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The Only Way To Recover From Infidelity

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Infidelity is a nuclear strike against all the values that define a romantic relationship. The ultimate betrayal.

It casts doubt on the mutual trust and closeness that has been built over years.

How can one ever recover from that?

What can you do to save the relationship, or if you have already broken up, how can you emotionally recover from such a betrayal of confidence?

A few days ago I received the following Twitter Message:

“How does a relationship recover from infidelity? My boyfriend cheated. He says he’s sorry and wants us to continue. What must each of us do?”

The author of this Tweet – and everyone who has this problem right now – has to face a bunch of difficult obstacles and decisions. From deciding whether to give the relationship another chance, to overcoming the overwhelming anger towards your partner/Ex.

I’ve asked my Twitter followers, “How can couples move past infidelity?”.

Here are some selected responses:

The main effect an affair has on those who are betrayed is a sense of identity loss. In that it is similar to a break-up or divorce.

Your partner is violently removed from the center of your world, and this creates a void that needs to be filled and overcome.

This is one of the main goals after a break-up, the same as it is after adultery.

Infidelity experts state that trust and closeness after an affair can be restored and the relationship or marriage rebuilt… but it takes work.

No surprises here.

When we put it simple, after an affair you have mainly three choices:

  1. To break up
  2. To stay together and do the rebuilding work
  3. To just stay together because of x

I know of two cases in my immediate surrounding who both made choice number three, and I can tell you right now that this is the worst of these three choices.

When you make that choice, you are still together – technically – however you are not living the marriage you deserve, you are living something else, very often hell.

Once you’ve decided to remain together you MUST forgive and do the work to re-build trust.

There is no alternative.

How To Decide Whether To Forgive Or Not

The theory behind this decision sounds simple: Is there a chance that trust can be restored and thus the possibility of a fulfilled relationship?

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you come to a decision:

  • Is there a history of dishonesty and thoughtlessness?
  • How is communication in your relationship? Were you able to deep-talk about real problems in your past?
  • How much do you really know about your partner? Do they reveal their emotional reactions to the events in your mutual life?
  • Is there still a deep emotional connection? (Let’s disregard for the moment the question of whether it’s really possible to cheat when you are in love)
  • Is the “cheater” really willing to reconcile and prepared to go beyond “I’m sorry”?

What Is The First Step To Re-Connection?

According to a very interesting article in the health department of U.S. News, the first thing that is needed is full transparency.

The cheating party must be ready to answer ALL questions about the details of the affair in all honesty.

A survey revealed that when the “cheater” reveals all the details, there is an 86 percent survival rate of the relationship. It drops to 59 percent if they refused to respond to questions.

Helen Fisher, a Rutgers University anthropologist who’s marriage suffered from infidelity and survived it, states it like this:

“The person who’s been adulterous has to be willing to answer any question that the offended party wants to ask, and then, at some point, the offended party has to say to themselves, ‘OK, I will never bring this up again,’. 17 years later, they’re still talking about it, and that is not useful. You’ve got to rebuild.”

Doing The Re-Building Work

The second step after total transparency is to take responsibility and to confess themselves to the relationship.

The person who had the affair must completely take all the blame for the betrayal. They earn forgiveness and indicate their willingness to do what it takes to get things right “through bold, heartfelt, meaningful acts of repair”, says Janis Abrahms Spring, author of the book After the Affair.

Additionally, it’s a must that “the betrayer ‘redraws the boundary’ around him and his wife, ejecting the mistress from their inner circle”.

According to Spring, even the hurt party “also has to take a ‘fair share’ of responsibility for how they may have created a state between them that made room for someone else to come in between.”

Hurt and anger will make this very difficult to do. So it’s advisable to, on one hand, express the anger, and on the other hand to disallow it to interfere with the reconnection work.

(MORE: Dealing With Anger After A Break Up)

After that comes the slow process of re-establishing trust.

The “cheater” has to believably prove (with action, not just words) to their partner

  • that they know it was a mistake that will never repeat itself
  • that all bonds whatsoever to the “mistress” or “lover” are permanently terminated
  • there is a substantial willingness to save the relationship

The “victim” has to:

  • acknowledge the “cheaters” efforts
  • stay open for reconnection
  • take into account the mistakes they may have made themselves

The cheater should additionally thoroughly assess their own reasons and motivations for the affair, and use the findings to strengthen the relationship and prevent future infidelity from happening.

