“The only reason this marriage would end is if you cheated on me.” This or some version of this is something most people say before they walk down the aisle. Even if it is not actually said out loud to the other person, many people think this before they take the plunge. An affair often feels like the deepest betrayal and hurt that can happen in a marriage. So is it true that an affair will always end a marriage? Do marriages ever recover from affairs?
Even though the belief is that if you find out your partner has been unfaithful you would end the marriage, it rarely happens like that. Many marriages do end over affairs, but it is not often right away. Many couples try to work on the marriage before they call it quits. If your spouse has had an affair, give yourself a second to breath and get over the shock. You never know what you will do in a situation unless you are in that situation. Just because you said before you married you would leave someone if that happened does not mean that is always the right decision for you if an affair does happen.
If a marriage is healthy and connected there is no room for an affair to happen. On top of that, if a marriage is healthy and connected the spouse would know something was really wrong if an affair ever did start to happen. With a healthy connection, it leaves no room for a third person. The problem is for many marriages, this is not the case. It is not that the marriage is healthy and connected and then it is gone, most of the time it never is connected to begin with. One spouse may be distant and not in touch with emotions, or unable to be emotionally intimate, or they may be overly close with their family of origin. There are many, many reasons why a marriage may not be as connected as it should be, but it does leave the marriage vulnerable to an affair.
Many couples that have come to therapy because of an affair will say after their counseling that their marriage is in such a better place than it ever has been. I know that sounds crazy, but it is true. If something is keeping the marriage from being connected in the first place we will work on that in counseling and the goal will be to get the marriage to a place of healthy connection. It is not simply all about the affair. This feels so good when a marriage is in a connected place! Affairs rarely if ever happen when marriages are here! Couples will say they wished there would have been a different driving force to get them to realize that their marriage needed to be in a better place, but they are happy they are where they are now.
Affairs are extremely painful. It takes a lot of pain, time, energy, and motivation for a marriage to recover from an affair. If a couple is willing to put in the work that is needed and look at what they need to change in themselves personally the ultimate outcome can be a connected and healthy marriage.