Cheating May Not Have to End Your Relationship After All

man with two women

We all know someone whose relationship ended because of an affair. We get it: There's anger, betrayal, heartbreak, and disappointment to such a degree that one -- or both -- partners feel pretty damn sure that their relationship will never recover. But some experts are suggesting just the opposite: not only can a relationship survive after an affair, but it should also be given a fighting chance.


And you and your man could end up tighter than before.

A recent article in the Globe and Mail explains that a number of experts think we need to start taking a more pragmatic POV about monogamy. And not just because of hookup sites and free Internet porn, but also because monogamy itself apparently fights our natural human instincts.

The stats that support this are definitely not the stuff of happy endings. According to a 2011 Indiana University study of just over 900 couples, 23.2 percent men and 19.2 percent of women admitted that they'd cheated on their current partner. A French study found even higher numbers -- 55 percent of men and 32 percent of women admitted to being unfaithful.

But like we said, none of this may be reason enough to call it quits on your relationship.

"The worst stance a person can take in light of infidelity is one of self-righteous indignation and black-and-white thinking," explains Paul Hokemeyer, JD, PhD, a licensed marriage and family therapist who practices in New York City, Los Angeles, and Telluride, Colorado. "When it comes to romance and sexual relations, the truth comes in deep and nuanced shades of gray."

And even more so the longer a couple is together, Hokemeyer adds.

When a partner strays, of course it's normal to feel violated. But to "right the wrong," it's common for the betrayed to take swift and dramatic action, says Hokemeyer. "They draw a line in the sand and ... say, 'I'm right. You're wrong. I'm leaving.'"

But after the relationship comes apart, many couples come to regret that, Hokemeyer says. "They discover to their great dismay that they've thrown the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. They realize too late that life is a complicated calculus rather than a simple equation."

More from The Stir: Men Confess What Really Drove Them to Cheat on Their Spouses

The best way to deal with infidelity?

"Slowly," Hokemeyer says. And with more forgiveness than you might initially feel.

Sure, you -- or your partner -- might be devastated. (Of course you are!) But "recognize it's a single chapter in the long narrative of life," urges Hokemeyer. "Instead of allowing [an affair] to destroy your [relationship], see if you can integrate it into a relationship that enhances your connection to your partner and the way you view yourself."

That said, Hokemeyer is not a fan of open marriages. While some experts believe they'll eventually become the norm -- just like sex before marriage -- he isn't one of them.

"It's very difficult to successfully negotiate an open marriage," he explains. "Because sex is such an emotionally charged endeavour, human beings have a hard time keeping permissive and recreational sex in neat boxes."

What happens, he says, "is that inevitably one or both partners begins to feel a host of negative emotions including jealousy, anger, resentment, and even shame. These emotions spill over and infect the integrity of the relationship."

In which case, your relationship really could be over.



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