Can A Marriage Survive An Affair: Two Opposing Views

An affair in a marriage or relationship will usually break it. A high percentage of marriages will end after an affair due to the emotional turmoil that occurs. Other than that, couples might stay together because it is easier and never work on the relationship, living together in an air of convenience. Only a few are willing to learn from the affair and use this knowledge and attempt to improve the marriage. Below is a debate concerning this subject with two professionals working in the helping industry and dealing with couples.

Yes…I believe so and this directly depends on the strength of love.  Modern lovers are fed a “marriage contract” with a happily ever after story, white gowns and no-fault divorce if it doesn’t work out which helped to reshape commitment ethics, or staying true to the commitment based on the right factors.  Couples follow unrealistic guidelines and many ruin year’s worth of emotional and financial investment just because of sex.  The question really is, “Can a marriage survive a lie” because this is the crux of the matter. Authentic love relationships sit on this delicate balance between truth and illusion, between commitment and desire, all of which shifts through time in any marriage. What is the value of the person, the love, or the lie?  When does trust outdo love? These are variables of thought one cannot foresee while under the influence of weddings in which vows are created and society supports. Realistically, a question to ask: “Is marriage built on the vows which demand “forsake all others” (idealism and romanticism) or on the love that created the marriage in the first place (authenticity)?”

Sex seems to be the one human desire that creates the absolute most trouble but why is it so often “at fault” with such deep consequences?  I believe the self-control button needs it in the self-illusion department, not sex.  If cheating occurs, that person is lying to him/herself first under the basis that what he/she is doing is justified.  This is a personal problem that affects the partner and only love and self-honesty can rectify it authentically because it’s a clear indication of choice in value of the spouse. So, if a couple concentrates on the magnitude of their love rather than their defects – to which we all have many – and if neither can imagine life without each other and both are willing to take active steps to not lose that love – that particular kind of love which is unique to the partner in the marriage – then it will stand the test of illusions, reality, lies, children, infidelity and much more. Love requires willful activity to sustain itself and the couple it reaches.

No (and YES)…but that needs some definition. Over the years’ I have worked with many couples where infidelity has caused a breakup of the relationship and it is very rare to find a couple who can truly put the betrayal aside to stay together. Most came to therapy just to make the process of separation a little easier. It also depends on what you class as surviving. There are many examples of couples who live in a loveless relationship void of emotion and intimacy because it is less fearful than starting something new (with or without an affair) or they stay because of children. This happens very often after infidelity and on the surface, everything is fine but the relationship is just a shadow of its former self and never gets back on track. This is the norm in my opinion and the rare exception is when two partners accept that they want to learn from the mistakes of the past and build a new foundation, a hard process that is not impossible but extremely difficult.

Whether you believe in the institution of marriage or not, we all mostly enter into it with the intention of being monogamous, devoting ourselves to one partner and building a relationship based on trust, faithfulness and honesty. This also means resisting temptation and urges. There are some who would say, with some justification, that in an evolutionary sense that we are not designed to stay with one partner and doing this means that our genes have less chance of being passed on to the next generation but that is not part of the “marriage contract” as we know it. Breaking this “contract” goes to the core of human emotion and belief and is virtually impossible to repair to any great extent.

6 Thoughts

  1. Respect. Allowing someone to maintain their self-esteem, self-worth, have a solid “world view” that helps them cope … a partnership. When business partners cheat the venture seldom lasts. The trust is gone, and one party always gets the short straw.
    We rarely have a lot of “friends”, most people are acquaintances of different periods of longevity. We only have so much time in a day and many things to spend that time on, so we need to have mutual respect.
    The more we have in common with a friend the more time we are likely to spend with that friend, spend on that friend.
    A spouse who has little regard for sex with someone else intimates they have little regard for sex with their partner. To many people sex is the ultimate trust, and to cheapen what should be shared between two people cheapens the intimacy.
    You take away trust, intimacy, respect, time spent …
    If all a partner wants is financial stability then it would be easier to whether infidelity, as that wasn’t part of the reason for marriage, the partnership., self-esteem …
    I was married to someone who never slept with anyone else. He was too self enamored and figured he “had one now”. He felt that you should pretend to be whatever the other person wanted in a partner then after marriage, well “you can’t keep that up”. He also thought that if I gave 100% and he gave nothing that averaged 50% and that was good enough. I had wished he had slept with someone else. I would have realized walking away was the best option. It’s almost an acid test.

    1. Thank you for the comment. My view mirrors roughly what both said in the article and it really depends on the couple concerned and how the relationship was before the infidelity. A common theme is that the one who cheated wants retribution quicker than the other person is willing to give it. If a couple is prepared to look at building a new foundation, learning lessons from the past, then they have a chance. This requires a framework to rebuild trust based on honesty and respect. Unfortunately, many couples never get to this point (and some shouldn’t).

  2. We indeed may not be hard wired for monogamy. We all posses the desire of lust to one varying degree or another and a capability towards straying.

    It’s important to know ourselves well. If we have strong tendencies towards lust and straying from our partner, its best to stay out of any kind of committed long-term relationship.

    You are correct when you say that it is virtually impossible to repair the damage from infidelity.

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