When you get the devastating news that your spouse has had an affair, how do you decide whether to stay or go? Because you feel betrayed, your first impulse is usually anger, and wanting to leave fight or flight. But, after you calm down, you realize there’s a lot you’ll lose, and you may have children to consider. Don’t make an instant decision you may regret after the damage is done. It’s possible to find extraordinary love after divorcing late in life, but most of my clients report the potential partners out there are no better than the ones they left.
While I don’t think you should stay and suffer if nothing’s working, I see many couples who do the work and wind up happier than before in my practice. The affair may have happened after long-standing problems in the marriage, which can actually be corrected to the satisfaction of both partners. Often dissatisfaction grows from resentment, and the root causes can be fixed with the help of counseling. If both partners are willing to change what’s not working, a marriage can be improved and can be turned into a satisfying life of enjoyable companionship.
I also see a fair number of couples who get back together after a divorce, because they had a chance to see what it’s like to be alone and to calm down and get over petty resentments. Unfortunately, now they’re a lot poorer because of the costs of the divorce, dividing up property, and so on. Here are some reasons to stay or go:
Top 5 reasons to stay:
• Your spouse truly recognizes he or she has a problem, and is willing to get help to fix it, and to be accountable for rebuilding trust.
• You two are going to counseling, and understanding why the affair happened, and how to fix the problems.
• You’re getting your own sex life back on track if it was off track.
• You have a long, shared history, joint finances, and family ties that make it worth keeping the marriage together.
• You still love each other, and it’s clearly mutual.
Top 5 reasons to go:
• Your spouse is in denial, makes excuses, and blames you. This means he or she is invested in the cheating behavior, and not ready to change.
• You have had it, no longer feel connected, and are not willing to work on it. Be sure this isn’t just temporary anger.
• You are prepared to be on your own.
• You either have no children, they’re grown, or you’re certain a divorce will be better for them than what’s going on.
• Your spouse refuses to give up the other relationship, or infidelity in general.
Working these issues out together will either repair and improve the relationship you have or teach you the skills and attitudes you need to know to make any relationship great.
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 40 years of experience in counseling individuals and couples and the author of 15 books in 17 languages, including Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter. Online, she’s known as “Dr. Romance” Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, TV, video, and podcasts. She tweets @tinatessina.