What would you do if you found out your partner had been unfaithful?

My last post about infidelity sparked some really interesting discussion, and has got me thinking about just what fidelity means, and how important it actually is in a relationship.

So, given I always get such thoughtful interesting responses, I wanted to ask some more questions about what loyalty in a relationship means to you.

Firstly of course we have the issue of what is cheating? I think we have established that the majority of men (all my readers excepted obviously), would probably cheat if they had the chance and knew they could get away with it, but what exactly do you define as cheating? Is it a kiss? Is it sex? Or do men take the Bill Clinton approach to just how much bad behaviour you can defend… ‘I did not have intercourse with that woman…’

I’m sure it varies hugely from person to person and from men to women. For women, sex normally implies some kind of romantic involvement, and it’s hard for many women to imagine their partner sleeping with someone else without there being strong feelings involved. In a way, it’s the thought of the emotional attachment that hurts more than the act.

Imagine two separate scenarios – in one your husband comes to you and tells you he had a drunken one night stand with a colleague. It happened once, he says it meant nothing. In another he admits to you that for several months he has been having strong feelings for a colleague – he thinks about her a lot, but he has firmly resisted any physical relationship.

Which hurts most?

The second issue then, is how much you would be prepared to forgive. If men are just not built for monogamous long-term relationships, should we be facing up to this fact and setting our expectations and boundaries accordingly? Or should we be strict and demand that he resist his ‘natural urges’, no matter what, and become a one woman man?

And what about us women? If we are supposedly better designed to remain faithful, is it somehow more hurtful and shocking for a man to find out his wife has been cheating on him?

Some people have very strong, clear ideas about exactly what behaviour they will and will not tolerate, but affairs of the heart are rarely this simple. We are human, we make mistakes, surely the important thing is how we each handle these mistakes? If you found out your partner had cheated on you, would they be out on their ear, or would you be prepared to forgive and forget?




  1. 29 July, 2010 / 4:16 pm

    I think cheating would include kissing.

    It seems that the stigma of cheating has been greatly removed, as it is as if it is almost expected.

    This is sad. I don’t have any first hand experience in cheating or being cheated on, but I would simply move on, were I the victim.

    • 30 July, 2010 / 11:21 am

      Hmm… I don’t know whether it is sad, or just realistic. I’m not saying it’s ok, I’m just not sure where we get the idea that it’s not ok – is it what we really feel, or just what we are told to feel?

  2. 29 July, 2010 / 4:30 pm

    Definitely an interesting topic. I would forgive a drunken one night stand, assuming he was genuinely sorry about it. We’d also need to have some proper talks about why it happened and how we could stop it in the future. Could it be that our sex life has become routine? Or something a bit less obvious, like that he’s stressed at work and found an outlet in a fling?

    I think particularly as a husband or wife – having promised to be there in all circumstances, good and bad – you’ve got to at least try and see if there’s a way to fix things. It’s the responsibility of both halves of the couple. It may not work out – my marriage didn’t – but I’ll never look back and think ‘what if I had just tried a little harder’. I did all I could. (For the record, my marriage didn’t break down because of infidelity, but the point about trying applies to any issue you might face).

    PS I don’t think all men would inherently cheat, or for that matter that all women would cheat. I think we’re all tempted, male and female, but a good majority of us couldn’t live with ourselves if we did, even if we weren’t found out.

    • 30 July, 2010 / 11:23 am

      Your PS raises an interesting point – even if you knew you would get away with it and never be found out, that wouldn’t stop you feeling bad about it would it? I think often people secretly WANT the other person to find out – it is tougher living the lie sometimes.

  3. 29 July, 2010 / 4:36 pm

    This really is such an interesting topic. Cheating has become so socially acceptable it’s nearly *expected* as Brian points out. Sad to say if we’re including relationship and not just marriage, I’ve been on both sides of the cheating equation at different points in my life. I agree that kissing is cheating, if those boundaries have been mutually defined and accepted/aggreed upon by both partners…
    I also have had many situations which caused me to ponder between the physical fling cheating and the affair of the heart cheating. Although both are a breach of a fidelity commitment, I personally feel that affairs of the heart are worse in terms of the hurt they cause and the long term damage to a relationship. Physical infidelity is hurtful for sure, but to know that someone is actually sharing their heart, with all the deep feelings that go along with that…that just is irreparable to the foundation of a relationship. Anyone can (as in is technically “able”) to share their body with any other person. However, sharing your heart with another is a significantly deeper experience and doesn’t/can’t happen with just any two people randomly.
    …just my thoughts….great post!!

    • 30 July, 2010 / 11:24 am

      It’s a tricky one isn’t it – the physical bit is the bit you can supposedly control, so it seems worse when someone sleeps with someone else, as you feel they should have been able to control themselves. But emotional affairs? How can you stop yourself thinking about someone or falling in love?? I don’t know…

  4. 29 July, 2010 / 4:39 pm

    I think it’s hard to say unless you find yourself in that situation. I can actually understand in certain situations, people do cheat sometimes, marriages go stale, people get bored, or they fall out of love. I don’t we’re really destined for long-term monogamy. Years ago, average life expectancy was around 40, now it’s over 80. It’s a LONG time!

