There aren’t real strong numbers on what percentage of marriages are affected by infidelity. In the past, I’ve heard numbers from 20-30%. Other unverifiable internet research pegs the number closer to 50%. I think that’s on the high end and is often cited by people who don’t believe in happy marriages, but that’s neither here nor there.
No matter how you slice it, a LOT of people cheat on their spouses. The question is whether infidelity should immediately signify the end of a relationship. I suspect many readers will reflexively think it does. I, on the other hand, do not. Neither does relationship therapist Molly O’Shea, recently cited in the NY Times.
O’Shea specializes in this sort of marriage counseling, which routinely takes a year or more of effort. In order to put the relationship back together, O’Shea cites a couple things which I think are worth sharing:
1. “She asks the person cheated on what it would take to regain trust and what the cheating spouse can do to prove the affair was a mistake. “Usually the person who has been cheated on says, ‘I don’t know what I need’ and ‘nothing is going to help,’ ” Ms. O’Shea said. “They’re just so angry.”
Because of this anger and mistrust, suspicion continues to linger way beyond the initial incident, including becoming upset each time the unfaithful spouse doesn’t answer the phone.
2. “People who have cheated need to affirm their partner’s feelings, sympathize and put up with a lot of justifiable anger.”
No matter how you slice it, a LOT of people cheat on their spouses. The question is whether infidelity should immediately signify the end of a relationship.
That’s not just about cheating. That’s Relationships 101. When my wife gets annoyed that I forgot to throw out the garbage, I can’t tell her to shut up because she’s being ridiculous. Literally the only thing I can do – the only constructive thing I can do – is to OWN my mistake, take the heat, and vow to do better the next time around.
We all put up with a lot of bullshit in relationships. The best couples are the ones who OWN their behavior. Women can put up with an occasionally selfish guy if he admits it and tries to work on it. Men can put up with a little crazy emotional behavior from a woman, as long as she calms down fast and admits she flew off the handle. What no one can deal with is the crazy person who insists she’s being sane – or the cheater who blames his wife for his cheating.
That’s no way to heal things – even according to the couples therapist. Concludes the NYT piece, “While intense therapy may help rebuild the relationship, rarely do couples regain complete trust. “You forgive, but you don’t forget,” says Ms. O’Shea.
Would you be able to forgive a partner who cheated? Or would you end the relationship on the spot? I think there’s a huge difference between, “I got drunk on a business trip and it happened and I’m horrified and I’ll never do it again” vs. “I’ve been having a two-year relationship with someone else and I think I’m in love with her.” The former can be saved if both parties want it. The latter is a systematic, long-term lie, which means you’re married to a systematic long-term liar.
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