Revising Infidelity Beliefs and Theories

Infidelity Does Not Have to Mean the End of Your Marriage or Relationship but it Will Change You

I’ve been struggling with this idea that if most marriages will encounter infidelity in their lifetime then why is open discussion of infidelity taboo? Why are we not more prepared? And why do we continue to teach that affairs are unacceptable and represent the end of marriage?

I realize now that my entire life has been relatively easy. I grew up in a normal upper-middle class home, my parents are still married, my siblings are highly functional, and I was married to my husband a year after graduating from college. There were “struggles” along the way but nothing that changed my way of thinking. My family dealt with my sister going through teenage-angst and defiance which meant drug experimentation, sex, and risky behavior but she came out of it unscathed. In fact, she has become the embodiment of everything she was rebelling against. I was always the good girl and never broke the rules. I’ve never smoked a cigarette or been high. When I met my husband I bent the rules. I was completely infatuated with him. He was perfect and for the first time, a man loved me and I loved him in return. I’m certain our love story is probably more romantic in my head then on paper but because it was ours it was special.

A little over a year into our relationship I found out I was pregnant. I was twenty years old and pregnant. Prior to the affair this was what I would point to as the most difficult time in my life. I finished college, had our first child, and we were eventually married. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows before we were married either. I was scared that I might end up raising our child alone. It’s not until recently I realize that as difficult as that period in my life was and as much as I fought for our relationship and our baby – it wasn’t traumatic. It didn’t change my way of thinking or my belief system.

chaos-in-your-soul-infidelityMore importantly, my romantic idealism was never challenged by the struggles we faced at the beginning of our relationship because he chose me. He was “the one” and I was his other half, his greatest love, best friend, and lifetime companion. We were made for each other – soulmates, lovers, whatever you want to call it. I believed all of it.

My husband’s affair shattered that belief system. If he wanted, desired, craved, and (gulp) loved another woman it was not just a betrayal of our marriage but a betrayal of a sacred belief that we were special. It shattered my sense of self because my identity was so wrapped up in my marriage – how my husband felt about me was my anchor. I felt our life was like some cheesy romance song or movie where the couple can live off ramen and barely scrape by but their love is what makes it all worthwhile. But betrayal? That signified I was no different than anyone else and our marriage was no different either – maybe even less.

Yet, in the wake of D-day I didn’t want to end my marriage. In fact, my husband and I slept in the same bed every single night after D-day. Even when I was crying and upset I didn’t kick him to the couch or ask him to leave. I needed him. Maybe I needed him to see the pain he had caused or maybe I didn’t want him to go to Bat Shit. I don’t know but I knew this was not the end of us. I may have been the end of our first marriage but not us as a couple.

I keep asking myself how you can enter a marriage understanding that infidelity is probably going to be encountered. Is it possible to marry someone and accept that one or both of you may cheat in the lifetime of your marriage but it does not need to be the end? Or does the affair need to be revealed in order to salvage the marriage? For a long time I questioned whether my discovery of my husband’s affair saved our marriage. There is an intimacy we discovered in hitting rock bottom in our marriage. There’s honesty different than anything I’ve ever known revealed by his affair. And, as much as I would never want to go through that pain again – I wonder if I needed to be shaken to my core. I needed to discover my own sense of self and self-love. I needed to learn that there are things that even a good and happy relationship cannot provide.

There’s an amazing Ted Talk on infidelity that I recently watched that touches on all of this and I recommend it highly. But if you don’t have time to watch the entire video just read the closing from the video:

I look at affairs from a dual perspective: hurt and betrayal on one side, growth and self-discovery on the other — what it did to you, and what it meant for me. And so when a couple comes to me in the aftermath of an affair that has been revealed, I will often tell them this: Today in the West, most of us are going to have two or three relationships or marriages, and some of us are going to do it with the same person. Your first marriage is over. Would you like to create a second one together?


33 thoughts on “Revising Infidelity Beliefs and Theories

  1. I’ve got goosebumps…! thanks for sharing this post. I also watched this TED talk a few weeks ago on a friend’s recommendation and this is exactly where I’m at these days! The million dollar question is do I want to enter into a new marriage with my husband?!

