Can A Marriage Survive An Affair?

Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: This is probably the most complicated marital subject to tackle. I decided that instead of blogging just my opinion, I would take this straight to you. I contacted a group of readers — both male and female — and here’s what they had to say about Infidelity. For the record, I believe my marriage could not survive an affair. Trust is such a sensitive issue for me — that if it is broken by someone I love — repair would be near impossible. However, many couples, especially with therapy, can and do recover from an affair.

Here’s your take on a tough topic: 

Rick, 43, Dad of 3

Survive an affair? I think the answer has to be YES, but my marriage didn’t. Was my ex-wife’s affair a total shock that caused the demise of our marriage? NO. Our marriage was in the toilet for years. There was no communication, no passion. We were roommates, and eventually separated within our own home. We loved our children and did everything possible to make sure they were thriving (sports, education, camp, activities, friends, family). We concentrated it seemed on everything for the kids and our life together was a definite second or third, or fourth on the list.

In our situation, the affair was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” I knew she was up to something as her behavior changed. She started taking better personal care of herself, she dressed differently on nights out with her “friends”, her cell phone became her “life” (a gazillion texts), her “stories” about her nights out of what she did and who she was with started not to make sense. In the end, it was not overly-complicated for me to catch her as she “stumbled”. I confronted her and she admitted it. At first I was willing to forgive her as my first thought was the children. The problem was that every time she went out, I was consumed with the possibility that she was again not being truthful about her whereabouts. The anxiety caused me to lose 20 pounds and impacted my mental health. It came down to trust.

When you can’t trust the one person who is supposed to be your life partner and best friend, the damage is done.

The main issue is overcoming “the trust factor”. Those who stray, live for the moment and typically don’t consider the bigger picture of repairing what is broken. They lose focus. In my situation, too much time spent as roommates instead of “husband and wife” took its toll. When the passion is gone for too long, it is extremely hard to turn on a switch and get it back. The combination of not being partners-in-crime and the loss of trust due to the affair created the final chapter for me and my ex.

 Steve, 60, Dad of 2, 2 grandchildren.

If I found out my wife had an affair I might hang in, but I just don’t know if the relationship would be the same.

So, the marriage might technically survive for financial, familial and related issues. But I’m guessing it’s 70/30 against as to whether the relationship that we have would survive.

If my wife found out I had an affair, it would be bullshit.  It just ain’t gonna happen. I’m not interested, and no one else could handle my craziness.

Liz, 45, Mom of 2

Can marriages survive an affair?  This is a great question with answers that reflect the who and why of every individual couple. There’s always a backstory, right?  We don’t just watch our spouses jump into dangerous liaisons without reason. Intimacy, insecurity, falling out of love, frustration, finances, the list is endless.

It appears as though the problem is as common for women as it is men, and if you are willing to bare all, attempt to repair and figure out the why, things might have a chance of turning around.

Habitual affairs are a different story. Sleeping with and engaging in relationships outside of your marriage with more than one partner over a period of years is an indicator of something more serious. Watching couples have mutual indiscretions for years without the other one knowing, represents an unfulfilled need that might not be so easy to fix. Unless you can answer the ‘why’ you cannot make it back to where you started.

Whether it’s a nagging wife, a lonely husband, lack of sexual fulfillment, or frustrations with child-rearing, I do not believe the responsibility falls on just one partner.  When looking back to examine why people leave, it is inevitable that both carry blame in some capacity.

The spouse who feels completely blindsided, after some pretty deep introspection and a good marriage therapist, will realize that while the indiscretion affected them deeply, they were part of the equation all along. Mutual admission of fault on both sides is important.  This is part of their ‘why’ and in some cases, assists in the reconciliation.

But what we haven’t defined yet, is what constitutes an affair?  If my spouse makes out, grapples and engulfs a colleague at a holiday party where they are both plastered, does that count?  Does it count when my spouse becomes emotionally involved with a friend, where there is sexual tension and mutual admiration?  Does it count when there are relationships online?  Does it count when a partner outright begins sleeping with another person?  My answers to all of these are YES.  Some will have their own definition and that’s fine with me, but everyone must clarify in their head and with their partner, how do we define this?  Is what you did worse than me?  And does it matter?

Can marriages survive an affair?  Of course — but the character and integrity of the relationship before the trouble started is a huge factor.

