Can Your Relationship Survive An Affair?

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This article originally appeared on YourTango, by David McFadden.

Cheating hurts, but MANY marriages make it through. Will yours?

Among the thoughts that occur upon learning your partner is involved in an affair is the question of whether they really love you or not. If they really did love you, how could this happen? Why do people cheat

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It could be for one or more of several reasons including:

1. An addiction to the excitement of getting away with it; an addiction to sex or to the thrill of the chase.

2. An ego need, wanting to feel the acceptance, admiration, and infatuation of a new-found love or the ego simply getting off on conquering another person.

3. The loss of respect and admiration for their spouse that set them up to find that respect from someone else.

4. The feeling that their partner has become distant and simply moved too far away; is hard to talk to without conflict, and it was just plain easier to talk to the other person. It just started out as having someone to talk to but led to far more.

While you may have thought about how it would feel to be betrayed by an affair, it is impossible to really know the depth of the pain experienced by those who go through it.

What are some of the factors that make this form of betrayal so painful?

1. A promise that was made, believed in, and reciprocated has been broken. That broken promise can never be undone and in some ways, continuing to love that person keeps a reminder of the betrayal front and center.

2. This betrayal robs the relationship of things that were only for the two of you — not just the physical act of sex, but also words shared, time spent together, and places visited.

3. Friends and family may continue to question your wisdom in staying with someone who has hurt you so badly.

4. Like an earthquake, you have to deal with the initial and devastating shock of learning about the affair. Once you finally begin to catch your breath, you experience a number of aftershocks as you learn more details.

Over time, it is can be even more hurtful as you begin to start putting the pieces of the puzzle together. You remember when they told you one thing was going on. However, now you know it was a lie and they were really with the other person.

Many questions will go through your mind such as: Can I stay married to this person? Do I want to stay married to this person? How do I know it is over? How can I trust them ever again? Will sex between us ever be normal and right again?

The question most often asked is, "Can marriages recover from adultery?" For the purpose of this article, the answer is that, yes, it is possible. Here are eight signs that collectively tell you that you can rebuild: 

1. You see things that tell you that it is possible to rebuild trust.The affair has truly ended.

2. All contact with the affair partner has been broken off and shut down.

3. Your partner informs you of any and all attempts by the other party to contact them.

4. Your partner is working hard at restoring the relationship.

5. Your partner is doing everything possible to help rebuild trust.

6. Your partner is learning to be patient with your suspicions each time they arise.

7. Your partner is learning to be patient in answering your questions, even though it seems like they have already told you this 100 times before.

8. Your partner is not so overwhelmed with their own shame that they can't sit with and help you through your pain.

If both of you are going to successfully navigate through the painful territory of affair recovery, there are some tasks you both will need to take on individually in addition to the work you do as a couple.

If you had the affair, some of your major tasks include:

1. Building trust with your spouse by being trustworthy ALL the time from now on. One major mishap and you are back to ground zero if not worse than that.

2. Knowing that even if you are 100% trustworthy ALL of the time, there will be times that your spouse is suspicious and feels you can't be trusted.

3. Accepting that YOU are responsible for breaking their ability to trust, and YOU are responsible to work at fixing it.

4. Figuring out EVERYTHING you can about WHY this happened (which doesn’t mean blaming your spouse for the choice you made). Knowing this will help both of you know what to do to prevent it from happening again.

5. Accepting responsibility for getting right with yourself and your spouse.

6. Doing the work to make the changes needed.

7. Paying your dues to the spouse you have hurt (within reason).

If you are the victim of an affair, some of your major tasks include:

1. Fighting the urge to quit too soon, unless you know you can't do this.

2. Talking to the people you need to, but be careful how many you talk to. If the two of you do make it, you may not want everyone knowing your business.

3. Asking yourself often, "What do I need?" and then make it clear to your partner.

4. Allowing yourself to take a break (and work at taking that break once in a while) from the heaviness of the affair.

When you have done the work needed and enough time has passed that you are ready to move forward plan a celebration.

The victim of the affair must be in charge of this step, and it should not take place until they know they are ready. Plan a "Let's Put This Behind Us" day, and perform a ritual or action or two that will mark this day firmly in your memory.

You want to do something that puts a stake in the ground for the two of you and firmly reminds you that on a particular day, at a particular time, you really did put the affair behind you. Then in the future when something triggers the thoughts and feelings again, you can tell yourself, "I don't need to go down that road, we put it behind us."

What are some signs that it may be time to move on after an affair? 

1. You know that you have worked really hard at saving the marriage, but you can make no progress at getting close to your partner even though they are working at it.

2. You know that the affair has not ended or that your spouse will not cut off contact with the other party.

3. After what seems like enough time spent working on it, you can see that there is no progress being made, no resolution to the problems, and no acceptance of responsibility for the horribly bad decisions that were made.

4. You have asked your spouse to join you in getting some outside intervention and counseling and your spouse continues to refuse to go.

5. You have determined after seriously working on your marriage relationship, that you will not be able to trust your spouse ever in the future, particularly because they refuse to do what they need to do to help you regain trust.

6. You have determined and you know that you actually have more energy to handle leaving the marriage than to continue working on the marriage.

While this article doesn't cover every issue you will encounter when dealing with an affair, it does address many of them.

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If you are currently stuck and making no progress in working through the effects of the affair on your marriage, it may be time for you to get the best available help and determine if the two of you are going to be able to make it.

Don't delay too long. Sweeping most of it under the carpet will just create a terrible bump that you will trip over and stub your toe on often.