RSS Feed

Can a marriage survive an affair?

I feel bad for poor Sandra Bullock.

It’s bad enough that hubby Jesse James was busy engaging in extracurricular activities with Michelle “Bombshell” McGee while she was off filming her Oscar-winning performance in “The Blind Side” — and isn’t that a rather prescient title, given what’s happened? — but now everyone’s weighing in on whether Bullock should dump
him or try and patch up the marriage.  

Sound familiar? Just ask Elin, Elizabeth, Nilda, Hilary, Uma, Halle, Robin … (and, yeah, probably a lot of men, too — like, Guy).

Every woman in an adulterous high-profile marriage or relationship has been held up as a model of what to do or not for the rest of us. But, since we don’t live celebrity lifestyles, it’s silly to pay attention to what they do or not when their man is busted.

It comes down to what each of us would do.

Is infidelity reason enough to break up
a marriage? Can a marriage survive an affair — or affairs, like in the case of Tiger Woods?

That’s a question I had to ask myself.

Honestly, in the beginning, right after I absorbed the devastation, the anger, humiliation and fear, I said — yes. I decided I was going to do everything I could to save my marriage and my family. The Kid was young, and I was still convinced I was in love with Rob. I read Peggy Vaughan, I read “Divorce Busting,” I went to couples’ therapy, and I followed a workbook of exercises that were supposed to lead me toward forgiveness.

But as we got deeper into therapy and I listened to what he was saying and how I was really feeling, I realized that no matter what I thought and wanted and no matter how hard I was willing to work, Rob was who he was, and on a fundamental level, there was something in him that was always going to have a hard time with honesty.

Did I want to live with that?

Would I be able to trust that?

And then I had to admit to myself, no, I didn’t and I couldn’t.

A lot of marriages break up after an affair, but not all of them. Some couples are able, like a phoenix, to rise up out of the flames and transform into something stronger and better.

It’s easy to make a blanket statement — If he ever cheated on me, I’d kick his sorry ass out” — but we never really know what we’re going to do until we’re in the moment. Sometimes, what we thought would destroy us makes us a better person and a better partner. Sometimes, we find a compassion and forgiveness we didn’t know we had. And other times, our liberal, loving and accepting ways are put to the test (and we have to accept, yeah, I’m not quite as liberal, loving and accepting as I thought I was!)

Could I stay with someone who abused me? Absolutely not! Could I stay with an alcoholic? If he got sober and stayed sober. Could I stay with someone who cheated on me? Maybe, depending …

I couldn’t with Rob, but maybe I could with someone else. But, crap — I sure hope I never have to decide.

  • Where do you draw the line in a relationship?
  • Have you ever drawn a line and crossed it anyway?
  • And, have you ever regretted dumping someone who messed up but was fundamentally a “good” guy or gal?

Photo by Warner Bros.

Bring on the comments

  1. I agree that it depends on the circumstances. It takes both people to make their relationship work and if one of them isn’t committed to doing that and committed to the realtionship, well, it wont.
    .-= Mindy@SingleMomSays´s last blog ..Snow Day! =-.

  2. T
    Twitter: tsquest

    Now you KNOW I can relate to this.

    My marriage survived after my affair. It survived because we pushed it under the carpet and walked around it for the next few years while we were busily having our children. We were too frightened to look at it or deal with it. And I thought we were so healthy…

    Then when he cheated on me, we had to look at it. Both infidelities were finally addressed by me and partially by him. We didn’t survive as a married couple. But we did survive as co-parents and friends.

    What I’ve also realized is that part of dealing with an affair is forgiving yourself. My husband could never, and I’m not sure that he has yet, forgive himself for what he did. I also didn’t realize that I’d not forgiven myself until I wrote my blog series about my affair. As long as we beat ourselves up over what we did, we will feel judged and unhappy and unworthy of the forgiveness of our spouse. And that never leads to recovery.
    .-= T´s last blog ..My Sexuality, part 4 =-.

  3. Mike says:

    An affiar can be a big wake up call for a marriage. I’ve see it work if both parties can agree to work on the problems. That was what broke my marriage up was that my ex didn’t want to put the work in to fix the problems after the affair.
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Spank My Lonely Ass =-.

  4. dadshouse
    Twitter: dadshouseblog

    There was a great piece in the Mercury News the other day about narcissism and entitlement, and how the affairs of Tiger Woods and John Edwards were due to psychological defects that could be treated. So.. if the men can be treated, why wouldn’t the wives stay with them?
    .-= dadshouse´s last blog ..Spring – Time for a Girlfriend! =-.

  5. Ken Iisaka says:

    Of course, it depends on circumstances. However, looking at the history of human behaviour, it seems unlikely that a marriage lasts without some indiscretions and infidelity along the way. Rather than having a unrealistically perfectionistic view of a marriage, where the couple lives happily ever after, falling out of love, deception, betrayal and all the nasty bits are usually a part of the course. Life is, not just marriage, is like that. It’s how we deal with the problems, and in a marriage, how the two deal with the problems together, is what matters, no matter what the outcome is.

  6. Ken Iisaka says:

    And if I may add, it’s not whether a certain body part made contact with another person’s certain body part. It’s also very much in the mind, and a relationship can also be intimate without being physically intimate. And that can violate the expectations of the other in the partnership.

    Yet, how realistic really is it that we remain monogamous for life? Our evolutionary paths has left the majority of us promiscuous, both in body and in mind. Even other creatures that are said to mate “for life” turned out to be not so monogamous at all, either.

