When to Walk Away after Infidelity? [avoid the mistakes made by others!]

Don’t risk your well-being! Get 12 infidelity facts that will keep you safe!

Learn when to walk away after infidelity, when to stay, and why.

So… Your cheating spouse or partner has been exposed!

You could never have imagined that you were married to an unfaithful person — your wife, husband, girlfriend, or boyfriend… yet he or she has done the unthinkable… they betrayed you!

The fact is, you are married to an unfaithful partner.

The betrayal was unexpected and you are in shock.

Stay safe and don’t make your situation worse!

Read everything in this article.

You need to become an infidelity expert before you make a decision.

Every piece of information in this article is of vital importance. And this is why it has been written — to help YOU.

when to walk away after infidelity

YOU need to know when to walk away after infidelity or when to start an infidelity recovery process. Keep reading.

Hi, this is Abe Kass, MA, RSW, RMFT. I am a professional couple and family therapist who specializes in infidelity recovery.

I am a real practicing professional, and I know what I am talking about. I know that infidelity pain is unbearable for many reasons, and I want to help you.

Many people ask me, “Can a marriage survive infidelity? Can an unfaithful spouse ever be trusted again? Is it worth starting a healing process?”

I tell them that it is certainly possible to survive infidelity.

However, certain criteria must be met, and only then can a person decide if his or her relationship is worth saving or if they should end the relationship and walk away.

During an infidelity crisis, it is easy to make a mistake

A mistake amid this crisis can cause lasting damage to you and your family.

This is why I have written this article about when to walk away after infidelity.

I want you to become knowledgeable about infidelity and how to respond practically and safely.

I want you to avoid the mistakes other well-meaning individuals have made.

So let’s dig in: What is infidelity?

Infidelity is a close connection with a person outside the marriage

when to walk away after infidelity
Infidelity is an intimate relationship with a person outside the marriage

Infidelity is the sharing of intimate details with a person outside the marriage.

This sharing can be emotional (a “friendship”), or it can be sexual sharing, or it can be both.

Examples of intimate details that are often shared:

  • Sexual activities or preferences
  • Feelings about one’s wife or husband
  • Future goals
  • Special moments
  • Displaying parts of one’s body that ordinarily are covered, either in-person or via pictures

Whether your partner’s cheating is physical or emotional or both, how you react to this betrayal will impact you and your family for the rest of your lives.

Learn everything you can about infidelity

If your partner has cheated, before you make any decisions, you should educate yourself and learn everything you can about infidelity and infidelity recovery.

You need to become an infidelity expert. This is true even if you decide to go to couples therapy.

Ways to become an infidelity expert:

  • Study this article
  • Read more information on infidelity found on this website
  • Speak to others who have experienced infidelity
  • Speak to caring and qualified marriage counselors to find one that can help you (make sure the counselor you select is a registered or licensed therapist)
  • Buy and read books by qualified writers about infidelity
  • You need to focus on when to walk away after infidelity (to separate or divorce) or when to save your marriage (often requiring skilled marriage therapy.)

If your husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend has cheated on you, you MUST read this before you walk away or start a recovery process:

Let’s start by learning some scientific facts about infidelity:

  • In a national survey of couple therapists, extramarital affairs were ranked as the second most damaging impact on relationships, with only physical abuse having a more negative impact. 
  • In another study of more than 2,000 randomly selected married people in America, researchers examined the effect of various relationship problems that led to divorce. The impact of extramarital sex on divorce was more than twice as much as any other related problem.
  • Recent national studies have found that nearly 25% of husbands and more than 10% of wives have had extramarital sex at some point in their relationship.
  • Among relationship problems, such as anger problems, emotional abuse, having an affair, having irritating habits, spending money foolishly, or abusing drugs or alcohol, extramarital sex was the greatest predictor of divorce.

Based on research presented in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, October 2002, Vol. 28, No. 4,423-434. 

The 8 facts you need to think about before you try to start an infidelity recovery process

Knowing when to walk away after your partner’s infidelity is very important.

Only a fool would try to plant a seed on concrete. Every intelligent person would understand that the seed will never grow.

A similar evaluation must be made regarding an infidelity recovery program.

When you and your partner engage in an infidelity recovery program, there is no way to predict with certainty what the outcome will be.

However, the information below will help you determine if it makes sense to try to rebuild your broken marriage or move on with your life.

Should you walk away or try to fix your broken marriage?

If you answer “yes” to any of the following 8 questions, staying with your partner and rebuilding trust will be very difficult, and you should consider ending the relationship.

when to walk away after infidelity
After the affair has ended, can your marriage be fixed?

1. Does the cheating continue?

Cheating includes not only having sex, but it can also include having an emotional relationship with an outside person where intimate details are shared.

