Here's some valuable advice for the many of you struggling after an affair. Trying to decide if you should leave the marriage or stay?
Deciding whether to stay or leave after an affair is one of the toughest decisions to make. It's a life altering one, and if you have kids not just for you. Unfortunately, it's very easy to let the pain of betrayal drive such a decision as opposed to rational reasoning about what's best for you and your family. Wanting to escape the pain is understandable, but divorce is a really painful experience too.
Read the wisdom from a wife whose marriage went through the affects of an affair. This excerpt is from Carolyn Hax's column, "After an Affair, Forgiveness is Possible -- and Liberating", in The Washington Post [emphasis added]:
On choosing not to divorce a spouse who cheated:
It was a rough road for us for a couple of years, but when my husband finally died after 35 years of marriage, I was so thankful we worked it out. I guess the biggest help to me was when I realized that his cheating wasn't about sex (our sex life was great); it was about filling a need where he was lacking, and sex was the solution he chose. I, too, still loved my husband, although never the same way as before the affair, but I know I would have never been happy with anyone else.
One of the things I would change if I could is this: I deliberately held a part of myself back from him for the rest of our married life. He knew it and accepted it; however, the year before he died (he had cancer), I knew there was nothing he could do that would hurt me more than his dying, and so I let myself love him 100 percent. It was the happiest, most wonderful feeling I have ever had. All those years when I was subconsciously punishing him, I was also punishing myself.
It will be the hardest work you will ever do, but if you hang in there and you both work at it, it will be worth it.
She's right -- repairing a marriage after an affair is really, really hard work, but it's also really worth it. Many couples I've worked with in marriage counseling after an affair would confirm this truth and agree that the right choice is not to divorce a spouse who's cheated, but to stay and work it out.
Be sure to take some time to consider whether you want to really leave the person or just their behavior -- there's a big difference. How they're responding to their mistake should be a significant consideration in your decision. If they're owning their actions and working to change themselves then that should give you hope.
Can you relate to the struggle of deciding whether to leave or stay after an affair? Please join the conversation and share your experience in a comment to others below.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published April 3, 2010 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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