When Should Cheating Be the End of a Relationship?

Carolyn Light

Does cheating automatically mean the relationship is over?

Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

A client of mine recently spent our session discussing his wife.

They've been married for six years, and share two children. He had believed that both he and his wife were happy in their relationship, but he confided in me that she had recently attended a work conference out of state. After one of the sessions, she and her colleagues went out for drinks, and at the end of the night, she shared a bed with one of her colleagues.

It was only one time, my client told me. She said it was a huge mistake, and it will never happen again. I'd like to believe her. I know things like this can happen--but I'm not sure I'll be able to ever get that trust back. At least it wasn't a full-blown affair.

Affairs vs. One-night Stands: Does it matter?

Is cheating, cheating? Does it matter if your partner had a one-night stand versus a full-blown affair? And what if the affair itself wasn't sexual in nature, but rather, emotional? Many believe that the definition of cheating is up to those in the relationship -- but if we were to define "infidelity" as one having extracurricular sexual relations outside the scope of one's relationship, the statistics would tell us this: infidelity is strikingly common.

"Infidelity remains the number one reason that married and unmarried relationships end all across the world," writes Paul Brian in Infidelity Statistics: How Much Cheating is Going on?

What are the numbers? Why do people cheat?

The Journal of Marriage and Divorce estimated that 70% of married Americans cheat at least once throughout their marriage.

According to LA Intelligence Detective Agency, the numbers are as follows:

  • 30 to 60% of married couples will have at least one cheating incident in the marriage
  • 74% of men; 68% of women state they'd cheat if it could be guaranteed they'd not be caught
  • 60% of affairs begin with colleagues or close friends
  • 69% of marriages end if an affair is discovered

As far as why people cheat on their partners, well, the reasons are hard to pin down, but according to a poll on the website Truth About Deception, the participants cite the following reasons:


  • The other person was hot
  • People were hitting on me
  • I was having doubts about my relationship
  • My partner and I weren't having sex
  • My partner stopped paying attention to me


  • My partner stopped paying attention to me
  • The other person was there for me
  • I was having doubts about my relationship
  • The other person was hot
  • I was bored

So, what should we do if we are cheated on?

Of course, it's up to the individual what to do if they find out that their partner cheated on them. Justin Lehmiller, a psychologist, notes that only 1 in 5 relationships break up as a direct result of the affair, but that approximately half of all relationships break up after the discovery of an affair, as cheating is often a symptom of a larger relationship problem.

Some argue that "once a person is a cheater, they will always be a cheater." These individuals often believe that once the trust is broken, it can't be regained -- thus making a continuation of the relationship untenable.

Others believe that cheating is a mistake that can be rectified. Lucy Beresford, a relationship expert said in her TEDTalk that "people should do their best to reconcile their relationships and take the new injury and distrust and work with it to find some new common ground and reestablish the basics of trust and intimacy."

What do you think?

Would you break up with your partner if they cheated on you? Does it matter if their infidelity was a full-blown affair, or a one-night stand?

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Comments / 3

Published by

We're all just out here, doing our best. Pondering: Mental Health | Feminism | Relationships & Dating | Social Climate

Chicago, IL

More from Carolyn Light

Comments / 0