(MayoClinic.com) Few marital problems cause as much heartache and devastation as infidelity. Money worries, health issues and disagreements about children can strain a relationship — but infidelity undermines the foundation of marriage itself. Divorce isn't necessarily inevitable after infidelity, however. With time to heal and a mutual goal of rebuilding the relationship, some couples emerge from infidelity with a stronger and more honest relationship than before.
Infidelity isn't a single, clearly defined situation — and what's considered infidelity varies among couples and even between partners in a relationship. What may be acceptable for some couples may be unacceptable for others. Similarly, what's tolerable for one partner in a relationship may be intolerable for the other. For example, is it infidelity if your partner is attracted to someone else but doesn't act on it? Is an emotional connection without physical intimacy considered infidelity? What about online relationships?
Many factors can contribute to infidelity, from low self-esteem or discontent with the marriage to addiction to sex, love or romance. Generally, a person who's having an affair:
The initial discovery of an affair can trigger a range of powerful emotions for both partners — shock, rage, shame, depression, guilt, remorse. You may cycle through all of these emotions many times in a single day, one minute vowing to end the marriage and the next wanting desperately to save it. At this point, it's important to take one step at a time:
Recovering from an affair is a difficult and ongoing process. Still, it's possible to survive an affair. Consider these steps to promote healing:
Not every marriage affected by infidelity can — or should — be saved. Sometimes too much damage has been done or reconciliation remains elusive. However, if both of you are committed to rebuilding your relationship and you have the strength and determination for the task, the reward may be a partnership that grows in depth, honesty and intimacy.
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