I could only imagine that when one partner strays, that the question- should I leave or stay almost always comes up. There are those couples where the cheated- on partner says “No way” and immediately ends the relationship. Likewise, there are those rare couples where the cheated-on partner knows that he or she is not going anywhere and wants to work on the relationship. However, more commonly there is some ambivalence. It is difficult to stay because the foundation of trust has been broken. It is difficult to leave because of a myriad of reasons- a long history together, children, familiarity, money, and more. That trust issue though is a big one and one that ultimately will have to be worked through IF the couple has even a chance of surviving and thriving after an affair.
So, should the other spouse stay? If the betrayed spouse stays, is that being a fool, a wishful thinker or even worse than that- a pathetic figure asking for more heartbreak? Typically, that is what other family members or friends might say.; for example- being quick to say something like- “Just walk away from that jerk (or bitch).” However, if we tune into the complexity of the soul of the betrayed partner, we right away can empathize with the gray area of that decision. As a marriage therapist who deals with infidelity all the time, I ask both people to face the truth, their own inner truth. I want them to look deeply at what led to the affair and what might be the best solutions so that this kind of pain (of betrayal) has a minimal chance of happening again. That could mean breaking up or that could mean creating new and healthy patterns that make this relationship more infidelity-proof (Of course there are no guarantees) and ultimately more satisfying.
Here are some questions the betrayed spouse could ask to decide whether to work on the relationship or work on getting out of it:
1) Is the cheating spouse willing to end the affair entirely (no communication period)?
2) Is the cheating spouse willing to go to marital counseling?
3) Is the cheating spouse showing willingness and an ability to look deeply at the underlying reasons that led him or her to make the choice to cheat?
4) Does the cheating spouse show a willingness to change some patterns that would lead to better problem solving and make it less likely for that person to repeat the infidelity?
5) Do I have energy on trying to make this work even if I am in pain?
6) Do I want to hang in there and do the work it takes even if I have to make some changes as well (which is usually the case)?
7) Am I willing to go to marriage therapy to make this work?
If the answer is ‘Yes’ to all 7 questions, it might be your decision to try to work it through. However, if it is not unanimously ‘Yes’, the marriage may not be viable. There are not manuals that tell you exactly how to decide that. Even the 7 questions I made as well as my comment those 7 questions are just signposts that could be used as an assessment tool for these situations. Ultimately it is about following your heart and intuition. Your close friends, your family members, your clergy and your therapist are not the ones who ultimately make that decision. They can help you communicate, heal and process your pain and thinking. The decision is ultimately yours that culminates from your unique process.
Need more help?
- Check out my resource page on infidelity here: http://toddcreager.com/surviveinfidelity/
- Here’s another resource I’ve created to help couples heal from infidelity – 10 Steps to Healing From Infidelity, get a copy and find out the 10 steps that will help you or a loved one start healing from infidelity today.
CLICK HERE to get your FREE copy today!