Maintaining Relationships: How To Overcome Cheating

Can couples overcome cheating? The short answer is yes. Couples can overcome cheating if there is a shared desire to do so. With that being said, there is a substantial amount of mental, emotional, and psychological work to be done. Seeking the assistance of a licensed professional counselor for individual and couples counseling can initiate the process of beginning the aforementioned “work.”

 In making a genuine attempt to overcome cheating in a relationship, there are three factors to consider regarding the aspects of infidelity: identifying, understanding, and resolving. First, it is important to take an honest approach to identifying the reasons why the infidelity occurred in the first place. While the list of reasons may be quite extensive, examples include a loss of sexual desire or interest, emotional abandonment, physical or emotional attraction to someone else, or retaliation for past hurts. [1]

The next step is to make a serious attempt to understand the conditions that may have cultivated an opportunity for the affair. After identifying the whys and the wherefores, each member of the relationship must be willing to understand what role, if any, each had in this specific development in their relationship and, if required, take ownership.

Lastly, but uniformly fundamental, is to be aware that in order to ascertain a mutually agreed upon resolution, identifying an understanding is paramount. This could begin with defining the terms of the resolution. Each member being willing to be completely immersed in the aspect of healing that is found in resolution is quite essential. This might involve identifying and understanding why they want to stay in the relationship, what they want out of the process of resolution, and what that needs to look like, feel like, and sound like to experience forward movement.    

Returning to “Normal”

The reality is, if couples attempt to return to “normal” after infidelity, it may prove disastrous. When considering a return to normalcy, one must also consider that somewhere in that “normal” lie the problems that caused the infidelity. It behooves couples to determine the root cause of infidelity. This can be done via couples counseling, couples workshops and seminars, or relationship retreats. In identifying the reasons why infidelity occurred, making changes and establishing new norms may prove to be a solid path to resolution. Being intentional about making time for each other’s thoughts and feelings is essential. Consciously decide to move on. Do not keep harping on the past or reminding one another of the role each played in the deterioration of the relationship.  

While it may prove to be challenging, forgiveness is a key component in resolving the infidelity and must be done if a healthy, well-balanced, and fully restored relationship is the goal. When both parties are hurting, regardless of who perpetrated the act of cheating, the decision to forgive one’s self and each other is a necessary step toward resolution.

Let’s “Stay Together”

If a couple decides to stay together after an act of cheating, a lasting effect on the relationship is re-establishing and maintaining trust. In healthy relationships, trust is a precious commodity. When a relationship is built with a foundation of trust, couples can enjoy the fruits of love and affection, intellectual and physical intimacy, and comfort and security. The adage that trust takes a lot to build and very little to destroy is true, but trust can be re-established. A passage from “Treating Infidelity: An Integrative Approach,” published in The Family Journal, does a great job of explaining this process:

“Rebuilding trust is a lengthy process that can be accomplished through patience, accountability, and honest communication. Accountability refers to accepting responsibility for one’s actions, the pain one has inflicted on the other, and the damage done to the relationship. Accountability and trust are facilitated by the development of a specific communication plan in which partners keep in touch regularly and inform each other of their schedules and plans. Betrayed partners do not want to be deceived or hurt further, so unfaithful partners must adhere to the agreed on schedule and plans. Failure to do so perpetuates mistrust and pain.” [2]

It is important to note that when couples are unable to identify, understand, and resolve in an effort to re-establish trust and overcome the effects of cheating, the couple must look at the personal choices being made within the structure of the relationship. Examples of these personal choices are an unwillingness to end the affair, an inability to renew commitment to the relationship, and committing multiple transgressions. Constructing right or wrong decisions regarding personal choices has the power to make or break the relationship.

For further reading on how to overcome cheating, the following list of self-help books is provided for your perusal:


  1. Fife, S. T., Weeks, G. R., & Gambescia, N. (2008). “Treating Infidelity: An Integrative Approach,” The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 16, (4), 316-323.
  2. Fife, Weeks, and Gambescia, page 318.