If you’re as big of a fan of author Emily Giffin as I am, you may have noticed that there is a common theme in all of her books: infidelity.
And every time I read one of the stories with the central theme surrounding a marriage that, against all odds, overcomes infidelity in one way or another, I am equal parts flummoxed and intrigued. I’ve always held the belief that infidelity would be the ultimate deal breaker in a marriage — the one sin that simply couldn’t be forgiven and definitely never forgotten.
I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that way.
“Here’s the deal: There are no excuses for infidelity! There is no way to disregard infidelity or to accept it. Being unfaithful to the one you love is the biggest breach of trust you can make in a relationship. When a spouse or your lover violates the “core of trust” in your relationship, it is, simply put, to destroy the relationship.”
Not a light statement by any means.
So, what is the truth? Can a marriage really survive infidelity?
Calling infidelity the “unpardonable sin,” Dr. Charles & Dr. Elizabeth Schmitz maintain, “this is not an issue that you can equivocate about: It is definitely a deal-breaker!”
However, not all experts agree. One psychologist on The Huffington Post says that a marriage can absolutely survive infidelity, but it all depends. And the single most important factor that predicts if a relationship will survive?
Both partners have to be committed to fixing the relationship.
And honestly, one of the most surprising factors in a relationship surviving infidelity lies not in the cheater, but in the cheatee. For the partner who has been cheated on, there is actually a huge commitment required to actually move past the infidelity. Because for the relationship to be able move forward, the partner who has been cheated on can’t lord the act of infidelity over the other’s head. It would be so very tempting to hold that over the other’s head, but not doing so might just be the key to surviving infidelity.
And then of course, there needs to be honest and real exploration into the reasons behind the infidelity, which requires an open line of communication between both partners. Was the reason something that can be repaired? Do both partners want to do the work required to repair it?
Dr. Rachel of The Center for Marital and Sexual Health in South Florida agrees. “A relationship can definitely survive infidelity IF each partner is willing to do some work on themselves and on the relationship. Recovering from an affair is a process that includes the desire to forgive and move forward, rebuilding trust, processing of the emotions of both partners, exploring all of your options, rebuilding your relationship and much more. Re-establishing trust is one of the most important, yet difficult tasks lying ahead of a couple where one partner has been unfaithful.”
I have to admit that I can’t imagine (nor do I ever want to) having to deal with infidelity, and I’m not sure that my marriage could survive it. But I guess when it comes down to it, it might just be a question of whether love really conquers all.
Image via j&j brusie photography