Each couple dealing with infidelity has 3 options for how they will move forward.
Discovering that your spouse has been unfaithful is horrifying and confusing. You search for explanations for how your partner could have made the choice to betray you.
You wonder if there’s something wrong with you. Or maybe there’s something wrong with them. Or maybe there’s something wrong with both of you. Or maybe there’s something evil about the person your spouse had the affair with. Or …
As your thoughts roll around and around ceaselessly, so do your emotions as you try again and again to make sense of things now that trust has been broken.
Why infidelity leads to divorce for some couples and not others is a necessary question to answer when you’re dealing with infidelity in your own relationship.
For some couples, infidelity means their relationship is over. For others, they continue on as if nothing happened. And still others emerge from the trauma of infidelity stronger and happier together than ever before.
What are the differences between these groups?
- One of the spouses had already decided to divorce before the infidelity was brought to light.
- The hurt spouse can’t move past the anger and betrayal.
- The marriage is too far gone and the spouses don’t care enough to put in the effort to repair and reinvent their relationship.
For the couples who choose to continue on with more or less the way things are do so because they believe the alternatives are much less desirable.
These couples have a marriage and/or lifestyle that is easier to deal with than divorce or putting in the effort required to reinvent their marriage.
The final group of couples, those who choose to invest in reinventing their marriage, are a determined group of individuals.
Each of these spouses must make the decision to save the marriage and expect to do their part to make their decision a reality. This expectation is the key here. It indicates that each partner is willing to take responsibility for their part in how they got to the point where one of them strayed and in how they will move forward to reinvent their relationship.
According to Lynda Spann, there are 9 other steps these determined couples must take to prepare to reinvent their relationship:
- Promptly end the affair.
Ending the extra-marital relationship is critical for both spouses because it removes the unnecessary distraction. With the distraction removed, it’s so much easier to focus on making things better between them.
- Accept that you’ll be on an emotional roller-coaster for a while.
Exposure of an affair is traumatic. For the hurt spouse, they will deal with coming to terms with the betrayal. For the straying spouse, they will deal with the guilt of causing their spouse so much pain.
- Have open conversations about the affair.
These conversations are about clearing the air and coming clean so there are no unexpected surprises that come to light later. Because of the emotional roller-coaster, it’s normal for the conversations to happen multiple times as the hurt spouse tries to make sense of and come to terms with what they’re hearing.
- Show genuine remorse and empathy if you’re the betrayer.
The only way for your spouse to begin healing so they can do their part to reinvent your marriage is if you can understand the pain you’ve caused them and express regret for the choices you made in having the affair.
- Work toward forgiveness or acceptance if you’re the betrayed.
There’s a big difference between forgiving or accepting and condoning or forgetting. You forgive and accept so you’re not haunted by the betrayal. But you remember what happened so you can do your part to prevent it from happening again.
- Spend more time together.
Your relationship is in dire need of attention. So are you and so is your spouse. Agree to start spending more time together focusing on each other instead of the kids, or work, or TV, or your cell phones. The key here is to not spend all of your time together talking about the infidelity, but to enjoy spending time together.
- Amp up on the reassurance that you want to be in this relationship.
Because of the chaos the affair has had on the security of your marriage, it’s vital that you each do whatever it takes to reassure your spouse that you want to remain in your marriage because you still like and love them. It’s OK to ask for reassurance when you need it, but be sure you do so without making accusations.
- Tell each other everything from now on.
Commit to complete honesty and transparency from now on – no exceptions!
- Find a helping professional who has experience with infidelity recovery.
Healing from an affair is a difficult process. You’ll have much greater odds of success if you get help from an experienced professional.
Understanding why infidelity leads to divorce for some and not others is an important piece of deciding how you will deal with the infidelity in your own marriage.
The knowledge can help calm some of the trauma. And regardless of how you and your spouse decide to proceed through the chaotic repercussions of the infidelity. Knowing what the motivation is behind each of the three possible paths forward will help you make the best decision for you.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach helping people just like you who want support in figuring out if their marriage can or should be saved. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or schedule a FREE 30-minute conversation with me directly in my Time Trade calendar.