How Do I Recover When Broken Up Because Of Infidelity

Adopt a mindset of someone who has simply made a bad decision in the choice of partner

If your relationship ended because of the betrayal of your partner, you will have to additionally deal with emotions of anger, fear, distrust, and shame… on top of the emotional roller-coaster of a break-up.

As said before, you have to acknowledge and process these emotions in a healthy way.

It is extremely important that you don’t fall into the “it’s me” trap. This can only do you harm.

Instead adopt a mindset of someone who has simply made a bad decision in the choice of partner – no matter how happy you were.

You have to get out of the “victim-role”, to whom everything “happens”, to a more active role – someone who takes their lives into their own hands.

The extent to which you are able to do this defines your progress to get over the betrayal.

Conclusion

My advice for you is to come to a definitive decision which way you want to go after the affair, (use the questions I’ve stated above). And to take your time.

Once you’ve decided, stay by your decision no matter what.

A pragmatical approach to the problem and a resolute course of action will help you to do the right thing with the minimum amount of suffering.

Whether it is to walk away or to patch things up, after infidelity there are challenges ahead of you that will not be easy.

But as always in life, the pain we experience serves a purpose to make us understand, learn and grow.

Regarding recovering from infidelity, it will result in a stronger bond between you and your partner, or in a stronger, more self-aware YOU… an evolution of your soul.

In both cases you win… even if it doesn’t seem that way now.

Your friend,
Eddie Corbano

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23 Responses to The Only Way To Recover From Infidelity

  1. Mpho October 29, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    My ex cheated on me before and I forgave her and everything seemed to be going fine, a year and a half later she left for a working trip for two weeks and did it all over again.

    It has been 8 months since our breakup and thank you to Eddie and this site I am feeling alot better than I was all those months ago. She requested reconciliation but I forgave once and to forgive once more and go through the same pain all over again later is not worth it.

    Most couples survive infidelity and grow closer but in my own opinion…leaving is the number option that should be grabbed immediately, not a lot of relationships survive this and if I decided to get back together with my ex I would be a FOOL!

    Thanks for this posy Eddie.

  2. Williette October 29, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

    Thank you Eddie,
    My ex had a history of cheating. So for me there was no reason to rebuild or reconsider anything else other than is he lying to me now. How many other women is he telling the same thing to. “I love you” I miss you” “I have changed” “I do not want to hurt you again”. blah, blah blah. It has happen too many times for me to forgive or forget. But I am trying to forgive myself for allowing it to happen me. I blame myself. Looking forward to a new relationship with a honest and respectful man.

  3. Arun Kumar October 30, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    Hi Eddie,

    Thanks for the new article which will further add to our experience and knowledge and making this complicated “love thing” a little bit easy .

  4. M November 13, 2013 at 11:29 pm #

    Hi Eddie,

    My partner of 8 years left me for another woman. I’ve had more than 60 Days NC but now he is introducing and integrating her into our friendship group. I’d rather never see either of them ever again but if we have shared friends then I can’t avoid it. I don’t want to be in a relationship with him anymore but I’ll feel ashamed and unworthy when I meet her. What do I do?

  5. SJ November 18, 2013 at 6:41 am #

    I suspect an affair or attraction to mutual acquaintance played a role in my partners abrupt departure over 6 months ago. I may never know for sure, and while I obsessed about it for awhile I eventually came to the conclusion that if it was that or another reason, the important thing to focus on was ME and MY recovery, not trying to figure out what my ex was thinking or doing or his uncommunicated reasons for ending things so suddenly, with such venom, and with no interest in reconciliation. What mattered was ME, not him. Not that i still dont have hard days, but they are fewer and further between all the time. Thanks for the site and the articles Eddie. They were a beacon for me toward safe harbor during a dark time. Truly wo this site to turn to in times of doubt or temptation to break no contact, even the idea of no contact, I know it would have been an even more painful and bumpy road. I am getting to the new and healthier normal and so will all those reading this who are in the same boat. Hang in there! To brighter days ahead and stronger, healthier selves and stronger, healthier future love matches! I have grown so much….

