Giving Your Cheating Spouse a Second Chance

Cheating spouse
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One of the most difficult decisions you may have to make in your marriage is whether or not to give a cheating spouse a second chance. This decision is especially difficult when your spouse lied to you, manipulated you, made a fool out of you, or tried to cover up the affair.

But, what if your spouse is usually reliable and dependable? What if he/she regrets cheating and promises to be faithful? What if you're convinced that the two of you do love one another? Everyone has their line in the sand—the one thing that is a deal-breaker. Only you know what that line in the sand is for you.

Ask Yourself These Questions First

Infidelity doesn't always mean a marriage is over, especially if your spouse is truly remorseful. In fact, true remorse is a big indicator that there is hope for the marriage, especially if you have been married a long time and have children together. But, both of you have to realize that your relationship will never be the same. You can't just pretend like nothing ever happened. You both have a lot of hard work to do to make the marriage successful.

Before you give your spouse a second chance, it's important to really think about all that is involved in repairing your marriage like healing from the pain, rebuilding trust, learning to be intimate again, and improving communication. Here are some important questions to ask yourself.

  • Is this the first time your spouse cheated on you?
  • Does your spouse understand the hurt he/she caused?
  • Does your spouse recognize the cheating as a problem?
  • Has your spouse accepted responsibility for being unfaithful?
  • Regardless of the reasons for the infidelity, will your spouse accept that changes are needed in his/her behavior?
  • Has your spouse apologized?
  • Do you believe your spouse is remorseful and truly regrets being unfaithful?
  • Will your spouse attend both marital and individual counseling?
  • Have all ties with the affair partner been severed?
  • If the person is someone your spouse works with, have you discussed how your spouse can keep the relationship on a business-only basis?
  • Do you think you and your spouse can have a successful, joyful, long-lasting marriage?
  • Do you think you can ever trust your spouse again?
  • Do you think your marriage is worth saving?
  • Do you think your spouse's unfaithfulness will forever haunt your mind and heart?
  • Can you forgive your spouse or will you hold the infidelity over his/her head?
  • Are you considering retaliating or getting revenge?
  • Will your family and friends support efforts to reconcile or will they impede the process?
  • Are you both willing to work on your marriage and learn how to resolve the underlying issues?

Answering these questions honestly will help you decide if you should give your spouse a second chance. Look over your answers. Are they mostly positive? Or, are there areas that are cause for concern. You may want to discuss this list with a counselor or another neutral party that can help you evaluate your situation.

If you do decide to give your spouse a second chance, it might make sense to emphasize that this is a one-time opportunity. He or she needs to understand that there will be no more chances if the cheating happens again. It's also important to emphasize that your willingness to reconcile the marriage doesn't mean you condone the cheating behavior.

Meanwhile, cheating spouses must be willing to explain why they cheated. They also must apologetic, honest, and keep their promises. They also need to recognize that there will be questions about their commitment. Consequently, they may need to agree to set healthy boundaries around their future behaviors.

Although these boundaries are best discussed with a marriage counselor, sometimes cheating spouses agree to allow complete access to their phones, text messages, social media accounts, and emails. They also may agree to not have lunch or dinner alone with someone of the opposite sex.

For a long time, you may worry and wonder whether or not they will cheat again. So, these boundaries serve two purposes. They provide you with a sense of security while holding the cheating spouse accountable.

Consider These Red Flags

There are times in a marriage when you should reconsider giving your spouse a second chance. Of course, the choice is still yours, but giving a second chance when these red flags are present may mean that true reconciliation is unlikely. Think twice about giving a second chance when these factors are present.

  • Your spouse had an affair with an ex-partner.
  • The affair was full-fledged and long-term.
  • Your spouse shows no remorse or does not apologize.
  • The cheating occurred early in the relationship.
  • The cheating is serial or a pattern of behavior. 
  • Your spouse is abusive or controlling.

Although it can be tough to accept, not every marriage can be reconciled. There are times when the cheating spouse refuses to end an affair or has an established pattern of cheating. In these cases, drastic changes would need to occur before any reconciliation would be successful.

If these red flags are apparent in your situation, you should seek individual counseling before making any lasting decisions. Your first priority should be to take care of yourself and then evaluate your situation. There are a lot of emotions that come with being cheated on including everything from hurt and anger, to frustration, confusion, and even denial. Take your time processing what has happened to you. There's no rush to make a decision about your marriage until you feel strong enough to make the best one for you.

View the Cheating Realistically

Most people who have been cheated on take it personally. They may blame themselves or believe that if they were somehow different or better this would not have happened. But that is a far cry from the truth. Your self-worth is not tied to your spouse's views of you.

What's more, your spouse is solely responsible for the cheating. You did not cause it. While it is true that marriage counseling will require you to address your issues, your issues do not give your spouse a license to cheat. That is a choice the cheating spouse made alone and must accept responsibility for.

Consequently, it is vital that you pay close attention to how your cheating spouse responds to getting caught. Are they sorry they got caught? Or, are they sorry for the pain they caused you? There is a big difference.

Usually, an honest apology with no excuses or blaming is a good start. When cheating spouses start to point the finger at you or someone else as a reason for choosing to cheat, then this is a sign that they have not accepted full responsibility for their actions.

Also, be sure your spouse is truly remorseful before you agree to counseling and try to reconcile the marriage. When cheating spouses are unable to recognize the pain they have caused, they also will struggle to connect with you honestly and emotionally. Healing can only begin when you are able to see that your spouse truly understands the depth of your pain and that they caused it.

A Word From Verywell

No one can tell you what to do when your spouse has cheated. Only you will know what is the right choice for your situation. It's also a good idea to get input and counseling before moving forward, regardless of the direction you take. Talk to a counselor or a religious leader to help you make the choice that is right for you.

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