I had an affair when I was married. I am not proud of it. But I justified it to myself by saying that, if I didn’t have that outlet, that feeling of love, of being needed by someone I would go mad. And that would be the end of my marriage.
It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? That I was so hell-bent on keeping my family together, and keeping my sanity intact, I would trample on my marriage vows and lie to the person I once loved.
And in the end, it all came to naught anyway. My husband suspected what was going on and, as his distrust of me grew, so did any last remnant of hope of saving our marriage. But the guy that I was having an affair with had made an ‘open marriage’ work; he and his wife were having affairs with both knowing about the other. They had three kids, one very disabled, and wanted to keep the family unit together.
Coming from suburbia in the middle of the UK, this idea shocked me at first. But then I thought, why not? If it means they can keep themselves happy and sane, allowing their children to grow up in a secure and loving family, who am I to criticise?
So I believe, perhaps contraversially, that your marriage can survive adultery. After all, it’s estimated that 80% of married people, both men and women, have cheated on their spouse at some point. And only (only!) 50% of marriages end in divorce. But it is a tough road to follow, and in the end, it may be best to call it a day. Here are my 5 reasons to stay, and 5 reasons to leave.
5 Reasons to Stay
1. Like my ‘friend’, you may want to keep the family together because of the particular needs of the children. Keeping the family together automatically ‘because of the children’ may not be the right thing to do, though. Kids are more tuned in than you think about relationships and will recognise if you are unhappy. Tread carefully.
2. The affair may have been a mistake. It may have been a one night stand. Alcohol may have played a significant part. If you are the injured party, and are really able to forgive and forget, then it may be worth doing just that. But you will need lots of support from your partner to rid the relationship of its toxins.
3. If you love your husband and he loves you, then why not stay together? The affair could have been caused by fixable things. Talk to your partner. Work on your issues. And if it’s worth mending – mend it.
4. The ‘one last chance’ rule. If your partner is the adulterer, but you have twenty years of marriage behind you, and he wants to work it out, you might – might – want to give him one last chance. Twenty years of loyalty verses one affair is a tough call, but it’s yours to make. You might decide that those twenty great years are worthy of forgiveness.
5. Create an ‘open relationship’. Not for the fainthearted, this one, but it’s what worked for my friend and it could work for you. He discovered that his wife was in love with another man, but instead of splitting up the family, or saying that she couldn’t see the other guy any more, they agreed that they would have discrete affairs. The children were not aware.
I’m aware that your beliefs in the sanctity of marriage, or in fact your own make-up, may not make this a valid option, but my impression is that, if you scratch the surface, it is not an uncommon arrangement.
Worries about finances are not reasons to stay. You may not be able to maintain the lifestyle that you currently have, but it is so much better to be worse off but happy, than rich but miserable as sin. Money can’t buy you love – The Beatles knew a thing or two about this.
5 Reasons to Leave
1. You don’t love each other. Go now. Do not look back.
2. If your partner has had the affair and you don’t think you will be able to trust him again, then you need to call it a day. It’s not fair on him or you if you continue to engage in a relationship where you are constantly suspicious.
3. Don’t stay ‘for the sake of the children.’ Of course it is better for the kids to grow up with a ‘complete’ loving family, but if there is no love there, they will feel it. Better they stay with two happy parents, separately, than two miserable parents together.
4. You can’t communicate any more. A relationship without communication is like a cherry tree with no blossom. It loses its beauty, and becomes a bare skeleton of a thing. If your discussions are always escalating to arguments, if there’s sulking and slamming doors, and nothing you can do or advice you take can resolve it – perhaps it’s time to go.
5. You’ve tried everything. You (or your partner) have stopped the affair. You’ve been to marriage counselling. You have really done your best to forgive or be forgiven – and you are both still unhappy. Call time, and manage the split as best you can.
Having said all of the above, everybody’s situation will be different and everyone has differing views on the consequences of adultery. So, in the end you will know whether it’s best to work at what you’ve got or to close it down and move on.
Both paths are rocky, but can ultimately lead to happiness. So whichever you choose, I wish you all the luck in the world.