Are affairs a good thing for a marriage? That depends on which side of the coin you’re on. It certainly is helpful for the cheater who gets all the fun, excitement and their ego stoked, but it is definitely not helpful for the the marriage nor the betrayed spouse who has to deal with all the emotional trauma that follows in the wake of an affair.
I know from firsthand experience that infidelity causes a lot of hurt and pain and can lead to divorce. While there are countless couples whose marriages were devastated by infidelity that went on to build a stronger relationship and a better marriage, it wasn’t because of the affair, but rather all the blood, sweat and tears that is involved in overcoming infidelity.
All that hard work and the tremendous effort it takes to deal with an affair paid off in the form of a new trust-filled relationship. This is not always the case though, because sometimes infidelity rips a marriage apart and the hurt runs so deep that the couple ends up going their separate ways.
An affair being helpful to the marriage is a common excuse cheaters make to justify their affair(s). And here’s why it’s a lousy excuse:
1) It’s a very selfish act, not taking into account the pain and heartbreak they are inflicted on their innocent spouse and children (if there are any) or that they are playing Russian roulette with their marriage.
2) There are better less destructive “helpful” ways of dealing with marital problems. Thinking that an affair somehow will magically make things better in your marriage is like jumping from the frying pan into the fire, you’ll get burned either way.
3) The emotional toll on the betrayed spouse. By far the betrayed spouse bears the brunt of the fallout from the affair. They are the ones most affected emotionally and physically by the affair, having to deal with their roller-coaster emotions, negative images, low self-esteem and the lists go on.
4) It’s not possible to foresee the outcome. Even if the cheater thinks he knows his spouse very well, he/she cannot know for sure how they will react to the affair. Remember, the innocent spouse thinks they know you well and never expects to be cheated on. The end result of cheating comes down to:
(i) The cheater is remorseful, ends the affair, reconciles with their spouse and they both commit to rebuilding a new and better future together
(ii) The couple stays together, but because they did not take the time and effort needed to thoroughly deal with the affair, their marriage far from being renewed, remains deadened and meaningless.
(iii) Separation and divorce
It can take years to fully recover from the emotional impact of a spouse’s betrayal, during which time the couple has to endure a lot of turmoil in their relationship.
It’s not the affair per se that helps the marriage, rather it was the commitment they made to each other and all the time, effort and patience spent working through all the negative emotions and the setbacks knowing that they are building a stronger foundation, one based on honest communication.
Infidelity forever changes a relationship for better or worse, but you can bet your life that things will never be the same again. Time and patience is what will see the couple through the stressful times. However, the passage of time alone is not going to heal the breach. Since it usually takes years to overcome infidelity, both parties have to consciously and wholeheartedly commit to doing what is necessary to save the relationship.
They have to put forth whatever effort is needed to heal the wounds and restore the emotional connection with each other. That involves dealing with the whole sordid mess in a constructive way, talking through what happened and seeking outside help either individually or together.
The couple’s ultimate goal is to rebuild the trust and create a better future in the process, and not just to get over the past as quickly as possible, no matter how painful it is.