The work required to survive infidelity and affairs can seem insurmountable.
For many couples whose relationships have been torn up by cheating, the result is evidence of the seemingly impossible. But like everything else in life, there are always those who oppose opportunities.
Somewhere on the line they decide they are stronger than predictions and walk the distance – even if the distance has been multiplied by their own wrong turns.
When it comes to affairs and infidelity, there are definitely couples who can and couples who can’t.
The circumstances and reasons for their affairs may not vary significantly, but their decisions in consequence are.
Why is it easier for some couples to survive infidelity?
When infidelity tears the heart of marriage apart, how do some couples manage to beat theirs while others don’t?
Don’t make a mistake. Reviving a marriage from the ashes of infidelity takes work – a lot of work!
Broken spouses often wonder why they didn’t invest the effort in the first place. You could have avoided pain and conditional trust for a lifetime.
Maybe that’s the difference. Regardless of the humility that is evoked in hindsight, some couples are willing to embrace better late than never, despite their penalties and high interest rate.
That’s not to say that every couple looking to survive infidelity thrives on the other side.
For those who choose to fight for their relationship, the choices they make give a glimmer of hope.
When it comes to infidelity survival statistics, one factor that stands out is the presence of strong commitments within the relationship.
When you’re married, you have a greater interest in your relationship than couples who are currently dating. And when you have children together, your interest is even greater.
It’s a lot easier to go away and chalk your broken heart with “Thank god I found out now, not after we got married” when you have a limited investment.
You can soak up the pain for a while, learn from the experience, and move on as a wiser and more careful dater. But when you’re married with kids, a home, careers, and net worth, the picture — and choice — is different.
Suddenly the idea of ”reconstruction” is weighted equally on both sides of the scale.
Rebuilding from infidelity takes time and effort.
Surviving infidelity and recovering from the pain is no more and no less promising than cutting the cord and walking away. Even the most fervent and mutual effort takes time.
Rebuilding trust takes time. The betrayed spouse will find it very difficult to recognize again what is real and trustworthy.
In the meantime, the fraudulent spouse will be largely responsible for facilitating trust in the face of this doubt and uncertainty.
The first thing that has to happen is that the cheating has to stop. Period. Clearly. Don’t be “just friends”, send out Christmas cards or check in on social media.
For people whose affairs are beyond purely sexual matters, this is a great job. Severing all ties with the affair partner can be like a divorce in itself.
In situations like this, the fraudulent spouse is really between a rock and a tough place. You may feel completely paralyzed by the imperative decision at hand and may not be able to make it.
This indecision can become a decision in itself, often leaving everyone involved to absorb the parts of their own lives.
Honesty is the key.
Uncompromising honesty is essential for couples looking to survive infidelity.
That means the betrayed spouse can ask seemingly endless questions as they slowly creeps back to trust. And it means the fraudulent spouse has to respond.
Imagine the humility, shame, and utter discomfort of having to answer questions that you once did everything in your power to hide from. And imagine the longing and need to know what you really don’t want to know.
It’s easy to see how couples often fail to survive when they’re so at odds.
Couples also need to address the underlying issues that made their relationship or marriage vulnerable in the first place. Both partners must have their own individual contributions to the weakness of the relationship.
Easier said than done when you are the one whose spouse violated the most important part of marriage. Surely all guilt and guilt belong to the fraudulent partner.
But here, parting hair is not only justified, it is essential.
Both partners must take responsibility for their share in the relationship.
There is never an excuse for cheating. And the responsibility for the decision – even if it didn’t “feel” like a decision – to cheat rests with the person who cheated.
However, the responsibility for the relationship or marriage rests with both partners. Plain and simple.
That means the offended partner has to come up in the middle of the shoulder of the betrayal insult and look inward.
In the context of a troubled marriage where spouses go to couple therapy to work on their problems, this may not seem unusual. But if you’re the one to trust a traitor, it hardly seems fair to be thrown into the fire of self-inspection.
This component of survival and infidelity is about each partner owning their own things. Nothing more, nothing less.
It is an exercise that lasts in a healthy marriage. It preserves humility, compassion, self-responsibility, and even self-empowerment in a relationship.
It also keeps the relationship honest so that its problems can’t hide behind denial, guilt, and distraction.
Each partner must bring each other into the relationship in order to heal infidelity.
Self-examination at work to survive the infidelity is important as both partners are reminded that they are mutually involved in the marriage.
The good. The bad. All of it.
And it is precisely the courage to acknowledge these problems that enables the relationship to take the steps necessary to heal itself.
Ultimately, the couples who make it decide they will make it. They know that things will never be the same. But they also know that this is not necessarily a bad prognosis.
They realize that they came to this place by collecting little things – little omissions, little offenses, little denials. And they realize that they have the opportunity to learn and grow – when they are ready to do so.
They also have the option of creating something that is evidence of the commitment they should have made, but not … until now.
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Mary Ellen Goggin offers relationship coaching for individuals and works with her partner Dr. Jerry Duberstein to offer retreats to private couples. To learn more about working with Mary Ellen, schedule a half-hour free consultation.
This article was originally posted on The Free & Connected blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.