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The Avalanche of an Affair

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Dr. Michelle Golland: An affair is like an avalanche. It seems to come unexpectedly, although underneath it has been waiting to happen, it freezes everything in time and causes great damage.


Studies vary, but affairs for women range between 15-40% and for men 25-60%. Infidelity does not have to be the death sentence on a marriage. With the divorce rate at 50% -- and especially for couples with children -- I believe we need to rethink our relationships and when we choose to jump ship even if someone has cheated. No matter how dark things may be, I believe any marriage can be brought back to life after an affair.

An affair is a symptom of a marriage in distress. People do not choose to have affairs in healthy solid relationships. I tell my couples who are coping with the fallout of an affair to know that it won't be easy, but there is hope for recovering and creating a new marriage. There is no quick fix to repair the insecurity, mistrust and resentment that builds around this damaging event. It will take time -- months to years -- and the couple must have patience to deal with the disappointment and disillusionment along the road to healing. I explain to my couples that divorce takes more time, more energy and more money then properly and effectively dealing with the infidelity and what in the relationship lead the couple down this destructive path. If both partners want to save the marriage and keep the family together, professional therapy is always suggested to deal with an affair. Here are a few steps each partner must take:

* Be honest about the affair. The cheater must talk in as much detail and answer all questions the betrayed partner poses to them.

* You must take full responsibility. Even if you were unhappy and have a list of reasons for the affair it was you that chose to step outside of the marriage.

* Express true remorse and do not minimize your actions.

* Act trustworthy. You must be able to account for your time away from your partner and express compassion for the difficult position they are in.

* Know and demand whatever it will take for you to heal the infidelity and begin to trust again.

* Make the choice to forgive. An infidelity is never forgotten. The memory can't be erased but the act can be forgiven and put in context of the unhealthy prior marriage.

* The betrayed must come to a place where they understand their part in the demise of the marriage before the affair.

Marriages that recover from the avalanche of an affair can become the most loving and connected marriages -- if each partner is committed to the process of this work. In time, the affair can fade into the background if both partners are deeply committed to understanding themselves and their relationship.

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11 comments so far | Post a comment now
Theresa March 27, 2009, 9:38 PM

Um, sorry. If my husband cheated on me that WOULD be the end of our marriage. Maybe it’s my own failing, but I know I could never forgive it. I wonder if Dr. Golland has ever been cheated on?

Anonymous March 28, 2009, 12:49 AM

this info is so textbook and unrealistic

Cindy March 28, 2009, 12:50 AM

I don’t think that marriages recovering from affairs can become the “most” loving. what fantasy world are we living in?

Dels March 28, 2009, 12:30 PM

I think there are some very good points in this article, it may help someone with the stepping stones, but realistically its 10x harder to reconcile than this article makes it seem

Randi March 28, 2009, 6:15 PM

Dr- do you really work with people?

T.H. March 29, 2009, 1:15 AM

This is a very true post, i lived this lesson of life and have survived a cheating spouse. We’re years past it and life seems to have went full circle for us. If you both want it to work out it will. I am very happy with my decision to stay.

Dr. Michelle Golland March 29, 2009, 12:15 PM

Dear Moms

I hear some of you and your total frustration and belief of what you would “do” if your spouse cheated on you. It is not until we are in the position of truly needing to examine the pain and difficulty of dealing with this issue and the damage of choosing divorce for ourselves and our children that we know how we would truly react. This is the most painful and challenging of situations and can only be dealt with IF both partners want to save the marriage and the family unit. Yes, I work with couples and yes I have helped couples come together after the infidelity to have happy authentic wonderful marriages. Believe me the damage of divorce for the children is worth a GREAT effort if both partners WANT to recover from the affair. For those that can’t even contemplate recovery it would be best to divorce. I respect both positions but don’t make the mistake of believing one is a strong position and one is a weak one. It takes enormous strength to do the work of recovering from infidelity.

Samantha March 29, 2009, 5:17 PM

As unfortunate as it is, it seems like its easier to divorce than stay married and cheating (however wrong it is) means there are problems. Relationships take work and even though you have kids, jobs, home etc I know there are not enough hours in the day to add one more thing but the relationship itself is important and if you think you just don’t have the time, then usually there is someone else out there that will be happy to do it. I don’t think most cheating begins with sex, I think it starts in the mind with 2 people communicating, then the closeness allows for sex to happen.Even if you’re thinking no way there are no problems, remember men and women think differently and they need to have things kept exciting, think about it.

me March 29, 2009, 5:26 PM

YES it can!!!!!!

Angelique April 1, 2009, 2:08 AM

After five sexless and clueless years of marriage, I finally found out what was wrong. I thought it might be that my husband was having an affair or possibly gay. It turns out the guy had better orgasms with his coffee table cabinet contents of XXX magazines and XXX videos. I confronted him but things escalated to spread eagle pictures of women printed off the internet. I felt the same pain as if he cheated on me with hundreds of women. The neglect and selfishness of his actions caused a deep hole in my soul at the time. Finally, he admitted that he really didn’t want to marry me. I wish that I would have lived with him before I married him. Or better yet if he would have been more honest before the impending wedding. In hindsight, we were definitely not compatible and have divorced. I realize that all men are not like my ex-husband and I still believe in love and hope to find someone special. This time, I’m older and wiser.

Fashion Design October 12, 2010, 1:48 PM

Many thanks for your penmanship. I am a fashion student in Los angeles and have shared this to my mates.

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