  2. absolutely true. It doesn’t have to be the end of the marriage, if two people are willing to deal with it properly. It can be the launching point for something better and more resilient. Absolutely. But it does take two. And the reasons it occurred (and there are always reasons) have to be addressed fully. And the focus has to be on reconciliation (and not retribution). It takes courage and character. It doesn’t always work, but it can, absolutely. It did for us

  3. Great post.

    Infidelity is such an awful awful thing and even those who cheat am sure would categorically hate it done to them. Because as much as people say monogamy isn’t natural – there is something in humans that yearns for that ‘special connection’ with a person. I think infidelity should stay taboo and frowned upon – otherwise I’m not sure there would be a point to marriage – unless we went back to the times in history where marriage is purely about family connections and siring an heir!
    Infidelity is a betrayal and in all other instances of a betrayal it is generally frowned upon.

    I believe that it possible to save a marriage after an affair – for me it depends on the state of the marriage beforehand, the attitude of the cheater and the nature of the affair (emotional, one night, short term). With a long term affair, I’m not so sure…..I just cannot believe someone truly loves you if they are willing to carry on a long term affair.

    I’m so glad for you that you and your husband have discovered deeper intimacy and another level of honesty with each other. That’s how it should be.
    This is what I wanted so desperately with my husband. But he still cannot be honest, which blocks intimacy, so how can we build trust?? It makes me sad, and a little angry. I don’t think we will be able to create a second marriage…..

  4. The all or nothing ” one and only” intense feeling that promotes marriage is biological, originally for procreation and commitment as protection.
    Ideally, it grows deeper and more meaningful.
    Humans get hooked on the initial feeling and it gets wound up in and confused with self esteem and recreation.
    Society backs this up…overtly, then shouts foul play.
    If someone is weak they need a hit. If really weak a lot of hits. If they never value themselves or grow they will carry on indefinitely.
    People usually pick a good match.
    But no longer roll with the punches.

    Long or short term affairs are the much the same, immature attempts to boost ego explained away in many guises.
    As for long or short, to paraphrase Churchill, we are no longer haggling over what you are, just the price.
    They are trying to fix something in themselves. And destroying what they really need in the process.
    Betrayal is betrayal.

    Mature people are always evolving.
    You have to decide what is important to you. Do you also need to be forever in the first thrawls (as the wayward opted for) or will you both grow. Most faithfuls have, unfaithfuls haven’t.
    Seems to me the more you are shocked devastated, the more you had already decided to grow in the first place and hence the devastation.

    To accept grim reality and try again, or stay disillusioned, that is the question.
    Wiser and older, or bitter and sad.
    An affair is a sign of a major personality flaw of personal management, selfishness and cowardliness.
    It is not the marriage or innocent spouse.
    An affair breaks the marriage contract and exposes the flaw.
    What both people do next should be done with that in mind. You start again.
    Find out the real “why” that they don’t even understand themselves, a professional should, not you.
    Let them know the damage. Then let go of the blame. They are obviously not very emotionally bright.
    Sort yourself out from your justifiable anger, blame, jealousy, revenge, dependency, entaglement. Let all that go. (3 years?!)
    Now you have a choice you didn’t have with the affair.
    Are they worth the trouble.
    Will you help this person or not?
    Is being the one and only part of this, or broken? X

    • Thank you. These words really helped me. I am 3 months into learning about my husbands affair. I am still hurting and in pain. This blog and comments help me to feel less isolated.

  5. I feel like I could have written your post word for word. Thank you. I saw this TED Talk on YouTube a few months ago. I sent it to my husband and he watched it with me right there. It sparked a wonderful, eye opening, heart to heart, lay it all out talk. It was cathartic. We are close to two years post D-day and everyday I heal more. I too fought for our “second marriage” and so far it was the best decision. We too feel like our relationship burning to the ground was a “good” thing. We have made many changes this time around and our relationship is much healthier and better. I try not to focus on the hurt and betrayal but forgive as best I can and move forward in our “new” marriage. We are in a good place right now…just celebrated 15 years.

  6. Perel, when asked if she would recommend adultery she categorically says NO, just like she wouldn’t recommend cancer. However some people’s experience of cancer transforms their lives in a positive way and for some people adultery does this too. The difference is cancer is random, adultery a choice of our husband. It’s their choice/choices that we have to come to terms with. I think that regret hovers around recovering marriages like a terribly sad mantle. I’m not sure it can ever leave us but I think it a necessary reminder for the cheater. I don’t care what was happening in anyone’s marriage – adultery is never a solution, it is a cause of more grief and heartache. Everyone’s long term relationship will ebb & flow even after adultery. Regret, that permeates the cheaters soul will hopefully channel their hearts (and dicks) into their marriage not some fantasy fuelled wonderland of lust and pseudo love.

