JUMP TO A INDEX:
This sets off a chain reaction.
Once the dream no longer seems within reach, this undermines your confidence, leaving you riddled with doubt, uncertainty, and insecurity. Now, you’re questioning the dream. Is enduring happiness in relationships even possible at all?
The technical term for this experience is “disillusionment”. There are no words that can properly describe how much it hurts, except to say that it’s a kind of psychological pain that can only be described as devastating.
When dreams fall apart, fear sets in.
Now you begin to doubt that what you had was real. Now you begin to question whether or not your choices were right. And now, you begin to despair, you may never have your deepest desires fulfilled. This causes a thin cloud of anxiety to undermine everything you do.
Anxiety takes shape like this:
- Obsessions: Not being able to move past the images of them
- Worry: Fear that you’ll be trapped in this dark place forever
- Insecurity: Fear that you’ll be blindsided again and have to relive this nightmare
- Entrapment: Feeling that you are doomed to spend the rest of your life paying for your (or your partner’s) mistakes
- Mistrust: Fear of being lied to, manipulated, or taken advantage of again
- Victimization: Feeling broken in so many pieces or places that you will never be whole again
- Helplessness: Fear that there doesn’t seem to be anything you can do to make this right
- FUBAR: Fear that things are fouled up beyond all repair
Back to the question that brought you here.
Can a marriage survive infidelity?
The answer is YES!
However, a better question might be: “Can your marriage survive infidelity?”
The answer to that is, I don’t know. This is because when it comes to a marriage surviving infidelity, the answer is always in your hands.
Let’s take a look at the stone-cold statistics about marriage and infidelity. (Let me give you a heads-up: It’s not good.)
According to the latest research on marital infidelity, less than 1/3 of marriages survive. And according to the Matrimonial Lawyers Association, of all the divorce decrees handed out each year in the United States, more than half will have some type of infidelity as a contributing factor. Pretty scary, right? The question is, why?
Why only about 1/3 of marriages survive infidelity?
Could it be that betrayal is such a treacherous act that it causes people to stop loving each other? Is it because extramarital affairs affect the intimacy between the primary couple so drastically that they have a hard time reconnecting? Or maybe it’s because once trust is lost, people find it next to impossible to restore it. Maybe it’s because people just find being deceived so contemptible that it’s impossible to forgive.
I believe all these reasons play a part. However, I also believe there are two major contributing factors missing from that list, both of which I consider to be so lethal to a marriage challenged by infidelity, that they cannot (and should not) be ignored.
Now before I share with you what they are, I must warn you. At first glance, they both appear to be harmless and even insignificant. Don’t be fooled! They’re no more harmless than a surgeon failing to wash his hands before operating.
Let’s start by looking at the toxic factors…
Following the Wrong Advice. In the aftermath of infidelity, one of the most dangerous things that couples do is to follow the wrong advice and guidance. Now, you might be wondering, “How could something so simple as following the wrong advice be so damaging to couples who are dealing with infidelity?” That’s a great question.
Let me explain it like this:
Let’s say, for example, that you’re a college student who wants to go to medical school to be a doctor, but you aren’t at all sure of what to do and which schools to apply to. Naturally, you’re concerned about things like money, how to manage your workload, what to expect, and how long the entire process will take. Now there’s a list of people you could turn to for advice.
That list is divided into the following types of people:
- People who never went to medical school at all
- People who went to medical school but flunked out
- People who went to medical school and graduated, but were unhappy and unfulfilled as doctors
- People who went to medical school, enjoyed the experience, AND founded successful practices afterward
Now, let me ask you a question. Which set of advisors would be best for you to talk to?
If you said #4 — those who went to medical school, enjoyed the experience, and then went on to enjoy successful careers as physicians — it would make sense, wouldn’t it?
Why? Because they would have the best chance of giving you the right kind of advice, and perhaps most importantly, the right perspective. What perspective is that? The perspective of someone who has gone through the fire and emerged victorious.
It’s the same when it comes to rebuilding a marriage after infidelity. Whom you talk to and whom you turn to for advice is going to have a dramatic impact on the results you get.
Most people on that list will fall into one of the following three categories:
- Those (couples) who’ve never been through infidelity and can only imagine how they would react
- Those who’ve been hurt by infidelity (parents/childhood friends/close friends) but never fully forgave it
- Those (couples) who’ve been through infidelity and their relationships didn’t make it
As you can imagine…
Which category of experience a person has had with infidelity is going to greatly affect the advice you hear. And you probably noticed that one category is missing from the list; those couples who have been through infidelity and successfully rebuilt a stronger marriage that remained happy and infidelity-free.
Why are they missing from the list?
Well, research tells us that couples like this are rare. Many who are going through infidelity never get a chance to meet such a couple.
Where does that leave most people?
It leaves them talking to the wrong sources and following advice based on theory, not first-hand knowledge. This is a dangerous combination.
Because, here’s the thing about infidelity. Until you have been through it, you cannot say for sure how you would handle it. Until it’s your marriage on the line, you just can’t be sure what you would do. And until you have successfully rebuilt a stronger marriage, it’s impossible to comprehend how it is even possible to do such a thing. Makes sense? Great. Let’s keep going.
Taking the Passive Approach
Remember the statistics that say 75% of marriages will not survive infidelity? Well, here’s something I didn’t mention: on average, those couples didn’t file for divorce until somewhere between 18 to 24 months after the infidelity.
What does this tell you?
It points to the fact that most couples will try to work it out. What winds up happening is that rather than infidelity being a fatal shot, it seems more like a flesh wound that causes a marriage to slowly bleed to death over a one to two-year period.
