Men and women alike can dish out tremendous pain when they cheat on their spouse.
Surviving such an affront to the marriage can be made worse if the infidelity comes in the form of multiple extramarital affairs.
Can your marriage survive multiple affairs?
What if both of you have multiple affairs?
Just what is the track record for marriages in which the husband or wife cheated on each other over time?
Is it something most marriages can recover from or is the relationship doomed forever?
Does it matter how strong your marriage was before the act?
If your husband has been cheating for a very long time, does that increase the chances of everything unraveling?
Do you ever think you may have married the wrong man….
And likewise, if your wife admits that she has been romantically involved with another man, does this mean she has found love with someone else and you might as well just give it up?
That is a lot of questions.
Let’s try and tackle them and see if we can lend you some support.
Can Your Marriage Recover From Betrayal of the Worse Kind
Cheating on your spouse is probably the worse kind of betrayal in a relationship.
It could be argued that it is a bridge too far to expect things could go back to what they were like before.
I think that would be true.
Things won’t be the same in the months and years to follow.
Now, I am not saying the future hold nothing but misery. Far from it.
All of us are navigators of our own lives and can plot the course we wish to take in the future.
But there are few things that hurt more in the present than learning that your husband or wife has cheated on you.
There are few things that tear you up inside more than learning that your spouse was in adulterous affair.
And it hard to imagine that such a thing could happen not just once, but over the entirety of one’s marriage.
How does one recover from the knowledge that the man or woman you thought was the “love of your life“, was actually with another person, sharing intimate moments?
Such questions often come to my attention as clients seek advice on what to do with their marriage and the rest of their lives….
“I was crushed when I discovered my husband had been cheating on me for years. It turns out that he had multiple affairs throughout our 14 year marriage and I was none the wiser. I can’t even begin to describe my feelings. I am still stuck in the disbelief and bewilderment stage, though anger bubbles up in me every time I think of it.”
“I blame myself for not seeing it which I know is the wrong way to think. I can’t help but rewind every day of our marriage. Only now do I see the little signs which should have clued me in that he had a mistress. Do you have any idea what percent of marriages survive infidelity. I know its stupid to even ask this because I have already asked for a divorce. I guess some part of me still hopes we could go back to the times when we were first together and my trust in him was intact.”
Can Your Marriage Survive a Serial Cheater?
There is one school of thought that if a husband and wife are truly in love and still care deeply for each other, the relationship can recover from the pain of an affair…even multiple affairs.
So let me put it right out there. Yes, your marriage need not crumble. It is not necessarily destined to break apart no matter who cheated on who.
That is not just my opinion, but marriage statistics bear this out. We will get into that later!
So clearly, some marriages have gotten through the gauntlet of broken vows.
Usually marriages which successfully navigate these deep waters happened to be very strong in the first place. There was a solid foundation to work with.
Sometimes marriage counseling was employed to help the couple regain that which they lost, namely trust and commitment.
Which begs the question, can a marriage survive infidelity without counseling?
The short answer is yes.
But the road to recovery can be a dead-end if trust cannot be regained.
Quite often, a person well trained in relationship counseling can help the husband and wife regain that trust….. one moment, one day, one week, one month, and one year at a time.
Lately I have had a number of women, whose husbands have admitted to having multiple affairs, reach out to me asking for advice on what they might do.
One of the first questions I get from these victimized wives is why their husband would do such a thing.
Often I catch them early in their phase of disbelief which eventually turns into bitterness and anger.
I won’t sugar coat it.
It’s tough to know with any certainty whether a marriage can survive multiple affairs.
Just the very idea of losing your husband (or wife) to another lover can really be difficult to process.
So it is shocking to learn that your husband (or wife) has been repeatedly cheating on you.
What could be worse than learning that your husband has had many lovers?
You might be surprised to hear what a few of my clients had to say:
“I always suspected he had been cheating on me throughout the years. My husband is such a player. He is always flirting with other women so a part of me sorta knew it. But when he finally admitted he has cheated, not just once, but multiple times with various women, it just validated my suspicions. Part of me had already accepted it was going on. Another part of me was upset and angry at his deception. I guess I deluded myself. He said it was all about the sex. I am still furious. He insists that he didn’t love any of them. Honestly Chris, I think I would be much angrier if he had been with just one woman the entire time. That would probably be worse. Though I wonder if I am just fooling myself. How can you still want someone in your life, yet hate them at the same time? I am so confused.”