    • “Everyone’s long term relationship will ebb & flow even after adultery.”
      Very good point. It’s tempting to throw your hands up and give up when the drastic destruction caused by the affair does not evolve into the triumphant rising Phoenix full time.
      I find there are times, two and a half years later, when I want to give up. Having the wayward take over then helps.

  7. I needed to read these words so thank you really to everyone. Everyday is a struggle in some way and I need reminders to step back and look at our relationship now and not at all of the continuous lies. I agree with Robin- short or long term affairs are one and the same. Thinking otherwise is maybe a comfort to the one who was cheated on and an excuse for the cheater. I found that video of Perel the week after I discovered my husbands affair and have watched it several times. My husband has watched it twice. She spoke brilliantly. I love when she said staying is the new shame. That is spot on. Again thank you.

    • I am trying to concentrate on the good, understand the lying, trying to be my authentic self and hoping for the best while being prepared for it not to work. It’s hard but getting easier. X

      • Robin- I really admire your strength. I am only 4 months out and when I was numb and in the worst pain I had ever felt your blog helped me get through the day. You encourage me to keep on moving forward when there are times I just want to quit. Thank you again.

      • Hello taking back my life,
        A lot of my strength came from reading every post and every comment on Thiswillnotdefineus.
        And many books.
        Wanting to quit sounds heavenly, doesn’t it!
        Trying to reconnect or understand is an unusual journey.
        It is a long process.
        I am getting happier.
        Many well worn stages and many dark hopeless moments to plough through.
        Sometimes I envy those clear thinking and self confident/free enough to simply divorce.
        I gather, from reading, that you will get to a calm point where you can decide if you want to progress., let go of the past eventually, after you have learned from it and then make a clear decision.
        The first year or two was total shock and pain for me.
        It came in jumbled waves that were disorienting.
        Then a hedious phase I would like to forget; blame and misplaced jealousy. That was very difficult but enlightening to process. Possibly the most important part.
        I found Thiswillnotdefineus has an attitude much like mine, which helps calm me. She is more lucid and an exceptional writer.
        Go ask Susie is another pro marriage website, Bob Huizenga interesting and practical, Esther Parel riveting. I’m sure everyone else has their recommendations. Finding a counselor that was on my wavelength would have been a treat.
        Thiswillnotdefineus is essential for interacting.
        Espically late at night when lonely and distressed.
        Getting your life back is key. X

      • Thanks again. I will look at the other sites. I practically have a research library at home from books on the subject. I don’t know if this will help you at all but you should know that you do help others. You are a gift to many.

      • I don’t think we will ever understand the lying. That is the hardest part for me. I think when bad things happen, we naturally try to make sense of it to help us better understand it.

      • From what I read, lying is to obtain what one wants. Why the lier feels they cannot get what they want honestly is the root. In many cases I would suspect that what they want is fantasy and intrigue so lying becomes part of the art. There are others that seem to automatically lie in all occasions; a knee jerk response to childhood issues. Or would that be just plain jerk hahaha.
        It is disappointing to discover the one you love is in that category. Next question is why my personality fitted his. My own flaws? My own desire for fantasy? X

  8. Listening to the video has made since and gave me a new hope. I am going to have my husband watch it tonight. We are just under 2 years since his 5 month affair. I found out because of the technology. I noticed him acting different and an affair was the furthest from my mind. We were married for 41 years and I thought things were going great. His mother died and that is when this happened, she was waiting at his work with her condolences and so the story goes on.
    Our marriage is getting so much better since he is employed some where else since January 2015. I hated everyday until then. I believe he was not meeting her but I knew she was there. He has did a complete change and I know I come first but I can’t get the affair off my mind.
    I do believe our first marriage is over and he ask me to marry him again. I said yes but I am not ready. I want to be over this sick feeling I have. It has to be right when we say new vows.
    Thank you for the blog. It has help tremendously. My husband reads along when I ask. I just started wearing my wedding ring again to see if I would feel any different, so far nothing, but I won’t give up. In a lot of ways our lives are better. I won’t give up!

  9. I hate when people cheat. I like making something stronger but fixing something broken or damaged relationship is torcher. It takes an eternity to forget. I take that back u dont forget. You may see someone similiar to her or him. It brings back all those bad memories. Or if a person has there same type of personality.

