This article by Dr Broder takes a similar tack, asking ‘Can an affair make your relationship stronger?’ There is a very simple and concise answer to the question he posed, and it’s this: No.
Usually I would comment in preamble to the actual article. Today I have commented throughout, highlighting my points in aqua.
Can An Affair Make Your Relationship Stronger?
by Michael S. Broder, Ph.D. (comments added)
If you’ve recently found out your partner has had an affair (or perhaps you’re the one who has), your first reaction might be to assume it’s inevitable that the relationship will end. With the emotional roller coaster you might be experiencing, this can seem like the only logical outcome. And if you’re someone who usually plays by the often black-and-white rules of society (or relationships), it may be difficult to see it any other way.
Setting the scene by suggesting that those ‘who play by the rules’ are in some way less broad minded, less reasoned, or more rigidly controlled by false societal rules is a ploy. It is intended to suggest that if you react ‘normally’ by blaming the cheater and feeling rage, then you’re simply not educated sufficiently and should re-examine your stance on affairs.
In some cases, an affair will put the spotlight on certain differences that are irreconcilable. But on the other side of the pain lies the possibility that an act of infidelity can actually make your marriage or love relationship stronger.
An act of infidelity, by definition, is an act where fidelity has been broken. Fidelity is the observance of a promise or vow (or conjugal/relational faithfulness). An act of infidelity assaults the promise of faithfulness, and that is entirely destructive. To say that infidelity makes a monogamous relationship stronger is like saying that a wrecking ball makes a wall more robust.
Step one is to get past the rage, the finger pointing and the blaming.
Yes, let’s stop blaming a cheater for cheating, because that blame might somehow weaken the relationship. Rage and finger pointing is entirely out of place - the faithful partner should learn to accept that these things are inevitable, and that they should be the bigger person and shoulder the blame themselves for their partner’s affair.
Let’s be clear: An agreed monogamous relationship functions exactly as that. If one partner goes outside the relationship only they are accountable for breaching the agreement. That makes them responsible and accountable.
Then, there might be something to learn that can reignite your relationship and remind you of the reasons you got together in the first place. Think of this as the wakeup call.
This is a veiled assertion that YOU somehow neglected the dying embers of your once-brightingly-burning relationship, letting them fizzle out in a sad little wisp of smoke, driving your partner to their affair.
You dropped the ball here, your cheater was forced into their affair by your neglectful, sexless, stuck-in-the-societal-black-and-white-mud ways. This is your wake up call. Let’s not address that the wake up call to your cheater was the moment they started to entertain the idea of an affair. Let’s completely ignore that their alarm bells were clanging when they started to realize that they no longer wanted to remain monogamous.
From this article, I can only surmise that the only ‘something’ you might learn to help reignite your relationship is to cheat, apportion blame elsewhere, and expect your partner to scramble to accept the blame and single-handedly fix the relationship.
If you were the one who strayed — as difficult as it may be — don’t lose sight of the reality that it’s unfair to compare an affair and primary relationship. An affair is usually conducted under idealized circumstances: no financial issues and no kids to worry about. Obviously, none of the mundane aspects of life like income taxes and household chores are a part of the mix. If someone gets the flu, you simply don’t get together that week. The frustrating or stressful elements of day-to-day life simply don’t exist. In a way, it’s like comparing normal life to a vacation.
Instead, ask yourself what it was that you needed or weren’t getting in your primary relationship that may have led you to the choices you made.
On the surface this sounds legitimate. It’s saying to focus on what you needed, or your unrealistic expectations, or your personal struggles, and what your faithful partner failed to give you.
It suggests what, at first glance, seems a reasonable approach to understanding your underlying reasons for cheating. It says to take a personal inventory of your needs and wants and how they weren’t met.
What it DOESN’T say is to focus on why, when you decided that you weren’t getting what you felt entitled to, you didn’t approach your partner and talk to them about it. It doesn’t say to focus on why, instead of behaving with integrity and respect, you instead chose to engage in another relationship, despite your promises to the partner with whom you were already in a relationship.
It’s time to start asking this question: Why, when faced with dissatisfaction with your relationship, didn’t you either seek to resolve the issues, or simply leave the relationship?
Whether it was emotional, physical or something else, identifying the aspect or aspects of your relationship that drove you to look elsewhere to meet this need can be invaluable information going forward.
Again, we have yet another example of the characterization of a cheater as some hapless victim of their heinous partner, doomed by external forces to the certain and unavoidable catatonic response of screwing someone else.
The drive to have an affair comes from the cheater, not the faithful partner. The relationship simply does not have the capacity to compel, force, impel or propel someone into an affair, unless they CHOOSE it. In the previous passage Dr Broder concedes that it is indeed, a choice. A choice, again by definition, means that there were other options available. Where there were options, there were other possible outcomes … no one is ‘driven’ unavoidably into an affair.
For example, in most relationships, in order for sex to be optimal, both partners need to work on it. This certainly doesn’t mean the relationship is bad or has run its course. Maybe your drive to seek sex elsewhere can illuminate the fact that this is an area that needs attention.
