What Percentage of marriages survive infidelity? (and what to do about it)

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by Chris Torrone

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09.21.2022

Despite the growth of new technologies and social norms, married couples today face the same concerns and struggles that couples have faced for centuries. A committed relationship takes a great deal of work, self-sacrifice, personal growth, vulnerability, open communication, dedication, and unconditional love. 

Even with some of these attributes at least partially at work, divorce rates remain high. One of the most devastating conflicts is the extramarital affair. This can include sexual affairs, emotional affairs, short-term or long-term affairs (long-term infidelity), serial infidelity (repeated marital infidelity), and other such behavior by an unfaithful partner. When cheating is at play, divorce statistics rise even higher. Surviving long-term infidelity, single instances, or repeated occurrences with multiple partners, is a very involved, uphill journey. 

Still, there is hope for those who truly want to heal, grow, and build trust and intimacy again. Individual therapy and couples therapy can often get to the root of emotional abuse, the motivations driving the actions of a cheating partner, the disappointments and frustrations of a sexless marriage, various childhood traumas, and a range of other things affecting individuals and couples dealing with the aftermath of cheating or what seems like a broken marriage.

Whether you’re struggling with these concerns in your current relationship, trying to heal from the pain spurred on by an unfaithful spouse or an unmarried but unfaithful partner, or trying desperately to make your marriage work, this post will explore common statistics surrounding the impact of infidelity and marriage survival rates, and give you some tools you can use to move toward a stronger marriage and healthier relationship. 

indivvidual discovering a partner committing infidelity

Some Vital Stats

Depending on the report (numbers vary), a staggering 40% t0 45% of American marriages are hit by infidelity. Coincidentally, 40% of couples walking through the effects of cheating are now separated or divorced. Compare this with the numbers around those who have never struggled with unfaithfulness. Only 17% of American adults who have never struggled with infidelity are divorced. This is a powerful example of how far-reaching their impact is and how deep the emotional and relational effects of cheating run. 

For cheating spouses, men are more likely to stay married than women who have been unfaithful, with 61% of men remaining married to their spouse and only 44% of women. Are women more forgiving? Are men hurt more by an unfaithful partner? Great questions, and worth discussing at a later time. It’s certainly worth thinking about, though. 

The Power of Honesty

Some of the most promising statistics are perhaps those surrounding the impact of honesty and revelation within these circumstances. The highest divorce rate, at a whopping 80%, is linked to those marriages where one or both partners have a secret affair that they never own up to. On the flip-side, only 43% of these marriages, roughly half of the above figure, end in divorce when the unfaithful partner comes forward with their indiscretion.

This is quite a testament to the power of honesty, openness, and vulnerability within marriage and all long-term relationships. When we shine a light on hidden hurts and mistakes, we allow the seeds of healing to begin growing. Honesty engenders the rebuilding of trust and gives your counselor much more to work with and an easier time getting to the heart of the matter. 

Honesty may not save every marriage, but when we look at the stats above, my goodness, does it help significantly! There is ultimately no growth without it. And even if you end up divorcing, with greater honesty, you are more likely to remain on respectful and friendly terms, which is healthier for the two of you and much better for your children. 

What to Do if You’re Dealing with Infidelity

The first thing to do is to remain as calm as possible. Emotions run high, sometimes off the scales, when couples are trying to navigate the torrential waters of infidelity. It’s normal to feel angry, saddened, betrayed, and wronged if you’re on the receiving end of things, or defensive, evasive and aggressive, if you were the one instigating the situation. Severe reactions can lead to arguments and fights that can damage the relationship even further. 

Clear communication is key, and honesty is certainly important. But it’s a good time to get help from a counselor and from trusted friends and mentors. Use this time to express the truths of your emotions and your hopes and worries without constantly giving into blaming or hiding. Therapists and mediators are equipped to navigate these complex situations with skill, nuance, and considerable experience. 

Is it Really Possible to Move Forward in My Relationship After an Affair

For men and women everywhere, the idea that their marriage might outlast an affair seems crazy. Infidelity is one of the most intense and difficult things to deal with, and many couples who experience cheating don’t make it through. Divorce and separation are common and without a strong dedication to understanding and personal change,by both individuals, the likelihood of moving forward together in a healthy way is slim. 

However, studies show that couples who make a genuine commitment to honesty, toward the slow process of rebuilding trust, toward forgiveness, and those willing to solicit ongoing professional help, have a much higher chance of forging a satisfying marriage. In some cases, couples have stated that over time, they experience even greater levels of satisfaction and happiness because of their new commitment to building intimacy and understanding. 

man arriving home after infidelity

If You Don’t Change, Neither Will Your Marriage

This may seem like an obvious one, but too many of us simply keep on behaving the same way we always have, keep on making the same choices while expecting better results. Things don’t get better simply because we want them to or hope they will. Marriages, just like the rest of life, only grow when we water them with the right words and actions, when we apply better, healthier, more affirming decisions and behaviors to our daily interactions and long-term plans. 