    I have been cheated on in the past (hence my cynicism relating to your previous post). Before it happened I thought if someone did cheat on me, there’s no way I’d take them back, but I did actually take him back for a short while. I didn’t even fancy the guy. It was for purely selfish reasons as I didn’t want to give up the lifestyle/friends I had. It did hurt, but it was more wounded pride than anything else. Funnily enough he is now married to the same girl he cheated on me with (who was also a friend).

    If it happened now, and I hope it never will, I honestly don’t know what I’d do. I’d like to think I’d kick my OH out, but once you’re married, have a daughter etc, who knows.

    • 30 July, 2010 / 11:25 am

      Families and children make it much more complicated don’t they? Suddenly it’s about so much more than just you and a partner, you have so many other factors to consider – children, homes, finances – we become so entwined with people, it’s a lot to give up.

  5. 29 July, 2010 / 4:57 pm

    I would listen to reasons why he did it. Even if things were not right between us do nto think it justifies cheating. After all you should be able to talk through problems first. However I know friends who have booted out their husbands and then taken them back and they are always looking over their shoulder. I would not want to be doing that.

    • 30 July, 2010 / 11:27 am

      That would be the bit I’d struggle with I think – if you’d been cheated on once and then found out you’d always be wondering wouldn’t you? Unless maybe your partner told you rather than you finding out – that might make it slightly easier to regain the trust.

  6. 29 July, 2010 / 6:37 pm

    I’m not sure I’d be able to trust my wife again if she strayed. It would taint the relationship forever. Maybe it would strengthen it, make it better, who knows? Maybe it would be the death knell for it. It would be very hard to predict. Some can work it out, some can’t.

    This makes me sound as if I have my arse cheeks firmly clenched around the fence, but as I have no experience of infidelity then that’s all I can offer!

    In terms of what I would constitute as infidelity then to me it is intimacy, the kind of intimacy that only a girlfriend / boyfriend or husband / wife share. Be it emotional or physical – it’s normally a bit of both, I think.

    I know someone who tried ‘open relationships’ a few times and they all ended acrimoniously – mainly because of an ‘outside’ relationship getting too serious. Ironically, it was the search for shared understanding, intimacy and a ‘soul mate’ that ultimately destroyed the open relationships…

    • 30 July, 2010 / 11:29 am

      It’s so hard to define the boundaries isn’t it? I think about how close I am to some of my female friends – we share secrets, details about our relationships, beds for sleepovers etc – all this is part of a friendship. But if I did all this with a man?? Would it somehow be more intimate? The subject of another post I reckon!!

  7. mumof2
    29 July, 2010 / 7:25 pm

    My partner who dosn’t believe in marriage (not sure why), would not give me a second chance. He’s already made it clear I would be out on my ear immediately. I think that would be if I had sex with someone else, not sure if it counts for a kiss… but it doesn’t matter really as I wouldn’t do either! I’m not sure what I would do if he cheated on me. It would be easy to say I’d throw him out, but along with that would go the dad of my kids, the life we had built and I don’t know whether I’d throw it all away. We’d need to do some serious talking (assuming he wanted to stay!), but I’d have to feel I could trust him again otherwise we’d drive each crazy with me checking on him all the time!

    • 30 July, 2010 / 11:31 am

      That’s interesting that he doesn’t believe in marriage, yet has such strong opinions on commitment and fidelity. I wonder if he actually WOULD chuck you out. Don’t test it though!

  8. Sally Guyer
    29 July, 2010 / 7:58 pm

    Would I forgive my partner, husband or not, having sex or sexual contact with another? No.
    I know this from experience that I would not, could not even when I wanted to.

    The damage infidelity does goes so deep. The fear of it happening again never quite leaves you.

    If he wanted to end the relationship in order to take up with another; that would be hard but decent. Shouldn’t get involved in the first place if he’s not prepared to be 100% faithful.

    Personally, I’m not prepared to settle for anything less.
    Without 100% fidelity, it’s impossible for me to trust.
    Without trust, there’s no intimacy.
    Without intimacy – what’s the point?

    • 30 July, 2010 / 11:32 am

      It must be so hard, if not impossible, to forget, even if you can forgive. I would hate to become that woman who is always wondering, always checking, always worrying – it must be so destructive.

  9. Lauren
    29 July, 2010 / 8:37 pm

    This is such a horrible subject. Hmm. Well, I think the second scenario, where no physical cheating took place, is probably easiest to forgive – but the hardest to forget. But at the same time, he thought enough of you to not act on his feelings.

    The first scenario? Well, it depends. It depends if you really subscribe to the theory a guy has a second brain in his dick and he LITERALLY CANNOT CONTROL IT. I personally have a few difficulties with swallowing (excuse the pun) this concept.