So now we’re blaming the lack of sex, or the quality of sex on being driven (again) to having sex with someone else.
No relationship is perfect. In an imperfect world populated by imperfect beings, the results are imperfect. When faced with lack of sex in a marriage, or incompatibility in desire or willingness to engage in certain sexual acts, the idea that you’re somehow justified to respond by cheating, is absurd.
The answer is to resolve it, or get the hell out of it. Cheating neither attempts to resolve the issues nor removes you from the relationship. Cheating serves only to keep what you have, while you indulge in more elsewhere.
In most relationships, that only works for one partner - the cheater. If an act is entirely self-serving, then it cannot be held up as somehow making a relationship stronger.
Perhaps you’ve not been feeling validated in the areas of love or sex and that drove you to seek a connection with someone else.
Again with the “you poor, brainless, spineless soul, it’s not your fault, you were driven to it”? Please. Spare me.
Why don’t we start asserting that in actual fact the cheater has an affair AGAINST THEIR WILL, kicking and screaming all the way? Why? Because it’s ASININE is why! We may as well say that cheaters are driven to their affairs by the faithful partner’s witchery (or sorcery) in silently spelling the cheater into acting against their own volition.
And if your partner was unfaithful, obsessing about that “other person” is only going to deepen your pain. Sure, you can blame and live in a state of victimhood, and you may get lots of support in the way of sympathy to reinforce your rage.
Dr Broder is suggesting that you should be ashamed of yourself for blaming your cheater for cheating, and for being a victim of your cheater’s disregard and disrespect for you and your relationship. As I responded to Dr Nelson’s equally inane article:
This concept that the faithful partner is to blame somehow for their cheater’s affair is tantamount to blaming the dog for being kicked. Are we really going to start down the road where we ‘collude’ (hey, she used it first!) to blame domestic violence on the victim (“She made me do it”) or alcoholism on the spouse (“He drove me to drink”)? Really? We’re going there with our psychology Ph.D.s now?
As for your rage and willing and determined residence in Victimhood-ville, well, again, shame on you. How dare you be devastated by your cheater’s affair? That rage of yours? It’s not healthy for your relationship.
Please note that you are not given the free pass here by Dr Broder that you were ‘driven’ to your rage. No. You get to own that entirely. So stop acting in such rageful, blaming ways, because your role is to massage your relationship’s genitals until the excitement is reigniting, and then swallow (your pride) and learn how to behave in more relationship-healthy ways.
But my best advice to you is to look at the affair as a symptom of some ongoing issue that is or was not being addressed. Now is the time to have a civil and thoughtful discussion about what needs to change and/or be worked on now.
Yes, because again, you are not permitted to behave in relationship-destructive behaviors. Only your cheater is allowed to behave in thoughtless and disdainful ways like, oh I don’t know, having an affair maybe?
Also, please note that your response is expected to be that you will change and work on the relationship. There’s no room for you saying, “Oh HELL NO, I am out of here!” No. Your poor cheater requires you to look at your faults and failings, and then spend the next phase of your life trying to please them, show them how sorry you are, accepting fault for their affair, and being entirely responsible for meeting whatever needs they happen to have today.
Chances are there was an elephant in the room you both knew about but tried to ignore. I can’t tell you what it is but urge you to take this opportunity to address it.
Oh yes, again with the collusion issue. You knew, or at least suspected, that things weren’t perfect, so you colluded/secretly cooperated/tacitly agreed to your cheater’s affair. It’s the butt-licking argument all over again.
In my book, I offer many strategies for identifying and resolving these issues and making your relationship what it could be when you are able to get through a profoundly difficult crisis such as this — together.
This shameless plug would usually be something I have no issues with. However, the idea of someone lining Dr Broder’s pockets by buying a book that is likely to be a veritable feast of this same sentiment, is rather nauseating. So, I removed the link, and the book title. I am sure that if you want it, you will be able to locate it without my assistance.
You can give your relationship a new life and even make it better than ever if you commit to doing just that, by either by yourselves or with the help of a couple’s counselor. With some hard work and that commitment, it’s absolutely possible to regain trust and have a fresh start.
Affairs do not make relationships stronger; that is a simple, unassailable fact.
If a cheater is prepared to accept the full blame and accountability for their choices, and is prepared to explore their psyche and failings, and make positive, measurable changes then successful reconciliation may be possible: Possible, but hard work.
A couple may work together, with full awareness of their failings, addressing the vulnerabilities within their relationship. Reconciliation based on a fear of moving on, or clinging to the ‘dream’ of what the relationship used to be or should have been, or from some moral ‘standing’ viewpoint brings further problems. In some ways, these foundations are as challenging and destructive to a reconciliation as the affair was to the relationship to begin with. Each partner must have their own self-interest and goals in reconciling - without them I would urge a re-think.
Affairs do not make relationships stronger. The people who work to improve, change or augment their relationships make relationships stronger.