An emotional affair can hurt and damage the marriage just as much as a sexual one. Typically, emotional affairs are hidden just as often as sexual ones.

If your partner’s relationship with the person outside the marriage has been conducted secretly in full or in part, this is a clear sign that it is a forbidden relationship.

Your partner knows that their relationship with the outside person is wrong, which is why they have made extreme efforts to hide it.

Lies of commission or omission are clear signs of infidelity — this is why it is called “cheating.” Cheating is behavior that is always hidden.

If the cheating continues, there can be no recovery process. The affair must be finished before any healing can begin.

Before any healing process can begin, the connection with the affair partner must be severed completely.

The philanderer knew exactly what he or she was doing getting involved with a married man or a woman. Any compassion for him or her is misplaced.

Infidelity is a dangerous relationship sport. Whoever engages in this activity knows this fact, and if they get hurt, there should be no surprise!

Knowing how to tell if your partner has severed his relationship with his or her affair partner is difficult.

There are helpful procedures and resources to help you determine if your partner is cheating or not. However, they are beyond the scope of this article.

Severing the relationship with the paramour (the illicit outside lover or ‘friend’) sometimes means changing jobs, moving to a different city, or other accommodations to reduce the possibility that the affair resumes at a later date.

Severing the relationship and all opportunities to connect with the paramour gives a measure of security to the betrayed partner and is an act of respect and consideration of his or her feelings.

If your partner refuses to end the relationship with the outside individual, there is no hope of recovery.

Is the cheating continuing? Yes or No.

2. Serial cheater

Infidelity is not an innocent error. It is a deliberate act that the perpetrator must take responsibility for.

If the betrayer has a history of cheating, and there is no clear evidence that he or she will not do it in the future, there is little hope for infidelity recovery.

It is never possible to trust a serial cheater, someone who has never learned or desired to control their actions, be honest, and respect others. With such a person, recovery is impossible.

There is a saying: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

If you stay with a serial cheater, you become complicit in the emotional pain and relationship destruction.

If your partner refuses to stop his or her philandering, as painful as it is, you need to end your relationship with him or her.

If you don’t end your relationship and walk away, your emotions will forever be going through a meat grinder — there will never be love or trust, and you will forever be disappointed and hurt.

Infidelity is like the hemorrhaging of blood. It is either stopped, or the person dies.

With a serial cheater, you cannot stop the emotional hemorrhaging. It’s better to leave the relationship and give yourself a chance to live.

Is the unfaithful partner a serial cheater? Yes or No.

3. Remorseful

The philanderer must take full responsibility for his or her bad actions.

He or she must acknowledge his or her bad behavior and regret hurting their partner and other family members.

They must feel remorse for what they have done.

However, if the cheating partner thinks the cheating was justified, then he or she is not a candidate for infidelity recovery.

Even if in the past there have been marital problems, the cheater can not use this fact to excuse him or herself.

Cheating is a selfish and self-serving decision and not a solution to marriage problems! (Past marital problems should be addressed only after the infidelity crisis has subsided and the couple is on the road to recovery.)

Blaming others for cheating means that in the future, the cheater may find new reasons and excuses to cheat again.

Does the philanderer justify and blame others for what he or she has done? Yes or No.

4. Feelings of empathy

Can the philanderer feel the pain he or she has caused their partner and other family members?

For recovery from infidelity to be effective, the philanderer must empathize with their partner’s pain.

A cheater who can not empathize is not a candidate for reconciliation since he or she cannot recognize how much injury cheating causes others.

Knowing how much infidelity can hurt everyone in the family is the main reason most people do not cheat.

If the cheating partner cannot connect with the pain of others, it is hard to imagine how, should the opportunity present itself in the future, they will not cheat once again.

Is the betrayer unfeeling about the pain he or she has caused? Yes or No.

5. Good character

Good character is an integral component of relationship fitness and is necessary for a healthy and stable relationship.

A person in a committed relationship must recognize the difference between ‘right and wrong.’ If they cannot do this, they cannot sustain a healthy relationship with another person.

Cheaters are often liars. This demonstrates poor character and a lack of integrity.

A person who often lies and thinks nothing of it, and when caught covers it with another lie, simply does not have the requisite positive character traits needed to establish a healthy relationship.

A person can certainly learn to be of good character. However, without the desire to change for the better, a cheater is not a candidate for infidelity recovery.

When a betraying spouse refuses to acknowledge their shortcomings, they are not a candidate for a trusting relationship!

Is the perpetrator of infidelity a chronic liar? Yes or No.

6. Humility

Only a humble person can learn from his or her past mistakes.

Recovery from infidelity requires that the cheater sit in the ‘hot seat’ and describe what happened, and take responsibility for their bad behavior.

