Jane E. Brody in The New York Times:
Marriages fall apart for many different reasons, but one of the most common and most challenging to overcome is the discovery that one partner has “cheated” on the other. I put the word cheated in quotes because the definition of infidelity can vary widely among and within couples. Though most often it involves explicit sexual acts with someone other than one’s spouse or committed partner, there are also couples torn asunder by a partner’s surreptitious use of pornography, a purely emotional relationship with no sexual contact, virtual affairs, even just ogling or flirting with a nonpartner. Infidelity is hardly a new phenomenon. It has existed for as long as people have united as couples, married or otherwise. Marriage counselors report that affairs sometimes occur in happy relationships as well as troubled ones. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, national surveys indicate that 15 percent of married women and 25 percent of married men have had extramarital affairs. The incidence is about 20 percent higher when emotional and sexual relationships without intercourse are included. As more women began working outside the home, their chances of having an affair have increased accordingly. Volumes have been written about infidelity, most recently two excellent and illuminating books: “The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity” by Esther Perel, a New York psychotherapist, and “Healing from Infidelity” by Michele Weiner-Davis, a psychotherapist in Boulder, Colo. Both books are based on the authors’ extensive experience counseling couples whose relationships have been shattered by affairs.
The good news is, depending upon what caused one partner to wander and how determined a couple is to remain together, infidelity need not result in divorce. In fact, Ms. Perel and other marriage counselors have found, couples that choose to recover from and rebuild after infidelity often end up with a stronger, more loving and mutually understanding relationship than they had previously. “People who’ve been betrayed need to know that there’s no shame in staying in the marriage — they’re not doormats, they’re warriors,” Ms. Weiner-Davis said in an interview. “The gift they provide to their families by working through the pain is enormous.” Ms. Perel concedes that “some affairs will deliver a fatal blow to a relationship.” But she wrote, “Others may inspire change that was sorely needed. Betrayal cuts to the bone, but the wound can be healed. Plenty of people care deeply for the well-being of their partners even while lying to them, just as plenty of those who have been betrayed continue to love the ones who lied to them and want to find a way to stay together.”