Do you think a married couple can get past cheating, or any kind of infidelity, and survive?
– KC in Boca Raton, FL
Good question, and Boca is nice. I have family there. I need to preface this answer with a disclaimer :
I have never been married. I’ve never been engaged. My ratio of first dates to fourth dates is roughly the same as the ratio of “episodes of Two and a Half Men” to “episodes of Two and a Half Men that were funny.”
You could view this as a simple and obvious reason for not being prepared to answer the question, or a surprising asset in that I’ve had plenty of time [like, measured in presidential terms] to observe closely, without prejudice, very successful and spectacular disaster marriages. For the sake of this exercise, let’s just assume the latter so that we can all pretend this has a chance of being valid.
The question immediately brings to mind swingers; whenever I see a documentary or article about their lifestyle, I oscillate between thinking they’re just trashy herpes-spreading freaks looking for a way to justify their raging unchecked boners [and whatever the female equivalent of a raging boner is], and that they are actually – despite their clumsy and tawdry way of practicing it – more enlightened than all the ‘traditional’ couples in that they have realized that you can de-couple primal, physical activities from the deep emotional and intellectual connections that truly form the basis of a healthy marriage.
From a purely logical standpoint, the swingers-as-enlightened theory seems to win out. Once you posit that sex and everything else can be clearly and cleanly separated, then the swinging lifestyle is the next logical step : grow and nurture the mental side of the marriage every day at home, then go out and quench whatever freaky physical thirst you have on the weekends in a cut-rate hotel ballroom somewhere.
Even if you make that separation from a logical standpoint, though, can you really sleep with a clear conscience hours after watching two strange guys with majestic penises run a train on your wife? Could you just forget about the moment that some freaky chick who travels with her own tackle box of sex toys makes your husband start speaking in tongues and convulsing in ways you’ve never seen before?
Probably not, right? Because no matter how much you try to keep it logical, the innate desire for true intimacy that any well-adjusted person harbors will never allow them to completely separate the visceral and the emotional.
Which brings us to the uncomfortable grey area that this answer has always wallowed in. One spouse will have a moment of weakness or deluded justification, and the intimacy is broken. Now what?
The betrayed spouse has to, in an unenviable exercise of evaluation, look deep within and determine what caused this to happen in the first place, and if they truly believe the adultery was a singular anomaly that has no chance of repeating. The reasons given by the cheater are almost irrelevant – their credibility isn’t exactly peaking, and chances are they themselves are not aware yet of why they did it.
From there, the cheated upon will make their decision – and there is no wrong answer. Acceptance of the act can be both a symbol of strength or a product of weakness; every situation will be different. It may very well boil down to a choice of being right or being happy – accepting people for the flawed beings they are.
So, yes, I do believe a marriage can survive infidelity – though I also believe sometimes it shouldn’t try to. To move forward, at least one of the partners needs to be insightful, strong, and mature. Plus, they could totally go even up the score over a wild weekend in Vegas.
Note : the whole discussion excludes the possibility of children being a factor; as this shit is complicated enough without considering them.