The simple answer is yes! The rest of the answer is complicated. Can you survive the betrayal of infidelity and get back to what you once were? The truth is that you will probably never be the same as you were before your partner betrayed your trust.
If that sounds discouraging then I hope you will read on. You can survive adultery, infidelity, or whatever you want to call it but it takes time and effort. For this article, we will call it adultery, a biblical term I know, but I am a Christian and it is comfortable to speak in those terms. Also, instead of referring to the adulterer as a cheater which makes it sound like they moved your piece on the board game or looked at your cards, we will call the person who committed the infidelity the "perpetrator" and the one who is suffering through this infidelity the "victim".
The process is important to reach a place in your life where you can move on and not harbor ill will. In the first place, the person who committed adultery must be willing to play their part in the relationship rebuilding process, which will include admitting to the wrongdoing without placing any blame whatsoever on their spouse. In other words, they cannot say that they committed adultery "but I was going through blank at the time so there were extenuating circumstances. If the perpetrator makes statements like this especially when those “extenuating circumstances” involve something the victim did, it becomes an attempt for the perpetrator to place blame back on the victim. The truth is when you commit adultery, you are betraying not only your spouse but yourself. You are breaking a vow that you made when you married and that vow is one of the more sacred vows you will ever take in your life. If you cannot uphold your vow through rough times, then you are failing your spouse, but more importantly yourself.
In the political climate in which we live that may sound harsh. If you're the perpetrator you're probably tempted to stop reading at this point. But, if you continue to read on I promise you you will find yourself getting to a place where you cannot only forgive yourself but more importantly you can be forgiven.
If you are the perpetrator, you need to remember that your spouse needs to know that you are fully aware of the hurt that you have caused and that there is no excuse for your infidelity after all you don't just trip and fall into someone else's bed. It takes planning and opportunity, and you took that opportunity to go do something which you know was wrong.
Your spouse is probably going through severe anguish, experiencing anxiety, and wondering how things could have gotten this bad. They may be wondering what caused your infidelity and wondering what their part in it may have been. It may be that they knew something was wrong and that your relationship was not what it had been in the past. In their mind, they may have tried to sweep some discontent or difficulty communicating under the carpet, but they had no idea things were so bad that you might find someone else to give you pleasure. The important thing now is to face what you did as the perpetrator, ask for forgiveness, and then begin the arduous task of rebuilding the trust that you destroyed when you committed adultery.
Does it seem daunting? Well, it should! And you shouldn’t tell your victim to get over it when they tell you they want to stay together and try and make it work. In too many of the couples I have counseled, the perpetrator states things like, “Please stop crying...it makes me feel so bad and I just want you to be happy!” Your spouse is hurt. They may take quite some time to get over the hurt, and you have to be patient while they get over it. You can’t expect them to hurry through the grieving process or to stop asking you “why you did it” or what exactly you did! She or he may ask you questions like, “Did you go to our favorite restaurant?” or “Did you tell her you loved her?” These are questions you must answer with all sincerity and fidelity (truth) so he/she can begin to start trusting that you will always tell her or him the truth.
The victim of adultery must be allowed to satisfy their morbid curiosity and to ask questions that may make you uncomfortable. But, after some time of grieving and feelings of loss, the victim will begin to heal and to get past the betrayal they feel.
What can I do to help them? Be steadfast (always reliable) in what you do and say. Keep telling your victim "I am sorry" with all sincerity and just keep working to restore her or his faith in you. After some time, you will begin to see results from your efforts as you show them kindness and patience.
What if you're the victim? If you are the victim of adultery and your spouse has not been physically abusive, and you do not believe that you are in danger, I would strongly urge you to consider forgiving your partner. Yes, their adultery was an act that they perpetrated against you and it is hurtful. However, in most cases when something like this happens, there have been other factors contributing to them getting caught up in this horrendous act. Does that mean you are to blame? No. But, somewhere along the line the two of you have lost something and you need to reconnect.
It will be important for the future of your relationship that the two of you establish a relationship that is fair, honest, and above all truthful. The two of you should see someone who can help you understand one another better and to communicate your feelings so that you feel completely understood.
I have seen couples who were ready to divorce but wanted to try counseling just to see if it might help, get to a place where they could reconstruct their relationship, and have gone on to have lasting friendship and romance once again. It's not easy! But forgiveness can be an opportunity to enrich your marriage and show one another true love. It's work, but it is worth it and especially if you have children forgiveness may allow you to keep from experiencing child custody battles and the government having a hand in your affairs.
I encourage you to think about forgiveness if you're the victim and if you're the perpetrator, work hard to reestablish your relationship and make up for this mistake. You will be glad that you did!
Author: Tony Wildey MA, MFT
Tony is the author of several articles on marriage and family and is a licensed practitioner in the State of Nevada.