The short answer? Yes.
I often hear couples say “I wish things could go back to the way things were before this happened.” Reality check, things will never go back to the way they were—in fact they shouldn’t. An affair is a symptom of a larger underlying problem within a marriage. However, for couples who truly commit to repairing the marriage and putting in the work to make changes find that not only does their marriage survive, but it can thrive despite past infidelity.
Infidelity is a topic that is often kept hush-hush, and it can not only feel devastating, but also very lonely and isolating when it happens to you. Many people who have never walked this path might say “I would never stay if that happened to me!” but when you’re the one actually walking the line, you may see things differently.
What are the different types of affairs?
The following is a list of different types of affairs, some you may be more familiar with than others:
Physical: Sex or sexual activity outside the marriage.
Emotional: Romantic or emotional intimacy without physical contact. The unfaithful spouse spends a lot of time in communication with someone outside the marriage in which they might discuss things such as problems within the marriage while neglecting the marriage itself. This type of affair can easily lead to a physical affair later.
Digital: This type of affair involves online chats, video cams, email, sextexting or pornography.
One Night Stand: A one-time sexual affair.
Double Life: Living a another life with another partner.
Serial Affair: Continuous, frequent cheating, often involving a sexual addiction.
What causes an affair?
Let me reiterate that a bad marriage does not cause an affair. It is a choice made by one, or both, parties in a marriage. However, an affair definitely causes a bad marriage. Many couples struggle with communication, conflict resolution and the ability to be vulnerable with one another. Others struggle with how to love one another or how to show respect. The reasons for a person having an affair may vary. Generally speaking, it could be about the relationship itself or difficulties the individual is struggling with personally.
What to do if you discover an affair?
- Don’t make an impulsive decision. Emotions after an affair can be intense, to say the least. We might not think logically or feel the way we normally do. Making decisions based on high emotions may cause us to feel regret later. If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or someone else, please call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline.
- Give Space. Separation can be a good thing in order to allow yourself time to process and cool down emotionally.
- Seek Support, but choose wisely! When thinking about who to talk to regarding an affair, be sure that you don’t choose someone who is a gossip, critical, negative or biased. Find someone who is supportive of you, your decisions and your marriage. In my experience working with couples, it has been helpful to limit information shared with family members such as parents because if you choose to repair your marriage it can be difficult for them to move past the affair.
- Seek Professional Help. Counseling can help couples identify strength and growth areas and provide skills to help the couple heal and move forward.
- Pray & Invite God into your Brokenness. Regardless of whether your marriage is restored, you need to know that you are loved and to be reminded of God’s promises for your life. My favorite quote is “God can restore what is broken and change it into something amazing. All you need is FAITH.” For many couples, an important step in reconciliation is inviting God into their marriage.
How do you know if your marriage will survive?
This is completely dependent on the two people in the marriage, their commitment to one other, willingness to repent, their ability to be vulnerable and their desire to put in the work needed to reconcile. If the offending spouse says they will change but continues to engage in the affair, the marriage doesn’t have a large chance of survival. However, if the offending spouse has truly repented, stops the behavior, is transparent and both parties put in the work to change and rebuild trust, the marriage can survive, and thrive.
If you’re at a difficult crossroads in your marriage, know that you are not alone. If you’d like to begin your healing journey whether individually, or together, reach out to Graceful Balance to find out how we can work together.