    • Williette November 19, 2013 at 12:30 am #

      SJ
      WONDERFUL WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT!
      Thank you so much!

  6. Connie January 16, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

    I caught my ex in bed with another women and the moment I seen it with my own eyes i knew it was over, He had cheated in the past and I always took him back it took me 2 yrs to build trust and then this happen. The worst part is he didnt even feel like he did anything wrong he just said Bye I dont want you and both of them laughed in my face. Lesson learned dont ever take anyone who has cheated on you I wasted 8yrs of my life in a unhealthy relationship now i cant close my eyes with the image of them in bed.

    • Williette January 16, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

      Connie,
      I had a similar experience too. My ex cheated on me several times and I took him back.
      He was sneaking around on dating sites and was talking and texting to other women on his phone. I even let many of them know what he was doing. He lied about me to them and made me out to be the crazy one, but I know better. And when you know better you do better.
      I am so gald to be rid of him. My life is so much better and it is less stressful. I was not happy with him. And he was not happy with me too. So I had to let him go and forgive myelf for allowing this nonsense to exist in my life. No-contact has allowed me to focus on me and what I need in my life. I wasted 10 years of my life with a NARC. It does take time to heal. I am still on the road to recovery. I know how you FEEL.

  7. Carol January 18, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    Don’t hate me, but I do believe that it is possible to stray once while still being in love. Things happen. That being said, I don’t think it’s easy to forgive and I don’t think you should forgive this behavior more than once. And in my past, it has always unfortunately ended with a break up. You both must be truly dedicated to one another to recover from this sort of thing. I don’t think it works unless you are both of a mature age.

  8. Bella January 19, 2014 at 11:04 pm #

    My ex cheated on me with a girl he met on FB. I found out about 4 mts ago that he was talking to her. I confronted him and he said she was the one chasing him. I didn’t believe him, but I thought he would stop since I had found out. The lady lives across the oceans in his home country. I knew he was going there to visit his family in December. I told him that I am pretty sure he would see the girl, but I hope he would do the right thing. Well he didn’t. I am not on FB anymore so I guess he got very comfortable. I opened up a dummy account while he was gone and she was posting on her wall their different escapades. the day he was leaving she posted a picture of them together and asked aren’t they cute. I was so devastated. When he got back I confronted him again and he said she was the one chasing him. I told him I could not remain in the relationship as long as I knew there was a picture of them on FB. He sounded upset that I would be bothered about the FB thing. But then while he was still trying to talk to me, he went back and commented on the same picture and said yes we are. I was so heart broken, He was still calling me talking to me about his business like nothing was going on. I told him I could not continue to discuss his business affairs knowing that he has a new girlfriend. He said she wasn’t his girlfriend. Every time he said that I would get angry because he is saying one thing and his actions are showing something else. So finally I told him to stop calling me and I did not want to hear from him again. It ended badly. We said a few choice words to each other. That was 15 days ago. I am so hurt. I can’t believe he would throw away five years over some girl he met online. I am having a hard time accepting it. I thought I would be fine since I know it was the right decision. But I still find myself crying and in disbelief. I want to move on, but my heart is so heavy. I have not called him and don’t even have the urge to. He hasn’t called me either. I am so angry at him that he would think he could continue talking to me and have her also. I told him he could have her and not me also. Please someone tell me this pain will go away and what I need to do. I have read so many books about moving on after a breakup, but I am still hurting. He has my property and he said he would bring them to me even though I asked him to mail them. I think that was his way of keeping his foot in the door “just in case”. I do want my things back but I don’t want to see him. I am too angry. I really need help. I am not crying as much and I am eating now, but I am no where back to my old self. I want to stop thinking about him and the girl. Crazy thing is that he visits his country only once every two years. I broke up with him. I think he kept talking to me out of guilt because he did wrong. But I couldn’t take it. He didn’t even apologize nor offer me any explanation for his behavior. I want to move on.

    • misty March 19, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

      bella, surely you will feel better one day. this might come soon if you also help yourself to survive the ordeal.

      i left my husband of 14 yrs when i found out his affair, to be fair its not first time. i thought i would die of pain and loneliness. but thanks to fam and friends, two years after im still here.

      hang on there, im sure you will feel better.

