I sometimes hear from wives who are trying to figure out just how serious a threat their husband’s affair is to their marriage. Some wives hope that the affair was just a fling that didn’t mean anything. I heard from a wife who said: “after my repeatedly asking him, my husband finally admitted to an affair. I knew something was up because all of the signs were there. For a long time, he denied everything but I wouldn’t let up and I finally wore him down until he confessed. But he tried to make I feel better by telling me that the affair wasn’t serious. He said she didn’t mean anything to him and it was real ‘just a fling.’ However, I found out that the affair lasted for four months. If it wasn’t serious or real, why would he be involved for four months? Since I found out about the affair, my husband has been very attentive and loving. So I am torn. One of my friends tells me that any affair is serious and could destroy my marriage. But I have another friend who tells me that her husband had a fling once and it has long behind them because there was no emotional attachment. So how am I supposed to know how serious the affair truly was?” I’ll try to address these concerns below.
My belief is that any affair can be a serious threat to your marriage. And I don’t think that the time frame or the supposed emotions involved have as much to do with it as people can assume. I’ve heard from many men who carried on casual flings for years at a time. And I also hear from those who tell me that an affair turned very serious very fast. Besides that, if you believe that the emotions involved can tell you how serious the affair was, then realize that you are pretty much dependent upon your husband to be honest about the emotions involved. Most husband will downplay this even if they felt emotionally attached.
So since you can’t completely control or understand these variables, I believe that the best bet is to take any infidelity seriously. I understand that many cheating husband completely believe that they love their wives and were happy in their marriage. But, even if this is true, both people will need to take the infidelity seriously enough to insist on rehabilitation to ensure that the marriage not only survives, but thrives.
I believe that there’s a real risk in saying “it was just a fling” and then not fully addressing what lead up to this betrayal and how to deal with it. When you brush it aside in this way or don’t take it seriously, then you leave yourself vulnerable for it to happen again and you constantly walk on eggshells as a result. Not only that, but you will likely have a lot of resentment that he’s doing nothing to make amends for what he has done. In short, it’s unrealistic to think that your marriage is not going to be damaged, even when you hope it’s only a fling.
From my own experience and from all of the people who I hear from on my blog, I can tell you that all infidelity can be very serious to a marriage. Of course, every one is different and some couples’ reactions and feelings will differ, but I believe that you should take any type of betrayal serious enough to dig a little deeper and to rehabilitate your marriage.
It’s very common for the spouse who cheated to insist that the infidelity is no big deal, while the spouse who was cheated on can think of nothing else. If you don’t want to accept the “no big deal” assertion, a suggested script would be something like: “I know that you’re telling me that the affair is not serious to you, but it is very serious to me. And if our marriage and myself is important to you, then this issue should be important to you also. In order for me to heal and for our marriage to survive, I need you to take this seriously and work with me to rehabilitate our marriage. Because if we don’t do that, then these issues are going to keep coming up and damaging our marriage. If I and our marriage are important to you, then I need you to stop downplaying it because this is important to me, so it should be important to you.”
My husband did try to downplay the affair in the beginning, but I made it very clear that this was not acceptable to me. Eventually, he realized that what was important to me should be important to him and this enabled us to begin our recovery, which wasn’t always easy, but was always worth it. If it helps, you can read that entire emotional story on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com/