When Is It Not Worth Saving a Marriage After an Affair?

by Dr. Sonya Lott

It’s difficult to measure the frequency of extramarital affairs. Statistics vary, depending on whether the definition of an “affair” is limited to sexual interaction or includes emotional relationships, as well. But most married couples not only survive infidelity, they can often rebuild stronger relationships, according to the article “Infidelity” on the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy website. However, in some cases there are some clear reasons why remaining in the marriage may not be in the best interests of one or both partners.

“I’ll Never Be Dishonest Again”

Lying about or hiding an affair is what makes it so difficult to trust a partner again, according to relationship expert Dr. Tammy Nelson in her book, “The New Monogamy: Redefining Your Relationship After Infidelity.” But rebuilding trust is essential for the survival of the marriage. If the partners have agreed to work on rebuilding trust with the help of a counselor, one of the first things a counselor would do is to address the need for honesty. So if the partner who had the affair is still being dishonest or secretive about their whereabouts or interactions with others, it’s not likely that he will become honest.

“We Never Really Had Sex”

Social media has made it so easy to develop intimate relationships with others. As a result, emotional affairs have become more common. Some partners will try to minimize the impact of this type of affair because they didn’t involve actual physical sexual activity. But it is still infidelity, according to the article, “Surviving Infidelity: Living with a Cheating Spouse” on the Sexual Recovery Institute website. The partner needs to take full responsibility for her behavior and the effect it has on the marriage. If she doesn’t, there is a greater chance she will cheat again.

“We’re Just Friends Now”

A partner who cheated needs to cut off all contact with the person they had the affair with, as stated by marriage expert Dr. Phil McGraw in the article, “Moving Forward After Infidelity” posted on his Dr. Phil Show website. This should be a deal breaker if the partner refuses as it will be too difficult to reestablish trust. If a child is born from the relationship or the two work together it will be impossible to avoid contact. This makes rebuilding a marriage very complicated. Either of these situations may be sufficient reason to leave the marriage.

"It Won't Happen a Third Time"

If the partner has cheated at least once before, it is more likely she will cheat again, according to the “Surviving Infidelity: Living with a Cheating Spouse” article. At this time, it wouldn't be in the best interest of the partner to remain in the marriage.

About the Author

Sonya Lott, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania, who offers online and in office counseling to individuals struggling with grief, loss or a life transition. She also facilitates mental health workshops for educational, professional, and community groups and maintains a blog on her website www.drsonyalott.com.

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