Most people assume that if a spouse cheats then their marriage is doomed. And these people are right – some of the time divorce is the answer.
The surprising truth is that marriages can bounce back from an affair (or affairs) and become stronger than ever.
However, how couples survive infidelity and strengthen their marriages is not by following a simple set of instructions.
The couples who make it fight hard for their marriages. They’re willing to fight together as a team more often than as adversaries. They love each other and are totally committed to doing what it takes.
If cheating has shaken your marriage, you’re better off doing some serious soul-searching separately and together rather than making a knee-jerk decision about your marriage.
To help you to figure out if you’re one of the couples who can survive infidelity, you’ll want to evaluate whether you and your spouse each have (or are committed to developing) the following 6 qualities and abilities:
- You must be willing to work really, really hard for what you want.The effort needed for a couple to survive infidelity can’t be underestimated. The best way to sustain the energy necessary to maintain the required effort is to have a compelling vision for the result you want.If you want to have an even better marriage than the one that ended because of the affair, then you need to get really clear individually and together about what your new marriage will be.
- You must possess courage.You’ll both be under pressure from others about your decision to save your marriage. Remember that most assume that a marriage is immediately over once a partner strays. You may have even believed this at one point. However, you’ll both need to weather the opinions of others by holding tight to your goal of saving your marriage.You’ll also feel pressure internally as you struggle with feelings of betrayal, guilt, revenge, remorse and many others. When you feel the internal pressures, continue to hold tight to your goal of a better marriage.
- You must be willing to go way outside of your comfort zones.The conversations, transparency, patience and empathy required to overcome infidelity will take you both way beyond your normal levels of comfort. However, for your marriage to survive an affair, both of you need to change if you’re going to create a new marriage together.(Yes, both the one who strayed and the one who was betrayed need to change.)
- You must pursue common interests together.Healing your marriage from infidelity isn’t all about hard work. You still need to have fun together – just like you did when you were dating before you got married.
- You must be open to professional help.Odds are this is a situation you’ve never been in before. And surviving infidelity as a couple isn’t an intuitive process.However, there are professionals available to help you each individually and together as a couple work through all the tough and courageous conversations you need to have on your way to surviving the infidelity that has fractured your relationship.
- You must love yourselves AND each other.Love and respect are necessary for any relationship to flourish. You must each love and respect yourselves and each other.Seeing yourself as worthy of and capable of love is critical to conquering the emotional turmoil cheating brought into your relationship. This is work that you need to do and that your spouse can support you with by being loving.You will also need to support your spouse by being loving to them as they struggle with their own self-esteem issues. Seeing your spouse as lovable and capable of being loving to you will help you to express your love for them.
Chances are that if you both possess these 6 characteristics and are willing to face the facts and each other’s fears together as you fight to save your marriage, that you’ll be successful. And that would certainly be something worth celebrating.
However, there are no guarantees. Because you might put in a tremendous amount of work together and decide that you’re not capable of creating the marriage you each want. And that’s OK because now you’re both much clearer about what you do want and are willing to work toward so you’ll be more likely to find it with someone else.
The bottom line here is that couples can survive infidelity and strengthen their marriage in the process. If you choose to put in the effort, remember it’s not simple, it will require a lot of hard work, and no matter how it turns out you’ll be a better off.
originally published on Dr.KarenFinn