  10. I’ve lost my hope… It’s a little over a year since DDay and I think I need a break or out completely. I don’t feel anything but disgust. I’ve tried so hard to stay for the sake of our family but since they are getting older and not really here much, I just feel lonely. So many times I e told him what I need. He just can’t. I guess it’s a simple as that. We don’t have a relationship. We have a living situation. My mind wonders and then I realize that I don’t even care anymore. The man I adored is not the the man here. The man that would never hurt me …. Has. What’s there to rebuild????? I thought I could move forward but the reality is that he fucked someone else several times in a dirty hotel while I was loving him sick in a hospital bed recovering from 2 heart surgeries. No matter how hard I try, he’s not the same person and neither am I.

    • Amy –
      I am so sorry to hear how much you are hurting. I wish I had wise words to tell you but as I am only 4 months into this hell I do not. I can tell you that I started feeling better when I started working on myself. Their relationship destroyed all of my confidence… initially. Finally I thought ” why let her have one more day in my life?” It works some days and not others.
      Like you I too ask myself why bother in this relationship as the betrayal goes so deep. Part of it is that I am stubborn as hell and the other part is for love. I know my old marriage is dead and gone and I have learned to accept that. I will never put on my old ring again and I hope I am wiser and a better person. He has been a better husband to me in the last 4 months than in the last 20+ years. We seem to be headed in the right direction but only time will tell. Counseling has helped somewhat but we have yet to find a counselor who we mesh with.
      Please take care of yourself.

  11. Thank you for your blog. I found out my husband cheated 5 days ago. I am devastated. We went to counselling yesterday. He wants to do whatever it takes to get through this. I am hoping some day I can forgive him and trust him. 2 kids, 12 years. Your blog is helping me to feel not so alone.

    • Oh Kelly, I have been catching up on the last few months of entries and comments and just came upon yours. My heart dropped when I read your comment. I too found this sight about a week after D-Day. The affair occurred during our 12th year of marriage with 2 kids. Seems to be a common theme if you read a lot of the stories. That was 2 1/2 years ago now. We are doing great…not perfect of course but my husbands reaction to want to do anything to make it work made it much easier to heal. I hope you are doing okay and things are brighter each day for you.

  12. Great post. This Ted Talk really puts infidelity into perspective. I have silently stalked your blog for months (since my own D Day) and I just wanted to tell you that your insights really have helped me through the most difficult moments of my life. xoxo

  13. I LOVED this Ted talk. I made my husband watch it. I think there were several points she made that explained exactly how I feel. I could have written it myself. My husband watched it over and over and just cried. Maybe that’s a good sign. He didn’t actually sleep with another woman, he just sexted her, but it still hurts SO bad. To the core. I hate feeling the way that I do. Some days I am completely fine, and then some days it just sneaks up on me and I am right back to D-Day. We have a million memories together, and I can only see the memories of the night I found out. This blog is helping me heal more than anything. It is so good to know I am not alone.

  14. I am so blessed to have known michaelstealth you are god sent.i really appreciate working with you after you helped me discover my husband was cheating on me and all he asked for was his email and phone number, that way I was able to access all the information I needed .i am not ashame to tell because i know alot of people need this too. is the best and assured person to run to for anything you need to fish out and any bone you wanna pick.i guaranty you.god bless you sir

