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5 Infidelity Recovery Criteria Required of the Cheater and the Victim

Couples that want to recover from infidelity can… with the right effort

There are two common reasons why couples who want to recover from infidelity fail.

One reason is not seeking specialized relationship help to contribute to the recovery journey.

The other reason is because they fail to fulfill the necessary requirements.

Not doing what you need to do to recover from infidelity can be compared to a person who wants to give up smoking, but doesn’t take the required steps needed to overcome the addiction.

It is this ‘second reason’; not meeting the criteria required to recover, that is addressed in this post.

Here are essential attitudes and behaviors required by the philanderer.

Essential attitudes and behaviors required of the philanderer:

1. Frequency. A single mistake versus a pattern of betrayal

Infidelity is always wrong and cannot be written off as an ‘innocent mistake.’ Betraying one’s partner is a willful mistake that triggers dire consequences. Does a one-night stand count as cheating?

A partner who commits adultery ‘one time’ and is prepared to do whatever it takes to rectify the damage he or she has caused has the potential to become a person who will never betray again. A person who learns from his or her mistakes is capable of being a person of good character and of being loyal in the future.

However, a serial philanderer, someone who has never learned to restrain his or her behavior, can never be trusted — never ever!

Thus, with such an individual, recovering is impossible for the simple reason that they can never be trusted not to cheat again. Repetitive cheating — for whatever reason — is proof that participating in reconciliation is only an effort to manipulate the victim into accepting past cheating, in spite of the likelihood of ongoing or future cheating. There is a saying, ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’

2. Attitude. Remorseful versus justified

A partner who cheated must be repentant. He or she must take responsibility for his or her bad behavior.

In contrast to this, if the cheating partner feels that what he or she did can be justified, then he or she is not a candidate for reconciliation. He or she is only prepared to ‘recover’ to the point where he or she can find another excuse and then betray again.

3. Feelings. Victim empathy versus victim callousness

Cheating is an emotional assault on one’s partner. And naturally, the victim — the cheating partner’s legitimate partner — is devastated. It is essential to recovery that the betrayer, the perpetrator of the injury, empathizes with the suffering of his or her partner. If he or she cannot do this, they are likely to betray again.

Most individuals do not hurt others because they too are pained when another is pained. This is a function of empathy. A cheater who cannot empathize is not a candidate for reconciliation.

4. Integrity. Presently truthful versus presently deceitful

Integrity is a necessary ingredient to relationship fitness. A person who habitually lies and thinks nothing of it, and when caught lying covers it with another lie, simply does not have the necessary positive character trait to contribute to a healthy and stable relationship.

Partnering with such an individual will only lead to disappointment and heartbreak.

5. Spiritual position. Humble versus arrogant

Recovering from infidelity is not easy, and the cheater will often find himself or herself in the ‘hot seat.’ This position is naturally uncomfortable. Nevertheless, it is necessary for relationship healing, recovery, and rebuilding.

Only the humble can succeed with this complex, arduous, and difficult relationship feat. An arrogant person will never endure the relationship recovery journey. He or she is too conceited to acknowledge the shortcomings in his or her character. He or she will be offended when their imperfections and behavioral failings are pointed out by someone else.

An arrogant person cannot contribute to his or her partner’s recovery because he or she can only see themselves.

Full infidelity recovery is only assured when the the cheater meets all the above five recovery requirements. If he or she is lacking of any one of the five, then there can be no infidelity recovery until the cheater undergoes the personal growth needed to be a recovery candidate.

Essential attitudes and behaviors required of the victim of infidelity:

1. Decision. Willingness to explore reconciliation versus continual refusal to explore reconciliation

The victim has been terribly injured by his or her cheating partner. Trust, safety, comfort, and more have all been sacrificed on the altar of infidelity.

Often, victims have no interest in recovering with the perpetrator of their injuries. On the other hand, for a variety of reasons, victims of infidelity want to recover and maintain the relationship with their betraying partner and keep the family together.

It is natural for many victims to be ambivalent, uncertain regarding what they should do. However, such a position as reasonable as it is, keeps the door closed to reconciliation.

If there is to be relationship reconciliation, the victim has to make a decision to at least try to reconcile.

2. Objectivity. Willingness to take responsibility for one’s reaction versus absolute blame

Yes, the ‘victim’ is a victim. However, in addition to being the victim, the person injured by their straying partner must take a reasonable position and acknowledge that his or her reaction to the hated event — the cheating — influences in some way the current relationship dynamics and what will happen in the future.

In other words, some reactions to infidelity are reasonable and constructive and some are not. The victim needs to acknowledge that he or she can choose to some extent what his or her reactions will be. Without this, there can be a position of never-ending anger and blaming which will certainly doom the relationship to failure.

3. Position. Willingness to consider forgiveness versus never-ending damnation of the cheater

At some point in the relationship recovery process, the victim needs to recognize that forgiveness is a goal worth striving towards and that true forgiveness with a full heart is a valued gift.

After all, when infidelity recovery is genuinely successful, revenge, anger, and devastation must transform to trust, love, and friendship. This can only occur when forgiveness has been earned by the philanderer and bestowed upon him or her by the victim.

