What Percentage of Marriages Survive Infidelity?

You say your “I dos,” you excitedly build a life together, you have children, you buy a house, you go to work, and then the unimaginable happens. You find out that your spouse has cheated on you, or maybe you have cheated on your spouse.

The life you built comes crashing down. You feel shattered, broken, forgotten, or betrayed. Sometimes it even feels like there’s such a weight on your chest that you can’t breathe. You wonder, What is wrong with me?

Marriage is supposed to be forever. In front of God, your family, and your friends, that is what you promised. You ask yourself if you can get past this, if you can ever trust your spouse again or be trusted again. You wonder, Do I even want to? It all feels unbearably hard and overwhelming.


Who Cheats and Why?

old wedding picture black and whiteAccording to Regain, an online relationship therapy platform, “25% of men admit to cheating on their spouse at some point, while around 15% of women admit to the same.”

These statistics paint a sad picture. Studies done over the last decade report that infidelity affects roughly 20-25% of marriages. The reasons both men and women give for cheating are as varied and numerous as there are people on this Earth:

  • Inability to resist the temptation
  • An addiction to sex
  • Anger or frustration with spouse
  • Feeling unwanted or unvalued at home
  • Feeling lonely or searching for something they feel is missing at home
  • Major life changes
  • Stress

Though the reasons are important to understand if you decide to rebuild your marriage, there are two things that you must remember. Ultimately, cheating is a choice; it does not happen by accident. And it is never the fault of the person who was cheated on. So, while the spouse who was cheated on may spend time anguishing over what he or she could have done differently in the marriage, it’s important to realize that the responsibility for the infidelity lies in the cheating spouse.

What do you do if you find out your spouse has been cheating?

The Mayo Clinic suggests the following:

  • Take time to think about what happened
  • Give each other space
  • Seek support from friends
  • Take time to heal before making a decision to leave
  • Find a good marriage counselor to begin rebuilding trust


What Percentage of Marriages Survive Infidelity?

You may be surprised by the high percentage of couples who stay together upon discovering infidelity.

According to Divorce magazine concurs, 60-75% of couples who experience infidelity remained together. However, not all those couples remained because of love. Some remained out of fear of being alone, lack of anywhere else to go, financial issues, and so on.

But, as the Divorce article points out, when couples seek counseling, when they put in the hard work of repairing what has been damaged, and when they learn good communication skills, that’s when they have a better chance of staying together because they’re happier. According to Steven D. Solomon, PhD, and Lorie J. Teagno, PhD:

Those who commit to the hard work of dealing with the devastation of infidelity, and to being a partner who owns his or her weaknesses and mistakes, have an excellent chance of not only staying together but of coming out of the process with a strong, happy, and more fulfilling long term love relationship. A strong majority of couples in which both partners make such a commitment end up staying together because they’re happy together.

Other people make it, you think. It’s possible. But do I want to?

Though statistics may seem interest or encouraging, they are also impersonal. When you look into the eyes of a spouse who has just broken your heart, you find that statistics don’t really matter. You want to know how and if you can pick up the pieces and move on and if that’s really possible for your marriage.

what percentage of marriages survive infidelity? Unhappy couple

Gregory Popcak, the Catholic founder and executive director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute, says that, yes, it is possible, but it takes a lot of hard work for both of the parties involved. Yet, when couples do this hard work and actually move past the infidelity, many claim that their marriage is stronger. But both parties have to put in significant effort. And not just some of the time. All of the time.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that if your spouse is physically or verbally abusive to you or your children, separation is acceptable to the Catholic Church. According to the Code of Canon Law, “If either of the spouses causes grave mental or physical danger to the other spouse or to the offspring or otherwise renders common life too difficult, that spouse gives the other a legitimate cause for leaving.” You do not need to endure abuse at the hands of a spouse.

One of the many reasons you should talk to your priest is so that he can help you heal and overcome the betrayal of the infidelity. Though the Church does not want to see either spouse in danger, it does teach that marriage is a permanent union regardless of the mistakes made. While either spouse could seek an annulment should a divorce take place, an annulment can only occur when a tribunal finds that a sacramental marriage did not take place at the time of the wedding. Infidelity during the marriage is not grounds for an annulment. Talking with your priest will help you gain perspective and will help you see the importance of the indissolubility of wedding vows.