“Chris, how do you fix a marriage after infidelity has struck in your on home. He had the woman in our house and don’t ask me how I know it, but I am sure of it. He still won’t admit to cheating and frankly I don’t think this is the first lady he has taken up with. Frankly, I am not sure which is worse. Him falling for some other girl or him jumping in the sack with every women he can. I think I would despise him if I believed he truly loved another. I know it’s for the sex. We have been married 16 years and I am not blind. I know he craves it. He has no idea how miserable I am going to make him feel. I don’t think I will ever be the same. Right now, I hate him for what he has done. He has no clue what cheating does to a women’s self-esteem. It’s like telling me I am worthless. Help me with what I should do next.”
These two women seem to suggest that the idea of their husband falling in love with another woman is worst than if he was to undertake multiple affairs.
That may be true, but from what I have seen, its hard to distinguish which is most painful and disruptive to a marriage.
So I have come to believe it doesn’t matter a great deal whether your husband’s unfaithfulness involves many episodes with just one woman he has come to love or if he has been with many women over the course of your marriage.
In either case, great damage is done.
The question of marriage survival usually comes down to many variables of which individual circumstances and relationship history are the most impactful.
I wish I could play it down and say you will get over it quickly.
It’s just not something that usually happens, unless the marriage was in incredibly shape to begin with. And even then, getting past the indiscretion is very difficult.
So if you come across someone who tells you they can help you with surviving infidelity in marriage in 3 simple tips or they have some kind of secret recipe that works perfectly in how to survive infidelity and betrayal….run for the hills.
From my work with women, who have found themselves married to a philanderer, I have come to believe that if their husband repeatedly gets involved in affairs, even if he does not truly love these other women and does not want to leave you, the cumulative effect of having a husband who is constantly in and out of affairs is extremely debilitating to the marriage.
What is one to do?
Let’s take it from a women perspective for sake of language.
There are some wives out there who look the other way, either because they are afraid to confront their husband or because they feel no matter what they say or do (because they have said it and done it before) their husband will just deny it.
Some wives don’t wish to end their marriage (for whatever reasons), so they adapt and co-exist with their circumstance.
Other women have a zero tolerance policy. If you cheat on them, you best pack your bags because the relationship is over.
Many women don’t desire to end their marriage. If they believe their husband still loves them and regrets his actions, they will work together with their husband to try and steer the marriage back on a steady course.
Will The Marriage Ever Be The Same?
My view is that in situations involving adultery, there is really no such thing as the relationship recovering in the conventional sense.
Sure, the marriage can survive, but the real question is whether the marriage will be truly fulfilling and successful if you remain married to a husband who continues his cheating ways?
And if the man you are married to insists that his philandering ways are all over and he will never again betray you, can you take that to the bank?
Should you trust in him again?
In matters like this, I believe our personal history is instructive.
The past is often predictive of the future.
If your husband has been frequently dishonest with you about things in the past, you should take that into consideration.
The fact that your husband has had multiple affairs, even if it was with women he claims he never loved, it is more likely that he would repeat his adulterous ways. Patterns in behavior can be predictive.
Mind you…I said “likely”.
I shouldn’t throw all philandering husbands under the bus. There are some instances where a husband, after being confronted with the real prospect of losing their wife forever, will remain faithful.
The fear of that happening can create a paradigm shift in his mind. His pattern of behavior can be broken.
But we shouldn’t forget the ways of human nature.
Human nature is one that often gives way to repetition.
When your husband tells you that he will never cheat on you again. When he insists that he has learned his lesson and your are the most important thing in his life and that he regrets his past, it is very possible in that moment where all these things are said, he actually means it.
But the problem with truth when it comes to cheaters who are repeat offenders is that it can be very fleeting.
His desire to sneak around and have sex with other women can be very addictive.
What he truly felt and believed in one moment when he told you he would never do it again, can morph into something else later.
Whatever drives a man to cheat on his wife, can rear its ugly head again and again.
However you cut it, cheating on your spouse, whether you do it only once or over the life of the marriage is destructive.
So What Are My Chances
Affairs can destroy everything in its path.
Most often, everyone involved eventually becomes a victim (some more than others).
So, can the marriage be saved on the heels of multiple affairs?
Yes, No, Maybe.
I know it sounds like I am copping out by not giving a more precise answer. But to offer more specificity would be akin to lying.
