Cheating Spouse? How to Move Forward After Infidelity

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dear Dr. Gunzburg

My wife cheated on me and my therapist told me to let it go and work on repairing the relationship. I want to repair our relationship, but I can't stand letting her get away with what she did. How do I let it go and move on in the relationship?

-Cheated On in California

Dear Cheated On,

If it were up to me, I would put warning signs over the doors of individual therapists: Caution, individual therapy may be hazardous to your marital health.

Your therapist's recommendation is not unusual, and sometimes it works to get a marriage going again. The problem I find with this advice is that it is not satisfying for the person in your position, and I would question if the cheater has sufficiently repaired her character to avoid temptation in the future.

I find that the cheater's motivation during the early stages after being caught is very high, and she cannot imagine doing anything like this again. The emotional ache of focusing on the infidelity and hearing the injured person's emotional pain is highly motivating to the cheater to be willing to say and do almost anything that will move the process off of the infidelity and onto something else.

Bottom line: After trying different approaches over the years, I have found that avoiding emotional turmoil by not going over the affair leaves the marriage vulnerable. The cheater probably has not done her own character repair, and the injured person doesn't feel safe in the relationship. This comes out of my experience, and is not based on any experimental work.

I wish you the strength you need to get through this difficult time and work toward a better marriage.

If you want to work with me, I offer marriage counseling in Maryland, to couples from all over the world. I am intentionally out-of-network for all insurance plans. My fees are based on $260 per hour, with a 45 minute session costing $195. I also have self-help programs available.

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