Infidelity: Painful, widespread

November 1, 2005 — Leave a comment

Salt Lake Tribune

Your spouse had an affair: forgive, or forget it?

There seems to be a myth in the minds of today’s married couples: the myth of monogamy. The people who are the most vulnerable? Those who say, “That’ll never happen to us!”

The truth is, we’re all vulnerable. How could “it” happen in your marriage? Let me just say I have yet to meet anyone who suddenly wakes up one day and decides, “Today’s the day! I’m gonna start that affair!” Infidelity happens one step at a time, one poor decision based upon another. Perhaps the more important question is how will it not happen to you?

The reality is that monogamy is not the norm. Conservative estimates are that 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women will have an extramarital affair.

The first question most people ask when they learn of a mate’s affair is, “Why?” Their answer usually centers on blame: They blame themselves, their partner, the relationship or the third party. The truth is the answer is never simple. There are multiple factors that push and pull people into affairs. Most of us grew up with an idealized image of love and marriage. The depiction of marriage in the media, romance novels, fairy tales and self-help books is not only untrue . . . it’s downright harmful!

When the jig is up, couples come out dazed and disenchanted, with many looking outside their marriage to complete society’s picture-perfect promise. No one can prepare you for just how long it takes to recover from the painful truth of a mate’s deception. All too often, just when you feel you’re doing better, you get knocked down again by some flashback. Some people who stay married make a good personal recovery and overcome the emotional damage, renewing their commitment to the marriage. Others who stay married never recover. They spend the rest of their lives bitter and resentful. The same is true for those who choose to leave. Some make a clean recovery and go on to build a more satisfying relationship. Others never recover, and carry the emotional baggage into all future relationships (if they even allow themselves to have one).

What is likely to prevent affairs? Regularly renewing your commitment to monogamy, honest communication about the things that affect your relationship, and acknowledging monogamy is never settled once and for all.

What will not prevent affairs? Being “in love,” religious covenants, repeating the marriage vows,

spicing up your sex life, meeting all your spouse’s needs and trying to be “perfect.” Time alone won’t bring about healing. Healing only results from the way time is used. The first step is believing that it’s possible to do so. You must make the decision that your mate’s infidelity will not define you.

What do you think? Would you forgive your spouse for cheating?

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Dr. Liz Hale

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