Is it better to stay together after an affair?

Tammy Nelson, PhD weighs in on whether parents should stay together after an infidelity in the marriage
Relationship Advice for Parents | Is it better to stay or go after an affair when you have children together?
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Is it better to stay together after an affair?

Is it better to stay together after an affair if your kids are young? That's a great question, because if you find out your partner's cheating and you have young kids, you can feel desperate. What do I do? If you find out your partner's cheating, you might have friends and family saying you should get out. And you're thinking, how will I do that? How will I separate my family from their parent? What if I still love my partner? And the truth is there's a couple different things going on. First of all, when you first have kids, and I hate to tell this to you, but marital satisfaction decreases by 70% when you have children. Now the good news is that's across the board for everyone. And it will get better when your kids get older. So your marriage is already under a lot of stress right now. Secondly if your partner is actually cheating or having an affair a lot of people will avoid the conflict and not even talk about it if you think, oh my god. The kids are young. We can't deal with this. I'm going to break up my family. I'm going to put blinders on and pretend I don't see it. That's actually not the best thing to do. You don't want to avoid the conflict now just because you feel overwhelmed by having young children in the house. The best thing to do is to bring the topic up and talk about it and try to bring the power struggle out into the open so that you can begin talking about it. Avoiding communicating is setting up a really bad tone for the rest of your marriage if you do choose to be together. And the other thing that you want to think about too during this time when the kids are young, and this is almost the flip side of that coin, is you don't want to make your kids responsible for your marriage. So if you really feel like this is not going to work, and this marriage probably is not going to last, but we should stay together for the kids, you're putting your kids in a really perilous position. And the idea that you're afraid will kids come from a broken home is a really terrifying thought. The idea that your kids are going to grow up in a broken home is even scarier. So being really clear about what kind of affair this is is even more important. Is that what I call a can opener? Did one of you cheat as a way to get out, and that means that the marriage is truly broken and it's not reparable. Or is this an affair because you've both grown so far apart and someone's got to shake up this relationship and wake it up? And that it is possible to communicate, reconnect, get back together, and save the marriage. So it sounds like you're at the beginning of that stage and figuring it out and you have a lot of work to do. The first thing to do is not avoid the conflict but talk about it. Confront it. Talk to each other, at a time when the kids are safe and asleep if you can find that time. And second get some help. Get somebody to help you talk about it. Go to a counselor or a therapist and get somebody to help you talk about it, because this is probably not a conversation that you have probably ever had before. And it can help to have somebody else to sort of mediate. To ask, is this a way for you to tell me that you really want out, and we need to begin that process of figuring out how we're going to do this. Or is this a sign that we need to figure out a different path for us moving forward.

Tammy Nelson, PhD weighs in on whether parents should stay together after an infidelity in the marriage


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Tammy Nelson, PhD

Psychotherapist & Relationship Expert

Tammy Nelson PhD is the author of several books including, “Getting the Sex You Want; Shed Your Inhibitions and Reach New Heights of Passion Together”  (2008) and  “What’s Eating You? A Workbook for Anorexia and Bulimia (2004)” and her latest  book “The New Monogamy; Redefining Your Relationship After Infidelity” (January 2013) is receiving critical acclaim.  She has been a featured expert in New York Times, Washington Post, Self,  Glamour Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, MSNBC,  Shape, Men’s Health, Women’s Health Woman’s Day, Women’s Health, and a source in Time Magazine. She writes for the Huffington Post, YourTango and can be followed on her blog

Tammy Nelson is a Board Certified Sexologist, a Certified Sex Therapist and an Imago Relationship Therapist.  She is an international speaker and a licensed psychotherapist in private practice with over 25 years of experience working with individuals and couples.  She travels and lectures internationally on her quest for global relational change.

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