Many relationship experts contend that, at least under certain
circumstances, marital infidelity can actually be a forgivable
More specifically, infidelity expert Ruth Houston, author
of the widely acclaimed book, Is
He Cheating on You? - 829 Telltale Signs, maintains that,
"Infidelity is never excusable, but in some circumstances,
it may be forgivable-depending on the attitude of the cheater
about the cheating. There must be genuine remorse about the
infidelity, about having hurt one's mate (not remorse that
the affair was discovered)."
Houston also asserted in a recent interview that, "If
the guilty party is truly sorry, and has severed all ties
with the affair partner, and is willing to get professional
help, if necessary, then it's possible that the infidelity
may be forgivable, if it occurred under the following circumstances:
A. Under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
B. While going through a midlife crisis;
C. As a response to a life crisis - the death of a loved
one, the loss of a job;
D. As a one night stand;
E. In cases of sexual addiction, where the person is seeking,
or willing to seek medical/ professional help."
Infidelity Expert Ruth Houston states, 'There must
be genuine remorse about the infidelity, about having
hurt one's mate.'
On the other hand, Ms. Houston believes that marital infidelity
is, "Definitely not forgivable if the cheater:
A. Feels he/she has a right to cheat;
B. Feels no guilt or remorse for having hurt his/her partner;
C. Wants to sweep the affair under the rug and proceed
as if nothing has happened;
D. Does not feel that the cheating was wrong;
E. Refuses to sever ties with the affair partner;
F. Continues to lie about the affair;
G. Is a habitual or serial cheater who has had one or more
affairs in the past;
H. Is a sex addict who refuses to seek help."
open communication is absolutely critical when it comes
to repairing a relationship that has been damaged by infidelity.
The Best Chance for a Relationship After an Affair
Couples therapists Betsy and Bruce Bergquist have been married
for fifty years. For the past eleven years, they have been
practitioners of Imago
Couples Dialogue Therapy, a form of couples therapy which
was created by Harville Hendrix, celebrated marriage counselor,
author, and founder of the Imago International Institute.
The Bergquists' motto for their practice is: "'Restoring
Tenderness and Intimacy to Your Relationship.
Through their personal use of Imago Couples Dialogue in their
own marriage, Ms. Bergquist states that she and her husband
Bruce, "Will always have issues, but using Dialogue to
process them always allows us to move to new understanding,
growth, and awareness of each other. Through Dialogue, we
have been able to be fully curious about each other and our
differences, and especially about the mysteries of our reactions
and behaviors toward one another, so that the issues no long
pose a threat but instead make us stronger."
In a recent interview, Ms. Bergquist stated that infidelity
"can become forgivable when a communication structure
for both partners allows for true forgiveness to occur."
It is her contention that relationships "have the best
chance to survive an affair if the following steps can be
The affair is ended, and all contact with the third
party is ended.
The one who had the affair is willing to listen to their
partner's hurt without being reactive or defensive and
also willing to express remorse.
The couple is willing to look at the relationship prior
to the affair, and both parties equally own the lack of
connection and intimacy and failure to communicate dissatisfaction
to each other that led to the affair.
The couple is willing to look at hurtful childhood experiences
and how early childhood family relationships (for example,
infidelities in their own families) may be undermining
the present relationship."
Ms. Bergquist describes Imago Couples Dialogue treatment
as follows: "Couples learn to talk to each other using
a safe process of dialogue which, if the steps are followed,
will take them from the affair itself deeper into their childhood
pain where emotional needs were not met, or feelings were
not acceptable, or where the child was not listened to and
interacted with, or made to feel loved.
"Here, perhaps for the first time, couples begin to
see the vulnerable, hurt child in their partner and experience
empathy, the ability to see the world through the eyes of
the other and imagine their experience on a feeling level.
The childhood pain evoked does not make the affair okay but
both partners can begin to see the childhood pain behind the
affair and experience empathy for the other as the basis for
Actually, forgiveness has been empirically
proven to be an essential ingredient for achieving one's
optimal emotional health.
In her work with couples, she always stresses to them: "We
are not going back to childhood; we are trying to grow
up and out of childhood. We are trying to be more conscious
of how the past still has a grip on us, even though we may
When Children are Involved
In Ms. Bergquist's view, as far as marital infidelity is
concerned, "It is especially worthwhile to try to save
a marriage where there are children involved, assuming no
violence, child abuse or neglect issues are present. Children's
best interests are absolutely paramount. Children are the
true victims of divorce and carry the scars of the divorce
"They grow up in the emotional, physical, and psychological
space between their parents and when that space no longer
exists or is fraught with disagreement and hurt and lack of
safety, you can only imagine how that affects their capacity
for healthy completion of their emotional and psychological
growth both at the time and later on in life."
SixWise.com contributing editor Rachel G. Baldino,
MSW, LCSW, is the author of the e-book, Loving
Simply: Eliminating Drama from Your Intimate Relationships,
published in 2006 by Fictionwise.com, and the print
book, Welcome to Methadonia: A Social Worker's Candid
Account of Life in a Methadone Clinic, published in
2000 by White Hat Communications.
Her articles have appeared in Social Work Today, The
New Social Worker, New Living Magazine, Conflict911.com
and other publications. After earning her MSW from the
Boston College Graduate School of Social Work in1997,
she provided counseling services, first at a methadone
clinic, and later at an outpatient mental health treatment
Ms. Baldino has been quoted about managing anger in
relationships in Kathy Svitil's 2006 book, Calming The
Anger Storm, which is part of the Psychology Today Here
To Help series. She has also been quoted in such magazines,
newspapers and online publications as For Me Magazine,
Conceive Magazine, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, The
Albany Times Union, The Tallahassee Democrat, Bay State
Parent Magazine, TheBridalBook.com, Babyzone.com, Momstoday.com,
The Newhouse News Service, and Indianapolis Woman. She
lives with her husband and children in Massachusetts.
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