How Many Marriages Are Happy After An Affair?

By: Katie Lersch: I sometimes hear from people who truly do believe that saving their marriage after their spouse’s affair would be ideal. This is what they’d truly like to happen – at least in a perfect world. But when that same world has been shattered by the deepest betrayal imaginable, then it’s hard to believe in perfection anymore. So, some people give up on the idea of perfection and instead would settle for simple happiness. But many people doubt that this is possible. While they may believe that they can save their marriage through determination, they doubt if they will ever be truly secure and happy in their marriage ever again.

You might get an example like: “my husband and I are both absolutely determined to save our marriage, even though he cheated on me and had an affair. And the reason for this is our small twin daughters. I do not want them to grow up without a full time dad, whom they adore. I believe my husband actually thought he had real feelings for the other woman, but he is willing to set those aside to save our family. It has come out in our discussions that he doesn’t see me in the same way that he used to, so I actually think if it weren’t for our children, he would rather be with her. That’s not going to happen though. I feel like he’s a little regretful and I know that I’m a lot resentful. So while we are sticking it out, we are not really happy and I wonder if we ever will be again. It seems as if true happiness after an affair is not something that is ever really talked about. Every one talks about maintaining your marriage but no one really tells you that it’s going to be a happy marriage in the end. I am at the point in my life where I realize that I am not going to live forever. I want to have happy days most of the time. I don’t want to sleep walk through life miserable and resigned. I guess my question concerns whether it’s really uncommon for marriages to be happy after an affair. What percentage of marriages return to a happy place and what percentage simply goes through the motions?”

I tried to research this topic to give a scientifically sound number. And I think that the answer depends upon who you ask. I have seen claims indicating that anywhere from ten percent to twenty five percent of married people who saved their marriage after an affair considered themselves to be happily married later.  (I think that the number would probably go up to be higher than this for the couples who have had the affair behind them for many years.  But that is only my opinion.)

Regardless of whether you believe that the number is on the low or high end, this is a pretty depressing number. I have to admit that most of the correspondence that I get is from people who are struggling. It’s less common for me to hear from people who have completed their healing and are now happy and have moved on. But I do hear from those folks too sometimes and it always makes my day when I do.

I have a theory about some of the things that I believe separate the couples who are able to restore their happiness and those who are not. The happiest couples are typically those who are willing to work the hardest. Let’s face it. This is not pleasant stuff. It’s so much easier to want to gloss over the issues so that things get back to “normal” as quickly as possible. This can be especially true when you have children because you don’t want to subject them to the tension and you don’t want for them to know that anything is wrong.

But, if you don’t really uncover how and why things went wrong, you can’t really properly fix this. And, if you don’t do everything that you can to completely restore the trust and to demonstrate true remorse, then the anger and the suspicion is going to continue to be there. You can’t really be happy again when you’re deep down angry, resentful, or suspicious.

It takes a great deal of work, time, and determination to work through these things. It’s not comfortable or easy. Some couples just are not willing to do this. Some would rather pretend that things are good when they truly aren’t. Some would rather hide their feelings or concerns because who wants to throw more conflict into the mix?

Honestly, in order to have a truly happy marriage again, you have to let go of the resentments and you have to be willing to open your heart. But in order to do that, you have to feel safe. And you can’t feel safe if there are still some issues. Until you can release the doubt and anger, there is always going to be a shadow over your heart.

Most of us truly want to let go. But we are rational people. We have little voices in our heads telling us that we always need to be on our guard because if we are not, he’s going to do it again. Or, we feel that if we let go of our anger, he will feel free to take advantage. All of these things are understandable. But in order to reclaim your happiness, you have to put in the time in effort to ask for what you need to feel safe laying the anger down. There is no magic formula. It takes time, tons of communication, and a colossal amount of effort. Some are able to do it through counseling and many do it on their own.

Also, I strongly believe that both people need to be open to the idea that they deserve and want to reclaim their happiness. Sometimes, the cheating spouse feels that they will never truly deserve happiness again. But ensuring your own misery helps no one. It doesn’t benefit your spouse or your children when you are miserable. Give yourself permission to be happy again and then work very hard to reclaim it.

To answer the original concern though, it appears that the statistics on couples being happy again after an affair aren’t all that encouraging. But I know for a fact that these couples exist. I know many of them. I am one of them. Please don’t think that it’s impossible. It isn’t. You just have to believe. You have to work hard. And you have to keep moving forward until you get there. Once you quit, then you are pretty much assured of failure. But if you keep going, even with setbacks, you’re still in the game.

I think that the biggest think that you can do to ensure a happy marriage after an affair is to always be honest about the need to reevaluate.  Always check in with yourself and with your partner and then make changes when needed.  Many people assume that you fix your marriage and you hope to never revisit the issue again.  While my husband and I don’t talk about the affair very often, we do constantly revisit the issues of our own contentment and security.  If something is bothering one of us, we speak up.  We are both clear that the goal is nothing less than making our marriage as strong as it can possibly be.  And this is a moving target.  But we accept that. And we have had good results with this outlook. You can read more on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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