Can you save a marriage after three affairs?
Well… Yes… And we have numerous cases here on SI that support that “yes”.
But for each success case I guess we have at least the same number of failures.
Furthermore – although you can save a marriage after numerous affairs then you really don’t have any obligation to do so.
What I can tell you is that I don’t know of a SINGLE success story that didn’t include a couple that wanted to work on the issues, a remorseful wayward spouse, intense IC and MC and lots and lots of work.
OK – So let’s look at the “positives”.
To start off with: Her decision to have an affair has nothing to do with you per se. There is nothing you did or did not do that made her go think reaching out to someone else is a good idea. If she felt something was missing from the marriage her correct response would have been to talk to you about it, demand change or possibly divorce. But going out and actively hunting for a lover… No. So don’t go looking for the reasons for her straying in you. Won’t find it there.
Another “positive”: When I see people having multiple affairs it confirms my view that in the vast majority of cases the affair partner isn’t relevant. This can actually be confirmed/supported in the low success rate of relationships that start in infidelity. I recall seeing research that showed that less than 5% of infidelity-founded relationships last more than a year.
Your WW selected her OM based on the fact they were available – not on the fact that they were so special. The reason this is a “positive” is that it makes detaching from the OM easier. However… she has to realize why she cheats and associate her affairs to those emotions rather than the OP.
OK – SO what to do?
Well… DEFINITELY don’t do what you have done to-date.
I think a good heart-to-heart with your wife is in order. You would want to get the following messages across:
-Ask her whether she thinks this situation is sustainable.
-Does she think a marriage that has already had 3 affairs that you know of is healthy?
-Tell her that you simply assume that there were others. Don’t blame her for others or accuse her of others. Simply state the obvious: Since she has cheated three times that you know of there might be others you don’t know of.
-Tell her that right now her word has little value to you. Her denial that there were 4-5-6-7… affairs has no weight at all.
-Tell her that right now – as things stand – the only thing you know and is definite is that if nothing is done she is going to cheat again. It’s not a question of if but only when.
-Then tell her that the ONLY WAY YOU can ensure you won’t be cheated on again is by divorcing. After all – if you are no longer her husband then she won’t be having affairs per se, but rather relationships.
-Point out the fact you are there talking to her rather than simply having her served speaks volumes. It shows that IF you are offered the right path, the right commitment you are willing to work on the marriage.
-Then ask her what SHE wants.
-Make it perfectly clear that she’s free to divorce. The process to terminate a marriage is a known one and you two can find ways to do so in an amicable manner.
-Make it clear that you prefer divorce to being cheated on again. If she won’t commit to the marriage then PLEASE be honest about it and set you free.
-If she wants to work on the marriage you have some requirements that need to be met. Be open for discussion on the requirements but don’t omit or negotiate on any of them without asking us. (The requirements are below).
-If she needs to then give her some time to digest and reply. But no more than 6-8 hours. PRESS for a reply.
IF she commits to the marriage then she needs to meet some standards:
She needs IC. This is a MUST.
Now – normally an IC focuses on his/her patient with no thought for the spouse. But in your case I would recommend you take part in a consult because you want to get the message across: Your wife does not have to remain married to you but while she is then you don’t want to share her.
You two need MC.
In your case it might be beneficial that the same person is WW IC and your MC.
She has to be an open book. Right now the trust you have is sub-zero. It’s going to be that way for a long long time. One of the goals of MC is to rebuild realistic trust but for now you need to know everything about where she is, whom she’s with, what she’s got planned…
I would also suggest you spend time with an IC. Infidelity is traumatic and it’s an experience that can really strike at the core of our existence. I did a lot of self-evaluation and goal-setting after my d-day and it was key in my personal recovery.