      • Bella March 20, 2014 at 11:30 am #

        I can relate to the pain. It’s the first time I felt someone can truly die from a broken heart. I still think about him but the pain is gone. I’m well past my nc period. I think on day 74 or so. I decided that I will cut him off completely for good. I won’t respond to his messages NO MATTER WHAT. He held on to some of my things because he thinks it will leave some sort of door open. By me not acknowledging him it will send a clear message to him to keep it moving 🙂

  9. Victoria April 26, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    I can very much relate to this pain. It is almost a year ago that I found out that my husband was having an affair with my daughter in law, the step father of my son, and my Grandson’s mother. I have chosen to stay with him but it is a living hell …… We have a business together and I have found it difficult to leave this relationship. I feel bad, really bad everyday and I just think that maybe one day I will feel better or something will happen to make this situation better but really I guess I am only delaying the inevitable. My son and his wife are still together also and I have to still see her for my son and grandson’s sake. It has made a lot of people in our family and friends very unhappy and I feel totally ashamed of what my husband has done to my whole family unit. Even his own family are struggling with what he has done and are ashamed of his actions. My son never wants anything to do with him every again and therefore that makes family gathers all on my own from now on. I am so screwed in the head over what has happened but I have no idea how to deal with this. We have been to counselling but he has now decided that he doesn’t want to go anymore and he just wants us to move on and get on with life together and put the past behind us. If only it was that easy …………. I am so heartbroken, not only for myself but for my family more. Life is just too sad at the moment. I hope this helps some of you other people as at least your situation probably doesn’t involve family members even though I know you all have your own pain to deal with in your own personal situations. Thanks for listening and I welcome any of your comments, thanks

    • Suzanne April 28, 2014 at 6:49 am #

      So sorry to read your story. It certainly has complicated a bad situation to something I can’t quite imagine. I hope you find support to cope with this over the long term. I can’t quite figure out which is the worse character in this scenario. I’d like to say the daughter in law. But the hubby certainly should have had more years of wisdom. Having had two cheater men in my life, I no longer blame the other party.
      Best wishes.

  10. Suzanne April 28, 2014 at 6:41 am #

    I am on day eight of NC. Sadly, this was the third and final breakup with my serial cheating partner. In the past I didn’t establish NC as we had so much combined financials…and I was just to weak. This time I planned in advance and had everything separated for good in a few days even though it cost a lot.
    The pain has been been worse than I expected, but not quite as bad as the first and second times.
    I will never understand why he sacrificed our love for a couple trashy hours with nasty trampy girls time and again…we really had it all. But his problems are no longer mine.
    I am filled with fear as I moved to a new area, need to find a job soon, am so embarrassed by his humiliating behavior. Ashamed. I have grown children and so does he. All of our friends and family know. And, yes, feel as though I will miss him for eternity. Played me for a fool for over three years.
    And when I announced it was over…he countered with a marriage proposal and the total “everything you ever wanted.”
    I told him we had passed our expiration date.
    So sorry to read of so much pain and sadness here. It has been helpful in this desolate time to hear such honesty and bravery.
    Previously, I had been married for twenty years but never suffered such sorrow. I am not looking forward to being so alone as I was for years, but I cannot live with a lying, manipulative, cheater.

  11. Jill June 1, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    I just don’t where I am going to get the strength now. My live in boyfriend of almost 9 years has me wondering if he’s cheating again? You see he had an affair with an direct report employee. They got sloppy and I caught them, as he left his laptop open one morning and I happened to look. I went through months of hell, you see he denied it said it was nothing just emotional – just friends no sex. At the time I didn’t see an out as I wanted to stay in the relationship, I loved him and I wasn’t walking away, she worked with him and is married. I threatened to expose her to her husband. Well it’s been 2 years approx since and don’t I feel like the biggest fool. I have sensed something all along, and I’m probably right. Either way it’s this horrible feeling in my stomach that won’t go away, I’ve started having sleepless nights, it’s eating me alive.

    I have to be the one to end things as he lives with me in my home…..we’re in the same industry work wise as well, I just doing know where I’m going to get the strength?

