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Can a marriage be saved when one spouse is unfaithful?

It can, but marital infidelity places crushing burdens on a marriage. When a man finds out his wife has been unfaithful, or a wife finds out her husband has been unfaithful, it takes a heroic effort to repair the damage because infidelity and adultery undercut an essential element of marriage -- trust. Even when the victim spouse can forgive his or her partner, forgetting is impossible.

Marriages lived without trust become stressful affairs where even innocent actions arose suspicions, and one partner is on guard against being hurt again by an unfaithful partner. Moreover, the unfaithful partner, sincerely contrite though he or she may be, walks on eggs. Like a vampire climbing out of a coffin, the memory of an affair comes back to haunt the spouses.

According to one source, 20 percent of the women and 37 percent of men are at one time unfaithful to their spouses.

Adultery, it should be remembered, is one of the oldest grounds for divorce, and society held it worthy of harsh condemnation because it threatens the underlying assumption of marriage -- sexual exclusivity.

Sometimes, a victim spouse retaliates with an affair of his or her own, and when this happens, the marriage may degenerate into something akin to ships firing broadsides into one another. It will not be pretty.

Plainly, an affair is a red flag.