For many in the initial stages of an affair, the romance is enticing, but once the the roses die, many cheating spouses become disenchanted by the reality.
“The weak person wants both the stability of their spouse, plus the excitement of the affair,” says Laurie Puhn
, a private practice divorce law and mediation attorney from Manhattan as well as the author of "Instant Persuasion: How to Change Your Words to Change Your Life." According to Puhn, this weakness can carry into the new relationship if not dealt with after the split.
Puhn has seen many divorces and of the ones that end, few spouses are sorry for cheating. “When people start to feel hopeless in their marriage or in their relationship, they start to believe that the rules don’t apply to them.” Certainly, she says, this is true of cheating spouses. “It shows a lack of courage. The most courageous things a person can do in a marriage is say ‘we have a problem.’”
As someone who works with divorcing couples, Puhn says it is possible, but difficult, for a marriage to stay together once a betrayal is revealed. “To most people, a marriage with a betrayer is not a marriage,” she says. “Some people stake everything on loyalty and honesty and it is not repairable.”
Puhn says a relationship, even a marriage, can rise from the ashes of divorce — and people can fall in love with their lover, but that kind of relationship is already starting behind. “When someone is willing to cheat, you automatically know one character trait of theirs: a lack of emotional courage.” Tess Stimson
author of the "Infidelity Chain and Adultery Club," two recent novels that deal with infidelity, knows all too well the pain of ending up with a cheater. At 23, she fell in love with a 40-year-old married man. “He was technically still married, but they were living separately,” she says.
She fell in love. But soon after, his wife broke up with her boyfriend and wanted to start anew. “He was obviously still very much entangled,” she says. “The right thing to do would have been to walk away and let them sort things out.”
Because she was young, Stimson decided to stay. When he finally untangled himself from his wife, the damage to his new relationship was already done. “We did get married,” she says. “But we did so with this shadow hanging over us.”
The first years of Stimson’s marriage were consumed by his divorce from his previous wife. “We spent so much time sorting out the details of the divorce,” she says. The divorce was his second; something Stimson says should have tipped her off in the first place. But it did not and she supported him through the years of battling his ex-wife, while trying to raise the family she and her new husband had in the interim.