I try very hard to steer clear of the media drama surrounding celebrity marriages.  They just seem so unreal and it’s hard, even for me,  to fathom what it must be like to try and build a strong marriage in the face of such scrutiny and expectation.  But when things spiral out of control and all I see is Tiger Woods and his lovely wife on every single channel, I can’t help but tune in… at least for a minute.  I won’t begin to speculate about what happened or didn’t happen in this relationship.  I can only hope that whatever has happened they will both get the opportunity to do some honest self-reflection and do what’s best for their family.  Which leads me to the question… is there hope after infidelity?

Often that is the question that couples ask when they come into my office after one partner has cheated.  Both partners want to know how, when , and if they will ever get past the betrayal and devastation that infidelity creates.  The “cheater” wants to know what they have to do to move on, how many times they must apologize, or maybe they are relieved to no longer sneak around.  The person who has been cheated on needs their own answers- when will it stop hurting, how do I forgive, should I forgive?

The reasons behind infidelity are so varied that it would be impossible to give any sort of definitive answer to any of these questions.  Infidelity springs up from problems in the current relationship, lack of intimacy (emotional and physical), sexual addictions, and outright disrespect.  Often it is a combination of factors including our human tendency to falter in the face of temptation or seek escape rather than face the difficult task of mending a damaged relationship.  The challenging part of repairing a relationship damaged by infidelity is figuring out when (and how) to set aside the reasons the affair happened and focus on the immediate emotional trauma.  Those reasons are important in the long run but in the wake of such a damaging revelation the focus must be on emotional safety and repair.  One book that I really like to help couples (and therapists) understand the impact and process of dealing with infidelity is Not Just Friends by Shirley Glass.  The author lays out a framework of what most people can expect to experience and some useful guidance on how to move forward.

As a wife it is hard to imagine how a marriage can recover from such a betrayal and yet through my work I know that couples not only recover but can grow stronger after infidelity.  The human capacity for love, growth, and forgiveness is an amazing thing; it is the reason that I am perpetually optimistic about my clients and the relationships around me.  So while it may be hard to imagine, in my opinion there is indeed hope after infidelity.