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Dear Suzie, In the light of everything I have discovered about my wife’s affair, I’m having a difficult time deciding if it’s even worth saving my marriage. Sometimes I feel that it would be better for me to just cut my losses. At other times, I feel there’s plenty to stay for. Suzie, with all the lies and dishonesty, I just don’t know what’s true anymore. Can you help me?
Here’s the kicker.
There’s no guarantee that either option will work.
Here’s what I mean…
I’ve worked with people who split in the heat of the moment when they discovered their partner’s infidelity — only to find themselves back on the dating scene, facing the same (or worse) problems than they had with their previous partner. And on the other hand, you can work your butt off to rebuild a marriage torn apart by infidelity, only to have something else come along and tear it apart again.
Rebuild or start over with someone new? There are no guarantees. Because while you trade partners, you don’t (and can’t) trade problems. The next partner down the line will wind up facing the same temptations as the partner you have now.
Am I saying that every woman is doomed to being unfaithful?
No, that’s not what I’m saying. All I’m pointing to is that no partner or relationship comes with guarantees. There’s no insurance policy against this type of thing. Jumping from one ship to another doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a smoother cruise.
Am I saying you should stay in a relationship regardless of your partner’s betrayal? NO. Again, that’s not what I’m saying. I believe there are times when “staying together at any price” is too high of a price to pay. The point I’m making here is that you don’t want to make a decision based on what you believe will be easier. (Because neither option is easy.)
Here’s a better idea.
Before you throw in the towel, why not sit down together and take an honest appraisal of the life you’ve built together. Take your time. Don’t let your emotions decide. Don’t let your pride decide. Don’t let fear decide. Don’t let discomfort or the urge to run away decide.
I’ve often found that a list of the pros and the cons can be very useful when facing a difficult decision. It might sound naïve, and yet sometimes, just seeing things written down in black and white on a sheet of paper can bring more clarity than trying to sort it out in your head. (Chances are, it just might help.)
Here’s a quick guide on utilizing the pros and cons method:
Begin by drawing two columns. On the left side will be the Pros. Here, I want you to make a list of the best reasons to stay together. On the right side will be the Cons. Write there the reasons to walk away.
Pros: Reasons To Stay || Cons: Reasons To Walk Away
Your list should include…
- Pros — long-term and short-term benefits
- Cons — long-term and short-term drawbacks
Your list should include not only things you would gain, but also things you would avoid, like having to pay child support and apartment rent. Make sure you cover in all the major categories of your life (family, career, money), and be sure to consider mental, emotional, and spiritual pros and cons.
You get the picture.
To make this exercise as helpful as possible, you’ll need to make your list as complete as possible and be as realistic as you can be.
Take a step back and look at your list. Now ask yourself this question: how many of the things on my list are driven by fear? How many of the things on the list are inspired by love? Put a check mark next to things inspired by love. Put an X next to things motivated by fear.
Give 10 points to each check mark and 5 points to each X.
Why does love win more points?
It’s simple. The best decisions in life are usually the ones based on Love. On the other hand, decisions we wind up regretting are usually based on fear. When it’s all said and done, you only want to rebuild your relationship from LOVE, not out of fear.
What’s on YOUR list?
The following are what I consider the 10 most compelling reasons to rebuild a marriage after infidelity. The more of these 10 reasons you find on your list, the more favorable (in my opinion) your reconciliation efforts will be.
Let’s look at the best reasons to rebuild your marriage next…
1. True Love Will Not Let You Down
2. Forgiveness Ends All Arguments
3. One Bad Decision Doesn't Erase 99 Good Decisions
Sometimes, it helps to strip things down to the basics. Looking at what the mathematics say about a relationship rather than what the emotions say can be a good way of seeing its true logic. Consider this example: Let’s say a couple has been married for 15 years. That’s more than 131,000 hours they’ve invested in building a life together. And let’s say a partner’s indiscretion lasts about 2 months. That works out to be about 1,400 hours spent in deception and dishonesty.
Overall, what does the math tell us?
When we compare the partner’s 131,000 hours of fidelity with the 1,400 hours of dishonesty, what do we find? Well it turns out that 99% of the marriage remains untouched by infidelity. It’s that 99% that’s worth staying for.
4. Your Partner Is Worthy Of A Second Chance
I believe everyone deserves a second chance. Do you? If you said no, then chances are, that’s the fear in you talking.
Look over your own life and notice that along the way, your parents, teachers, friends, lovers, and even Mother Nature herself must have given you plenty of second chances.
How do I know?
Because we all make mistakes. There are no exceptions. And if we all make mistakes (including you), it means that somewhere along the line, someone gave you a second chance.
What makes giving second chances so scary? Two things (both are related):
- Desire to punish
- Fear of being taken advantage of or hurt again
In both cases, it’s really just the fear talking. Think about it.
Where does the desire to punish come from?
Well, punishment is our way of evening the score. The reason to punish (including by divorce, verbal abuse, or contemptuous treatment) is ultimately because we’re afraid someone will get away with hurting us.
But does punishment really bring justice?
Not really. In fact, the desire to punish a partner is usually just a way to exact some measure of revenge. And revenge and justice are not the same thing. But what about that fear of being hurt or taken advantage of again? Well, that’s the risk you must take (whether you stay with her or move on).
However, there’s good news…
It’s a risk you can live with. How do I know you can live with that risk? Because you already do.
Here’s the deal.
When it comes to loving any human being, you must risk. That’s because we are walking imperfections with a huge built-in propensity for mistake-making. Marriage is a commitment, but it’s not a guarantee. There are no guarantees. Remember: Second chances are given out of compassion, not out of pride.
