Why Do Some Marriages Get Over An Affair More Quickly Than Others?

By: Katie Lersch:  It’s normal to analyze your marriage after your spouse has an affair.  We scrutinize it to determine what went wrong. And we go over it with a fine tooth comb to figure out if recovery is possible.  To that end, we often end up comparing our marriage to the marriages of our parents, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances.  Most of us know at least a few couples who have dealt with infidelity.  So it’s natural to look to those marriages and to make comparisons. Unfortunately though, as an outsider looking in, it can sometimes appear that those marriages are recovering more efficiently than our own, which can lead us to wonder why some marriages are able to move on more quickly after infidelity.

Someone might say: “I actually have a handful of friends who have had marriages nearly ruined by a husband’s affair.  A few of those friends got an immediate divorce because they did not want to deal with a cheating husband and they just could not imagine ever getting over it.  One more eventually divorced, but actually hung on for a year and a half trying to make it work.  Another couple had a few rough months, but eventually had an ever better marriage than before.  I am very close to this couple and to me, they actually seem blissfully happy now.  The wife believes that life is too short to hold onto anger and she seems able to just let it go.  The husband is remorseful and could not be more devoted to her.  They seemed to have been able to move on with very few bumps in the road.  Meanwhile, my husband and I struggle horribly.  We have a few good days every now and then.  But I just can’t seem to get control over my anger and my paranoia.  I am constantly worried that my husband will cheat again.  Meanwhile, my husband resents my constant looking over his shoulder.  It seems like we are angry and anxious a lot of the time.  That said, I do believe that we are both trying and that we both genuinely want for things to work out.  But we just don’t seem to be one of those couples who are going to recover quickly.  What differentiates the couples who are able to move on in a timely fashion and those who are not?”

All couples and circumstances are different.  And it’s really never a good idea to compare yourself to someone else.  Appearances can be deceiving and you can’t ever really walk in someone else’s shoes. That said, I do see some attributes that seem to be common to couples who tend to move on quickly.  I will list them below.  But I also want to stress that just because you think that you aren’t one of these couples, that doesn’t mean that you can not turn things around.  You absolutely can.  The fact that you are able to analyze the situation tells me that you have plenty of motivation to make necessary changes.  But you should never rush yourself.  This is a process. It’s not instantaneous.  And sometimes, if you rush, you leave yourself vulnerable later.  Issues that were never resolved have a way of coming back to bite you later.

There Is Some External Motivation To Work Things Out Quickly And Completely:  I am very open about the fact that if I had not been motivated by my kids early on, I might not have given my husband another chance.  I am a child of divorce and I was very motivated that my children would never have to go through what I went through.  At the same time, I also lived in a home with parents who fought all of the time (before the divorce,) so I knew that living in a volatile home wasn’t what I wanted either.  Because of this, I was very motivated to have not just a marriage that was barely hanging on, but a healthy marriage that would set a good example for my kids. This inspired me to work harder and to open myself up more than I might otherwise have.  Even if you don’t have kids, try to find some motivation. Even if it’s just that you believe that marriage should be forever or if you don’t want to just hand over the marriage you’ve worked so hard for, find something to motivate you to keep moving forward.

Both Spouse’s Have An Attitude Of Openness And Vulnerability: In my experience, one of the hardest things to eventually do after an affair is to trust and to allow yourself to be vulnerable again.  It’s very hard to not always have suspicions and doubts.  But when you experience constant doubt, especially over the long term, you potentially damage your marriage.  I’ve observed that couples who make it and who make it quickly really make a conscious effort to allow their spouse to regain the trust once he or she has earned it back.  I’m not saying that you have to have blind faith in your spouse the next day after an affair. That’s very unrealistic.  But if over time your husband gives you no reason to doubt him and he does what he’s promised, then I think you want to give him the benefit of the doubt for the sake of your marriage.  Believe me, I know that it’s easy to give in to doubt.  But if you become overly paranoid, you see problems where none actually exist and this damages your marriage as much as an affair.

A Willingness To Get Help If Needed:  Recovery from an affair is not easy.  And very few of us are infidelity experts.  Most of us try very hard, but we don’t always have the tools that we need to get over every hump. There is no shame in seeking help.  In fact, many couples who recover efficiently get very good help.  I know that some don’t like the idea of going to counseling, but know that there are very good self help options.  This is much better than just suffering when you are just sort of faltering or have hit a road block.

I learned some of these lessons the hard way.  But I eventually gave myself permission to do whatever was necessary to get my life back.  This included getting help, restoring my confidence, and learning new ways to do things.  There’s more about this at http://surviving-the-affair.com.

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