Questions to ask yourself if you catch your spouse cheating

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For many marriages, affair recovery is possible. Is yours one of them?
Did you just catch your spouse cheating? If so, your marriage is in crisis and your likely left feeling as if one of your worst fears has come true. You’re also wondering if you should stay or go. This isn’t the time to act on impulse but to slow down and carefully consider your options.  

There are many sources explaining the reasons why men and women cheat as well as tips on how to fix your broken relationship or save your marriage after finding evidence that your husband or wife is having an affair. But how do you decide what to do about it and whether your should get a divorce or work on forgiving your spouse after they’ve been caught cheating?

Increasing your knowledge about the many dimensions of infidelity can help empower you to have the kind of marriage you desire after one spouse has cheated. It’s important to find out the specific reasons this betrayal happened, who they cheated with, and the nature of the affair, i.e., whether it’s emotional, physical, or a combination of the two. While sexual dissatisfaction is certainly one of the multitude of reasons why people cheat, the primary reason cited by both men and women is actually emotional dissatisfaction, identifying issues such as not feeling desired or appreciated, a lack of communication, or feeling as though they have differing values.
Nonetheless, if you’re one of the people whose partner has been caught cheating, here are the most important questions to ask yourself before deciding whether to divorce or forgive your partner.

  1. Does your spouse have a parent and/or close friends who have cheated?
    If the answer is yes, don’t underestimate how this influences your spouse. A message can get internalized that cheating is acceptable or just a part of “everyday life.”
    You also want to watch for your partner spending time, especially nights out, with known cheaters. It wouldn’t be a good idea to try to entirely control your spouse, but he or she should be responsive to your concerns. If this behavior continues, a cheater will be at risk for ongoing improprieties.
  2. Is your spouse good at compartmentalizing?
    “Compartmentalization” is a defense mechanism that people use to separate internally conflicting thoughts from one another. People generally have a tendency to compartmentalize parts of their lives so they can better control them and cope with life’s stressors. For example, we may act a certain way at our jobs, another way with friends, and yet a different way with family.
    If your spouse tends to compartmentalize, this could be a serious red flag.
    Many successful people use compartmentalization to get ahead, but unfortunately, sociopaths are also known to be exceptionally good at compartmentalizing. This isn’t to say that your spouse is a sociopath; however, you need to understand what mechanisms allow someone to have sex with their co-worker on a desk at the office, then sit with you at the dinner table and act as if everything is perfectly normal.
  3. Does your spouse show guilt and genuine remorse for having the affair?
    From what I’ve seen in my practice treating many couples over many years, most cheaters really do feel guilty and remorseful about their affairs. However, this will not necessarily stop the cheating behavior. Some people don’t feel the least bit regretful; some may see the affair as the justifiable ramifications of a bad marriage.
    If your partner falls in the “not feeling remorseful” category, taking him or her back is ill-advised.
    The cheater must see their fault or this person will never be able to connect with you emotionally and honestly. Even with a “bad marriage,” the accountability was still on your partner to problem-solve appropriately (seek therapy, talk to clergy). You should also hear the person verbalize sincere, genuine and copious apologies.
  4. Are you completely certain that the affair is over?
    If your spouse remains involved with the other person on any level, then it isn’t completely over and you will never be able to move forward.
    There must be NO CONTACT.
    No Facebook friendship, no texts, no phone calls, no working together, no anything. Your spouse should be able to prove this to you beyond any doubt by being utterly transparent.
  5. Is your relationship damaged beyond repair from this affair?
    In some cases, it isn’t advisable to take back a cheater. If you aren’t married and don’t have children together, it may be best to go your separate ways after an affair. In addition, be warned that some people will continue to cheat whether or not they’re satisfied with their marriage. If this is the case, such a person is likely unable to stay faithful. It’s also imperative to find out if the cheating is a onetime affair or a pattern of multiple affairs.
    It’s possible to rebound from an affair and have a happy marriage.
    If you’re able to clearly sift though the concerns listed and decide to work it out, it’s critical that you pursue marriage therapy together in order to work though the unfaithfulness. The goals of affair recovery therapy should be to work on forgiveness, re-build trust and create a strong emotional connection.
    Also, each person should be able to discuss their thoughts and feelings clearly and openly in regards to the transgression. If you do decide to take back a spouse after an affair, you must make a conscious decision to move forward and not remain stuck in that space between being bitter and forgiving. Only then can your marriage recover from infidelity.

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