Can infidelity make a marriage stronger?

Yes, according to psychologist Clifford Lazarus. He appeared on HuffPost Live recently and likened an affair to a non-fatal heart attack.


“Just like a heart attack that doesn’t kill a person can ironically lead them to be in better cardiac health a couple of years post-MI (myocardial infarction) then they were a couple of years pre-MI, similarly, if there’s a couple that’s in distress but basically it’s not a fatal kind of malfunction in the marriage, then it’s possible that the act of infidelity might be the kind of crisis that provides the opportunity [to address problems in the marriage,]” he said. “In some cases, a marriage can be stronger after an affair then it was in the years leading up to it.”

First off, many heart attacks kill.  A cardiologist would probably agree that you want to do everything possible to avoid a heart attack because the aftermath, if you survive, is not cute.  I think just about everyone would agree that they would rather skip the heart attack and just have good cardiac health.  It doesn’t take a heart attack to have good cardiac health as it doesn’t take cheating to produce a great marriage.  It takes a long time to recover from a heart attack and great action to not have another one.  It takes a very long time to recover from martial infidelity.  I would rather a couple spend the time that it takes to repair a marriage after infidelity doing things to keep it away from that crisis.

There has to be a marriage after the infidelity in order for it to become stronger.  If there is no marriage there will be no making it stronger. Just like if there is no life after the heart attack, then the heart can’t become healthier.  Marital fidelity is pretty high on most spouse’s priority list so just like many heart attacks kill, infidelity would probably kill the marriage.

I do believe that a couple can stay together and if they choose to start working on things they didn’t work on before the infidelity it can strengthen their marriage.  However, the same is true for just about any couple who whole heartedly and actively chooses to work on things in their marriage that they didn’t before.  Just as if a person goes into the gym and starts working on their game on the basketball court.  If they have never played before they will be pretty weak, but after a while their game will develop.  If only we would read books, seek counseling, get a mentor, etc. to develop our marriage game, the heart attacks would stay away.  Again, it doesn’t take a huge crisis such as infidelity, it just takes regular monitoring and constantly doing things the right way.

Reginald Jordan, LMSW


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