  15. Hi There, while I generally agree and can relate to most of your posts, and find some comfort in them, I find this one a bit troubling. It appears to questions why betrayal is not more acceptable? Am I misunderstanding?
    I don’t agree that a majority of married people will experience infidelity, I suspect that’s a gross exaggeration that benefits cheaters and those who would profit off of the RIC (reconciliation industry complex). There have been stats from 6% to 70%, yet most point to 20 or may 25%. And even if the stats were higher, would the discovery be any less painful? Any less, soul crushing? Any more palatable? Should there be no consequences? I think not. But certainly cheaters use the high stats to minimize such an atrocious act of aggression and attempt to say it is common, in essence, everyone does it so what’s the big deal? It’s a not so subtle form of victim blaming. But it is a big deal, it consists of lying, gas lighting, plotting, and a certain despicable and cowardly furtiveness. To put it in perspective, they say a woman is raped every few minutes. Would you argue that knowing this would make rape any less hideous, any less painful and soul destroying? Should we as women be prepared to be raped? Will preparation ever make it alright, acceptable? Is this what we should advise our children? To be clear, the reason I use this analogy is because as a survivor, I found that betrayal by someone I trusted most in the world, worse than rape. Something so awful and soul wrenching ought never be remotely considered acceptable-and to hear this from someone who has been through betrayal baffles and unsettles me.
    Instead what we need to do is let people know how awful it is, broadcast how utterly corrosive and destructive betrayal is not just to the spouse, but the children, family and yes society. Instead of acquiescing, we need to rail against it, not accept it. It baffles me, that in an age where corporations are having employees take annual ethics classes, as we struggle with the effects of corrupt corporate dealings, we are not applying these standards and principles to our relationships. Aren’t promises and relationships so much more important and to be valued? Corporations sue and are sued for breach of contract. Shouldn’t infidelity esp in a marriage be treated with the same or even more gravity? It is a breach of the most heinous kind and TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE, especially now when the world seems to be such an unsafe place, we need to feel safe in our relationships, and not expect that the one person we trust most will destroy us.
    And while I agree that betrayal need not be the end of a relationship, reconciliation should only be considered after the betrayer does all he can to help the faithful spouse heal and atoned for his trespass.
    You keep asking yourself how one can enter a marriage knowing that infidelity will probably occur. Instead I ask why enter a marriage if you believe infidelity will occur? What then do we tell our children?
    Principles like honesty, character and loyalty are paramount. That it is not “naive” or “our problem” if we expect our spouses to be faithful. They should be. And if they’re not there are lawful consequences.That in a world that seems to increasingly support narcissist tendencies, it’s critically important that we uphold and model these principles. We’re taught as children to treat each other decently. Should that change as well? After experiencing infidelity, I am even more convinced of how awful betrayal is, not less.
    And as for Esther’s TED talk, it’s a bit self serving & narcissistic. The truth is we all have longings, we all seek to express ourselves, and hunger for intimacy. And this can be realized in our relationships as they change and evolve. But a truly revolutionary act would be to do relationships authentically, with love, caring and decency.
    Jimmy Carter said, that times may change, but our principles need not.

    • Very interesting and rings true.
      I think the original post meant that if it’s common why aren’t we prepared for it. I would agree with both points of view. Betrayal is unacceptable; (my husband’s AP’s main point when it blew up!!!!) and why, as women, aren’t we clearer on our own worth and understand these vicious transgressions to be not about us but the perpetrator. To many people here think it’s their fault.
      At year three I am examining why and how my personality fits into this jigsaw.

    • I have just found this post and sooooo agree. I was beginning to think there must be something wrong with me as I too did not go along with much of what Ester Perel said. Betrayal by the one you held most dear is a peculiar type of torture and should not be more accepted because so many people betray their partner. There are many criminals in the world but that does not make me more likely to betray my values and become one- no matter the temptation. I think we are in danger of condoning ( in a way) something which is completely unacceptable.

    • This post just showed up in my email again; so once again dear Moddie, what a terrific comment!
      If one found out that their best friend, as in girl friend, had another best friend that she kept quiet about, told everything to, went to secret special outings and such, I don’t think anyone would be surprised if, when you found out, you lost true closeness and confidence in her. So why is it so hard to see it so simply with a partner? That is a surperficial but clear example.
      Betrayal is betrayal. Why the contortions to make it right?
      I think Parel’s video was useful to understand the flaw but does not make it acceptable. My children have been devastated by this. One violent and sucidal. This is not just about me, my husband’s weakness or “the institution of marriage”, this is about betrayal.

  16. I’m new at this. Reading all I can. After 19 years of marriage, my husband moved out to figure some things out. We were still loving toward each other and partners. I believed I could love him through this crisis.
    He began moving back home about when this post was written., 9 months after he left. Victory, I thought. Not really. I found out 2 months ago that he started an affair while we were apart. We’d agreed that it was not that kind of separation. Or I should say it turned out one of us agreed.
    We were high school sweethearts. Intelligent people who waited until after graduate school to marry. Another 5 years before kids. We were that couple that just adored each other. So this notion of “it couldn’t happen to me” was strong. How humbling this is!
    The affair has ended but the AP haunts my dreams and my days. I feel taunted by her in that she knew about me but I didn’t know about her.
    It’s rough, as you all know. I’m hopeful that as we come up on our 21st anniversary, we can begin a new marriage. Our emotional and physical closeness is far better than it was prior to the separation, but the fear is so very strong.
    Thank you for this blog. It is incredibly validating. Good people sometimes do really terrible things. We are all capable of failing those we love, but I am hopeful that we can learn and grow from this because we are also capable of feeling great joy.

    • This has been incredibly humbling for me too. Reading posts like yours on my blog makes me know that I am not alone. That this experience is more common than I ever understood. And, importantly, infidelity is not a death sentence for a marriage.

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