Married Couples Who Survive An Affair Fall Into 3 Kinds Of Groups

by Aiyana Ma’at Have you ever wondered whether a marriage can truly heal after infidelity? We know of many people who have survived an affair but what is their relationship like? Is their connection the same? Can their relationship be even better or is it forever torn apart? Well,  Esther Perel, M.A., author of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence and marriage therapist, wondered the same thing. She contacted couples whom she had successfully treated years prior for infidelity to determine how they looked back at the event and its impact on their marriage. How they viewed the infidelity and the impact it had on their marriage was very interesting to say the least.

After completing interviews with the couples, Perel found they fell into three general groups:

Living in the Past

These couples stay married, but never successfully move past the affair. Forgiveness is not truly given. The offending couple may not take any responsibility for contributing to relationship problems. “The affair has become the narrative of their union,” says Perel, who adds, “It’s a black hole trapping both parties in an endless round of bitterness, revenge, and self-pity.”

The Survivors

These couples revert to a fairly peaceful marriage, similar to what they had before the affair. They stay in the marriage because they honor the values of commitment and loyalty, and they don’t want to break up their families. They may lack passion in their marriage, but they want to do the “right thing.” They see the affair as a painful mistake. They don’t transcend the affair, but they do move beyond it.

The Explorers

These couples use the infidelity as a catalyst for change, transcending the experience to bring their relationship to new heights previously not experienced. They reinvent their relationship, learning from their failures and past hurts, and each take responsibility for their part in the marriage’s deterioration. The infidelity becomes an impetus for a transformative experience.

The most successful couples shifted from talking about “you” and “me” (what you did to me) to reflecting on “our life” or “our crisis”. So, what does that tell us? When we stop thinking in terms of “I” and move to “we” we radically shift path that our relationship is on. When we think about what’s best for the marriage instead of just what we want we change the course that we’re on. We must see the pain, anger, and conflict as an opportunity for us to individually go within and grow instead of the end of all hope. Don’t live in the past. Don’t just be a survivor—-Thrive and Explore the endless possibilities for your relationship to be richer, tighter, and better than ever before.

4 replies
  1. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    First, I would like to say that this is a great article. I found it interesting, and now I know where I stand. As having been through this, I am in the first category and my husband is trying to move to the last category. I'm sorry its hard, and as much as I would like to forgive him, I can't find it in my heart to do so. I want a divorce and he does not-so for now I am still here (physically), but mentally and emotionally I am not here. I wil say that for those couples that have found forgiveness, and have been able to move forward and work to make their relationship better-kudos, but for me this has been an ultimate deal-breaker.

  2. Atomize
    Atomize says:

    I think it's called Atonement, and there are at least 8 steps. 1. Point out fault 2. Acknowledge fault 3. Confess fault 4. Repentance 5. Atonement 6. Forgiveness 7. Reconciliation and Restoration 8. Perfect Union. It may take years for both parties to go from step1 to step 4. I would suggest that both parties direct step 1 to 4 at themselves. It's too easy to just feel hard done by if it was the "other person" that cheated. But I believe, though it may be hard to accept, that there is always some fault on both sides.

  3. Ms. Jackson
    Ms. Jackson says:

    Whoo Wee! I have been there! And, it was pure HELL let me tell you…. But, I am happy to say that my husband and I have moved from living in the past to being survivors! Thank God!

  4. The1MsHBIC
    The1MsHBIC says:

    Well, it maybe specific elements that make you fall into a ceratin category. For instance, some couples may fall into the first category "Living in the Past" because the spouse that cheated didn't own up to cheating and they didn't find closure and couldn't heal from the process. A couple may fall into the second category "The survivors" because they go back to the status quo of their relationship because that maybe all they know. Now, I like "The Explorers". The explorers realize that their love is extremely important and they recognize that Living in the Past isn't going to keep them together. They appreciate surviving the affair, but they strive for more. They want to completely be free from the stigma of the affair and move on with a positive, productive and loving relationship that is monogamous. But, both parties have to acknowledge their part in the affair, be sincerely remorseful and work diligently at changing themselves individually to improve as a couple. Great article.

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