I could quote statistics.
I have reviewed research that suggest that only about 20% of marriages breakup as a result of an affair.
So what about multiple affairs?
Sorry, but I couldn’t find any reliable statistic for that. My guess is that the numbers are meaningfully higher.
When looking at the statistics for what caused the affair, more often than not, the cause of the affair was NOT due to a partner’s proclivity to cheat or some sexual disorder, but rather poor judgment and behavior.
If your husband has had repeated affairs, this kind of infidelity is referred to as a serial cheater.
They do it over and over again with different partners.
Knowing that you are married to a guy who has repeatedly cheated on you makes for a very challenging recovery.
But what if both of you cheated?
What if both of your are serial cheaters?
What if only one of you cheated multiple times?
Let’s take a look at some probably outcomes.
Is There Room For Two Cheaters in a Marriage?
When both of the spouses are serial cheaters, it can make for a very volatile recovery.
There is not room for two cheaters in a Marriage. You are standing in quicksand.
But in some situations, albeit it is rare, two people who care for each other deeply and convinces each other their love for the other has not waned can find common ground and begin the slow process of rebuilding trust.
Of course this means both partners have to stop cheating and essentially start over. It is almost like they need to restart the marriage as if they are meeting for the first time.
Seldom does such a couple rebuild their lives in a matter of months. It can take years. I believe they need to go through an entire new courtship period.
A lot depends on the individuals involved, their history together, and their commitment to re-invent their marriage, because essentially that is often what it takes when both partners have cheated multiple times.
The Marriage Initially Remains Intact But Slowly Comes Apart at the Seams
I could point to some marriages that continued in a dysfunctional form with the knowledge that trust had been severed, possibly forever.
More often than not, such marriages continue in some form for the sake of the children or other reasons, and are far from ideal in how a couple should interact.
The splintering and breakage of all that use to be a traditional marriage often leads to future chaos and disenchantment.
This is often the most common occurrence as the wrecking ball of multiple extramarital affairs weighs heavily on the prospect of the marriage ever recovering.
This kind of marriage recovery scenario usually falls short, despite the couple’s best efforts, given the weight of what has transpired in the past.
The Marriage Survives But Struggles To Find Footing
Sometimes, after a series of extramarital affairs, the couple makes good faith efforts to recover some semblance of what they had before.
It’s often an uphill battle and very difficult to make meaningful strides without the aid of marriage counseling or some useful resource.
The victim (who is being cheated on) at some point in time has to come to believe that their husband or wife will change their ways which is far from a given.
Cheating on a spouse can leave long-lasting scars, but with the right level of commitment from both partners progress can be made.
What Are the Effects of Being Cheated On?
Statistics reflect that about 15% to 20% of married men and women cheat.
Frankly, I think it happens more often that.
Of those who do cheat, about 40% of them admit to having multiple affairs.
And by the way, in case you are wondering, those who cheat and go on to marry their lover have very high divorce rates (about 70%). Guilt and the lack of trust in the new marriage are two key reasons why these relationships don’t often work out.
Serial cheating seems to stem from the notion that if you get away with it once, why not do it again if the right circumstance presents itself.
I warn you though, don’t look at statistics in a singular way.
There are a great many things that influence the probability of occurrence.
Often marriages that are defined by neglect or lack of intimacy or difficult times can create an environment ripe for infidelity. Buts not always.
A person can have a character flaw that makes them more prone to having an affair. And it is not always that the marriage was struggling. About 34% of wives who were cheated on thought they had a successful marriage and described themselves as happy or very happy.
Interestingly, about 68% to 74% of married or committed couples say they would have an affair if they were convinced that their partner would not find out.
For all the marriage cynics out there, I guess you are right about that one!
I think that last statistic gives us some insight into how men and women think about this topic. The desire to experiment, explore, or follow through with an attraction one has for someone other than their spouse can be powerful, leading an individual to eventually act upon their desires.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that such people in general are evil or without morals. I think what it shows us is that men and women are just human and not too far removed from some of their base instincts and needs.
Now, I am not saying your husband or wife is sex starved or is always vulnerable to temptation.
Nor am I excusing infidelity.
Being unfaithful to your wife or husband is very often the knife that tears your marriage apart. That is the reality of what we see as outcomes to such behavior.
Unfortunately, it is not the logical part of the brain (the rational side) that dominates your husband’s or wife’s thinking when they decide to enter into and continue an affair.
