Betrayal: Ending or New Beginning?

betrayal, ID-100112052, marin via freedigitalphotosdotnet

What happens next in a relationship where one partner has cheated on the other? The short answer is, it depends. It depends on who cheated with whom, if the cheater thinks he or she is in love with their paramour, how long it has been going on, and most importantly why it happened.

When we first discover the ‘hidden’ messages on Facebook, or find charges for sexy lingerie or fine dining on the credit card bill, emotions run high. How could someone we love have done this to us? We are alternatively devastated and enraged, and rightly so.

Sometimes we become obsessed with who it is and where they go. For a while, we can divert ourselves by playing private investigator, or even hiring one. But all that information won’t answer the question of ‘why’ it happened. The answer to that question might ultimately help us decide whether to stay or to go.

Some couples recover from betrayal and some do not. To decide where you want this relationship to be a year from now, or if you want it at all, hold on to these three operating principles.

1) Do not make your decision until you are ready to make it for yourself with all of its consequences. Think of it this way. This will, or can be, a learning and maturing experience for you alone.

2) Get some help but preferably from a marriage counselor rather than friends and family. The more people you tell, the more opinions you will receive. Those who love you may tell you to leave, but it should be your choice, not theirs. Confide in your wisest friends rather than the most emotional ones.

3) If you decide to stay, make new ground rules. Insist that your partner stop seeing, communicating with, or even being around “the other.” Speak honestly and fully about the ‘other’ and the ‘whys,’ preferably with a marriage counselor. Though all of it is betrayal, many things are in your ‘need to know’ column. You have a right to know how often this happened, if this is the only person you were betrayed with, what promises have been made to ‘the other,’ and the circumstances of the cheating, ranging from drunken carelessness to deliberate and meaningful commitments.

If the answer to WHY is because you BOTH had grown apart but are willing to try to reconcile, then maybe the relationship can last. If the answer is that one of you is a sex addict or serial cheater, you know in your heart it will not last, but you alone can choose when it will end.

Nora Ephron once wrote that you cannot take the temperature of a relationship every day. That is especially true when you are knocked out or down by betrayal. Let your heart grieve, but breathe a little before jumping to a conclusion about what has to happen next.

Image courtesy of marin /


About Gemma Allen

Gemma Allen is a partner in Ladden & Allen, Chartered, and has practiced family law for most of her career. Ms. Allen has written more than 50 articles and lectured on topics that include divorce, child support, maintenance, mediation, cohabitation, women and money, and reconciliation. She co-authored The New Love Deal: Everything You Must Know Before Marrying, Moving In, or Moving On! and helps you navigate modern relationships in “Relationship Gems.”