Infidelity poisons a relationship, sometimes permanently. Some two thirds of marriages victimized by unfaithfulness choose to remain together. For others, the cheating partner may be unwilling to put in the hard work necessary to repair the relationship or the aggrieved party may be unable to get past forgiveness and suspicion, especially where there has been a pattern of infidelity. But your individual decision as to whether your marriage can recover from infidelity will depend on several factors unique to you.
Once the denial ends and existence of the affair has been recognized by both spouses, before the recovery from infidelity can begin, you will need to make some difficult, life-changing decisions:
The biggest question: Do BOTH of you truly wish to save the relationship? It is important to think clearly, because it may be easy amidst the emotional confusion following an affair for both spouses to make unwise threats, promises or decisions. For instance, the cheating partner caught in the act may simply feign contrition out of fear of losing you or in order to maintain control over you. This is particularly true in cases involving serial cheats.
An unfaithful spouse truly ashamed of an affair may promise fidelity out of sorrow or guilt, but be unwilling to address or unable to remedy personal issues underlying the betrayal. Even the most earnest spouse, eager to make amends to earn your trust after a once-in-a-lifetime episode of poor judgment, must be prepared for a long process of confidence building in the absence of benefit of doubt.
For your part, assuming your spouse remains faithful to you from this day forward, are you able to completely forgive him or her? Can you avoid, at difficult times in the future, the urge to punish your spouse for the past? No matter how hard both of you work to rebuild your marriage, it may simply be impossible for you to live without with nagging suspicion and doubt. And should the unthinkable happen again, you will need to be prepared to decide what you will do if your spouse is unfaithful again, or if your best effort to rebuild the relationship fails.
All of this become more complicated if you have children, or had planned on having them. Children witness more than we think, and the emotional tumult into which you marriage has been cast will be difficult to hide from them. They often blame themselves for household strife, so an affair can affect them throughout their lives. Multiple infidelities increase the likelihood of damage to children. So too, the financial impact of any decision to terminate the relationship is far larger where children are concerned.
If you and your spouse had planned on children, the doubt cast upon the viability of your marriage may force you to postpone or abandon those plans, at least until the relationship is well on the mend. In the unfortunate event that pregnancy or a child has resulted from the affair, there are additional legal and emotional complications. If you are the husband of an unfaithful wife, are you emotionally and financially prepared to raise the child of another man? If you are the wife of an unfaithful husband, are you prepared for the financial and emotional obligations he has created by his infidelity?
Your life has entered a new, if unwelcome, phase. Thinking clearly and drawing upon your strength and faith in yourself will be essential to getting though it.
Jason is a relationship expert from the UK and owner of TW-Dating.com