I read an article the other day, and while several things stuck out to me, one quote I found particularly loathsome. The article is about what to do to move on after one partner cheated.
The quote is in regard to finding professional support after the affair. The “expert” therapist they quote states that couples often require professional support to move forward after an affair.
Fair point. Totally agree.
If only she had stopped there…
She continues, “preferably someone who is pro-marriage and not about each person seeking out their own happiness.”
Wait. What the heck does that mean?!?
Marriage and happiness are not mutually exclusive.
This statement appears to say that either you stay together or you seek happiness. Man, that’s a hell of a thing to say, isn’t it? Why do the two things have to exist separate from each other?
I believe that marriages can not only survive infidelity but thrive in the aftermath of an affair.
I am not ‘pro-marriage.’
The survival of a marriage for its own sake? C’mon. The value of a marriage is not determined solely by if it ends on one partner’s death bed. It is possible that couples can have a wonderful, meaningful relationship together… that comes to an end.
Yes, I help couples every day strengthen and revitalize their relationships. I help them to save their marriages. But I am not ‘pro-marriage.’
I have helped couples come to terms with the ending of their relationships for the sake of new beginnings. There is value in saying goodbye.
We as therapists help clients grieve each and every single day. Why can’t we apply those skills to the end of a relationship?
Let’s change the way we talk about the end of a marriage.
When many people talk about divorce, they often say the marriage failed. When you fail something, it implies either you did something wrong or you were inadequate in some way.
When people say that their marriage failed, they imply that they (or their partner) are at fault. They didn’t try hard enough… They weren’t close enough… They didn’t share enough… They didn’t have sex enough…
They (and their marriage) weren’t good enough. They failed.
Life is not graded on a pass/fail. “He was a good man, but in the end, his life failed.”
We experience so many endings throughout our lives, but the end of a marriage is the only one we so strongly associate with failure.
And if a marriage fails when it ends in divorce, does that mean that every other marriage passes? The only criteria for a successful marriage being that it outlasted one of its participants? You and I both know couples who stayed together and were miserable. Would we say they had a successful marriage? I think not.
Some marriages need to end.
I’m going to take a somewhat controversial stance here, especially among couples therapists, and say that some of the marriages that enter my office need to end.
Sometimes when a marriage ends in my office, the pair walk out together with a new one. Sometimes, they walk out and go their separate ways.
The truth is that you can have a successful marriage that comes to an end, and you can have a failing marriage that drags on for years.
So if you ask me if I am a “pro-marriage therapist,” the answer is no.
Mark Cagle LPC
Mark Cagle is an affair recovery specialist in Dallas, TX. He helps couples turn the devastation of an affair into an opportunity to revitalize and reinvigorate their relationship.
When he's not helping couples, he enjoys playing with his three wonderful daughters and spending time with his wife of 11 years. He loves card, board, and video games and is still a kid at heart.