Is it Possible to Salvage a Relationship After a Partner’s Infidelity?

We get a lot of advice questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to advise a reader. Make your call on the letter below by leaving your advice in the comments section. 

Dear Em & Lo,

I’ve been dating someone for about a year now. Last week I caught him entertaining another woman at his house. We’ve talked since then and he’s admitted he wouldn’t have told me had I not caught him and that he’s been unsuccessful in having “normal” relationships. He’s come clean about the situation and says he wants an opportunity for his actions and his words to sync.

He’s hinted at childhood trauma, but admits he’s never dealt with it in a healthy way. There’s a significant age difference between us and this is my first real “adult” relationship. I’ve always been taught that infidelity is a dealbreaker and to walk away no questions asked. It’s been much harder than I imagined. When he came clean I didn’t feel as much anger as I expected, only sadness and disappointment. How do I move forward? Am I naive for believing that there could be something worth salvaging?

— Stuck on Him

Can/should she salvage this relationship? If so, how?
Leave your advice in the comments section below


  1. You should break up with this guy.

    1. He is dishonest. He entered this relationship with the intention of cheating. He never would have admitted it. Lies and deceit are part of this guy’s reality. This is how he operates.

    2. Maybe he was traumatized as a child, maybe he wasn’t. Either way, he’s busting that out now that he’s been caught doing something bad to cast himself as the victim instead of the perpetrator. Don’t buy that shit for a second.

    3. He’s sorta coming clean now so that if you make the mistake of choosing to stay with him, he can operate with impunity under the “fair warning” clause. You’ve been warned: he’s a liar and a cheater and he messes up relationships. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice… the next one is on YOU.

    … as for the issue of whether infidelity is a relationship-ender, that’s for every person to decide for themselves. But you should have this conversation with yourself, not with him.

  2. Normally, I would say that it depends. I have heard of relationships where, after an episode of infidelity, the relationship becomes & stays healthy and each partner grows and learns from it.

    Unfortunately, you mention multiple “red flags” (in my opinion) – he has a history of unsuccessful relationships in the past, he hasn’t dealt with his childhood trauma in a healthy way, that this is your first adult relationship, and that there’s a significant age difference. Admittedly, the last one may or may not be an issue, but if he is significantly older than you then I would be more concerned that he may be using his own experience as a way to leverage the situation. Maybe not.

    What would I do? I haven’t been in that kind of situation. What would I tell my family or best friend if they were in your shoes? I’d probably recommend ending it, possibly talking things over with a therapist (or at least some trusted friends/family), and move on. If your partner still did the work that they needed to do and turned over a new leaf, then in the future they can certainly ask you out again.

    My gut feeling is to tell you that staying will probably lead to a lot more suffering.

    At a minimum, please do not have children with this person until and unless you are certain that this kind of behavior is gone, that they have dealt with their stuff openly and thoroughly, and that enough time has passed that they have a track record of being true to their word. How do you do that? I don’t know.

  3. Treating infidelity as a dealbreaker, or not, is up to you. It’s not something you should be taught (either way). For some it is devastating, for others not so much. You need to process it, communicate about it, and decide what works for you. The worst thing is to sweep it under the rug and pretend like it never happened.

Comments are closed.