Can Your Marriage Survive an Affair?

Most people believe that cheating is a surefire way to end your marriage. Affairs happen with such frequency that the divorce stats would be even higher if that were the case, says Rosalind S. Dorlen, a clinical psychologist, who is affiliated with Overlook Medical Center in Summit, N.J. Some studies suggest that 45 percent of marriages experience an affair, and others are even higher, she adds. 

While affairs certainly put committed relationships in crisis, they can actually signal a new beginning rather than an end. "Sometimes, affairs can be a trigger - a wake-up call if you will - to repair the marriage, says Dorlen, who has been married more than 40 years. 

If both people are committed to moving forward with the marriage and putting the affair behind them, then the marriage can survive and maybe even come out stronger. But there's lots of work to do - by both partners - to make it work. Here are the steps to keeping your marriage intact after one of you has been cheating: 

1. You must end the affair. 

To most this seems like a no brainer. But some spouses think they can keep up both relationships after the affair comes to the light. If you're serious about saving your marriage, then you have to completely end the other relationship. This means that you have no more contact with this other person - no texts, no chats, no phone calls, no meetings. If you work with this person, then you get another job. It's that simple and that extreme because you have to be done with this relationship and focus on your marriage. There must be an honest commitment to end the affair, says Dorlen, or the marriage is doomed. 

2. Get over the resentment. 

This is one of the most challenging aspects of recovery. Certainly, the faithful spouse has anger to work through both toward the offending spouse and his or her ex. Even if the ex is no longer part of their lives, he or she has had an impact and that anger can be poisonous. You have to get it out. But what most don't realize is that the offending spouse is often even more upset and full of resentment than the, for lack of a better term, victim.

No one ever wants to take responsibility, says Dorlen. "Affairs happen because people need to outsource what's taking place in their marriage," she adds. In other words, the offending spouse felt the marriage was in some way lacking, and the victim needs to fess up to the role he or she played. For instance, a husband, whose wife repeatedly rejected him sexually, turned to a colleague, who admired him and pumped up his weakening confidence. Their relationship developed into a sexual affair, and now the married couple is trying to pick up the pieces. 

Talking about why the affair happened and coming up with a plan to address those issues is how couples free themselves of the anger. The answers are different for every couple. For some, it means spicing up their sex life or working on reasons that sex wasn't satisfying one of them. For others, it is about spending quality time together and injecting a little fun into a marriage that had grown stale. The approach is unique to the couple. 

3. Rebuild trust. 

After any sort of betrayal, couples have to learn to trust each other again. This is particularly hard on victims of affairs, who initially have to simply have faith that their spouses are going to re-commit to their marriage vows. While being suspicious of a spouse - and acting on it - before an affair can come off as jealousy or even craziness, it is perfectly natural afterward. Not only should offending partners expect their spouse to check their phones and e-mail and question them about their whereabouts or any out-of-the-ordinary behavior, they should offer up the info themselves. Frankly, those who have been scorned would be foolish not to do a little research and investigation in the days just after an affair, says Dorlen. Still, it's possible to get back to good despite the affair. 

"There must be a real wish to stay together and improve the relationship," she adds. "If you fix what needs to be fixed, you have a good chance of staying together." 


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Love Magazine: Can Your Marriage Survive an Affair?
Can Your Marriage Survive an Affair?
Love Magazine
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