By Katie Lersch
I often hear from women who are dealing with infidelity and who admit that, in a perfect world, they would like to one day be able to save their marriage. But of course, almost all of them have reservations and doubts. One of the biggest concerns that I hear is the fear of repeat cheating. It is absolutely normal to worry that the very second that you allow yourself to trust him again, he’s going to repeat cheat and absolutely shatter you. The fear is so large and so real that some people consider not attempting to save the marriage for the fear of the second affair.
Someone might say, “I need to know the likelihood that my husband is going to cheat again. He swears that he won’t. He is saying and doing the right things. And yet, I can not bring myself to trust him completely. I am always on guard. Trying to get through this process has taken everything that I have. It has shattered what I thought I knew about my husband and my marriage. I am suspicious of everyone and everything. I see the world as a hostile place now and this was never true before. It has placed a dark cloud over everything. I am slowly trying to recover, but it has been crippling. I can’t do this again. My husband promises that he would never put himself in this position again. I want to believe him. But he found a way to cheat once, so who is to say that he will not cheat again? What do statistics say about the likelihood of a second affair?”
If you have looked, I’m sure you have seen that the statistics vary. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an agreement. I have seen three sets of statistics. One indicated that only 22 percent of people cheated more than once. Another contradicted that and said that as many as 55 percent of people repeat cheat. Plus there was an online survey of people who’d had affairs and 60 percent of them said that they had been unfaithful more than once. (I would take this one with a grain of salt, as the folks who are online and willing to talk about their infidelity might be a different subset than the people who just want to move on with their lives.) However, as you can see, the statistics vary widely, but you can get as high as about half of the unfaithful people will cheat again. And you can get as low as only 1/4.
I understand why you want to know about statistics. I can spout off a lot of statistics about affairs and their recovery because I did a lot of research due to my own experience. But I can tell you something else. You can read statistics all day long, but truly, they don’t have any impact on your life. Just because a certain number of other couples have one experience, that does not mean that you will.
The better indicator of whether you will deal with another affair is not what happens with other couples – it is what happens with your husband, with yourself, and with your recovery. I can tell you something else that I learned. You can only do as much as is humanly possible and there are still no guarantees, but it does get better. Time is a wonderful tool with this. Early in our recovery, I always worried over the slightest little perception of deception. Most of the time, it was just my suspicions working overtime But with time, you begin to see that your first fears aren’t coming true and you allow yourself to relax just a tiny bit more. And one day, you realize that if you do the counseling, if you insist that your husband take responsibility and become rehabilitated, and if you work on yourself and you become as strong as you possibly can, then at some point, you have to just take a breath and know that you can’t fully control this. You can and should make your marriage and your recovery as strong as possible. And you should always be aware. If my husband started acting weird tomorrow or showing troubling behaviors, of course I would be concerned and I would investigate that. But I no longer want to live my life always on my guard. My husband and I worked long enough and hard enough that I feel safe in releasing just a bit. If my husband’s behaviors made it necessary for me to change, then I would, but I got tired of living my life for fear of tomorrow.
You are early on in this process, so you haven’t had the advantage of time yet. But if you are still invested in your marriage, then you can only see to it that you get all the help that you need and do everything that you and your husband possibly can to get back on track. You can be clear about your expectations and you can have each of them met. And at some point, you just have to exhale and know that if the worst should come, then you will handle it then, but you aren’t going to compromise the rest of your life always living with suspicion and walking on eggshells. Only you will know when you’ve reached this point. Usually, quite a bit of healing needs to happen first.