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In today's society, infidelity is one of the leading causes of marital disruption and divorce. In accordance with societal norms many myths have been associated with infidelity. The following myths and their effects on marriage will be discussed: Everyone has affairs; the affair is the direct result of the faithful mate and, the marriage must end in divorce. In examining the various myths, this paper will challenge the greater issue, can marriage survive infidelity?
There was a time when more smart-conscious decisions were made relating to sexual relationships. In particular, sexual relationships within a marriage. However, times have changed. The pillars that hold up our individual sexual values have started to crumble. It is estimated that two out of three marriages fail due to infidelity. This is a scary statistic considering that people believe a marriage can survive infidelity. This brings us to our first myth: Everyone has affairs.
People tend to associate with others who share the same values and morals as they do. People who are unfaithful tend to assume that everyone is, while those who remain faithful tend to believe that extramarital affairs are unusual. Since infidelity takes on several different forms, it is appropriate to consider the fact that many people believe that this sort of behaviour would be considered acceptable.
The first form of adultery is Accidental Infidelity. This can happen to the more careless person, but at the same time, to the person whose values and commitments are tenuous. They lack self-control and respect for both themselves and their spouse. Any situation where they are left alone with the opposite sex is an opportunity for an "accident" to occur. It was shocking to find out that most cases of infidelity occur with couples who are less than twenty -five years old, one would have thought early marriages where happy and care free (figure one).
The second form of adultery is the Romantic Affair. This is usually considered the most disruptive affair because it involves such intense feelings and is a big threat to a marriage. The Romantic Affair usually occurs at a point of crisis in a marriage and is short-lived; it usually burns out quickly.
The last type of affair that is common in several relationships is Philandering. It is known as compulsive, continuous, secret infidelity. It is a well-known pattern that exists in no more than twenty percent of marriages. This sort of affair is usually committed by men who are afraid of control by women, and who are in love with their masculinity. They believe that "love" is a game that they are constantly playing. They are no good at marriage since the game involves obtaining women and discarding them. Each one is like a trophy.
The Accidental, Romantic and Philanders affairs are the three most common and therefore it is easy to see why many believe that "everyone has affairs". The truth is that not everyone has affairs. In fact, affairs are not normal behaviour, rather they are a symptom of a missing element or a problem that exists in a marriage. When conducting the survey, needs met by an affair is different for males and females. Males want sex and freedom, whereas females want to be needed and loved. Although they may be many reasons why a spouse may cheat, females have a tendency to feel emotionally empty (figure 2).
Everyone is responsible for his or her own actions. Adults are able to make rational decisions for themselves. However, the second myth that evolves from infidelity in marriage is the idea that the affair was the direct result of the faithful spouse - "you made me do it." However, Frank Pittman, a family therapist believes that "the relationship between the affair and the problems blamed for the affair becomes increasingly confusing. It is often difficult to believe that there is any relationship." How can a spouse be responsible for an affair? Problems exist in every marriage, yet the result of them is not necessarily to be unfaithful. Not all extra-marital affairs mean that the couples are necessarily unhappy. They survey conducted showed that seventy-five percent of males and eight-five percent of females believe that an affair is an indication of unhappiness with ones spouse (figure 3). The problems in a marriage may very well be a joint effort by both spouses, yet the path taken to deal with those problems are purely individual.
It is possible for one spouse to make another feel as if they should be somewhere else, or with someone else. However, the unhappy spouse could choose to get a divorce, to seek counselling or begin an argument. There are other alternatives. One spouse does not make another have an affair.
After an affair has been discovered, usually the affairee confesses (figure 4), a marriage is faced with the utmost of chaos. The problems that existed before the affair, are magnified and the little things become more severe. All of the trust, love and intimacy are forgotten; the affair destroyed all of that (figure 5). There are those couples who are determined to make their marriage work regardless of the situation, yet one needs not carry a glass ball around with them to predict the future. Unless both spouses are willing to be completely honest with one another and tell all, the relationship will suffer and as a result, the marriage will as well. Most spouses would want to leave their cheating spouse, as a result the chance for divorce broadens-- one hundred males and seventy -five females said that they would leave their cheating spouse. At this stage, the controversy begins. Many believe that as long as the couple puts forth enough effort, the marriage can be saved. But can it? It is not possible to change the past. An affair is an affair and all of the love, trust and intimacy is lost the instant the adultery was committed. John Barrymore was once quoted as saying: "adultery -- it takes so little time and it causes so much trouble." The trouble that it causes is enough to end a marriage. All the trouble caused by the affair usually does not mean that the cheater will live happily every after with his/her lover. In they survey conducted thirty five percent of females and ten percent of females believed that they would marry their lover (figure 6)
Imagine how difficult it would be to trust one's spouse again. It would be like starting all over. Many believe that "once a cheat always a cheat", people who have several affairs have a higher divorce rate (figure 7). One would have to put forth time, and effort to restore something that they did not destroy. All of the years of marriage, all that was shared and considered sacred is gone. How can one be expected to believe that the affair was an isolated incident that never took place earlier on in the marriage? It is with all of these doubts and unanswered questions that it becomes evident that adultery destroys marriages and therefore marriage cannot survive infidelity. Infidelity not only destroys marriages, it also destroys families. Children turn away from their mothers or fathers, and it is at that point that the marriage should be considered null and void. The possibility of a marriage being able to survive infidelity is far fetched. Therefore, the answer to the question: ‘can marriage survive infidelity' is evident.

It simply cannot, too much has been lost. Perhaps Edgar Allan Poe sums it up best: "Years of love have been forgot in the hatred of a minute."