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.”
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.
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.