Dear Vitamin C –
I just found out my husband has been having an affair and I am beyond devastated. I thought we had a great marriage so this has completely blindsided me and has me questioning everything in my life. He wants to stay together and work through this but my trust has been shattered and I can’t imagine ever trusting him again. Can a relationship really survive an affair or do I need to just move on?
Sincerely, Beyond Devastated
Dear Beyond Devastated –
It may be hard to imagine while you are in such a state of shock but the simple answer is that yes, relationships can survive infidelity. However, the path forward is not simple and is based on a number of factors. One critical factor is whether the betrayer is remorseful. Even if the betrayer is not remorseful about the affair itself he/she must be very remorseful about hurting their partner. Another important factor is the willingness of the betrayer to be open to the many questions of the hurt partner. Of course, not all questions or answers are beneficial. There are investigative questions, which can be helpful in providing clarity regarding what happened and why. There are also detective questions that may surface sordid details and which can be more harmful than helpful. The betrayer’s willingness to answer investigative questions and even volunteer information to provide clarity to the hurt partner can significantly help the healing process. In my practice I have not seen couples move forward with their relationship unless these first two factors are present and thoroughly navigated.
There is no simple or right or wrong answer to whether one should stay or leave after an affair. For some it is a non-negotiable. Others feel they should stay married no matter what. A good place to start is by asking yourself: “What is my definition of a successful marriage?”
A good resource for more in depth research about infidelity and its complexities is “The State of Affairs” by Esther Perel.
Yours, Vitamin C