When extramarital affairs occur in 55-90 percent (depending upon whose statistics you believe) of all American marriages, it might be a good idea to begin looking at whether such occurrences indicate an inevitable death toll to the affected marriage, as some "experts" claim, or whether there may in fact be a possibility for couples to heal the wounds that such transgressions often cause. Believing that affairs are inherently destructive to a marriage and essentially irreparable can quite easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as there is little point in even making an attempt to repair a break in the fabric of a marriage if there is no trust that such an effort can have any real likelihood of returning a sense of wholeness to the marriage.
If the chances of restoring integrity to a marriage after a violation are as slim as some therapists claim they are, there is little incentive to make a concerted effort to take on the repair work in the first place. Even making the effort to save the marriage could conceivably result in additional pain and disappointment, in what may be an already desperately painful situation.
Yet, despite the odds, whatever they may actually be, as even the most pessimistic among us would have to admit, some marriages do survive affairs. In fact, of those that do, a significant number of individuals report that the quality of the relationship, (in particular, levels of intimacy and trust) shared by both partners is in fact greater than it was prior to the affair.
In the face of this fact, certain questions inevitably arise, such as "How did they do it? ".
In doing the research for our recently-published book, Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth from Real Couples about Lasting Love, we were surprised to discover that a large number of the couples we interviewed revealed without our specifically soliciting the information, that one or both of them had previously experienced at least one sexual experience outside of the marriage. Overall, they characterized the transgression as being personally painful yet ultimately redemptive to the relationship itself. Of those who acknowledged having affairs, most but not all claimed that the effect on the marriage was beneficial. It is important to note that they were very quick to add that they wouldn't recommend this experience to couples in search of a quick fix to an ailing relationship. Affairs are an extremely high risk means to bring greater passion or intimacy into your life or your relationship, with the stakes being nothing less than the possible (not 'inevitable') loss of the marriage.
But what about those that do survive affairs? Just how do they manage to defy the odds? In asking that question to the couples who acknowledged having
had affairs, here are some of the things that they told us helped them to recover and even in some cases, deepen the love that they shared prior to the affair.
-Identify the roots of the breakdown. A willingness on both partners' parts to identify the underlying factors that may have contributed to the existence of conditions that gave rise to the affair makes a successful repair attempt much more likely. This doesn't mean that both partners acknowledge equal responsibility for any sexual misconduct that may have occurred, but simply that there is a willingness to recognize the factors that predisposed the behavior, an awareness of how those factors came into being and an understanding of how such circumstances can be avoided in the future.
- Be prepared to hang in there longer than you think you should have to. Once trust is broken it can be repaired, but this process often takes longer and requires more patience than one or both partners are prepared for. You will probably have to hear the same feelings expressed a number of times in order to achieve some degree of completion. Telling your partner to "Just get over it" is probably the worst thing that you can say, no matter how many times you've heard him say, "I can't believe you did what you did. I don't know if I'll ever be able to trust you."
Months after his affair, Barry's wife (one of the couples in our book), continued to express her pain and doubt. "At those times, he told us, "I would meet Joyce with the strength of my conviction saying, 'I trust that I have changed and I hope that some day you will trust that too.' I just held her in my arms without trying to change her or take away her fears". That was over thirty years ago. Today their marriage is stronger than ever.
Move out of the "Victim/Perpetrator" consciousness. It's usually much easier to adopt this perspective than it is to disengage from it. Identifying oneself as the victim of a partner's affair has the unfortunate effect of not only deepening resentment, but, perhaps more importantly, is disempowering to the identified 'victim'. Consequently he or she continues to feel a diminished capacity to effectively impact upon the conditions that may have contributed to the affair. In addition such a perspective limits one's ability to influence any of the factors that may continue to be negatively affecting the quality of trust and respect in the marriage. Taking responsibility for one's actions does not condone the hurtful actions of another, but rather acknowledges each partner's part in the situation as well as their power to influence things in the future.
Watch Video Below