When a husband cheats, is the marriage over? For many women, the answer isn’t that simple. Find out why women move on, why they forgive and what experts recommend couples do when cheating disrupts a marriage.

Infidelity takes a major toll on a marriage. Some women draw a bright line at cheating while others are willing to forgive and move on. Cheating doesn't always mean the end, but experts agree that it must be confronted head on. Hear from real women who were cheated on while married and how they reacted.

NOTe^ Names have been changed to protect identities.

If your spouse has cheated on you before and this is a pattern rather than an anomaly in the relationship, you have to wonder why you are staying in this relationship.

Leaving isn't easy

For many women, leaving a marriage means immense financial and emotional strain. Others have the means to leave but aren't emotionally prepared for the breakup. Silvia M. Dutchevici, president of the Critical Therapy Center, recognizes that each marital situation is unique and that there are valid reasons to stay and valid reasons to work on staying married. "If your spouse has cheated on you before and this is a pattern rather than an anomaly in the relationship, you have to wonder why you are staying in this relationship," says Dutchevici. If you've been cheated on, follow your gut instinct and be prepared to work on dealing with your emotions.

The reality of leaving

When Sarah left her spouse after being cheated on, it wasn't simple. "I would have taken him back. I missed him, I didn't want it to end," says Sarah, who has gone on to happily remarry. "I had gotten so conditioned to the poor treatment and the dysfunction that I felt like I was the lucky one to have gotten him, that I was the one the one that lost something in leaving. I wanted him to chase and he didn't and that hurt as much as the infidelity." After a long healing process, she assures other women that life can and will get better after a breakup and the aftermath of cheating.

Staying is hard

Forgiveness means working together to repair the damage. It does not mean erasing it.

Keeping a marriage intact after cheating takes effort from both parties in the marriage. This means that each spouse has to be on board for the process needed to recover and heal. A woman who has been cheated on must process complicated emotions ranging from anger to self-esteem issues and guilt. Forgiveness rarely comes easily and must be worked toward. The cheating party has to acknowledge the cheating and what led up to it and must be willing to communicate, preferably with the assistance of a qualified marriage counselor. "Forgiveness means working together to repair the damage. It does not mean erasing it (because it would be unrealistic and impossible), but it also does not mean reminding your partner about the infidelity every time you have an argument," says Dutchevici.

The reality of staying

It's possible for relationships to become stronger than ever after the devastating effects of infidelity. The work it takes to overcome betrayal and anger can actually benefit a couple if the situation is right for it. After four years of marriage, Jackie discovered that her husband had been cheating. "The only reason we are still together is therapy," Jackie says. "We worked really hard on our communication, which is basically what saved our marriage. Now, we are in a good place. There are still times when I will catch my breath thinking about it, but that doesn't happen often anymore."

Couples therapy can often be helpful, not to keep the couple together or to separate them, but to process what has happened and to discuss how to best move forward.

Always get help

"Couples therapy can often be helpful not to keep the couple together or to separate them," says Dutchevici, "but to process what has happened and to discuss how to best move forward." If you've been cheated on, get support from a qualified therapist. Even if your partner doesn't want to try couples therapy, talk to someone on your own to help guide you through the next steps. Keep in mind that you should seek help immediately if you feel in any way threatened by your partner.

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