Dear Dr. Frankie,
I had a sneaking suspicion for the past year that my partner of 11 years was having an affair. I finally convinced her to go to couples therapy because I felt the distance between us growing. My partner eventually admitted having a two-year affair with a close friend of ours. Can I ever trust her again? Does this mean her character is so flawed that she is incapable of having a monogamous relationship? My world is shattered and I don’t know if my marriage is salvageable and beyond that I don’t even know if I want to salvage it.
Eleven years is quite a significant amount of time. If the relationship was happy and fulfilling prior to the past several years my advice is not to make any immediate decisions about the relationship. You are correct, your life has been turned upside down and inside out; all the more reason that now is not the time to make decisions based on pain, anger, and betrayal. Many people have a belief that if their partner cheated on them they would end the relationship, period. Well, in theory this is understandable. But don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. By this I mean that life and relationships are complicated and absolutely not black and white. If your relationship brings you more joy and comfort than unhappiness, don’t scrap it simply to protect your pride or maintain a long held belief. Once you’ve given yourself some time to heal and for the worst of the emotional rollercoaster to end, here are some important factors to consider. Despite the betrayal do you still love your partner? Typically people wander when their needs are not being met; did you in any way contribute to the emotional distance you were feeling with your partner? Is your partner remorseful for the affair? Are you both willing to endure the discomfort that will hang over the relationship? Human beings and relationships are dynamic and complex. Not everyone is capable or willing to forgive such a betrayal. These are questions that only you can answer. I would encourage you to seek individual coaching or therapy for additional support.