    • Mpho June 2, 2014 at 8:04 am #

      Hi Jill,

      Have you ever heard the saying “trust your gut feeling”? Well I had those in my past relationships and no matter how hard I could never ignore them but somehow I fooled myself into ignorance and when I found out about her doings she would just brush it off as me being insecure and that would make me feel like sh*t.

      I eventually stopped ignoring my gut feeling and got down to doing some little investigating/searching of my own and there is was in black and white…all the evidence of current and past betrayals. Once this hit I felt like a complete idiot for not truting my gut feeling. My advice…do not ask him or confront him until you have sufficient proof and even then he is going to deny but the best thing to do for yourself and sanity is to let him go no matter how hard the road to recovery is going to be. It might also be that you’re maybe feeling awful emotions because he cheated once and that trust is gone, that is even more reason to leave because without trust it will never work.

      I started to care for my well-being instead of bein afraid of the unknown without my ex and once I gathered that strength from family, friends, Eddie and this amazing site and people in here…I began to move on.

      Trust your gut feeling, it never fails.

  12. Shopnila June 23, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    Me and my ex was in a relation of 6 years, It was a “Fairytale” type affair. He was everything I liked and same for him EXCEPT he does not like “fatty” girls. Yes, we always had issue on my being overweight. I always tried for him to be slim but little did it work. He was mad for that. He used to chat, hangouts with other woman. I did not mind that as he WAS honest for that. When I bring the matter of marriage, he put condition that I have to be a 50 kg woman, and he would be financially established. Only after that he will marry. I managed to give him a job in my office (which has pretty high salary), I managed to admit him to my MBA course. BUT, he did not want to marry because I am FAT. To make things short he CHEATED on me (with a kind of girl anyone could call a B**** or S***) because I am fatty. I found that and left him. The very next day he came back to me and proposed. I ask him some time. BUT, he continued to meet that girl. From January – May same things happened. I start NC rule with him, within 10 days he get back to me and when I’m again weak for him, he goes to that girl leaving more and more hurt than all the previous times. Now, I think, It all was his male ego.

    He used to say, I love you only, but cannot accept you because you are not presentable with me, you do not match with his standard of good looking.

    It made me so frustrated that I one day called that girl to blurt out everything (he kept her in dark about maintain connection with me), That girl blamed me for having contact with him (where the truth is I always maintain NC with him, it’s him who calls me, text me when I do not response , he directly talk with me at office or MBA class where I cannot afford to create a scene as no one knows) . She blamed me for giving him the freedom to stray!! She told me “Why you cannot lose weight? Is it that hard? If you have loved him you would have done that” etc etc. AND HE TOLD HER that I was emotionally blackmailing him!!! He denied everything!!!

    A short separation of one day between them occurred and they got back together after that. BUT, this action of mine made me so guilty on my own eyes that I started to blame myself for stooping so low for them.

    After that, he again contacted me!! He told me “You should not have stooped to the level of that girl” what!!?? Isn’t that girl his GF now? Wtf? He still tells me “HE LOVES ME, and loves her too- but have chosen her BECAUSE she is sexy and attractive than me. He contacts me because, he cares for me, how will I survive this? Etc etc

    To make things worse, I recently found that I have PCOS. All those years I could not lose that amount of weight or be sexy just because I have a higher LH hormone.
    And, I lost my most valuable treasure because of that, how cool that sounds??

    Now, they are getting married. He always used to told me he will marry me after being financially established, after having some good bank balance and definitely not this year. But, now he is going to marry her despite of having all those reasons. I asked him why? He told me “If you were slim, I would have marry you this year, too” .

    All those years he made our affair secret, showing the reason “He will reveal everything after marriage” , But now he openly announced and dates that girl, because “That girl is presentable”.

    It have been 6 months, now, I think, I am already changed. I think, this me would never have allowed that person to play with my emotion. Moreover, I would not have ever allowed him to be “Just friends”.

    I do not know how to avoid him. Although, we are not on talking terms, We met everyday on office and class. Everyone advise me to leave all. BUT, why would I? It’s my job, I love it, I spent my 2 years to reach this position. I GAVE HIM this job. He is in THIS position just because of me. I admitted him to MBA, after accomplishing all these HE left him. It’s HIS problem, not mine.

