Infidelity, Can A Marriage Be Mended?
I get a lot of Emails from people who have gone through the heartache of a spouse having cheated. In almost all of these cases people want to know if it's possible to reconcile and move on with the relationship? It's never an easy question to answer.
We know that, in all aspects of life, the ability to forgive is both emotionally and physically stress relieving. The reason is that the stress of resentment and hatred, along with the wish for revenge, take a heavy toll on the on all aspects of life. However, what does it mean to forgive a marital indiscretion? Does one forgive the wayward spouse and return to the ways things were before the affair? Does one divorce and then forgive the former spouse while moving forward without the former spouse?
A lot depends on the nature of the infidelity. Most people probably find it easier to forgive a "one night stand" as opposed to a romantic tryst. A romantic tryst is harder to tolerate because of it's implication that love is placed elsewhere, outside of the marriage. There is a quality and meaning to romance that is experienced as more of an insult and betrayal than a moment of indiscretion. Then too, a long and repeated pattern of extra marital affairs are devastating to any marriage and will most likely end in divorce.
It should go without saying that all types of infidelity are experienced as a betrayal of trust. They are emotional injuries that strike at the heart of dignity, security and well being. After all, extra marital sex implies that someone is more attractive than one's wife or husband. Most often, affairs and indiscretions are kept secret. This beomes a further blow to the foundation of marriage. Then, there is the threat that the outside person is more important and valued than the spouse. After all, how can a spouse remain a best friend after such insults? In reality, all types of illicit affairs endanger marriage.
So, how might a couple move ahead upon after the discovery?
1. There is no question that there are huge amounts of emotion experienced and expressed after the affair is discovered. In this atmosphere, it is tempting to want to exact revenge by making the wayward spouse suffer as much as possible. Such a strategy never works.
2. That is why both people need to give one another time and space to think about what has happened and not be governed by pure emotion.
3. Seeking the support of close friends and family is helpful in feeling less isolated and alone with this thing.
4. After emotions have cooled its important that the spouse who was wayward be honest and accountable for what happened. This includes promptly ending the affair if it was more than a one night tryst.
5. It's important for husband and wife to talk about where they go from here. Do they want to seek divorce or find ways to reconciliate?
6. If there is agreement on wanting to repair the marriage everyone must understand that it will take time to restore feelings of trust. That is why it takes a long time for everyone to get past such a traumatic event.
7. Ultimately, forgiveness will be essential to the future success of the marriage.
In my opinion, marriage counseling is a good idea for most couples in this situation. Counseling allows a couple to figure out how this happened and dhow this can be avoided in the future. There are those situations when an affair is the result of problems in the marriage. That is when an infidelity is a cry for help. Under these circumstances, it's necessary that everyone honestly examine their role in the near disaster.
Finally, it's important for married people to think about consequences before they get involved in an affair. In addition to hurt and angry feelings, this can most definitely result in divorce. The key question is whether or not that is what is desired? If so, is an affair the strategy to use? I think not.
What are your thoughts and opinions about this sensitive issue?
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD