What you need to know:
- It is possible for couples who have suffered infidelity to enjoy post-affair marital stability and trustworthiness
- Infidelity does not have to be the end of a relationship. Couples can work through infidelity, restore their relationship
- When infidelity is confessed as opposed to discovered, both partners may be more willing to work on restoring the relationship
Can cheating make a marriage stronger? According to a five-year research project by the University of Washington published in the Journal of Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, it is possible for couples who have suffered infidelity to enjoy post-affair marital stability and trustworthiness in the same way as couples who didn’t suffer infidelity. “Infidelity does not have to be the end of a relationship. Couples can work through infidelity, restore their relationship, and enjoy a stable and satisfying marital relationship," the researchers wrote. Additionally, "When infidelity is confessed as opposed to discovered, both partners may be more willing to work on restoring the relationship." According to the research project, couples who survived infidelity were those who willingly subjected themselves to relationship counseling sessions.
Why did it happen?
According to Zelda West-Meads, a marriage researcher and the author of To Love, Honour and Betray, working out what went wrong is the first and ultimate goal that should salvage your marriage. “When you have talked through, and have decided the affair is over and you still want your marriage, work out what went wrong,” she says. For instance, it could be that you were neglecting each other’s emotional and sexual needs. Research conducted using data from the dating site AshleyMadison.com revealed 67 percent of women who cheat on their husbands are essentially looking for passion and sex but have zero interest in ending their marriages. “These findings reflect not marital disharmony, but the sexual monotony; a social fact in long-term monogamous relationships like marriage. The longer a relationship progresses, the more likely the quality and the frequency of sex will fade. We get used to and bored of the same body,” said Eric Anderson, the lead researcher, and professor of masculinity, sexuality, and sport at the University of Winchester, England.
Separate sexual life
Your partner may have looked for a separate sexual life in a bid to feel more wanted, lusted after, attractive, and or appreciated. Psychologist Ken Munyua says such needs and wants point to deeper, emotional problems bedeviling the marriage. Your partner will rarely cheat with a stranger, it will be an acquaintance they have been engaging with under the guise of ‘Just friends’. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, platonic relationships where one party is married hold great potential to evolve into emotional affairs that quickly include emotional intimacy, secrecy, and sexual chemistry at levels higher than those in the marriage.
Turning the page
Ironically, cheating could be the fodder your marriage needed to grow stronger! However, you will need to evaluate what you needed or wanted or weren’t getting in your union. “Maybe your drive to seek sex elsewhere can illuminate the fact that your sex life is not optimal or that you haven’t been working towards a satisfying sex life. Perhaps you’ve not been feeling validated in the areas of love or sex and that drove you to seek a connection with someone else,” says Michael Broder, a psychologist and author of Can Your Relationship Be Saved? How to Know Whether to Stay or Go.
A marriage will only reap from the act of unfaithfulness if both the guilty and innocent parties are willing to walk the rough road towards total reconciliation. “You failed to tackle the elephant in your bedroom prior to the affair. If you don’t confront it head-on immediately, you can rest assured your marriage is a house of cards that could blow off any minute,” he says.
Finally, if your spouse cheated and you are working on a reconciliation, avoid dredging up the past whenever you have an argument. “Do not obsess about the person your partner cheated on you with either, doing so will entrench your pain while reinforcing your anger and disdain,” says Dr. Broder. “Choose to develop a civil and thoughtful discussion about what needs to change and, or be worked on immediately to get your marriage on the path to recovery.”