When I discovered my then husband’s first affair, we had been married 10 years. I was shocked! After the rage, sadness and despair settled down a bit, I wondered, “Can our marriage survive infidelity?” “Can I ever really get over this awful sense of betrayal? Can I ever trust him after his affair and the destruction of something very precious to me – our promises to each other and our exclusive connection?
We had three children under 10 at this time, and I wanted to have an intact family for them as much as for myself. After grieving and healing, and because of my faith in God, I was determined to forgive my husband and move on. I decided that not only would our marriage survive infidelity, but we would be stronger in spite of it! We could be a positive example that marriages could work after an affair.
We had 20 years of a good marriage after his affair. We had the family everyone wanted to be like. Healthy, strong, good kids, all making their way in life. More than enough of everything. Shared interests. Truly blessed in so many ways.
I never brought that first affair up again. No one even knew about it. So, I was devastated when, at 50, I discovered a long term affair soon after our 30th anniversary. (By the way these days, sadly, spouses in long-term marriages are divorcing more than any other age group.)
During my earlier struggle to accept my husband’s infidelity, I remember reading that if a man has one incidence of marital unfaithfulness,It’s about 40% more likely that he will have more. I couldn’t believe that my husband would do that after he saw how much his first affair hurt me.
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Not All Marriages (Should) Survive
Some marriages survive a one-time, or maybe even a short-term affair, especially during a long marriage. But most marriages do not survive ongoing infidelity of any kind. If your spouse is not willing to stop behaviors that are destructive to you and to your family, your marriage will not survive. And if one partner continues to be unfaithful, a marriage shouldn’t survive.
Marriage shouldn’t be an endurance test where you have to accept cheating by your partner over and over again. Marriage should be a safe, fun, fulfilling plus for both of you!
After the discovery of both affairs, what was most frustrating to me was that never once did my husband come to me while we were married and say, “I’m not happy. I’m struggling with our marriage. I’m not getting what I need. We need to talk and get some help.”
Like most husbands who cheat, I guess he decided that finding a girlfiend (my word for women who get involved with married men!) was much more exciting and less work than addressing the issues he was having with our marriage.
In my midlife divorce recovery work, I hear stories all the time of men who actually leave notes on the counter, or send a text to say, “I’m not happy. I haven’t been for ten years. I’m out of here!”
Then why in the heck didn’t they have the guts to say something?!!
Marriage after cheating shouldn’t survive when lying becomes the cheater’s modus operandi. The fact that your life partner can look you in the face and lie after years of sharing the most intimate parts of life is as hurtful as the sexual adultery. It shows such a lack of respect. And such cowardice!
Often a cheating husband keeps denying that there is another woman or tells us that “She’s just a friend;” or “She’s having trouble in her marriage and I’m just trying to help her;” or “There is no one else!” That’s when most wives turn into their own Private Detective Agency! (And believe me, that is an agonizing, devastating, worse-than-humiliating-place to be!)
What Percentage of Marriages Survive Infidelity?
When I married my then husband, I made promises to stay in the marriage “for better, for worse. In sickness and in health. “Til death do us part.” I made that promise to my husband, before God and all of our family and friends. And he returned the promise. I didn’t want to be part of that percentage of marriages that don’t make it — and especially because of infidelity.
We had survived his first affair. We moved on and made our marriage stronger. So, when I discovered his long-term affair after our 30th anniversary, I was determined to give him every opportunity to give up that relationship, rebuild our marriage and save our family … again.
I tried everything. I begged and pleaded. I screamed and sobbed. None of that made any difference to him. He continued seeing her even while he told me to my face that the affair was over. It never was. I finally decided that I couldn’t be the woman I was created to be and stay in a toxic relationship of lying, deception and all kinds of infidelity.
By the way, after three years of my ex and his affair partner not being able to stay away from each other, they broke up within six months of our divorce. What a mess they made, and what damage they did to so many people! Statistics also show that few men actually marry their affair partner (3%), and for those who do marry, do not have successful marriages (75%).
How To Heal A Marriage After An Affair
In order for a marriage to heal after infidelity, the person who had the affair has to do three things:
They have to GET IT – They must realize how serious infidelity is and how damaging it is to a spouse and to their whole family. They should realize that adultery negatively affects their children, their extended family, friends and even society as a whole.
They have to OWN IT – They must take full responsibility for their infidelity. They can’t try to blame you and say that if you had been different, or more of this or less of that, they wouldn’t have had to do this. Having the affair was their choice and their choice alone.
They have to FIX IT – They must do whatever their spouse needs them to do to regain trust and start fresh. It’s not just a matter of saying, “I’m sorry … now let’s just move on.” and expecting that to be enough. They have to change their behavior.
If our husband isn’t willing to do those three things … the marriage is very, very unlikely to survive the affair and its aftermath.
End The Affair
Ending the affair is never as easy as it sounds. And many men seem to think that simply saying the affair is over makes it so. Also, some of these girlfiends have been waiting for our husband to divorce us and marry them like he said he would. Often they have left their own husband and children. They aren’t going to go away easily. And many men don’t actually want them to go away. They think they can have it all. For most wives, that doesn’t work!
Full Honesty & Communication
One of the hardest things to face in trying to repair your relationship after an affair is for the offender to answer any and all questions their spouse is asking them, whether they think the questions are fair or not.
My ex-husband never wanted to talk about what caused it. He simply wanted to say, “I’m sorry,” and then just forget about it. AND FOR YOU TO JUST GET OVER IT! For me, and for most women, that doesn’t cut it. I needed him to know how devastating this all was to me and for him to be honest with me no matter what.
Consider Professional Help
Professional help after an affair can be very helpful … or not. When we were trying to move on after the long term affair, we saw a counselor who finally told my ex that he would have to find another counselor because he wasn’t willing to do what would be needed to ever fix our relationship.
My ex was physically going to the counseling, but his heart was never really in it. We all have to take responsibility for our shortcomings in our marriage, but some men can’t be vulnerable enough to go there.
Allow Time For Forgiveness
Forgiveness after an affair is one of the most difficult kinds of forgiveness. And especially if our spouse keeps breaking our heart over and over and over again. I always tell women in my midlife divorce recovery classes that after infidelity, they need to put the forgiveness piece on the back-burner for awhile. Most women need to do the grief work and the healing work before they can really deal with the forgiveness piece.
Remember: Forgiveness is always a work in progress. So don’t feel guilty if you’re not there yet, or if you still fluctuate between wanting him back and wanting him dead!
Can A Christian Marriage Survive An Affair?
Of course, whether a Christian marriage can survive an affair depends on lots of variables. What kind of infidelity it was. How long the betrayal took place. Our marriage survived for twenty years after his first affair. So yes, a Christian marriage can survive infidelity.
During his second (that I know of) affair, for three long agonizing years, I read the Bible and prayed and fasted and tried to find out everything I could about how to keep from strangling my husband and instead, giving him another chance. In fact, I gave him three years of chances to change. I tried everything I could think of to save our marriage including getting advice. None of it worked.
At one point, one daughter told her her mom, “Stop asking God to show you what’s in his heart! What more do you need to see? This is embarrassing! If your religion makes you stay in an abusive situation like this, I don’t want any part of it!”
I truly believed that God would bring a miracle and save our marriage. Even that last day in the courtroom when we were signing the divorce papers, I thought my husband might come over to me and say, “Suzy, what are we doing here? Let’s just go home and fix this.” But he didn’t.
However, even though God didn’t miraculously save our marriage, he was working behind the scenes all the time. He had a plan for me that is beautiful and is being lived out every single day of my life right now.
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