Being in the hot seat is uncomfortable. Nevertheless, a willingness to face and examine one’s mistakes is necessary if they are to be transformed into valuable lessons. To do so requires humility.

A selfish and insensitive individual cannot look at oneself objectively and learn from past mistakes.

Narcissism will always ruin relationships!

Is the cheater arrogant and unwilling to examine him or herself? Yes or No.

7. Willing to discuss what happened

The partner who was betrayed, the victim, has a right to know what happened to them before they start a relationship recovery and healing process.

The betrayer, the cheater who refuses to talk or gaslights, twisting the reality of what happened, is not a candidate for infidelity recovery.

A betrayed partner can never forgive if he or she does not know what happened. Details of the past relationship crime must be brought to the light of day.

Infidelity is always conducted in secrecy. If the relationship is to recover, honesty and transparency must prevail.

Does the partner who cheated refuse to discuss what happened and its details? Yes or No.

8. Willingness to go to marriage counseling

Infidelity recovery often requires a competent and caring professional to support and guide injured individuals through the healing process.

If someone breaks a bone, they need an orthopedic surgeon. There is no getting around this fact.

For a couple struggling to overcome infidelity, they often need to turn to an expert to help them get through the crisis. “There is no getting around this fact.”

A cheating partner who refuses to work with a skilled, caring, registered, or licensed marriage counselor is a partner who is not serious about taking responsibility for the damage they have caused.

A marriage takes two people to make a relationship work! And in the context of overcoming infidelity, this often means going for marriage therapy with a qualified specialist.

Regardless of the need, the betrayer refuses to participate in marriage counseling with a registered or licensed therapist. Yes or No.

If you have answered “yes” to any of the above 8 questions, then it is very doubtful that your relationship can recover from infidelity.

Even if you have answered “no” to the above questions, you may be still thinking of walking away and ending your marriage.

When considering whether or not you should walk away after infidelity, you need to consider many things, including how a divorce will impact your children, finances, and mental health.

Knowing when to walk away after infidelity is not always easy.

Additional facts you need to know before divorcing a cheating spouse or partner

Attractive and handsome lovers trying to get over relationship crisis in the city park.
Divorce will likely be the most painful and difficult thing you will ever do — especially if you have children.

The events of an affair-induced divorce are reasonably predictable. You must be prepared for this being your new normal — at least for a few years.

Most victims of infidelity suffer greatly as they try to reestablish their lives and keep their children emotionally healthy.

Typically the divorce tragedy unfolds as described below (as gleaned from divorce statistics and my clinical experience):

9. The fight

When a couple has children, or there are large financial assets at stake, divorce is not an event. Rather, it is a lifestyle change. Ongoing parenting and endless litigation often keep marriage disputes alive for many years, even post-divorce.

In a childless divorce with few assets, often, the cut can be clean and quick.

Typically, the divorcing couple fights about their relationship and who caused the divorce that has led to the disruption in the lives of the children.

Even though it is the perpetrator of infidelity that has triggered a divorce, they will never acknowledge this fact.

Typically there is a great deal of gaslighting (a form of lying by trying to confuse the victim), and the cheating partner denies any responsibility whatsoever for breaking the marriage.

The perpetrator tries to turn things around and blame the victim — his or her partner whom they betrayed.

The unfaithful partner insists on denying what is evident or blames their partner, while the victim announces to the world what their partner has done.

Both partners go around town advertising the most embarrassing secrets and repulsive activities of the other, which is highly unattractive to the captive audience.

Soon, everybody agrees that these two are correct to divorce.

If children are involved, their parents’ slandering one another is especially embarrassing and burdensome.

The ‘divorce fight’ leaves the children, extended family members (grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins), and many others with deep wounds.

Are you ready for this if you divorce your cheating husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend? Yes or No.

10. Total relationship breakdown

Having an affair breaks the relationship bond. Both the cheater and the victim are disoriented, confused, and angry at one another! But it can get worse…

The couple can divorce.

The divorcing couple fight during the divorce proceedings, creating more and more mistrust and distance between one another.

The divorce process causes increasing amounts of chaos and confusion for everyone, including the children.

The divorcing individuals often, intentionally or otherwise, use the children as weapons to accuse and hurt the offending and offensive partner.

Divorce is overwhelming and universally proclaimed as painful, disruptive, and destructive.

Are you ready for this if you divorce your cheating husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend? Yes or No.

11. Post-divorce life goes on

Eventually, the infidelity victim and the unfaithful spouse find new partners, and life starts over again.

If there are children, they too now have additional parents — in total, they now they have four.

These new step-parents may or may not be loving and caring with their inherited children.

When there is reluctance and resistance by the stepparents to embrace their ‘new children,’ this will cause great anguish for both birth parents.

When the newly minted couple creates step-brothers and step-sisters, the difficulties increase exponentially.

