One of the major causes of divorce is infidelity. Infidelity can cause a lot of heartbreak in a marriage, because it is painful and embarrassing. But it also is a symptom that a marriage has serious problems that have developed and not been addressed. In other words, most of the time people cheat on their spouse after the problem develops and it is not the infidelity which is the start of the problem.
This can be hard for a spouse to understand. It’s easy to point at the cheating spouse and blame him or her for all of the marital problems. But a spouse that looks outside the marriage for companionship and sex has come to feel there is a serious problem in the marriage. This doesn’t justify having an affair, but looking at the situation in the right light is the best hope for repairing the marriage.
In other words, if you blame the cheating spouse as being the sole source of the problems in the marriage, and see yourself as having no responsibility, then whatever has caused the marital dissatisfaction will not ever be addressed. Instead, the whole infidelity issue turns into an accusatory matter where useless finger pointing and blame laying occur in abundance.
The truth is that an affair can harm a marriage even when not discovered. Anytime you look outside a marriage for physical or emotional companionship, it means you are not working on your marriage. An affair can cause a spouse to become even more distant or for problems to escalate without the other spouse even really understanding what is happening.
The big question is whether an affair automatically means the marriage is over. The answer is a resounding “No!” Many marriages survive infidelity though it takes time and effort. It also takes two people who are willing to focus on the problems in their marriage and not on the affair itself. It can be extremely difficult to get to that point though, because there is bound to be a period of recriminations when a spouse is caught having an affair.
Getting over the hurt of finding out your spouse is having an affair requires a lot of forgiving and forgetting. It can be even tougher learning to trust again. Having said you need to be able to focus on repairing your marriage, it is also important to work through the many emotions the discovery of an affair can cause. You can’t just bury your anger, hurt and distrust and expect it to just disappear one day. Instead of disappearing, these emotions will fester and become open wounds overshadowing everything in the marriage.
But even if your spouse has not discovered the husband or wife is having an affair, the same principles apply. In order to turn back to the marriage, and away from the affair, the cheating spouse must evaluate why he or she looked to someone else for sex and companionship. If you are having an affair, you need to find a way to deal with the problems in your marriage in an honest way such as through counseling. The affair needs to be ended.
Deciding in Favor of Forgiveness
Starting over again can be difficult, but couples do it every day. The healing process begins with forgiveness, as mentioned, and then moves into reconciliation. Learning to trust again after infidelity is not an easy process. For one thing the spouse who did not cheat is going to be very suspicious for a long time. He or she is going to be wary of who you talk to and how you spend your time away. There may even be some accusations thrown out periodically that are not true. But it’s important to realize that rebuilding trust means proving you can be trusted all over again.
Many couples choose to see a marriage counselor in order to get assistance identifying the real marriage issues which led to infidelity. A counselor is an unbiased therapist who can help you stay focused on the problems in the marriage which must be solved before there can be true healing. Your marriage must be re-designed, so to speak, so that becomes a stronger and more loving relationship from that point forward.
An affair is just a symptom that a marriage has very serious problems. Those problems can be related to almost any area of the marriage and not just to physical issues. But the good news is that many couples fully recover from the damage an affair can cause and go on to stay happily married. You don’t have to let an affair automatically lead to divorce.