Every once in a while I step back and think about the messages I give to couples in my practice, seminars, keynotes and in my writing. To be sure, I have been a psychotic optimist about people's ability to survive whatever comes their way in terms of marital challenges. For example, my mantra when interviewed by media about the impact of infidelity is that it is by no means a marital deal breaker. In fact, I say, that when a couple is willing to do the hard work of healing from infidelity, their marriage can be stronger than ever before. True? Well, yes, but not, I now believe, without considerable hardship and devastation along the way. Suffice it to say, infidelity is not for sissies.
As I have observed the fallout from infidelity from the discovery throughout the lengthy process of healing, I have noticed that, even when couples are devoted to rising above adversity, facing their demons, keeping their hearts open, working through pain, grief, anxiety and loss, the process is incredibly difficult. There are predictable twists and turns. Roller coaster-like days, months and even years take their toll emotionally, spiritually and physically. Forgiveness may come eventually, but forgetting never does. The marriage is changed forever, innocence and dreams lost.
So, although I was right when I said that people can survive infidelity and emerge more empathetic, skilled, loving and determined to affair-proof their relationships in the future, I think I will spend more time letting people know what it is really like being in the trenches. If in "telling it like it is," I"m able to help people considering straying avoid even one act of indiscretion, that will be a good thing.