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After an affair, did you forgive? Or leave?

By February 20, 2009 - 9:22am
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I have a longtime friend dealing with something really tough -- the aftermath of an affair. She is struggling with whether the trust between a couple can truly ever be repaired after something like this. Have you dealt with this? How did you get through it?

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Wow--there are some truly amazing stories. I can not speak from experience, but the only thing missing is: what was the marriage like before the affair? In other words, is it worth saving? Was the affair the last straw, or an awful decision one night? Was it a one-night affair, or an ongoing love affair? How long have they been married (do they have a long history of love and trust that they can fall back on? Did they once have a strong foundation?). Don't get me wrong: cheating is cheating, but human behavior is not black-and-white, and once the shock is diminished, I believe those are some other questions the couple must ask themselves, both individually and as a partnership.

I do believe it is important to know if the couple has children, but that in no way can be the deciding factor. If the one who was betrayed is not able to forgive (and I'm not sure I could), then an unhappy household without trust and love is not an ideal environment to raise children (if they have a choice between two happy households or one unhappy household, then the choice may be simpler).

February 22, 2009 - 8:40pm
EmpowHER Guest

I can speak on this from experience. I was previously married and my husband cheated. I chose to accept the affair and move on with our lives. He was the one that couldn't accept that he hurt me and had to end the marriage. His father was a cheater with his Mother for years and he never wanted to be a cheater like his father. Well, low and behold, one intoxicating night, he made a life changing mistake. I tried to forgive him, but he couldn't forgive himself. He committed suicide a few years later and told me how much he loved me in his last letter. How much he couldn't forgive himself.

My life moves on and I have another long term relationship that ends on very bad terms (not infidelity). The sparks rekindle after approximately a year and I think everything is fantastic, things are moving in the right direction. After one month, I find out he has been lying to me and has been seeing someone besides me. What a heart breaking story, right?

I choose to not forgive this one. Monogamy is not the norm for the animal kingdom, but as humans we are sophisticated and made it that way for many purposes of family, insurance and so forth. After endearing both my misfortunes, I think there is room for forgiveness in one sense and there is no room in another sense.

I know in my opinion, I will no longer deal with unfaithful partners. There are so many nice men out there, why should we be hurt by the people that we trust the most, our partner for life.

February 22, 2009 - 2:07pm
EmpowHER Guest

Wow-this is a great discussion. I'm afraid there is no clear cut or easy answer on this one. I think this is such a gut, individual call. My parents have been married for 50 years, and I know my dad was unfaithful once with my mother during their marriage but they kept it together and they had 2 children. I wish there was an easy answer for your friend but my advice would be to consider if she has children, if she has children then it has to be an important factor into her decision of what to do.



February 21, 2009 - 5:17pm
HERWriter Guide

I've never been through this as a married person, but kind of through it...as an unmarried person. I think many people have cheated - or been cheated on.

Firstly, I think marriages can absolutely get through infidelity. It may fracture the marriage, it may take years of trust, therapy and rebuilding the relationship, but it can be done. It takes the utmost commitment of the two people involved, and the support of extended family is also important, although not always forthcoming.

I think it's too easy to say that an affair automatically means the end of a marriage. I used to say that all the time; then I got married and had three children, built a home and realized how much would be at stake. Something everyone should think about before having an affair - and even before considering a divorce.

Can trust be rebuilt? No, not always. If you have a spouse that cheated and he travels for work, you may always have that niggling doubt - that voice in the back of your head that wonders if he is really calling from where he says he is, and if he's really alone. If he continues nights out 'with the guys' and comes home at odd hours, then a spouse will never trust him. And the partner who cheated is just going to have to live with that and do his best to prove he's faithful. Telling a spouse that it's "all in the past" or to "get over it" is not conducive to rebuilding trust. The person who had the affair will have to prove over and over (and over and over) that they are worthy of future trust. The road will be long and hard and so it should be. A person needs to demonstrate true remorse and empathy for what their partner is going through. Wanting to just admit it, have a fight and get it all over with before resuming life as normal is not realistic or fair. This doesn't mean that the cheating spouse needs to be beaten over the head for their sin for the rest of their lives. At some point, the affair will have to be put to rest or it'll hang over the couple like a cancer that will ultimately spread.

I'm not saying that everyone should forgive and move forward. But in marriage - especially if there are children - I think the adults involved should at least take a breath and wait before separating. Immediate reactions are based on shock, betrayal and anger. No big decisions should be made until tempers have cooled and each person can think rationally. And that can take time.

I'm not sure if I could continue with my marriage. But since there are more people to consider than just me and my husband, I know I'd need to take a time-out and evaluate, before making a rash and angry decision.

I'm so sorry your friend has gone through this. An affair is such a smack in the face of everything marriage or a relationship is about. But it need not be a death sentence to a relationship; there is hope after an affair for some. For others, unfortunately, it will signal the complete destruction of trust, and without trust there is no real relationship.

I hope she comes to a resolution.

February 20, 2009 - 12:49pm

I can't speak on this from the experience of being married to someone who cheated on me. However, I have experienced this through my parents when my dad had an affair. At the time, he and my mom had been married for over 40 years. They did divorce, and from my perspective, I feel like I can never trust my dad again because of what he did to my mom. I can't imagine having to deal with this with a spouse -- I feel certain it would end our relationship.

February 20, 2009 - 12:29pm
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