4. Responsibility. Willingness to consider the needs of each family member versus only his or her entitlements

When trying to decide how to respond to a cheating partner, it is necessary to take into consideration the needs and interests of other family members such as one’s children.

Considering the needs of each family member does not mean in any way that the betrayal is to be swept under the rug or just forgotten. Not at all. Considering the needs of others will help set goals and motivate future efforts, whatever they may be.

5. Open-minded. Willingness to consider the broad context in which the infidelity occurred versus a single black and white view of the infidelity event

Infidelity is only a single aspect of a marriage or committed relationship. There are many other aspects that need to also be taking into consideration.

Naturally, when the truth of the betrayal breaks upon the relationship, the shock and hurt is overwhelming.

However, over time the victim needs the strength of character and position of honesty to also consider the needs and circumstances in which the betraying partner committed his or her acts of betrayal.

Doing so does not in any way diminish the responsibility that the betraying partner has for his or her shocking and bad behavior. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that even the betraying partner has a legitimate position as does the victim, even if it is not agreed with and that this right to an explanation must be acknowledged.

In conclusion

Infidelity is a shared experience. It is not at all like the impression that is conveyed with the well-known saying, ‘What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas.’ No, it does not stay in Las Vegas!

Rather, infidelity is like a virus. And like a virus, it spreads from individual to individual. Everyone becomes sick.

And since everybody gets sucked into the after effects once infidelity is known, everyone has a role to play — both the betrayer and the victim — if relationship recovery is to be a relationship reality.

Get the tools you need to survive infidelity:

About the author

Abe Kass, MA, RSW, RMFT, CCHT., is a Registered Social Worker, Registered Couple and Family Therapist, Certified Hypnotherapist, and award-winning Educator. He has a busy clinical practice in Toronto, Canada and throughout the world using the phone or Zoom.

After many years of clinical practice and research, Abe concluded that practical solutions requiring a focused effort of no more than a few minutes a day for very specific relationship problems were critically needed. GoSmartLife Publishing House has been created to fill this need.

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6 months ago

Hi Abe
I found out my husband had an affair with a client of his for 27 months. It took place weekly at his office. He had ended the affair and then I found out on my own. Does this fit the category of a “serial philanderer?” Or not because it was with 1 person yet multiple times.

We have been seeing a therapist for couples therapy as well as both individually. My husband was severely physically abused as a child until he was 12 by his parents, mostly his Dad. Thus the stages of development were not secured and he grew up with unresolved trauma despite his attempts to reconcile with his parents in adulthood.

He takes full responsibility for the affair and is remorseful for his choice as well as the experience of the affair.

His emotional needs were not being met in our marriage of nearly 6 years (my 2nd,his 3rd) and he was competing for my attention. I have 3 teenage kids and he wanted me to put him first even though he wasn’t acting like a respectful parent to my kids. He built up resentments to my kids’ struggles and took their poor choices personally, thus stating he saw their struggles as burdens he didn’t ask for.

He avoids conflict. He is a controller of all information, deciding what i need to know and don’t as well what he considers to ne a lie or not. He is black & white except when it comes to his own behavior… then he gives himself a lot of slack. Noone else in the family gets this sort of relaxed approach. He has deceived me of truths for years so he is not hassled.
He is a people pleaser which is where his value is determined. So his whole career has been part of his survival of his abuse & unresolved conflict. His clients give him the praise & adoration that he so needs and fills a void in his heart. Some clients are over the top appreciative and adore him, much like a teacher’s pet. Thus creating loyalty to the wrong people, his clients over his family.

I basically married a 12-year old and didn’t realize the depths of his trauma and what that ultimately meant for our marriage & kids.

3 months ago

Hi Abe
I have cheated on my husband with one person for almost two years. I never thought I would have ever found myself in this position. I remembered my initial thought just before making the decision, was ‘why shouldn’t I, he does what he wants anyway’. My husband found out and was devastated by it. I too was hurt but I haven’t been able to truly sort my feeling.

He refuses for us to seek professional help. He doesn’t trust me and rightfully so but I haven’t been able to sort through my hurt or pain. I actually feel like I am spending most of my time making amends and it is making me a bit resentful. I feel like I need to escape his pain to breathe a bit. I am not sure how to cope with all this. I know I should be remorseful and prepare to make amends as the offending party. To deal with the affects of the affair, I compartmentalized my activities with him. I give him what he needs because he asks, whether I agree or not just to make him comfortable and off my back. I know I sound rough, but I don’t want to argue and fight with him at this stage, which happens every week and always for something he disapproves of..

As for the other party, the affair was off and on, honestly I am not even sure why the affair lasted so long as it did. I just had this burning desire for this other person to want me, love me, crave me., so I felt like I couldn’t tell him no, I did not want to tell him no. My husband is constantly asking for me to explain myself and I can’t. He is also asking for details and I honestly detest it, I know I should be open but how much is too much. Every time I answer his questions I feel it takes us back to day one.
I am stuck and numb.

Last edited 3 months ago by yanz
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