Why Couples Stay Together After An Affair, Cheating, Or Infidelity

By: Katie Lersch: I admit that before infidelity happened to me, I was one of those people who thought that if my husband ever cheated on me, our marriage would be over.  I felt very strongly about this and I know that there are many people who feel the same way.  I often get comments on my infidelity blog where people indicate that they just can not understand why someone would want to stay married to someone who has betrayed them.

I often hear comments like: “I just don’t get why a couple would want to stay together or make their marriage work after an affair.  To me, that is the ultimate betrayal and I could never look at my spouse again without thinking of them with the other person.  I could never trust them or feel the same way about them ever again.”

Sometimes, I even hear from the other person (the woman or the man who was cheating with the unfaithful spouse.) They will often make comments like: “I just do not understand why he decided to get back together with his wife.  What we did should have destroyed his marriage.  I put a lot of time and effort into our relationship.  His wife knows about us.  And yet, she still took him back and he still was willing to go back.  I just don’t get it.  Are these people stupid, or what?”

Well, I don’t think that there are stupid, but I do understand all of the questions.  Actually, there are many reasons that couples decide to stay together after infidelity.  I will discuss some of these in the following article.

The Most Common Reason That Many Couples Stay Together After An Affair Is Because They Still Love And Are Committed To One Another And To Their Family: There are many negative reasons that people will stay together after cheating or an affair.  Examples are that it would be too expensive to get a divorce or that one spouse fears that they would no longer be an active part in their children’s lives.  You’ll sometimes hear the faithful spouse say that they aren’t going to let their cheating spouse “get off so easy” as to give them a divorce and to just walk away from the lifestyle to which they’ve grown accustomed or feel that they deserve.

But, for every negative reason that people stay together after infidelity, there is a counter positive reason.  And, the most persuasive of those is that, at the end of the day, they decide to stay together out of their commitment to (and love for) each other and their family. Sure, they may have their doubts.  And they may be furious with their spouse and they may be struggling not to cringe at his very presence.   There may still be a lot of resentment, distrust, and fear.  But eventually, these things begin to fade and some perspective comes into play.  And it’s at this time that both people realize that, no matter how challenging staying together and repairing their marriage is going to be, this is a better alternative than just walking away and giving up.

Many times, the threat of losing the other person and of ending the relationship that they have known and worked so hard for over the course of many years, is a strong motivation to fight for their marriage.  Many cheating suddenly realize what a huge mistake they made and how much they want to compensate for it.  Many faithful spouses suddenly realize how much they took their spouse for granted and see where they made their own mistakes.

This isn’t true for all couples of course. Some do decide that they just can’t or don’t want to stay together after the cheating or affair and this is valid as well.  One size does not fit all.  People should feel free to chose the decision that works best for them.

I do understand the people who say that they could never trust or look at their spouse in the same way ever again.  I used to feel that way also.  But, my choice really boiled down to opening myself up to seeing what would happen if I gave our marriage another chance or just walking away with my pain and my uncertainty and never really knowing what might have happened had I just decided to just wait and see. I felt that I owed it to myself, my children, and even my husband to see this thing through.  If it didn’t work out, then I would know that I tried and that I had nothing at all to be sorry about or to feel guilty for.

And, while I do understand that many people do not understand my reasoning (and couldn’t possibly understand unless or until it happens to them,) it’s discouraging to me that so many people are extremely forthcoming with their opinions and their predictions of doom.  Well meaning friends and family will insinuate that the faithful spouse is stupid, lacking in self esteem, or just in denial when they decide to stay together after infidelity.  By the same token, many will assume that the cheating spouse decides to stay with his spouse is just giving in, giving up, and resigning himself to a life of staying with a spouse who is second best because of his children or his own inability to stand on his own two feet.

I don’t believe that any of these assessments are fair as everyone’s situation is different and unique to them. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I can tell you that sometimes your opinions hurt.  And if you want to be a true friend to a couple who are struggling to make a decision about staying together after infidelity, sometimes the kindest thing that you can do is support those friends while  keeping your opinions to yourself.  Believe me when I say that all of the points that you want to make, the couple has probably already thought of for themselves.

Deciding whether to stay together after infidelity is a difficult but personal decision and it should be made by the couple alone without any input from those who aren’t directly involved in the marriage.

I know that understanding why couples stay together after infidelity may be very important to you.  But, in truth, the reasons are often not as important as the healing.  It took me way too long to realize this, but once I did, it made quite a lot of difference.  If it helps, you can read more of my story on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com/

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