"I found a second cell phone in my husband's car and when I went through it, it became clear he is having an affair. I am beyond devastated. I am sick to my stomach and I'm looking for some hope. Is there any chance that we can get over this? Does infidelity mean my marriage is over for sure?" - Amata, California
Hi Amata. I am so, so sorry for the pain you're in. My heart breaks for you.
To answer you... No, infidelity does not mean your marriage is over. Affairs happen for many complicated reasons and they are much more common than you know.
A recent research study on affairs found: "Few couples decide to divorce because of an affair. But of the fewer than 20 percent who do divorce, 80 percent report regretting the decision."
So what does this tell us? That most marriages DO survive affairs and those that break up usually regret it.
Another clinical study done by California therapist Peggy Vaughan, in collaboration with world-renowned John Gottman, PhD, found: "After an affair, most people DO remain married. 76% of couples studied reported they are still married and living together after the infidelity."
So this confirms what the previous study found. Most people do stay together after an affair. Now, this doesn't mean you have to or you should, you'll sort that out as you heal... but it might give you hope that you can heal from this.
Most people assume that when an affair is discovered, the marriage is over. This simply isn't true! Most marriages do NOT end when an affair has occurred. Yours doesn't have to either.
Part of the reason we think these things is because there is a lot of secrecy surrounding affairs. When couples stay together, they don't talk about the fact that one of them had an affair. We only hear about affairs in marriages that did end, so we falsely conclude that having an affair guarantees a divorce. Or worse, we think that if our spouse had an affair, we SHOULD get a divorce.
Since you've just found out about the affair, I highly recommend this blog post - How To Survive Infidelity: The First 24 Hours.
I'll be thinking of you, please keep me posted on how you're doing. Big hugs to you! -Dr. K
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