    I am not really defending either side, but we are who we are, and we must look at who we are.

  7. Jim Everson says:

    Well, basically I think my policy is, forgive anything once, but never twice. If my partner truly regretted the act and wanted to make amends, then I would continue to work on the marriage. But if it happened again, I would leave the marriage.

  8. Jessica says:

    6.A Sordid Lawsuit Shakes the Satmar Chasidic world .

    Brooklyn N.Y. Lezer ( Louis ) Kestenbaum chairman of the ODA in Williamsburg Brooklyn NY resigned from the ODA soon after settling a lawsuit filed in May in U.S. District Court for the District of Florida for an undisclosed sum alleging he had a sexual relationship with a minor, Joel Kestnbaum the son of Louis kestenbaum will become chairman of the ODA.

  9. vincent says:

    I think that its tough for marriages to survive long term with or without an affair. A sexual affair would make it much tougher still for sure. I learned its much easier on myself to NOT have an affair and that the person who commits the transgression (John Edwards, Jesse James, Tiger Woods) suffer intently from it and have major problems with their sense of self.

  10. Dan says:

    Cheating is absolutely unforgivable.
    Period, end-of!
    .-= Dan´s last blog ..Jon Lajoie =-.

  11. Steve says:

    I can’t believe nobody has expressed astonishment that this guy risked a relationship with Sandra Bullock to have a fling with a hate filled bimbo.

    If I was Bullock, I would feel insulted by that if I felt nothing else.

  12. amy says:

    i find the thought of being cheated on quite terrifying and am not sure how i would handle it. thankfully i haven’t had to so far (knock every piece of wood in the place!). i’m all for forgiveness until you have to actually do it for someone else 🙂

    during my marriage, i had a couple of pretty bad crushes on guy friends–ex could tell–but nothing acted on. at one point, he and i each had a particular “interest” outside the marriage–his was overseas and online (they’d met while he was on tour), mine was here in the city but terrified of my burly husband–but again there was no physical action and nothing came of them. it was, however, indicative of the state of the union, pretty much the beginning of the end.
    .-= amy´s last blog ..side by side =-.

  13. Jenni says:

    I think it all depends. When it comes to situations like Tiger Woods and Sandra Bullock – I’d say probably not. They travel a lot for their careers: therefore it’s easy for Tiger to cheat, and for Sandra to be cheated on.

    For an every day couple, I could see a marriage surviving it. At least a first offense. If it happened again, I would just assume it’d keep happening, regardless of what is promised and worked on.

    As for myself: I have never been in a SERIOUS relationship where I was cheated on. Right now, I would be one of those, “F any guy that would cheat on me!” But if it were a marriage, I would probably try to work it out.. but I have trust issues as is, so I think it’d be a rocky road to begin with.
    .-= Jenni´s last blog ..California Bound [pt. I] =-.

  14. Kat Wilder says:

    Mindy — Yes, it indeed take two willing to be equally committed. I wonder, though, if you’d be able to get past that inkling of doubt whenever he/she was late, or at the computer late at night …

    T — I do know, and I thank you for your honesty. Beating ourselves up post-whatever doesn’t lead to growth and healing. I’m glad you and your ex can co-parent well; Rob and I do that too. It’s so sad for me to see couples who can’t get past the hurt and anger; only the kids suffer (and whatever new love comes into each one’s life, BTW).

    Ken — ah! You bring up many good points here. Yes, “cheating” can be emotional (wrote about that in Your Cheating Heart).

    I don’t agree with you that “it seems unlikely that a marriage lasts without some indiscretions and infidelity along the way.” And yes, few species “mate for life.” What makes it different for humans is — we can control our behavior. We can choose to watch too much porn (which may or may not be “cheating,” if it impacts the relationship) or screw 15 tattooed strippers in a year — or not. The choice is ours — be a cheater or don’t be a cheater.

    When it comes to marriage, we agree as a couple that we’re going to be monogamous (well, most of us) If one person is unable to do that, then, as Rickey would say, there needs to be some ‘splainin’. That’s part of the bargain — I trust you, you trust me. There are such things as open marriages; maybe more people need to consider them, eh?

    Jim — that’s because you are a kind man. I can’t say I’d forgive everything; again, it depends on the circumstances. But, you know, I absolutely forgave Rob. But, that didn’t mean we could back to living together.

    Jessica — I’m sure all the perv priests are happy to read that …

    Vincent — Do you really think the cheater suffers more than the one cheated upon? Not sure I could agree with that one!

    Dan — well, now we know where you stand 😉

    Steve — Ha! well, men have cheated on some amazingly gorgeous babes throughout history. Which means, it ain’t all about the beauty …

    Amy — I think it’s natural that men and women look, and flirt and maybe even like ol’ Jimmy Carter have lust in our heart. Acting on it is the problem. You didn’t, and that speaks well for you!

    Jenni — Yeah, I wonder if it’s different if you’re in a relationship versus marriage. Easier to say F- off if you don’t have to decide who gets the couch and who takes the Ford Fiesta …

  15. Steve says:


    True and I don’t know what Bullock is like as a person, but hearing her talk she sounds like she has to be far more intelligent and well put together than a model who is a neo nazi.
    .-= Steve´s last blog ..Dating Rant: Child-Free Travel Bugs =-.

  16. Kat Wilder says:

    Steve — Maybe Jesse didn’t want to talk to the neo-Nazi … 😉

  17. Connie says:

    you have saved your marriage. But, are you really happy with your marriage? was your goal to save the marriage or to have a happy marriage?

  18. Great website, we must save our marriages