Can A Marriage Survive An Affair: Two Opposing Views

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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.

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Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner's approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients' internal "parts," or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.

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This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Chey

    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.

  2. Don't Lose Hope

    You say that the views above are those of two professionals in the helping industry. I’d be intrigued to know what your view is…???

    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).

  3. bostongirl13

    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.

  4. After 27 years of marriage and 2 infidelites, I still stay in my marriage but with big boundaries between me and him. He knows I’ll never gonna be the same.

      1. Noorsiha Abdul Rahman

        Being a narcissistic as he is, who projected all his blames on me on his infidelities, I could foresee the divorce process gonna be stressful and messy. As long as he doesn’t invade my space it’s fine with me. Now, I finally see that he is actually a coward.

      2. Dr. Nicholas Jenner

        There is an old saying in German…translated comes up as …it is better an ending with hell than a hell without ending…

  5. Michael

    The love you and your spouse have for each other is directly affected by almost all of your behavior. This is a point that I will repeat in most of my remaining concepts and Q&A columns. You are either making Love Bank deposits or withdrawals whenever you do anything. When you do something that makes your spouse happy, you’re making a deposit. But when you do something that makes your spouse unhappy, you’re making a withdrawal.

    You’d think that doing something that causes unhappiness would be the last thing a married couple would ever want to do to each other. And yet, yet it’s done instinctively and habitually in every marriage.

    Unless you protect each other from your destructive instincts and habits, you will hurt each other so much that eventually your Love Bank accounts will be deep into the red — you will hate each other.

    I’m so concerned about the risk of you hurting each other, that before I introduce you to ways you can make each other happy, I want you to understand something. If you don’t protect each other from yourselves, you may not have the opportunity to care for each other. The two go hand-in-hand and without protection, care is impossible.

    Why would any of us hurt the one we promised to love and cherish?

    Lack of empathy is at the core of the problem.
    And that creates the temptation to hurt others because in doing so we don’t feel the pain we cause. If we were connected emotionally to others as the aliens were, we would be far less tempted to do anything thoughtless, gaining at someone else’s expense. That’s because in so doing, we would be hurting ourselves as well.

    And that’s what I always seem to be battling when I try to encourage one spouse to avoid doing anything that would hurt the other spouse. I cannot seem to trigger empathy. Each spouse complains about how thoughtless the other spouse is, without much awareness of his or her own thoughtlessness.

    Lack of empathy helps makes thoughtlessness possible. Since we don’t feel what other’s feel, we tend to minimize the negative effects we have on others, and consider our thoughtlessness to be benign. An angry outburst is regarded by some as a creative expression. Disrespect is viewed as helping the other spouse gain proper perspective. And a demand is nothing more than encouraging a spouse to do what he or she should have done all along. None of these is seen as one spouse gaining at the other’s expense, because the spouse who is inflicting the pain does not feel the pain. But whenever one spouse is the cause of the other’s unhappiness, one thing’s for sure — Love Bank withdrawals are taking place.
    A Private Investigator Is also Advisable If you are being suspicious of your partner or Relationship…You can – email him here .

    I call all the ways that spouses are inconsiderate of each other’s feelings Love Busters because that what they do — they destroy the love that a husband and wife have for each other.

    I’ve found that the most common Love Busters in marriage fall into six categories: Selfish Demands, Disrespectful Judgments, Angry Outbursts, Dishonesty, Independent Behavior and Annoying Habits.

    The first three of these Love Busters are instinctive, yet thoughtless, ways to try to get what you want from each other. When a request doesn’t work, a spouse will often revert to a demand (“I don’t care how you feel — do it or else!”). If that doesn’t get the job done, a spouse will try disrespectful judgments (“If you had any sense, and were not so lazy and selfish, you would do it”). And then, when all of that fails, an angry outburst often represents the last ditch effort (“I’ll see to it that you regret not having done it”).

    Of course, demands, disrespect and anger don’t really get the job done. You generally don’t do things for your spouse because of these Love Busters, you do them out of care and consideration. If your spouse is demanding, disrespectful and angry, you tend to be less caring and considerate, leading you to do less for your spouse. Instead of giving your spouse what he or she needs, demands, disrespect and anger cause you to resist. I want you to have what you need in your marriage, but demands, disrespect and anger will not get it for you. They will prevent you from having what you want if you revert to these destructive instincts.

    But when you indulge in these three Love Busters, you do more than fail to get what you need — you also destroy the love your spouse has for you. All of these instincts, and the habits they help create, cause your spouse to be unhappy, and that causes Love Bank withdrawals.

    The fourth Love Buster, Dishonesty, causes massive Love Bank withdrawals whenever it’s discovered. And spouses usually discover each other’s dishonesty because of their emotional closeness to each other. If you or your spouse have a tendency to lie or distort the truth, chase that bad habit out of your marriage before it ruins everything.

    The fifth Love Buster is Independent Behavior, the conduct of one spouse that ignores the feelings and interests of the other spouse. If your decisions are made as if your spouse doesn’t even exist, you will find yourself running roughshod over your spouse’s feelings and your Love Bank account. Since it’s usually scheduled and requires some thought to execute, the simplest way to overcome it is to take it off your schedule. And if you follow the Policy of Joint Agreement, Independent Behavior will never find itself on your schedule in the first place.

    Finally, the sixth Love Buster, Annoying Habits, is behavior that is repeated without much thought that bothers your spouse. Marriage is a partnership of incredibly close quarters, where just about anything you or your spouse does is almost sure to affect the other. If you want to stay in love with each other, your habits, even the innocent ones, should make Love Bank deposits, not withdrawals.