A lot of the people that I hear from are very torn about their marriage after learning about an affair. Very few of us ever think that we will one day consider ending our marriage. But that was before we learned about the affair. And this knowledge can change everything. For many people, an affair is the one thing that they can never tolerate. Still, when you are left with the actual reality of ending your marriage for good, this decision can feel much harder than you ever anticipated.
To that end, many people will attempt to use the tried and true decision making tool of listing the pros and cons. However, when it comes to your own marriage, it can be very hard to be objective about this. So some people consult neutral third parties about the pros and cons. Someone might ask: “objectively, what are the pros of cons of staying in a marriage after an affair? Honestly, I always thought that it would be an absolute no-brainer to divorce my husband if he ever cheated. But I also never thought that this might happen. It was always a theoretical thing because we had a good marriage and I never ever thought that it would be our reality. Now that it is, I find myself having a hard time with the idea of actually ending my marriage, at least immediately. I feel that I owe it to my kids to think about this very, very carefully. So I’m trying to list the pros and cons in a very non-emotional way so that I can make a rational decision. But I’m having a hard time. What are the pros and cons?”
I can certainly list some pluses and minuses. I might be biased, because I did ultimately maintain my marriage. However, I can guarantee you that I seriously pondered all of the cons that I am going to list. What I found when going through this myself is that you can ALWAYS find the flip side of the coin. But ultimately, you’re just going to have to decide if it is the pros or the cons that strike the biggest cord with you. When you read over the list, take notice of any physical sensations or reactions that you feel when you read over it. That will give you clues as to where your true opinion and feelings lie. Keep in mind, though, that your opinions and feelings can and do change during this process. What you feel when the affair is fresh may not be what you feel six months from now.
Pro Number One Of Leaving Your Marriage After An Affair. You Don’t Have To Stick Around For All Of The Hard Work: I can’t lie. The weeks and months following an affair can feel like torture. The pain, confusion, and shock is always there. Worse, every time you see or interact with your spouse, the pain can intensify and you feel and experience it all over again. So, by cutting your losses relatively early, you can theoretically avoid this repetitive process. However, it’s unrealistic to think that you won’t feel the pain (or have a big adjustment to make) even on your own. It’s going to be an adjustment either way. But at least you won’t be confronted with your spouse every day. At least that is the thinking behind this train of thought.
The Flip Side (And The Con) If You Don’t Work Through It, Then It Follows You: I understand why it’s tempting to just run away – especially if you feel sure that you’ll never be able to move on from the affair anyway. However, in a sense, there is really no escaping it. And even if you feel absolutely sure that there’s no salvaging your marriage, it makes sense to work through the healing process anyway so that you can finally one day close the door on this. Because you don’t want to let the baggage of this follow you into your next relationship. You should not have to keep experiencing this loss for the rest of your life. It’s best to work through it once and then move on, regardless of what happens with your marriage.
Pro Number Two: It’s Easier And Kinder For Everyone To Make A Fast And Final Break. There Is Less Confusion That Way: Some people feel that it’s kinder on every one in the family to just cut your losses in the beginning. They feel that there’s no use in getting the kids’ hopes up when they will likely be dashed later. They feel that the certainty of a divorce and walking away is better than the uncertainty or trying, failing, and having everyone be disappointed. I understand the thinking behind this, but there’s always a flip side, which leads me to my next point.
If You Try And Fail, There’s Value In Knowing You Did Everything You Could, Even With The Uncertainty: I understand not wanting to deal with uncertainty, but I think that knowing that you never even tried is, at least for some people, just as bad. At least if you make an attempt, you will be able to sleep easier at night knowing that you at least paused to evaluate all of your options before bailing. And your family will know that you at least tried. I’m not saying that either option is ideal and I think that only you can decide which is most ideal for your particular situation, considering the way that you feel. Some people know that there is no way that they can tolerate their cheating spouse for one more day. And others are more open to waiting and seeing what happens.
There is no outcome where no one has to struggle or no one gets hurt. Walking away from your marriage is painful. But recovery after an affair is also painful. Neither is without effort. I think it’s important to ask yourself which future scenario would make you happier – being without your spouse but knowing that you don’t have to deal with them or the fallout of the cheating, or being with your spouse after considerable work but knowing that you overcome the worst of it. Both scenarios will appeal to different sets of people and that is fine. There is no right or wrong answer. There is only what is right for you.