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Transcript: Wed., Nov. 17 at noon ET

On Love: Extramarital affairs

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Ellen McCarthy and Peggy Vaughan
Washington Post Staff Writer and author, "The Monogamy Myth"
Wednesday, November 17, 2010; 12:00 PM

Author and marriage expert Peggy Vaughan, joins Style's Ellen McCarthy to discuss and offer advice to married couples on dealing with extramarital affairs.

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The Post's Ellen McCarthy writes about weddings and relationships in Sunday's Arts & Style OnLove section.

Vaughan is the author of "The Monogamy Myth" (Newmarket Press, 2003), "To Have and to Hold" (Newmarket Press, 2010). She's been featured on "Oprah" and CNN, offering advice to couples on how to prevent and recover from extramarital affairs. To learn more about Vaughn, visit her web site www.dearpeggy.com.

For more marital and relationship advice and to see how other couples have gotten to the altar, visit our On Love section.

The transcript follows.

____________________

Ellen McCarthy: Hi all,

Thanks so much for joining us today. Peggy Vaughan is one of the foremost experts on affairs and I'm excited she's here to answer our questions on this issue and relationships in general. Let's get right to it.

_______________________

Ellen McCarthy: Peggy, in your book you're very honest about the pain affairs caused in your marriage. Can you talk a little about how you and your husband recovered from that?

Peggy Vaughan: After 30 years of publicly discussing my own personal experience, it's still the first question I'm asked - so I might as well go ahead and deal with it first. In fact, I suspect that having had personal experience has been more significant to the people I've helped that all the expertise I've gained during these many years of working on this issue.

Our recovery was - like ALL recoveries - slow and difficult. There is no "quick fix" for affairs. But we did some things very "right" that made it possible. First, he voluntarily told me - which helped a lot. Then, he voluntarily answered EVERY question - no matter how many times I asked the same question.

It was our love for each other and our deep commitment to doing the hard work to understand and deal with all this that really made the difference. Even then, it took about 2 years to completely recover from the emotional impact.

Please don't let this be discouraging, but it's important to know that I've never seen anyone (even when doing everying "right," who completely recovered in less than 2 years. If you think you "should" do it sooner, you'll become very discouraged and depressed.

While time alone won't be magic, the work you put in during that time can absolutely allow you to rebuild your marriage - and even have a marriage that was better - only because of the honesty you now share, having earned it the hard way.

_______________________

Ellen McCarthy: Do we have any real understanding of common affairs are in marriages?

Peggy Vaughan: There's a huge debate about the statistics about marriage. And there is absolutely no way to know for sure. It is my belief (and the belief of most dedicated "experts" in this area) that they are far more prevalent than we believe. And the false sense that it's unlikely to happen to YOU makes it all the more devastating. So regardless of the numbers, when it's "you" that it happens to, that's all that matters. So everybody needs to be informed!

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Ellen McCarthy: There seems to be a lot of talk these days about whether or not monogamy is a natural state for human beings. What's your take on that question? Are some people destined to stray?

Peggy Vaughan: This whole question of whether or not monogamy is "natural" is a waste of time. Even if it is NOT natural, as human beings we have choices. It's not "natural" to wear clothes, either - but we do.

The proof of the fact that we have choices is that most people have affairs when they are willing to be dishonest and deceptive. They wouldn't "choose" to do so if they knew they would get caught. But most rationalize/deny the possibility of getting caught.

So debating the "naturalness" of monogamy just keeps us from focusing on the really important point - which is being Honest. Most people can't handle a sexually open marriage, so if they commit to Honesty, they're likely to choose to be monogamous.

_______________________

Swedesboro, N.J.: My husband and I have been looking for some kind of weekend seminar on "after infidelity." We've been working on the marriage and at forgiveness after his affair. We've done the counseling, the EMDR, I've read every book I could get my hands on. Things are better now than ever and he's trying to make this up to me, it's the lies, finding out after the fact, it wasn't the first time... the things that start making sense to you after discovery. Alcohol played a major role and that's no longer a problem. The problem remaining is that he can't open up and discuss any of it. That makes me feel like he doesn't trust me with any of it. I try to stuff it all, but it rears its ugly head that way. I feel sometimes like I'm losing my mind. I can't relax, I can't sleep. I've lost a part of my self, it died. Have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, am hyper-vigilant, everything triggers me. Feel as if there's no foundation to build on if we can't even discuss it without him getting defensive. We recently ran into the "other woman" while at an Eagles Game in a suite. He told me right away it was her, as I'd made him promise should we ever see her while out, he'd tell me. I'd seen her a couple times before. I disassociated and didn't remember anything about her. This meeting did me good, it made me feel sorry for him in a way; knowing he had to be really out of sorts insane to find anything at all attractive about this person. It's been three years since he's gotten sober and it's like meeting this brand new person. There's just something missing -- and its his ability to share. I know how hard it is for him, but what it has done to me I wouldn't wish on anyone, with the exception of the other woman maybe.

Peggy Vaughan: This is a big, difficult issue. Naturally, the person who had an affair doesn't want to talk about it. If you ever done ANYTHING "wrong," you know how the last thing you want to do is to discuss it. You don't want anyone else to bring it up, and you certainly won't bring it up yourself.

We know the pain (and post-traumatic stress) of the spouse who is deceived, but sometimes, there's something similar that happens to the one who had affairs too. (You know how military people often won't talk about their war experiencs. This happens to people having affairs too.)

