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Life after infidelity: Should you stay or should you go?

After the evidence has been found, what do you do?
After the evidence has been found, what do you do?
Family Risk Management Services

There is an elephant in the room. Neither of you wants to acknowledge him. That's because his name is Infidelity. You know it happened, and (s)he knows you know. Still, nothing has been said. It's too fresh. You're not ready to have that conversation yet.

Every day, couples trudge through the forest of infidelity. Some make it out, others don't. Whether or not you make it out depends on a lot of different factors. Infidelity is not necessarily the end of a marriage, but it is a sign there is a lot of work ahead of you, if the relationship is to be saved. After the initial shock of the discovery wears off (or at least lessens some), a serious decision has to be made: Is the relationship worth saving? Are you willing to invest the amount of time and energy that will be necessary from this point on? If you have seven years and two children invested in a relationship that has been relatively happy until this point, you may want to do the work, but If you were already on the edge of insanity and don't have any children to tie you to this person, you may want to end it and start fresh.

Obviously, this isn't an easy decision to make. Sometimes , more information about the indiscretion will help, but it is ill-advised to get caught up in demanding graphic details. Though you may feel entitled to know the "how" and "where," it is better to stick with the "who," "when" and "why." This is the information that will better inform your decision. The rest will only increase your rage and make the situation harder to deal with.

If you decide to end things, then you already know what to do. If you decide you'd like to work it out (or at least try), then it is time to move on to step two: getting to the root. People cheat for a lot of different reasons. Discovering that reason lets you know what exactly needs fixing. Was it self-sabotage, commitment issues, loneliness, anger, revenge, plain old immaturity? Each of these reasons would need to be handled differently. For example, if the reason is self-sabotage or commitment issues, the offending party needs to do some intrapersonal work. However, if the reason is loneliness or anger, the necessary work is interpersonal, as the relationship itself is lacking.

While having these emotionally-charged discussions, it can be helpful to have a disinterested party to keep the emotion at bay. It can be easy and even comfortable for couples to get into yelling matches, where they go back and forth assigning blame. It feels good to get things off your chest, but, more often than not, the problem still remains in the end. What works is to create a judgment-free zone for the two of you to air your true feelings. If the offended needs to say, "I feel like I can't trust you and feel like strangling you," he or she needs to be able to (as long as there is no actual strangling involved). If the offender needs to say, "I feel like you don't care how I feel," he or she needs to be able to.

Once the air has been cleared and the two of you are making progress, its time for step three: reestablishing trust. One reason infidelity is so hurtful is because it slashes a hole into the trust the marriage was built on. It must be repaired. This will need to be done on the offended parties’ terms, since they are the ones who can no longer trust. It is crucial the offenders give them the time they need and don't try to force it. Aggressively suggesting that they can be trusted again is only another way of disregarding their feelings. The offender must be patient and know that it come in baby steps. Once the offended is able to forgive, it will be easier to build trust and fully reinvest in the relationship.

The last step is actually an enjoyable one: maintenance. After you've gotten your marriage back to a healthy place, it is more important than ever that the two of you work to maintain it. Resist the temptation to fall back into the same roles. Be more aware of each other's needs. Be more thoughtful. Be more caring. Be fun. Be romantic. Be happy. Learn from the past, but don't live in it. 

Sending beautiful energy your way,

~Nadirah Angail

Got a marriage question? Looking for some advice? That's what I'm here for. Feel free to email me at or leave a comment here. (Don't worry. It can be anonymous.)

All Kansas City Marriage Advice Examiner content ©2010 by Nadirah Angail Habeebullah; reposts permitted with copyright notice and link back to original article. All other rights reserved.



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