convinced he only tolerated her presence in our lives (he showed open distaste for her regularly) because she was MY friend. So my own self belief has been severely dented. They both totally capitalised on my belief in, trust of, them both.

        Liked by 2 people

          1. I am not alone. Nor the ‘worst’ betrayal story I have heard. But yeah. Double betrayal is pretty spesh! I am careful to acknowledge that we really don’t know how we will react. I thought I would leave a cheater. Immediately. Do not pass go, do not collect $200! And I was in shock really that my first thoughts were, “okay, he has fucked up. Does that not need some working through?” And I actually had compassion for him! And felt crazy for that! But he was so gutted. So obviously embarrassed and sorry. I thought maybe, just maybe, we might get through this.

            Of course, on D-day, you think you’ve hit rock bottom. The worst is over. The truth is out. But there’s always more. Layers and layers of deceit. And not just about, or during, the affair. You unpick it all. And the truth does trickle. Even with one of the ‘good guys’ (choke!) He remembered things sometimes weeks later. Recently something came up. And it is over 8 years since he ended the affair! The nature of it is that there is always more. Because it is impossible to relate every second, every nuance of time. In this case, over 16 months, for many, so much longer. I no longer care about those details. But you still are jolted awake when, for example, a mental picture has been constructed ‘all wrong’.

            Thanks for posting about this. And I agree wholeheartedly with SW about reading this list if you are a newly discovered betrayed. I inherently felt/knew this on D-night. His immediate shame and remorse changed the dynamic pretty quickly and I considered staying, after vowing I never would. Be open. Be fluid. Accept that you don’t really know what you would do. Until you have no choice, and are faced with this sucky reality.


            Liked by 3 people

    1. Every time I hear your story, Paula, I am filled with such gut-wrenching reality. Yes, sometimes no matter how much effort the cheating spouse puts in, it cannot repair what once was. The truth of that is so painful. SWxo

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks SW. I think it comes down to personalities and the particular set of circumstances. I think maybe I could have stayed had it been a drunken shag? With someone I didn’t know? Or if he’d confessed early on? Or changed his number when I pretty much insisted he should, to avoid those two years of her harassing us? But who really knows. The best outcome would have been if he kept his word. After all the cheating discussions we had over the decades. To tell me if he didn’t feel good about us. To talk about his feelings instead of putting his bare tongue/fingers/dick in a diseased skank over and over and over. Ah. The what could have beens. 😀 Get you absolutely nowhere. It seems such a simple thing. Don’t break the person who loves you’s heart by lying, cheating and endangering their health. Still find the fact that so many do, so damn hard to fathom!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. My ex and I divorced after three separations but I sometimes wonder what would have happened had I stuck it out. Yet, what would have been different? I was his second wife. His first left him over infidelity, I left him for infidelity, he married twice after me and his last wife, wife number 4 finally did it to him and that was the last. In each instance, he never filed for divorce, but pushed our buttons for us to make the moves. I’m sure that is symptomatic of something?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My theory is he didn’t feel entitled to be happy. His father was an alcoholic and a rover as he became. His mother committed suicide when he was 18-19… After we split, he gave up drinking for wife number three. He became a body builder and won Mr. California many years ago, but still he wasn’t happy. He said Wife number 4,only a few years older than our eldest, took him to the cleaners. Not true of course, but it was his last. Now he just plays the field.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The lack of eye-contact is what resonates for me in hindsight. My ex and I stopped connecting on an emotional level after her affair, and it certainly manifested with her not wanting to look at me in the eyes when we spoke. Great lists, Elizabeth. Great post. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

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