There’s no question that few things will shatter a heart or marriage like infidelity. It is a veritable implosion of everything marriage stands for. If you are in the recent throes of an affair, surviving infidelity in your marriage may seem impossible. And it can feel as impossible for the offender as it does for the offended.
But surviving infidelity in your marriage is possible…if you want it to be.
The root of infidelity may look like a number of things — lack of sex, diminished emotional intimacy, boredom, revenge. But, at its core, infidelity is most often rooted in a need for personal validation. It’s not about suddenly and serendipitously running into “the one.” It’s about a deep yearning to feel like “the one.”
In short, trysting with an affair partner isn’t about the affair partner, no matter how wonderful s/he may be. It’s about something missing, aching, longing on the inside of the one(s) having the affair.
And buried in that black hole of unfulfillment is the key to surviving infidelity in your marriage.
Your task, no matter on which side of the breach you stand, is to go into the darkness in search of that key. That is, if surviving infidelity in your marriage is your goal….
Here are the top 9 things you need to know about surviving infidelity in your marriage.
Surviving infidelity is a choice.
Either one of you could easily and rashly throw in the towel on your marriage. If you are the one having the affair, it can be very tempting to follow the pull toward the source of all your external validation. After all, who doesn’t want to feel desired, valued, understood?
And if you are the spouse whose world has been ripped out from under you, you have every reason to slam the door on your cheating spouse.
But you may also have every reason to stay and work on your marriage. You have history together. You may have children together. And you both may have deep love for one another, despite an action that flies in the face of it.
An affair places everyone at a fork in the road. Things don’t “just happen,” no matter how passive a choice may seem in the moment.
Whichever road you travel will be the result of a choice. But staying stuck in this moment, in this state, isn’t an option.
Infidelity doesn’t happen only in bad marriages.
Affairs aren’t limited to couples on the fringe of divorce. Things like work environments and opportunity can be fodder for testing the limits of curiosity and flirtation. That’s why an affair is so shocking to a spouse who believed his/her marriage was wonderful and not at-risk.
It’s going to involve a lot of hard work.
If you are going to survive infidelity in your marriage, you are going to have to prepare yourself for a lot of work. By allowing yourself this reality check, you will spare yourself the shock when change doesn’t happen linearly or in a desired timeframe.
That’s why the work of saving your marriage starts with a choice. Yes, you both made a choice at the altar, and one of you violated that choice.
But this is a new choice. A new commitment. And the potential that awaits is that of a marriage that is stronger, richer, more deeply intimate than the one you initially vowed to.
You’re going to feel a lot of negative emotions.
You will most likely feel at odds with yourself, not to mention your spouse. Choosing to work on your marriage isn’t going to spare you the untimely, often unrelenting darkness of anger, resentment, and depression.
The experience will be like having a deep chemical peel brushed over your marriage. All the ugly, toxic stuff is going to rise to the surface and test your peace of mind and resolve for quite some time.
You’re going to feel like giving up.
Who wouldn’t? Sometimes the easiest thing to do when you feel overwhelmed, exhausted, wounded, and hopeless is to just surrender. But collapsing into frustration relieves you only in the moment. And you will still be looking into the future with a choice left to be fulfilled.
Both of you are going to have to take unique responsibility.
You may feel completely at odds with your spouse as you each navigate your personal accountability in the relationship.
If you are the violated spouse, you may believe you have no responsibility. But, while you certainly have no responsibility for the choice your spouse made to have an affair, you do have responsibility within your marriage.
The cheating spouse will have to end the affair and break off all connection with the affair partner just to start the work. S/he will have to be humble and ultra-accountable.
And both of you will have to examine how you have contributed to the marriage being less than it can and should be.
You will need help to get through it.
When your relationship is already suffering from communication and intimacy issues, your toolkit for resolution is all but empty. Trying to resolve something like infidelity with the same behaviors that led to the marriage’s failure only sets you up for more failure.
That’s why trusting an expert in marriage and infidelity issues can be an exponential help in surviving infidelity in your marriage. And when you have a husband-wife therapy team, you can learn communication skills by listening to and observing their interaction.
No matter what, it will be imperative that you commit to learning new ways of interacting in a healthy way. And an intensive therapy format like a marriage retreat may be the best gift you can give your marriage.
Restoring trust is an active process…on both sides.
As mentioned, the cheating spouse will have to be humble and hyper-accountable in an effort to re-earn his/her spouse’s trust. That may mean releasing passwords and access to a cell phone, and an accounting of where s/he is at all times.
But the spouse who was cheated on will have to give space for the re-earning of trust to happen. S/he will also have to make efforts to trust…and also to earn trust with regard to emotional intimacy.
Forgiveness is possible.
Forgiveness, just like working on your marriage, is a choice. It won’t happen immediately, and it may not happen for a long time. But allow yourself the assurance that forgiveness is possible.
Surviving infidelity in your marriage is a difficult but very possible accomplishment. If you are willing to do the work and get expert help, your marriage will experience exponential possibilities.
And that moment when you realize your heart has forgiven — yourself and your spouse — will be the beginning of a brand-new marriage.