Every family therapist knows “blended families” are difficult, and family peace and cooperation are not guaranteed.

Are you ready for this if you divorce your cheating husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend? Yes or No.

12. Human sacrifices

Divorce injures everyone in the family. Financial stability, social relationships, aspirations for the future, and mental health are often sacrificed on the altar of divorce.

Both partners, but most often the philanderer with more frequency and greater intensity, are shunned by family members and friends.

Regardless of the circumstances or position in the divorcing process, one individual is thought of as “good” and the other as “bad.”

The choosing sides by family and friends, and the ensuing gossip, are just another layer of emotional trauma that accompanies the divorcing tragedy and impacts everyone in the family.

sad girl feeling scared while her parents discuss divorce
Divorce is difficult, and for many, the complications are long-lasting

In a contested divorce, one or both parents pressure the children to choose who they are to be loyal to, who they are allowed to love, and who they can spend time with.

Often one parent ends up rejected by the children. The ‘alienated parent’ is devastated, bitter, and alone.

The children caught in the middle of the conflict between their two parents are severely injured. This unfortunate, yet very common dynamic, is called Parent Alienation.

Parent Alienation can have a severe negative effect on the mental health of the children, and their emotional injuries will likely haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Eventually, the desired divorce is achieved, and everyone involved gets surrounded by tragedy.

The divorced individuals then seek support from family and friends for help to get through the state of mourning that will likely last for years.

Are you ready for this if you divorce your cheating husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend? Yes or No.

If you answered “No” to any of the above questions about divorce, take a second look at reconciliation.

If your cheating spouse or partner does not seem to be ready to reconcile based on the first 8 questions, perhaps a trusted friend or a professional can speak to him or her and explain the dire consequences of continued cheating or divorce.

Rebuilding your relationship takes commitment and hard work

Surviving infidelity is difficult. This is why divorce often follows cheating.

Divorce statistics show that 53% of couples who experience infidelity divorced five years later compared to 23% of non-infidelity couples. Based on research presented in Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 2014 American Psychological Association, 2014, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1–12.

If you are to survive infidelity, you will need to work at it for several years.

Post-infidelity events, a couple’s relationship can become stronger, more loving, and healthier. I have witnessed many couples achieve this.

Alternatively, you can get divorced, which is often more difficult and painful than building a healthy, loving, and trusting marriage.

You choose not to walk away from your marriage

Although infidelity recovery is hard work, in the end, this is a better solution, especially when you have children.

However, if you decide to recover after the affair is over, be forewarned that you must carefully avoid common mistakes that can slow or prevent a successful recovery.

Based on my many years of helping couples recover from infidelity or go through the divorce process, I would strongly urge you to seek reconciliation if it is at all possible. Learn more on how to deal with infidelity after the affair is over.

All couples will benefit, and many will require, the help of a competent relationship therapist to provide marriage counseling in a kind, respectful, and practical way.

After the affair, reconciliation is not always possible

For the reasons presented above, sometimes it is not possible to rebuild your relationship.

Knowing when to walk away after infidelity will help you determine what your next steps should be.

Staying in a toxic relationship that has been created as a result of a partner’s cheating is self-defeating, and your mental health will suffer.

If you need to end your relationship with your partner, it is necessary to accept your new life the best you can. Yes, it will be difficult. But it is better than a lifetime of living in a loveless relationship.

The bottom line: Don’t settle for a broken marriage. Life is short, and you are meant to be happy.

Either fix your marriage that has been damaged by your cheating partner or walk away from them. Don’t just settle for a toxic relationship.

If you need to end your relationship with your cheating partner, it is possible to find a new and better person to share your life with.

Many people have succeeded in their second marriages. This too is hard work. However, for most people, it is preferable to living alone, with loneliness.

I hope after having read the above material, you can now answer the question, “When to walk away after infidelity?” or at least you have learned what you should do next before you make your life-altering decision to fix your marriage or walk away.

Wishing you and your family the best, professional couple therapist and infidelity expert, Abe Kass, MA RSW RMFT.

Bonus infidelity help

Don’t make these common marriage reconciliation mistakes. Watch below my video, When to Walk Away After infidelity.

“Marriage” refers to any two individuals living together in a committed and intimate relationship.

VIDEO: When to Walk Away After Infidelity [8 factors]​

Play Video about eight factors that will help you decide to stay or leave after an affair
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abe kass

Abe has helped thousands of individuals, couples, and families for twenty-five-plus years. When it comes to relationship expertise — Abe is the real deal and can be trusted!

abe kassProfessional Therapist Abe Kass MA RSW RMFT

Abe has helped thousands of individuals, couples, and families for twenty-five-plus years. When it comes to relationship expertise — Abe is the real deal and can be trusted!