    But I agree – you would have to talk through both situations. If a man was prepared to talk, to open up, to explain why it had happened (and that explanation made sense), then maybe a second chance would be okay. A third chance should never be allowed though. Never.

    • 30 July, 2010 / 11:33 am

      I will write something jolly next time I promise!

      I totally agree about once being a mistake, twice being asking for trouble. Twice is a pattern isn’t it? A behaviour – twice prbably means three, four, five….

  10. 29 July, 2010 / 9:18 pm

    Hmmmm. It is the talking about it bit that troubles me, knowing as I do that my husband would find it much harder to talk than I would and I would therefore end up dissatisfied with his response. Even if the infidelity did not damage the relationship irrepairably then lack of communication might..

    • 30 July, 2010 / 11:34 am

      That’s true – it’s all very well saying you’d need to talk about it, but not everyone is very good at that are they? I’m pretty rubbish myself. I’d have to write a blog post about it and then get my partner to read it :-)

  11. 29 July, 2010 / 10:07 pm

    This is a strong post and poses lots of questions.

    I have been cheated on in the past, never cheated myself but have had it done to me a couple of times. Firstly when I was 18 and thought that I was madly in love with the bloke, I wasn’t. He slept with another girl, I was gutted he left me to be with the other girl, however two weeks later he was back. I took him back as well, all forgiving. However after being back together for a while, he told me that he loved me. I remember it vividly, and I turned round and said that I didn’t love him, I just instantly knew that I couldn’t get over it. I walked out that night, within a week he was living with the other girl!

    I always vowed I would never let anyone get away with it again.

    However I met Mr L now this may shock you all, we had only been together for two weeks and he snogged someone else in a nightclub that we used to go to. He phoned me the minute he got home, very upset fessing up to what he did. I let it go, I don’t know why, I think we had only been together for a couple of weeks, and I just thought it’s a snog. We are not serious we had only had two dates so I really wasn’t that bothered, in a way I was also impressed that a) he told me and b) that he was so upset by it. I think I figured that he would never be able to cheat and get away with it!

    Now though 6 years later, a child, and living together I would kill him. I really would, if he cheated on me know be it just a kiss he would be out. He knows it as well, there would be no other chance for him that would be it and I would make his life hell.

    I think a lot of factors have to be taken into account when you talk about your partner being unfaithful you know I forgave him after a couple of dates, now it would not be the same and he could do the same thing. Because we are in a different place, you know I didn’t know I loved him, and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him then, now I do!

    Very interesting this though great to hear other opinions on it xx

  12. 29 July, 2010 / 10:47 pm

    I’m very much a “head cheating is the worst kind of cheating” person. I could handle physical cheating, it’s just sex, or a kiss or *puts on Jeremy Kyle voice* “anything between a kiss and intercourse”, but the idea that my husband/boyfriend/partner was having an entirely non sexual relationship with someone would be it for me. That is the ultimate betrayal in my eyes. Sex you can have with anyone, the non sexual connection is the part that is sacred.

  13. Anon
    29 July, 2010 / 11:14 pm

    I cheated on my now husband 12 years ago. It was a one-night stand. He left me and moved in with someone else (I’m resisting the urge to call her a nasty name here) in 2004 for eight months.

    Which one is worse? In my eyes, it’s what he did, for him the lies are worse as I kept it a secret for many years and he swears he didn’t sleep with her until he confessed his feelings to me and left.

    I took him back when he turned up at my door and told me at great length what a terrible mistake he had made. It was a long road.

    Some five years later, just before Christmas, the cow turned up again. After messaging each other on facebook they met up before Christmas. I found (ie went looking, I suspected something was going on) emails between them where they talked about driving me off a cliff. He says it was a joke. He swore nothing happened, but the “I love you babe” and “You’re more beautiful than ever” killed it for me.
    He now says that allowing that to happen(and there was no physical contact this time, or so he says)was a huge mistake and I am the only one. He says it has always been me.

    How on earth can I believe that, when we have inflicted such harm on each other?

    My point? Not such a black and white issue. And we are still together.

  14. 3 August, 2010 / 3:23 pm

    For me it’s the first issue. Sex happens because the person can’t control themselves and obviously doesn’t have strong enough feelings for their partner. If they have feelings for another woman (or man) but they able to resist those feelings, then there is always hope for the relationship to work.

    My opinion anyway. A very thorny issue if you ask me.

    CJ xx

  15. 15 October, 2018 / 11:18 pm

    Might be strong opinion and old fashioned but I don’t think I could carry on , I’d never cheat on anyone and not sure I’d be able to forgive someone who did it to me , if I’m dating someone it’s because I want them and no one else and would expect the same from them , if it doesn’t work you go your separate ways , but if it does work you’ve hopefully found your life partner (I still haven’t given up hope at 50). I did walk away from one relationship because I knew she wasn’t the one and I didn’t want to string her along , and I know from bitter experience how it feels to be cheated on and for me I felt I couldn’t trust them again

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.