Few things test the strength of a marriage like infidelity. In the immediate aftermath, the relationship is marked by anger, grief and a deep sense of betrayal. With such negative emotions, it’s almost impossible to think that your marriage can withstand the impact of the affair. But in all my years of practice, I have seen hundreds of relationships survive infidelity, and often even get stronger, under the right conditions. I have observed a number of predictors for relationship recovery. The 3 signs your marriage will survive infidelity are: humility, motivation, and a strong foundation. While there are other factors that influence outcomes, these 3 tend to carry the most weight.
Infidelity Is More Common Than You Think
The tricky part of gathering data on infidelity is that not everyone admits to it. Moreover, there’s some debate as to what counts as an affair. Is a drunken one night stand an infidelity? What about sexting with a coworker? Some would say an emotional affair is just as significant as a physical affair or perhaps even more so.
However, we can safely say that infidelity is likely even more common than what the data suggests.
According to national surveys conducted by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, 15 percent of married women and 25 percent of married men have had extramarital affairs. The numbers increase by up to 20 percent when emotional and sexual relationships without intercourse are included.
As you can see, there are different types of affairs which can look differently depending on whom you ask. But the data clearly shows how common infidelity is.
3 Signs Your Marriage Will Survive Infidelity
In this context, humility can be seen as self awareness of how your marriage got to this point. I can’t emphasize enough that marriage is a dynamic between two people. And so, both partners contribute to any given situation. Affairs don’t happen in a vacuum and there’s never a single or simple answer as to why one (or both) partners cheat. Although it’s tempting there is no one guilty party who holds all the blame.
An affair is a sure sign that one partner’s needs were not being met by the other, and hence they went outside the marriage for fulfillment. If your spouse had an affair, consider what you may have done (or not done) which led to this point. This is not an exercise in judging, shaming or blaming. But when each partner can honestly and empathetically assess the dynamic which led to the infidelity, you’ll both be in a better position to move forward.
Many spouses believe that an affair occurs because that person was just being a terrible human being at the time. This is really a Hollywood myth. The truth is that affairs are a symptom of the dynamic created within the relationship. This is why that dynamic must be addressed.
Both partners need to be willing to do the work on repairing the marriage. If one spouse is checked out and not willing to make an effort, then the marriage won’t heal. Not everyone is motivated to fix their relationship, and that’s fine. Not every marriage is meant to last. But a marriage is far more likely to hold together when both partners are motivated to repair it.
3. A Strong Foundation
Strong marriages are ones that are built upon a strong foundation. That includes mutual respect, trust, friendship, empathy, selflessness, and of course, love. When your relationship has all this going for it, it will be able to weather bumps in the road far better than a relationship that’s more superficial. Think of marriage as a house. If it’s well-built, it will survive the battering of a hurricane. You may still need to replace a window or patch up a few cracks, but the house will remain standing. On the other hand, a house that wasn’t constructed well to begin with will likely have much more damage, or collapse entirely. Relationships work the same way.
Can We Survive Infidelity Without Addressing It?
I’m often asked if it’s possible to ignore an affair and just move on. The answer is sometimes. In some cases, a spouse is able to keep a one-time affair secret. Sometimes this is to the benefit of the marriage. If infidelity is a recurring problem, then the secret needs to be dealt with. If both people are aware of the affair but are not confronting the issue, then resentment and negative feelings will compound. The best way to reverse this pattern is to address and fix the reasons for the affair.
Both partners have the right to be in a happy relationship. You both have the right to walk away from your marriage and find another good relationship if the relationship is no longer viable. Another consideration might be whether monogamy or consensual non-monogamy is the right option for you.
Whatever you are looking for, dealing with the affair is necessary in order to move forward. Most couples benefit greatly from therapy in order to survive infidelity. Doing so on your own is riddled with minefields. Having help from an objective 3rd party is valuable. LifeWise therapists have helped hundreds of marriages survive infidelity. Let us help get you there too.