There’s an odd myth that when both partners cheat in a relationship, that the cheating is somehow cancelled out. If both people deceive each other then they’re even right? No, of course that’s wrong. In a healthy relationship, there is no cheating. So when both partners admit to cheating on each other, there are serious issues.
“Cheating is a symptom that either both partners aren’t really committed to the relationship, or there is something missing in the relationship,” explains Alonzo and Rebecca Cahoon, relationship experts and certified coaches. “If both partners are cheating, chances are pretty good that both partners weren’t really committed to the relationship in the first place. Either way, the solution is the same. After learning that one or both have cheated, the next thing to decide is whether or not you want to salvage the relationship.”
Whether you both want to stay together, depends a lot on how motivated and committed you are to fixing the relationship. If you aren’t on the same page here, it’s never going to work out, and separating is probably best. “Couples can decide to address the deeper root issue that lead to them both straying, by seeking couples counseling,” says licensed therapist, Kim Egel.
This means both partners have to lay everything out on the table. This is not the time to hold anything back. Work with a counselor to determine what you both needed, where and when things went wrong, what was and is missing, and more. It’s important to figure out what went wrong, but it’s equally important to figure out why you want to stay together.
“Part of being the best human you can be, is figuring out what drives you,” says Dr. Miro Gudelsky, a sex therapist and relationship counselor. “What were you missing from your relationship that you needed to find in someone and some place else?”
It’s important to take stock of what’s going on both externally and internally. It could be something as simple as you needing outside validation, or it could be something more intrinsically wrong with the partnership. “Once you identify what’s missing, make whatever changes are necessary so that both partners are happy and satisfied in the relationship,” explain the Cahoons. “For example, if your boyfriend or girlfriend cheated because you spend too much time at work and they weren’t feeling important to you, then you need to make sure that you give them the level of attention that they’re looking for.”
A couple will also need to spend a lot of time rebuilding trust. This takes patience, communication, and complete transparency from both sides. Checking in with each other, saying what’s on your mind and how you feel, not holding anything back, and reaffirming your commitment to each other every day is imperative.
Another option for a couple who wants to stay together—whether it’s for financial reasons or kids are involved—is to agree to have an open relationship, where each partner is free to date whoever they want. However, boundaries must be made. For example, neither partner is allowed to bring a date to the home they share, you alternate nights where one goes out and the other is at home with the kid(s), etc.
“It’s absolutely possible that relationships can emerge stronger after cheating. That is, if both parties are willing to examine what is truly going on,” says Gudelseky.