Affairs seem to be everywhere. I know I have seen many accounts of them in my office in the last few months.

A popular myth is that an affair always ends the marriage. While some marriages do end when there is an affair, the reality is that any couple can survive and grow past an affair, if they are committed to doing at least a few things:

• The affair must end; the person who had the affair must cut ties to the person who was part of the affair.

• The other spouse has to deal with the sense of anger, betrayal and the other ugly emotions that come with the territory.

• The spouse that had the affair must genuinely apologize for the harm caused.

• Trust has to be rebuilt. In order for trust to be rebuilt, the other spouse has to be willing to learn to trust again, and the spouse who had the affair has to be willing to “live under a microscope.” It’s important to remember that the first rule when living under a microscope is to not do anything to cause the magnification to be increased.

Both spouses have an equally difficult road ahead. If you do the necessary things to recover, the relationship can very well grow to be better than before.

On another topic, I often hear about an argument between couples where one takes the position “Yes, I told you about planning to do that, we talked about it.” At the same time, the other spouse is saying “No, you did not tell me about that, and we never talked about it.”

So just how does this recurring pattern happen? Is one of these people hallucinating? I don’t think so. Is one just not paying attention and not really listening? Could be. Does one just think he/she told their partner? Could be too.

About the only strategy I have found that works with this situation is doing the opposite of that highly dangerous habit of assuming. The opposite of assuming is checking. Let me give you an example from several years ago. My wife, Lauren, and I were staying in a cabin. It was the last day of our vacation, and I really just wanted to hang around the cabin and relax. But I knew that Lauren wanted to eat lunch out one more time at a place about 45 minutes away. We had talked about it the night before.

Well, 40 minutes into the 45-minute car ride, Lauren tells me that she had really wanted to just hang around the cabin and relax, but she knew that I really wanted to eat lunch out.

Checking is a very powerful strategy. It can save you many more important things than a last day at the cabin.

Jeff Herring, MS, LMFT, is a marriage and family therapist.


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