The quality of our relationships change when we change ourselves. As we’ve mentioned above, couples counseling is the right move. Consider doing regular meetings with a qualified professional, not only spending time together with a couples counselor, but alone for one-on-one sessions as well. 

It’s also a good time to read some great relationship/marriage books together with your spouse. Ask your therapist or those in successful marriages what books have helped them in their own relationship. You can also check out some quality relationship blogs and articles written by those who have survived and thrived following infidelity. 

Surround yourself with friends and family who want to support you. Talk about your situation with those who are mature, level-headed, those who display wisdom, and have your best interests in mind, not just their own agenda. 

Everyone likes to give advice. Much of this advice isn’t so good. Spend time with those who truly want a better life for you, those ready to support your decisions while still holding you accountable to your actions and promises. Avoid individuals who gossip frequently, show little discretion, or those who behave melodramatically about everything. Friends and family who keep a cool head and simply want the best for you are some of the greatest gifts you can have in this life. 

Remember, if you were the offender and you want to heal and move forward, the only way to begin this process is to come clean about your mistakes. Only then can you begin the process of mending the relationship. 

Trust Takes Time

Rebuilding trust isn’t a quick and easy process. For those suffering the consequences of being cheated on, it can take a long time to begin trusting again. Trust is earned and the consistency of our actions and attitude will determine how much and how well people trust us. 

If you are the offending party, don’t try to rush your partner into trusting you again. This never works. You don’t want them to repress their anger or disappointment just to smooth things over temporarily. This will only create greater conflict down the road. Be patient. With time and honesty, they will slowly begin to trust again. 

As one on the receiving end, try to avoid verbally railing against your partner about their mistake. If they have been honest and remorseful, they are already very aware of their wrongdoing. If you spend every day reminding them and holding it over them, they will probably give up and leave at some point. If you want the relationship to work, forgiveness must happen eventually. Only then will you be able to trust again. 

What if I Want to Move on from the Relationship?

It’s true, there are times when ending the marriage may be the right decision. If you’ve cheated and have no desire to come clean or repair the damage, if you’ve been cheated on and your spouse shows no remorse or desire to change, or if you’re also dealing with dangers from your spouse like domestic violence, emotional abuse, or ongoing addiction, it may be a good idea to seek divorce. 

This isn’t something to jump into. Consider your options. Discuss your situation with a trusted divorce lawyer, a good counselor, and loved ones you trust. But don’t stay in a dangerous or abusive situation. Seek the help you need right away. Divorce is difficult, but getting out of an unhealthy and damaging relationship will allow you to heal and build a much better life for yourself and your children. 

man suffering from the effects of infidelity

In Closing

Infidelity is one of the most difficult and damaging things to happen in a marriage. There are no easy answers when dealing with its aftermath. It often leads to divorce, especially when choices or behaviors don’t change or when one party wants out. 

However, countless couples not only survive infidelity but build an even stronger marriage because of the change it sometimes inspires. Whether you choose to separate or stay together, with the help of a good counselor, a trusted attorney, and supportive friends and family, you can continue to live a full, satisfying life.

Torrone Law helps individuals and families find resolution and peace of mind throughout divorce, custody, and adoption. Connect with us today to get the support and assurance you deserve. 

To learn more about the effects of infidelity, check out our frequently asked questions and answers below. 

FAQ

How often does cheating take place in marriages? 

While the numbers vary depending on the scope and type of survey, it appears that close to half, or 45% of individuals in monogamous relationships admit to having an affair. Close to 25% of marriages stay together after an instance of cheating. And more men than women stay married when they are the cheating partner (61% vs 44%).

If I want to continue my marriage, is it better to admit my affair or keep it secret?

It is always better to be honest and come clean. Statistically, this holds up as well. For those who cheat and don’t open up about their mistakes, the divorce rate is a staggering 80%. For those who do admit their mistakes, that figure drops nearly in half, with divorce rates hitting around 43%. 

Honesty builds stronger relationships, engenders trust, and allows for healing. 

What steps should we take to grow and move beyond the affair?

Start by getting regular counseling, both together as a couple and as individuals. Read some good marriage books together. Check out some quality relationship blogs and articles, and surround yourself with level-headed and supportive friends and family. 

If divorce becomes inevitable, partner with an experienced divorce attorney and a mediator. 

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