Few events cause as much turmoil in a marriage as infidelity, which can reduce a marriage to rubble, shattering trust and creating a breeding ground for insecurity, mistrust and resentment.
Reliable statistics on the frequency of marital infidelity are hard to come by because affairs can't be objectively measured like divorce and marriage. What's more, researchers say there is no way to verify what individuals report about affairs on surveys.
One often-cited expert, Peggy Vaughan, author of The Monogamy Myth, estimates that 60 percent of husbands and 40 percent of wives will have an affair at some point in their marriage; however, less than 10 percent of people who have affairs divorce and marry their lovers.
Infidelity Is Not a Death Sentence
As painful and devastating as infidelity is, family therapists say it is a wound that can be healed — albeit slowly. "We need to get the word out to the millions of American couples who are coping with an affair: Infidelity is a treatable crisis," maintains William Doherty, professor and director of the Marriage and Family Program at the University of Minnesota and author of the book Take Back Your Marriage.
Sound like a monumental task? It is, so for guidance on how the betrayed and betrayer can heal from infidelity Discovery Health Online turned to Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW, the best-selling author of several relationship-mending books, including The Divorce Remedy. A therapist, who has counseled thousands of couples, Weiner is an unabashed advocate of staying together. No matter how bleak and dark things may be, virtually any marriage can be brought back form the brink of splitting up, she insists.
First and foremost, Weiner wants you to know that there is no "quick fix" to repair the damage caused by unfaithfulness. The process takes time — often years — and you need a great deal of patience to handle the disappointment and disillusionment along the way. "Be prepared for many 'back to square ones,'"she says, adding that the setbacks will diminish over time.
With that said, here are what Weiner considers the most important steps for couples seeking to heal from infidelity.