5. You Believe You Can Learn From This
In the minds of victims, everything happens TO them. In the hearts of survivors, everything happens FOR them.
Which mindset do you identify with?
If you allow yourself to feel victimized by this, then you’ll be engulfed in feelings of powerlessness and guilt. It’s like taking a hit on the chin, and instead of getting back up and dusting yourself off, you were to simply sit there.
Is feeling victimized after infidelity justified? Yes. Is it helpful? No.
Consider the following questions:
- What if you refused to look at what has happened through the eyes of the victim?
- What if you looked through the eyes of a survivor?
- What if you didn’t see this as something that happened TO you, but something happening FOR you?
- What if this experience is really a gift?
- What if it’s here to teach you how to truly forgive?
- What if it’s here to expose the parts of your relationship you were taking for granted?
- What if it’s here to wake you up and keep you from sleepwalking through your life?
One thing’s for sure…
6. You Believe Your Partner Can Grow From This
Partners who cross the line from fidelity to infidelity can be compared to children who have been warned repeatedly not to play with matches, but disobey and end up burning down the barn.
It can be a rude awakening.
Like rebellious children, it’s only when they see the devastation, hurt, and pain their actions have caused, that the enormity of what they’ve done really sinks in. But the similarities don’t end there. If you were to ask these children, “Don’t you know it’s wrong to play with matches?” chances are they would tell you yes.
The same goes for wayward partners. Most know ahead of time what they’re doing is wrong.
And If you were to ask the child who played with matches, “So if you knew it was wrong, then why did you do it?” chances are good the answer would be something along the lines of, “I was just having fun. I never thought anything bad would happen.”
Well, guess what?
That’s pretty much the response you’ll get from most partners who have strayed from their marriage vows.
Interesting, isn’t it?
Sometimes what we think will happen and what actually happens winds up being two completely different things. This is why temptation is usually a slippery slope for the naïve and the arrogant. Remember: Wisdom comes from experience, and a lot of that experience comes from making mistakes. If you believe your partner can learn from their mistakes, it’s wise to give them the opportunity to do so.
7. The Lessons Don't Go Away Until You Learn Them
It’s been said that marriage is God’s adult classroom, and our experiences are like books, in that they are for learning. Some marital lessons are universal; others are more specific to the individual. One thing is sure: you can trade marriage partners, but you can’t trade the universal marital lessons.
What are the universal marriage lessons?
In my opinion, the two biggest lessons of marriage are: 1) how to Love; and 2) how to forgive.
Here’s the thing: every marriage eventually hits a rough patch. Each partner will get an opportunity to face love and forgiveness issues. Sadly, though, some assume they can avoid learning these two life lessons by abandoning the marriage or relationship, only to find later… they’re facing the same things in another relationship.
There is no running away from the issues.
Learning to forgive and learning to Love are part of the universal curriculum. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can avoid the lessons by ending the marriage. Remember: the lessons don’t go away until you learn them.
8. There Are More Reasons To Stay Than Reasons To Walk Away
Let’s go back to your list of pros and cons for a moment. If you did the exercise and you’ve discovered that despite the cons, the hurt, the pain, and the heartache, you were still able to find more reasons for staying than for walking away, then congratulations!
This doesn’t surprise me.
Because in a good marriage, infidelity is like a dark cloud covering up the sun, but in no way does it put out the sun. Sometimes, we all need to be able to see the benefits in black and white.
If the good outweighs the bad…
Then it’s time to apply some empowerment psychology. What this means is that instead of focusing on what’s wrong, begin to focus more and more on what’s right, what’s good, and what’s strong. Remember: Focusing on the good is what increases that good.
9. You Got Married For Good
Many people say they are married for better or for worse, but not for good. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t consider the idea of quitting to be an option, then rebuilding is your next logical step. However, it’s also important to note that if you rebuild your marriage following the same blueprint as before, you’re going to get the same results again.
I know that’s not what you want.
If you’re looking for ways to rebuild a stronger marriage, take a look at my Passionate Monogamy online marriage course. It’s a 30-day program designed to help you rebuild a better, stronger marriage based on forgiveness, Love, trust, and sexual happiness… and it will also help you learn how to increase the good indefinitely in your marriage. Which brings us to the #1 reason to rebuild your marriage.
10. This Could Become The Best Worst Thing To Have Ever Happened To Your Marriage
People ask me all the time how on earth something as devastating and treacherous as infidelity could end up becoming the best worst thing that ever happened to them.
Here’s my answer to that.
It becomes the best worst thing when:
- It shows you how to survive, despite all the reasons to feel victimized.
- It awakens you from sleeping at the wheel of your life.
- It helps you learn the big lessons of life — like forgiveness, trust, and unconditional Love.
- You discover you have a marriage that is stronger than betrayal.
- You both grow from the experience rather than give up.
- You both learn from the experience rather than stay in denial.
- You both learn you can trust again despite all the reasons not to.
And perhaps the best reason of all…
- When it helps to take you to another level where you and your partner rebuild a stronger, better, sexier, and more rewarding marriage, and you wind up with the kind of loving relationship that ends up confounding your enemies and delighting your friends.
Many before you have done exactly that (myself included).
Now, am I saying that what happened to you is a good thing? Nope. That’s not what I’m saying. Here’s what I’m getting at: if we have the right skills, tools, and insights, there’s a way infidelity can be transformed from a curse into a blessing.
How do we accomplish this?
I believe we do it by learning. We take our mistakes and fashion them into tools we can use, instead of letting them become the weapons that can be used against us.
Looking back, six months or six years from today, and being able to honestly say, “Although we went through the fire in our marriage, we survived, and it was the best worst thing that ever happened to us.”
Now isn’t that a goal worth moving towards? I believe it is.
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!