‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’: Research Highlights Question After Infidelity

  • One study details the decision of staying and forgiving or leaving for couples, where one has been unfaithful.
  • One study highlights the differences between men and women, in terms of the decision of staying and forgiving or leaving for couples, where one has been unfaithful.
  • Infidelity does not directly affect divorce, but there are ways of utilizing its occurrence in the process.

"You still have to confront the emotional consequences of actions that were not your own."

Infidelity hurts. There’s no way to make it hurt less. You have committed yourself to one person, promising to love, honor, and cherish that person for the rest of your life, and they have strayed in a way that is difficult for you to wrap your head around.

Whether it is an affair or a momentary indiscretion, it does not hurt any less. You still have to find out. You still have to confront the emotional consequences of actions that were not your own. You still have to decide what you are going to do about your marriage, about your future, and about your emotional health.

Sorting through this situation is something personal and requires you to assess your own life from every angle. Although many have faced this situation, you cannot rely on the experiences of others to guide your personal decision of whether or not to attempt to fix your marriage, if that is even an option being discussed.

Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology study

For those looking at the decision-process of others, there are academic studies dedicated to examining the decision-making process of those going through this situation. A study from the University of Nevada, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, examined the roles of attribution and forgiveness after a partner’s infidelity by integrating concepts from social network approval and attribution information selection. They examined how noninvolved partners in dating relationships decided to stay in or leave the relationship entirely.

They looked at the approval from a social media standpoint, because of how influential society and their potential reactions can be to decisions that are made. In this study, they found that perceived social network approval, attribution information selection, attribution itself, and forgiveness serially impacted the noninvolved partners’ relationship decisions following infidelity.

This study, while monitoring those outside of the context of marriage, displays the relevant role that societal perceptions play in the decision to stay or go. People are influenced by the decisions of others in a variety of ways, and even in something as big as staying with an unfaithful partner, they can still succumb to outside perspective.

Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.

Cognition and Emotion study

A study published in the journal, Cognition and Emotion, examined the differences between men and women in response to infidelity. They wanted to know how men and women would decide between staying with an unfaithful partner or divorcing them, ending the relationship. Participants faced the question of how difficult it would be to forgive a partner and how likely they would break up with them, depending on the nature of the infidelity.

They found that men find it more difficult to forgive a sexual infidelity than an emotional infidelity and are more likely to end a relationship, following a partner’s sexual infidelity than an emotional fidelity.

This is not a condemnation on men. The decision to leave a marriage or any type of relationship after a spouse cheats on you is yours and yours alone, regardless of your gender. You are tasked with sorting through your own feelings, and you should trust that your decision, no matter what it may be, is in your best interests.

In addition to that, you are tasked with processing whatever occurred. These are not your actions. You were faithful to your spouse, and regardless of your gender, blame should not be placed on you, in the event that you wish to pursue a divorce.

Divorce and infidelity

You need to understand what your rights are, should you decide to pursue this. Many go into the divorce process and think that a spouse’s infidelity means that they are going to do better in the divorce than they previously anticipated, and that is not the case.

Adultery can play a factor indirectly in the divorce process, but it is only if certain aspects of an adulterous relationship are proven in court.

Property division is typically handled with the presumption of a 50/50 split of marital assets, but if marital waste is proven, and it was shown that the cheating spouse spent marital assets on the person that they cheated on their spouse with or that they intentionally squandered the assets, the court may consider dissipation and deviate from the presumptive equal division.

In addition, custody and parenting time may be affected if the court begins to reconsider the cheating parent’s judgement, as it relates to when and if they introduce their children to their new significant other.

If they move in with one another, it can adversely affect the judge’s decision on what living arrangement is in the best interests of the child.

The decision to pursue a divorce after discovering that a spouse has been unfaithful can be an issue of trust. After all of the emotional damage that your spouse has done with their actions, you need to be able to trust your own decision-making and make certain that you are doing what is in the best interests of you and your future, as well as the futures of your children if you have them.

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