4 beautiful stories that prove marriage can survive an affair
Posted April 19
When couples sit on my couch, they tell me all sorts of things that they're having problems with. And of all the reasons they come to see me, perhaps the scariest thing for couples is healing after an affair. They're scared because of the excruciating pain they feel from the affair. They're worried that their feelings will never go away and they'll never fully get over this pain and anger.
But despite all the fear and pain that come after an affair, there is healing. Here are four beautiful, true stories that prove marriages can heal after an affair:
Tom and Tiffany*
After Tiffany started getting phone calls from debt collectors and the IRS, she soon learned that Tom was draining nearly a third of his salary on gambling and escort services. Despite the shock she felt after learning the truth, Tiffany soon realized that her marriage was more important than money. The money she earned from her part-time job was now dedicated to pay off Tom's debts, and she began digging deep into the marriage to repair the problems that contributed to Tom's affair.
With some work in counseling, Tom realized that his dissatisfaction in the marriage wasn't so much about Tiffany as much as it was about his dissatisfaction with his "always-on" career and lifestyle. He realized he didn't like chasing the corporate dream, and went to work for a local business with better hours. Tom offered continuous heartfelt apologies to Tiffany and began putting the money away he used to spend on gambling and prostitutes into a savings account for their children's college. Through Tom's work and Tiffany's patience, they found a new place in their relationship that they didn't know existed, and they both say they're glad for their new life and are better than ever.
John and Jane
Jane loved that John was a dedicated father and also dedicated to his men's group in church. As a minister's daughter, she had the family life she always envisioned -- until she found out about John's hookups with random women from Craigslist. She asked him to stop, but John was unwilling to, saying he felt suffocated by Jane's traditional and rigid expectations of him. He told her that through his affairs he finally felt free from her "pressure" and superficial expectations.
Jane was devastated and went into a deep depression. She couldn't imagine life as a divorcee and single mom. Through counseling, she realized there were many other ways to be happy without having to have the lifestyle she was taught since she was a child. She started making friends with other single moms and found a network of support at her children's school.
After several months, John ended his philandering because he realized he didn't want to be the kind of father he was being. He started attending his church's men's group again because he liked the friendships of the people there.
They began talking again at their children's events over the summer and they soon realized that their old relationship was caught up in chasing other people's expectations. Now that these expectations were shattered, they started talking to each other more genuinely, and got to know each other for who they really are. At their last session with me, they said they laugh now more than ever and deliberately try to find new things to laugh with each other about by buying and trying random Groupons.
Rebecca and Ronald
Ronald was a hard-working engineer who loved being able to provide handsomely for his family. He worked hard, but would also go out with friends a lot to make up for his long hours at work. Rebecca enjoyed the lifestyle Ronald's salary provided, but she continued to feel more and more tired trying to care for their special needs son. She felt trapped and resentful. And she felt guilty for feeling resentful about her son -- especially because their financial circumstances allowed them to provide better care for their son than most.
Rebecca eventually began an affair with one of Ronald's single friends. He made her feel youthful and alive, which was a stark contrast to the tedious routine she felt every day caring for her son.
After the affair was discovered, Ronald began dedicating more time to their son and his wife. He would take Rebecca out on dates to places buzzing with social life. He bought her new dresses that would help her forget about her "mommy body" and made her feel sexy. Through counseling, Rebecca came to terms with the guilt and selfishness she felt as the primary caretaker for their son. She stopped blaming Ronald for not being there as a result of his work, too. They regularly hire babysitters and spend time with each other nurturing their bonds as husband and wife instead of just as parents. Doing these things allowed them to tell me how vibrant and in love they feel now.
Adam and Abby
Adam and Abby had tried for years to have a baby. They decided to do infertility treatments. To help conceive, Abby would spend a lot of time tracking her cycles and other important health information. During that time, sex had to happen at certain times and it started becoming routine and emotionless, and became the only times they'd have sex. Finally, after a couple years and several treatments, they conceived and had twins.
Abby became focused on her twins and started ignoring Adam. Adam didn't really notice, though, because he was feeling pretty detached already. After the twins were old enough to sleep through the night, Abby felt her sex drive return but Adam would not make advances. She would drop hints about feeling in the mood but he ignored them. She began feeling insecure thinking there had to be some reason that Adam didn't want to have sex with her. So she focused more time on her kids. After all, having twins gave her plenty to keep her busy.
When she met her neighbor, Aaron, a stay-at-home writer, while out for a morning jog, she felt immediately attracted to his sense of humor and his obvious flirty advances toward her. He made her feel wanted again. And more importantly, he made her feel like more than just a mom. She felt sexy and attractive again -- and it had been a long time since she felt that way. They began an affair that lasted several weeks.
Adam found out about the affair and immediately forgave her. But he felt even less desire to have sex with her. This made Abby feel even more sexually frustrated and unwanted. She also felt more like just a mom. After a while in counseling she decided that if she was going to have the marriage she wanted, she couldn't wait for Adam. She stopped dropping hints and began making obvious sexual advances. Adam would accept the advances and over time he even started making some advances on his own. They started getting more creative in the bedroom than they ever had been. Adam became more interested in Abby and they would spend most nights talking to each other. He would take her on dates to romantic spots. Abby found several non-mommy-related things to do, like a spinning class and having a monthly girls' night. They are happier now than ever before.
These stories are beautiful examples that relationships really can survive after an affair. It takes some work, and it may even seem hopeless at times, but marriage can be unbreakable when two partners are truly committed to each other.
*Names have been changed to protect identity.
Aaron Anderson is a therapist and Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He is a writer, speaker and relationship expert. Checkout his blog RelationshipRx.net for expert information on how to improve your relationship.