Often when certain hormones and emotions are in play, things like logic, integrity, and trust falls backwards. And such is the case for those who are drawn into an affair.
You might be wondering about the full impact of how cheating affects the brain.
Let’s look at it from a victim’s perspective.
Clearly there are emotional effects from infidelity which we have already touched on above. It is evidenced in some of the responses of women I have spoken with.
Words like betrayal, disillusionment, pained, and broken are just a few descriptions that come to mind.
These are the emotions a wife or husband, who is victimized by their spouse, must deal with in the short-term.
Like a punch to the gut, learning of your spouse’s cheating ways can be devastating.
It literally can feel like a punch to the gut. You can actually feel physically ill as you try to cope with why it happened and what it all means. Just getting through the processing period of what has occurred can last for days.
So clearly, the short-term effects can be crippling.
Though don’t ever sell yourself short.
If your husband or wife cheated on you, you will eventually recover and in many cases, depending on the path you take, lead a very happy and fulfilled life.
It may be different life from what you first imagined for yourself, but there is no reason why you cannot overcome the hardship and disappointment.
What Are The Long-term Psychological effects of Infidelity?
I think the research data along with input I have gotten from women and men who are struggling with a cheating spouse strongly support that being cheated on changes you.
It is not unusual to be less trusting in your current and future relationships.
This lack of trust can be pervasive in that it involves just about everything.
The voice in your mind will be prone to think, “if he lies about the big things that are critically important, why wouldn’t he lie about something less important”.
This sense of diminished trust can impact the marriage in not just matters of whether your husband or wife is being truthful to you in general, but it can also follow you into the bedroom
Intimacy and trust go hand in hand.
With severed trust, intimacy will suffer.
The nature of truth is that when it is lost, it can take a very long time to rebuild
The stain that is left behind is not easily rubbed out. We like to think of ourselves as people who can learn to forgive.
But forgiveness is an active act. You can offer it, but emotionally it does not guarantee that you will easily rebuild the bridge of trust.
Trust is something that lies deep inside. Distrust lies within us all in a dormant stage and is often activated when we perceive some great wrong has occurred.
But it is not all bad!
Over time, you adjust and adapt and with the right kind of relationships in your life, trust finds its way back.
Being Cheated On Can Mess With Your Emotions
Discovering that your husband or wife was playing around on the side can really mess with your emotions.
It can be very difficult to tap down the emotions that suddenly rise up in your mind around matters of trust.
It is like your thoughts have a mind of their own.
And as result of the deep scar that the affair left on your life, these emotions of distrust come in to fill the void. Hence, it can take a very long time for your emotional psyche (i.e. right side of the brain) to catch up with the more rational thinking part of your brain (i.e. left side of brain).
If your spouse betrays you, it is not just the marriage that is under fire.
Infidelity can also have an adverse impact on other elements of both of your lives.
If you have children, they too can be impacted.
Also, cheating, once outed, hardly goes unnoticed when it comes to relationships with friends and family. I am not saying that all these people will suddenly know that your marriage was touched by infidelity, but often the way in which you interact with these people will be impacted.
Your view of the institution of marriage will likely change.
If you move on to other relationships, how you interact with potential lovers could be effected. You may be filled with considerable cynicism. Anger and resentment may have invaded your spirit.
Just being able to “get back out there” and engage in a relationship with the opposite sex can be trying.
Obviously, there are great deal of things we could get into when we start peeling back the layers of how cheating can leave a path of devastation.
Matters such as guilt, vengeance, feelings of desperation, and depression have hardly been touched on.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that these feelings could emerge and would have to be dealt with appropriately.
Nor have I really talked much about the legal impact of cheating beyond the obvious outcome of potential separation and divorce.
Issues such as alienation of affection, stalking, infliction of emotional distress , or defamation lawsuits can arise.
The financial impact can also be significant for various reasons along with other matters such as contraction of STD’s, pregnancy out-of-wedlock, or threatening phone calls.
In the final analysis, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the guilty partner could be made to see and experience all the pain and devastation their actions would cause before making the awful decision to cheat.
Or if we could go back in time and reverse the bad decisions we made, whether it be choosing not to cheat or not marrying the cheater, perhaps that might make things better.
Unfortunately there are no such options.
But to a large extent you do have control of some part of the future.
As you live through life and are confronted with tough choices, you can weigh all the options and find that path that is pragmatic and brings you some peace.