What’s happening here?
I believe the reason for this slow death is because so many couples take a passive approach to dealing with infidelity. They will attempt to “patch the roof” and suppress the hurt… going through the motions, keeping up appearances, faking the feelings, playing the part… all the while quietly making each other miserable but hoping and wishing that things will get better on their own.
Alas, this passive approach is like taking the long way over Mt. Everest. Many couples find out a day late and a dollar short that they simply didn’t have the stamina, will, patience, or tolerance to sit in such an uncomfortable state of misery for so long. And, after a while, the misery becomes too much; they give up hope and finally decide to end the marriage. This doesn’t have to be your story. There’s another choice you can take.
Let’s talk about that next.
At a time like this, it may feel like there are a million ways to go. But when you look at it, there are really only two roads to marriage and relationship recovery after infidelity. The first road (by far the most popular) is the “passive road to recovery.” The second road is the “active road to recovery.” This is the road less taken.
Let’s talk about the passive road (since it’s the most popular).
On the passive road, a couple’s plan for saving their marriage… is to have no plan at all. This “no plan” plan, calls for couples to wing it, hope for the best, leave things up in the air, wait for time, wait for their partners to change and for things to magically restore themselves.
Some classic strategies used by those taking the passive road to recovery are:
- The Wait-Hope-and-Wing-It Plan – Wait it out, do nothing, and hope that things will eventually correct themselves.
- The Stay-Together-for-the-Children Plan – Push down the pain, suppress the hurt, and hide the anger for the sake of the children.
- The Sweep-It-Under-the-Rug Plan – Go numb, act blind, live in denial, and pretend it never happened, because if you ignore it, it isn’t real.
- The Rationalize-It Plan – Try to minimize the effects of the affair by making excuses for it, like, “ah well, nothing is perfect;” or “boys will be boys.”
- The Time-Out Plan – Sleep in separate beds, withhold sex and affection, and punish your partner in the hopes that he or she will correct the mistakes.
- The Guilt-Trip Plan – Demand compliance, devise tests, and create hoops for your partner to jump through in order to prove his or her love and loyalty.
- The Spy-and-Trap Plan – Become a deceptive detective… installing surveillance, invading privacy, seeking, watching, prying, and spying on your partner.
- The More-Sex Fix – Go on the offensive… upping your bedroom game; opening the door to all kinds of novelties like swinging, porn, and more exotic sexual positions… hoping more sex will fix the problem.
Here are some more clues that you’re on the passive road:
- You’ve tried to bury the hatchet — but you find a way to dig it back up every day.
- You stay together — but you never let your partner forget what happened.
- You plot, plan, and fantasize about a revenge affair — it’s constantly on your mind.
- You think you’ve learned to tolerate the pain and hide the anger, but it comes out in blame, criticism, and bitterness.
- Secretly, you worry that you’re weak because you stayed — but you feel like you can’t walk away.
- You’ve convinced yourself that tolerating the pain is the same as healing the pain.
That last bullet point is a crucial point. That’s because the truth is, it’s this decision to tolerate rather than heal that causes the passive road to recovery to fail.
Here’s what I mean:
Even if you have the ability to suppress and sweep things under the rug with the best of them, and even if your tolerance for pain is Mount Everest high, it’s still not without limits. Eventually, everybody reaches their breaking point. The reality is, a man will only tolerate being punished for a certain period of time, and a woman will only suffer in silence for so long.
You see, when we allow ourselves to live in misery, it’s like living with a low-grade fever. You may not always notice, but it’s actually draining your health and emotional energy. This is why you’ll hear me say time and again, “what couples do to each other after the affair is often much more damaging than the affair itself.”
So, in light of what we’ve just learned…
The answer to your question comes in two parts: (1) avoid taking a passive road to recovery; and (2) do everything you can to move towards taking the active road to recovery. Now, you’re probably wondering…
What is the active road to infidelity recovery?
Good question — the very best you could ask. (And the reason this entire website exists!) It’s my goal to help couples recognize that healing and recovery are the result of their decisions and effort (not time), and that saving your marriage doesn’t require divine intervention. What it does require is a lot of desire, sincerity, and the willingness to be open enough to seeing things differently (along with the right tools and the right approach, of course). In other words, surviving is an active process (not a passive one).
I have an intuition about you…
Considering the fact that you are even here exploring the question of whether or not a marriage can survive infidelity tells me that you truly want your marriage to survive. The most important decision you must make at this point is whether you will choose to take the active or the passive road.
If you’re anything like me, you have a low tolerance for pain, misery, and suffering. I have faith that you’re beginning to see that if you want your marriage to survive, you’re going to have to take the bull by the horns.
Does this make sense?
If it does, then you might want to consider looking into registering for my Marriage Rehab Affair Recovery online workshop. It’s a skills-based online marriage enrichment program that shows couples how to rebuild an even stronger marriage after infidelity.
Fair warning: This is an active approach to rebuilding your marriage after infidelity. It’s not like the traditional counseling methods or talk therapy that you may be used to.
If you were to get nothing else from this article, get this: healing doesn’t wait for time – it simply awaits your decision. Just knowing this one thing changes everything else.
We’ve all heard it before:
When the student is ready, the teacher appears.
Life sends us everything (and everyone) we need in the instant we need it. I truly believe this, and I also believe that a goal without a plan is just a wish. At a time like this, you can’t wish, think, hope, or passively wait your way into recovery after infidelity.
If you truly want to save your marriage, passive won’t cut it.
I leave the ball in your court. I have faith you’ll take the active road.
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!