We Still Want to Make it Work, Now What?

Anyone who has ever faced infidelity knows the pain. You feel ashamed, embarrassed, helpless, sick to your stomach, empty, and cold. It’s like you’ve suddenly woken up next to a stranger. If your spouse leaves you for this other person, all you can do is work on healing yourself. But if your spouse wants to stay, and if you want to rebuild your marriage, you both need to work on healing yourselves and your marriage.

For both of you, communication and putting your Catholic faith at the center is key. Now more than ever, communication is a vital component of the healing process. From this point on, you must learn to have meaningful and deep conversations with each other about your feelings. Not only must you listen to the reasons for why your spouse cheated, but your spouse must listen to your insecurities and your feelings of anger, resentment, and betrayal. You should consider faith-based marriage counseling (more on that below).

Together, meet with your parish priest or minister or someone in the Church you trust who can help you with resources for your journey. Remember too that if you married in the Catholic Church, the sacrament has endowed you with extra graces to meet with marital challenges, so embrace what God and the Church offer.

The Marriage of the Virgin (Jerome-Martin Langlois)

The Marriage of the Virgin (Jerome-Martin Langlois)

Seeking the advice and counsel of a Catholic therapist – someone who understands the sacramental nature of marriage – is vital. A counselor will guide you in ways to begin these difficult conversations and will help you learn the skills to continue them on your own. You can find a Catholic therapist in your area at catholictherapists.com. Simply input your state or zip code to find someone near you.

A healing retreat weekend called Retrouvaille is also a wonderful way to reconnect with your spouse and to talk about the affair with the help of others who have shared experiences. As its website says, “there is hope” and you can learn to forgive and trust.

For both of you, it will likely get harder before it gets easier. The spouse who cheated must begin with full disclosure about the affair. he or she must answer all questions truthfully and patiently. If you are the offended spouse, you have the right to demand that your spouse be tested for STDs. You both must talk about the reasons the cheating happened. And you must work on fixing these problems together. In addition, the one who cheated must take responsibility for his or her actions rather than putting the blame on the other spouse.

You know that Christ and the Church teach that we must forgive those who hurt us, but you’ll find that this is a tall order when the person who you thought loved you the most has betrayed you. Forgiveness takes time and prayer. You may have to pray every day, several times a day, for God’s grace and mercy to wash over you. And just when you think you have forgiven your spouse, you may wake up one morning to realize that your feelings of anger and hatred have all come flooding back. It’s okay. Keep praying. Keep moving forward. Be truthful to your spouse about any setbacks. Don’t hide your feelings.

If you were the one who cheated, go to confession. Infidelity is a mortal sin; make things right with God just as you are attempting to make things right with your spouse.

Remember that Christ is vital to your marriage. If your marriage didn’t involve Him before, it is imperative that it involves Him now. Begin to pray as a couple. Ask Him for grace, guidance, and mercy. Go to daily and weekly Mass together. Read the Bible together. Spend time with other godly couples from your parish.

wedding rings on a bible

Infidelity is devastating. Infidelity is heartbreaking and crushing. When you make your wedding vows, you vow to love your new spouse for “better or worse.” Infidelity definitely falls into the “worse” category, but it doesn’t have to mean the end of your marriage. With communication, healing, love, patience, effort, and renewed trust, you can build a new—and better—marriage with the same partner and create a new life together.


This article was originally published in July 2021 and was most recently updated in March 2024 by Susan Ciancio.

Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. Since 2003, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials, and website content. Fourteen of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of its Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program, an educational nonprofit program for k-12 students.


  1. Mrs. S Westby on February 10, 2024 at 8:45 AM

    Try REtrouvaille #helpourmarriage.org

  2. jay aikman on October 29, 2020 at 9:54 PM

    IF only it were so easy. I wish. I have not cheated, but i fear i may as i am in a sexless marraige. We have talked about it and she agrees to change but nothing and its been 17 years. I do think people can survive cheating, but COMMUNICATION can stop many affairs from happening in the first place and that is the best thing.

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