Questions: Dear Luise: We have been married for thirteen years and my husband has just admitted to having an affair for the last three years. I knew he was unhappy but he told me it was his job that had him down. I still love him, and have forgiven him, but I just don’t feel the same as I did when I thought I knew who he was. Is there any way to get trust back or heal this kind of thing? I feel like our marriage is a sham. Is there such a thing as fidelity? Joan W.
Answer: Dear Joan: You know very well that there is such a thing as fidelity. It may not be as common as we’d like, but it does exist.
To me, three years means that you are dealing with a longstanding affair of substance, not a passing fancy, and also a correspondingly long period of deliberate deceit. To some that would make it all the more daunting.
I have known people who managed to go on after an affair shattered their marriage, some successfully and some not. It’s a very individual thing because we all have different levels of tolerance and divergent ideals.
To my way of thinking, trust can’t be rebuilt. Once it’s broken, you may build something in place of it, like tolerance, endurance or empathy to name a few, but trust stands on it’s own merit until it is no more. To complicate things further, many of us include trust in our definition of love.
Forgiveness is something else, and I don’t think it necessarily has to be based on renewed trust. However, you can choose to forgive and stay or forgive and move on. That decision is often based on how strong your own personal self-image is and, thus, what you think the affair says about you. People who have a strong sense of self-worth may be able to deal better with imperfection in others and not see it a reflection on themselves.
All of these factors are things you need to think about and talk over with someone you feel comfortable with. It’s time to work you way through your own core beliefs and values to decide for yourself whether you want to try to work with what’s left or whether it’s not enough. Blessings, Luise