It is not an easy task to deal with adultery in a marriage. An affair is such a violation of trust and yet so many people are faced with this ordeal. There are books, articles, and blogs written on this topic because it is a frequent reason for divorce. So here yet is another attempt to add my take on this difficult and damaging issue that a marriage or a primary relationship might endure.
Many words are used to describe the spouse who strayed. We hear cheater, betrayer, unfaithful, liar, deceiver, and so on. And yes, these terms carry some truth. But these words convey only a fraction of the hurt and upheaval that an affair can create. Moving on from such emotional devastation is difficult. Both people must commit to change.
Several words come to my mind for a marriage to repair itself after such a tragedy: forgiveness, acceptance, compassion, trust, and spirituality. If these attributes of love are present, the marriage might continue and even heal. But it is no easy feat to make a commitment to these ideas as a new standard for acceptable behavior. Both parties must be willing to look forward, not backward. The past is dangerous because it is usually full of resentment and excuses. We know too well that the past cannot be undone. You might even say that the past is beyond our control. And yet some people thrive on making the past their present. They have been hurt, deceived, and betrayed. They will never forgive or allow old wounds to close. Or they cannot cease their tendency to stray from marriage. For these people, I am sorry, and I can accept their reasons. For the others, I say: forgive, accept, and build a new relationship.
The future can be better, and the marriage can be stronger with the realization that being human is to be vulnerable. Having an affair may seem inexcusable, and yet none of us is without our weaknesses. We have all made mistakes. It is rare for a partner who strays to do so for no reason at all or to simply be malicious. Both spouses should learn how to listen, to improve communication, to argue constructively, and make up sooner. A marriage that endures by means of separate bedrooms and long, silent dinners is no true partnership. It is important to be able to enjoy each other in new ways.
Ask yourself a question: Is saving the marriage a priority? “Maybe” won’t work—you must believe either “yes” or “no.” This is your starting point. If you aren’t sure, you aren’t ready to do the work it will take to start over. Give yourself some time to reflect. Do some soul-searching. There is nothing wrong with getting some professional help to figure out what you want. Read, journal, and seek out a trusted spiritual adviser if that is part of your life. Listen to what your partner has to say.
- Did he or she make genuine amends?
- Is your partner willing to forgive you and move forward with you?
- Do you feel that your partner is ready to make changes and keep promises to you?
- Do you feel that your partner loves you?
Nobody else can make this decision for you. Real forgiveness is a selfless achievement that one human being can offer to another. But even the willingness to forgive a major grievance won’t flourish on its own. The hurt you feel at this moment can be replaced by new memories and happiness—not all at once and not easily. But nothing good comes without effort. A lifelong marriage is a constant work in progress. I hope you and your spouse will be able to forgive, move on and make a new life together.