Fool me twice, shame on me!
That’s what Sinead shouted as she stormed out the door of her home. Mark had finally admitted it: he’d been sleeping with a woman he’d met through work, a customer he’d known for years. “That’s it,” she snarled as she climbed into the car. “Once is all you get: no second chances.” After all, some things are just the end, aren’t they? Where do you even begin surviving infidelity?
A common catastrophe.
Statistics on infidelity indicate that approximately 60% of men and 40% of women will have an affair at some time during their married lives. Unless you accept that both partners are unfaithful that means most marriages will have to cope with infidelity at some time. Statistics also indicate that 71% of marriages suffering from infidelity stay married. If marriages were not capable of surviving infidelity, almost no marriages could survive. But that doesn’t mean any of us know immediately how to rebuild trust.
No one wants to feel like a sucker, and forgiving a straying spouse and moving on from there is difficult. Learning how to rebuild trust is a process: one that takes courage, honesty on both sides, the strength and maturity to live with discipline, and lots of support not only within a marriage but outside. How do you learn? Where do you start? There are many ways and many places: community and church counselors, twelve-step groups, therapists. The possibilities are almost endless. If you want to get an overview many organizations can help, as can your library. Even a good self-help book can give you enough of an overview to sense where to go for further help.
Making a crucial choice…
But isn’t it just better to quit now, you may ask. If a spouse will cheat once, then why not again? And again?
Some spouses will never stop. But many can and will learn from their mistakes…and a marriage which has healed from a mistake can be stronger than one which was never tested. You alone can decide if learning how to rebuild trust is worth it or not. But if it is, don’t let fear or pessimism stop you from trying.
What about the cheater? Shouldn’t he or she be doing something?
Yes! But in many cases the healing must start with the partner who was injured. Only as the betrayed partner finds strength and voice can the two start to work together to create a better bond. And if the betrayer can’t do that, then the injured spouse has support and strength to help deal with other choices, instead of being broken and unable to do anything but run or give up.
Strong to the core…
Sinead got lucky. She went to stay with her best friend, planning to get a divorce immediately. Her friend, though, had another friend in counseling, and the two found Sinead a great marriage counselor. It was several weeks before she was ready to consider whether her marriage was capable of surviving infidelity, but in the end she and Mark came to work together, learning how to rebuild trust and begin over again.
A marriage is a huge risk, and a huge investment. It won’t pay off though if you quit too soon without first considering whether there are other legitimate options. No one should stay with a habitual abuser, and that includes a cheating spouse. But once is not the end, and progress can happen if you both work at it.