Can a relationship/marriage survive after one of the partners is betrayed?
Yes! The relationship itself can survive for many years to come, but we can’t say the same about the quality of trust or love. You may hear many couples who dealt with infidelity say that they discovered ways to fall in love with each other again after the distress caused by an affair.
However, it is less probable that love is the actual reason why people choose to remain in the marriage/relationship:
I. Attachment vs Love
After spending a considerable amount of time next to somebody, we unconsciously develop a form of attachment to them. We are used to their habits, their persona and somehow “addicted” to the influence of their presence on us.
Try not to confuse attachment with love. Attachment is about fear and dependency and has more to do with love of self than love of another. Love without attachment is the purest love because it isn’t about what others can give you because you’re empty. It is about what you can give others because you’re already full.”
Most of the times, people mistake love for attachment. An example of this confusion can be noticed in the abusive relationships, where the victim overlooks the flaws of the abuser, living with the wrong impression that every couple deals with the same issues. A similar distortion of the meaning of love can be found in healthy relationships/marriages too when they are confronted with infidelity.
How many times haven’t you heard couples mentioning the following:
- “A divorce would devastate the children, so we decided to leave this incident behind”
- “Every marriage/relationship has its ups & downs; we had ours”
- “We thought we should it give it another try.”
Although there may be some genuine love between the partners after the discovery of the affair, the mentioned above reasons actually reflect hidden concerns. Researchers claim that more than 50% of the couples decide not to divorce/break up due to their fear of change, fear of loneliness, fear of the financial instability after the divorce or their pessimistic view about engaging in a possible future relationship.
This way love can turn into deep attachment with the passing of time as the relationship/marriage becomes stable and comfortable.
II. Too much invested to quit
A relationship/marriage is similar to a business: you invest emotions, patience, efforts to build it strong and above all else, you invest time. So, when issues arise, you tend to take actions that can have long-term benefits for the business rather than give up on it and walk away. Remaining in the area of business & investments, the sunk-cost fallacy can perfectly describe one of the reasons why remaining in a loveless relationship/marriage is a better option than a divorce/break-up:
The Sunk Cost Fallacy
The Misconception: You make rational decisions based on the future value of objects, investments and experiences.
The Truth: Your decisions are tainted by the emotional investments you accumulate, and the more you invest in something the harder it becomes to abandon it.
III. Absence of Self-Identity
Family life with all its details, friends, children, etc. creates a new self-identity. Even in the absence of passion or emotional connection between partners, many individuals identify with their family life, developing a form of attachment just as mentioned above. Thus, a divorce or the thought of giving up on the life they created with the family members can be the cause of anxiety and a reason for staying in an unhappy marriage.
“Where is the love?”
Having explored some of the possible reasons why a relationship/marriage can survive after infidelity, the next question is: can love and trust in our partner remain unchanged even if our feelings have been hurt? The answer is subjective as the happiness and continuity of a couple’s romance depend on their emotional resources.
Some couples are able to save the marriage by following counselling sessions that help them understand the roots of their problems and rebuild their emotional connection.
On the other hand, some marriages continue to exist, but the trust between the partners is seriously affected which often leads to either a convenient partnership or divorce.
For example, the actress Dawn French and her husband, Lenny Henry broke up in 2010 after a 25-year marriage. So far, nothing has gotten out of hand. Dawn seems to have forgiven her husband for the affair that he had in 2000, but then the two split up, showing that the pain of distrust has never disappeared… Or at least this was the explanation they have given to the press.
Following the divorce, the comments of unknown sources did not fail to appear, saying:
“There are chances for a couple to recover after infidelity, but there is no more confidence or trust in one another which is not very good because if there is no trust, the feelings disappear in time. At that moment you say you can get over it and you’ll be ok, but then in time, you get to realize that you always live with the fear that it will happen again. “