    BUT, I know, seeing everyday makes me feel the pain more. I have to listen about THEIR hot romance from other colleagues and have to force a smile, although, deep down I just want to know “WHY”, “I loved truly, just because, I have PCOS, and am fatty, I do not deserve that kind of LOVE, I loved him? “ I was/am honest, what’s the point of being honest and a good girl, when you have to suffer a lot?” “Will I be able to allow this much freedom to anyone else in my life?” “What I did wrong?” “Why these happened to me” “Where’s my fault here”

    I sometimes just hate myself for being USED.

    Someone, please, help me PLEASE ,PLEASE tell me how to recover this situation without leaving this job I LOVE?

  13. Adrian July 30, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    Thank you for your advice. I`ve learned a lot from your blog. For me it`s better not to give another chance. Because they keep on promising but still broke it in the end. Just move on and forget the past. Focus on the future.

  14. susan October 2, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    I’ve heard it said that to trust again after infidelity is simply a matter of choice – ”you just do”.
    I would have agreed…right up until the moment I learned that my former was leaving me for someone else, and she was leaving her long term partner too. they say they had only feelings (didn’t actually cheat..) I say that’s not true…emotional infidelity is in some ways even more painful. I have since learned (accepted/realised/acknowledged) this was not the first round of emotional infidelity committed by my ex.
    My advice is this: if the cheater is genuinely remorseful, and agrees to CUT CONTACT with the other people involved, then proceed with caution. But if there is ANY suggestion of denial, continued friendship or even flags of repeated behaviour, then run, run like the wind, and don’t look back.

  15. May February 22, 2015 at 10:27 am #

    Hi i just come across this site looking for answer as i am feeling horrible not really knowing what to do when i found out that my boyfriend has cheated on me 2 years ago and he just told me about it just recently when we are having another fight like we normally do,and he told me about it telling me that its all my fault why he did that because i always get jealous and accused him of doing that,so when we had a very bad argument 2 years ago he said he’d taken another girl and had sex with her on the apartment where we’re staying at that time(i went away that time cause he wants me out).
    So when he told me about it,i was shocked and also felt stupid for not knowing about it sooner,why i haven’t seen it,but cause i love him that much i said i’ll forget about it,forgive him about it(which he said oh no it wasn’t my fault,you’re the one who made me do that)and let’s just be ok,move forward in our relationship but wanted to know everything about it,but couldn’t ask him cause i am scared too so we are ok now but i still feel so much pain and every time i open my eyes it would come to me and it would make me think all sort of things, and thinking that he have done it every time we fight and maybe every time that i am at work,i keep asking myself how can i forget about this,i want to forget about this so we can be really ok again,his ok i think,we’re ok but i’m not really ok but am not letting him know about that cause i don’t want us to fight again but am really scared that when we get together again he will do that again when am not around,what should i do?
    I’m really lost,i know i still love him,but i am still in so much pain and i don’t know how to deal with this.
    He tells me too that i know about it,cause i made mention of it but i don’t really know until recently,and he has done it 2 years ago,what’s that i don’t really understand it,i’m so confused.
    Need advise,thanks.

  16. john May 7, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

    I am a now single male, and have to say that I have serial cheated on my now ex partner; these other women were not anywhere nearly as attractive nor anywhere near better than my ex, Why I did it? Well I don’t know.
    my ex forgave me once and then forgave a second time whilst we were trying she cheated behind my back, the relationship is now over.
    I appreciate and understand that I deserve everything that I got. I am of course heartbroken, some people will say good.
    I am here to say yes you can retrieved a broken relationship; if the infidelity happens once, if it happens twice then I don’t think there is anyway back.
    One thing I have learnt is that I will never cheat again with anyone, the pain, guilt, and suffering it causes is too much to bear and has such damaging consequences on everyone concerned.
    if I at the time had any guts and decency I would not have done what I did, I have learnt the hard way, but probably the only way.

  17. LaTrice May 23, 2016 at 1:50 am #

    It seems some people don’t think twice about how cheating affects their partner, especially when they’re living a double life behind someone’s back. The damage is beyond repair, and the cheater can no longer be trusted.

    If you’re unable to remain to only one person in an exclusive, monogamous relationship, stay single.

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