Mitch, 41, Dad of 3

I truly believe marriages could survive an affair, but more than likely not mine. It has nothing to do with the fact that my wife slept with someone else, but it has to do with the betrayal of being lied to all the time.  Unfortunately in my line of work I get lied to every day by pretty much everyone. All I want from my wife is honesty no matter how hard it is for her to say or for me to hear.

On another note I think the man who gets cheated on walks out of the relationship smelling like roses.  Please remember this is only my opinion.  I’m somewhat successful, I have a full head of hair. I’m good looking. I’m a pretty good catch. If you throw in the fact that I’m a Dad who tried to keep his family together, I become a real treat to the women around here. I have friends whose wives cheated on them, and then they divorced, primarily because the wives wanted out — they got laid like water after!  I guess selfishly I would really want that. Yet I look at these people now and I’m a lot happier than they are.

So now I have to go back and change my original comment.  I hate dating! It took me 27 years to find “the one!”  If she was really contrite and I got to spend a couple of months reaping the awards of her mistake I think I could forgive her.

Jill, 43, Mom of 3

It all depends on “what kind” of cheating it was. If a man or woman goes out to a bar, drinks too much and has a one night affair, I think there’s major issues, BUT I think the marriage can survive with therapy and lots of communication.

On the other hand, if a man or woman has an “emotional affair,” in which they actually fall in love and have a relationship with someone, then I think the chances of reconciliation are slim. The person has chosen to be with someone else, and that’s huge.

Jenna, 40, Mom of 2

Can a marriage survive an affair?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  For most of my adult life, the answer to that question would have been a resounding NO FREAKIN WAY!  But, once you add children into the equation, the line becomes very blurry and the page much less black and white.  I will tell you that when push comes to shove my answer would most likely still be a big NO WAY, but having been in a situation, in which I believed my husband was cheating made me see that the answer is not always so easy.

A few years ago, after many years of marriage, I thought my husband was cheating on me.  For some reason, one night my intuition kicked in and I got this overwhelming feeling that he cheated.  I put on my private detective hat in the wee hours of the night and began my search for the evidence that would convict him.  I found enough circumstantial evidence to make my case.  While he slept, I made my plans — granted, I was in full panic mode, barely able to keep my dinner down and pacing the house like a caged animal.  Nonetheless, I knew pretty quickly that I could not stay in a marriage with a cheater.  I deserved better.

So, for the next few hours, I made my plans. It would be an amicable divorce. I would do what was best for my kids, which was not to turn them against their cheating, dumb-ass father. We would do it right for them. They were literally all I could think about.  Planning gave me some kind of inner peace and control.  I knew at that moment that my marriage could not survive an affair.  I subscribed to the “once a cheater, always a cheater” school of thought.

I am happy to say that it turned out my husband was just a dumb-ass and not a cheater, and we were able to overcome his stupidity.

He definitely made some bad decisions but he did not cheat.  He flirted shamelessly but left it at that.  It took me years to overcome this little incident — and there was no affair.  I can’t see how our marriage could have survived an actual affair. Once the trust is gone and the shame of being cheated on takes over, I don’t see being able to move on with that person.  I would always (and that night did) ask the question, “Why wasn’t I enough?”  I couldn’t live with that question going through my head every day.

Brad, 44, Dad of 2

I have thankfully never been in that situation.  I do have friends that seem to have moved on, but I know my wife and I could not … A marriage may “survive” technically, but once the trust is gone, it can never be the same. The marriage that existed prior is gone, so in that sense it CANNOT survive.

Julia, 37, Mom of 2

For me personally? No way. Resentment would boil up like a poisonous brew in a witch’s cauldron! Anger would fester like an infected bloody scab. Of course, on the other hand, we’ve seen one married couple entangled in perhaps the most highly publicized case of adultery in the history of the universe, and they somehow made things work. If Bill and Hillary can patch things up, there’s hope for all of us!

Peter, 44, three kids
My marriage certainly could not survive an affair.  My wife and I have a great relationship.  We are absolutely best friends with benefits and are both very protective of our relationship.  We try not to spend too much time apart.  I try not to travel too much.

I think when a couple is so committed to maintaining such a close relationship, the marriage can’t handle infidelity.

We set the bar so high for ourselves, and wouldn’t be able to readjust to a less intense relationship.   I have many friends who have nice marriages, but don’t care to spend too much time with their wives.  I think marriages like those may be able to handle some infidelity.  I guess what I’m saying is, the stronger the marriage, the less chance of surviving cheating.

What are your thoughts — feel free to share. And as usual, Anonymity is a welcome trade for openness, advice, and honesty … xoox Lisa 

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