It is the death knell of marriage: the affair. But it doesnít have to be. Throughout the years of listening to womenís feelings about cheating, Iíve come to witness pertinent truths that dispel common myths about affairs. Researchers now concur: Marriage can surviveóand even thriveóafter an affair.
Myth #1: Once a cheater, always a cheater.
The idea was that once a spouse had an affair, he or she was destined to have another. This simply isnít true. People cheat for different reasons. Some personalities are driven to cheating due to emotional problems, narcissism or impulsiveness. But most spouses who fall into affairs never intend to cheat. Usually, the groundwork has been set by some dissatisfaction in the marriage. And then, these ordinary Joes and Joannas are surprised by their own weakness to resist what has been biologically imbedded into their DNA: pleasure over pain.
Truly repentant spouses learn from cheating. They realize what they stand to lose. Their marriages recover. The truth is that once the pain and hurt subside, love survives. Many women swear that they would divorce their husbands if they cheated once. According to statistics in Affair-proof Your Marriage by Lana Staheli (HarperCollins ebooks 2007), over 80 percent of partners who divorce because of an affair regret it.
Myth #2: Our marriage is doomed. It will never be the same after the affair.
The truth is, it wonít be the same. It can be better. Over the years, spouses can take each other for granted. They realize how much they value their marriage and give it the necessary attention to deepen their bond. Forgiveness, gratitude, and unconditional love heal pain and restore trust. A married couple who can overcome the affair finds their marriage stronger than ever. I have witnessed this firsthand again and again.
Myth #3: Forgiving is possible, but forgetting is not. I will never be able to trust him again.
First of all, it is a law of human nature that if you think you canít, you canít. If you think you can, you can. You can learn to trust again if you want to trust again. Forgetting might seem impossible as images of the affair pop into your mind. But after a short amount of time, it is critical to let the past go. How? By simply replacing those thoughts and images of the affair, when they blip into your mind, with thoughts and images of your happy times. Willfully replace negative thoughts with happier thoughts.
ďAt first, it was hard,Ē said Dana, whose husband had an affair. ďBut I refused to let that other woman torture me anymore. I refused to torture myself. I only thought of all the wonderful times that were ahead of us. And it worked. I never brought it up to rehash it and make us both miserable. I only thought of and did what made us happy.Ē
As a marriage advocate, I see that when men and women are willing to replace anger and hurt with love and forgiveness, they reap the benefits that last a lifetime. If they donít, they tend to take that hurt and distrust into all their future relationships anyway.