That's not to say you just "accept" this; you continue to let him know how much it would mean for BOTH of you if you could deal with this more completely. It will NOT just bo away. Trying to bury it is like burying it alive - it just keeps coming back in weird ways.

So you can only try to reinforce ANY sharing he does - by pointing out how much you appreciate it. I remember how painful it was to hear some of the things my husband shared - but how wonderful it was that he was respecting me enough to do it. The more I reinforced my appreciation (rather than my pain at the facts), the more comfortable he felt to continue sharing.

Don't give up. Even if you never get all the inforamtion, you'll be setting the stage for more honesty going forward.

_______________________

Toledo, Ohio: Is it possible for a married man to end an affair cold turkey, after being emotionally and sexually involved, and go back to his wife to repair the marriage? Does he ever need closure?

Peggy Vaughan: Yes, it's possible. In fact, it's a very positive sign for the future of the marriage. Those who delay severing contact make it even MORE difficult for the spouse to deal with it. It just compounds the problem - for everybody. Even the third party is better off being able to go on with life without the slow, jerky ending.

And the idea of "closure" is unrealistic. The best "closure" is to have absolutely NO contact of any kind once the man goes back to his wife to repair the marriage.

_______________________

Silver Spring, Md.: My spouse had an affair with a co-worker for two years. We are still together and we are getting help. But I can't seem to get beyond beating myself up for being so blind to many obvious indicators. Why didn't I wake up to what was very obvious? I still feel so stupid.

Peggy Vaughan: You are NOT blind or stupid. You're normal. None of us anticipate our spouse will have an affair. Even when you DO see the "obvious indicators," it's hard to do anything about them.

For instance, for 7 years I suspected my husband's affairs. But I realize now that I really didn't WANT to know. If felt that first, "he COULDN'T be having an affair." And if he WAS, I couldn't know about it - or I would have to get a divorce and go home to my parents with 2 small children. This was 40 years ago - when that seemed the only option and we didn't know about recovery.

Being trusting is not stupid. The learning here is to base the trust on honest discussions - not having "blind trust." So give yourself a break and realize you're completely normal, being a person who only wanted to see or believe the best in their marriage.

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Austin, Tex.: The third party here so hope you can help me out too. For the past six months, I have been involved with an unhappily married man (of two years). We were friends for eight years, and apparently he harbored feelings for me but I never knew until recently. Then we fell in love even though we knew this would not be easy. He married his wife not out of love but for the reason of trying to make a baby (as he wanted a child). He told his wife that it was a marriage of convenience, and the wife agreed to it. Alas, they were not able to succeed in having a baby despite fertility treatments. Since becoming involved with me, he has been trying to figure how to leave his wife but is fearful because of the wife's mental stability as she is now stonewalling him and denying the true foundation of their marriage (love instead of actually convenience). I completely believe he does not harbor any feelings toward her as a husband but I do wonder about this fear of leaving her. I am 100 percent certain of his love for me and his eagerness in being with me. However, knowing his wife as I do, I am afraid he would not be able to leave her. I wonder if I am committing a mistake here?

Peggy Vaughan: I have always tried to provide "information, understanding and perspective to people on ALL sides of this issue. And, in fact, this is a question I have often gotten from women in your position. So I'm going to show below the (long) response I wrote earlier:

The person having an affair often doesn't know precisely what they want to do following the disclosure/exposure of an affair. Far more often than people realize, they're ambivalent and uncertain. They often don't want to have to choose and may be willing to stay "undecided" for quite a long while. In fact, they may be willing to continue this kind of arrangement indefinitely, sometimes only making a final decision when either the spouse or the third party insists.

Many people prefer to "keep their options" open as long as possible-because they want to hold onto the positive aspects of the affair while still holding open the possibility of eventually returning to the marriage. It's unlikely they can actually "say" that out loud (or that they can even get that degree of clarity themselves). They just know that they don't want to face the difficulties and/or consequences of either final decision. Often it becomes a classic "approach/avoidance" situation where the closer they come to making a decision in one direction, the more likely they are to shift toward the other decision.

What frequently happens is that the married person who is having an affair initially focuses on the "positive" aspects of leaving the marriage in order to be with the third party. (During this period they often compare the positives of the affair with the negatives of the marriage, leading them to discussions and/or plans for leaving the marriage.) Then as they get closer to making that decision, there's often a shift where they start focusing on the potential "negative" impact of this decision (financial concerns, future dealings with ex, kids, generally letting go of the family, including the "image" that goes with that), as well as concerns about the potential future with the third party.

The affair can get to be a pleasant habit that's hard to drop. People may get caught up in the fantasy part the affair (the relief from "normal, everyday life" with it's normal problems/issues/responsibilities) that they begin to rationalize about the whole situation. They get far more attached to this fantasy situation than they expect or want to admit. In fact, there's a certain "idealization" of the fantasy relationship (with something of a Romeo and Juliet quality) that makes the idea of giving up the affair feel all the more emotionally difficult.

One way to get out of this limbo and finally give up the affair is to recognize that in addition to the unfairness to the wife, it's also unfair to the other woman. She, too, is in limbo-a limbo that almost always leads to a dead-end. That's because even if an affair does eventually lead to divorce, only about 10% of people wind up marrying the person with whom they had an affair. And since second marriages (whether or not the relationship began as an affair) have an even higher divorce rate than first marriages, the chances for a long-term relationship that began as an affair is extremely small.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: What is an affair? Some state that an emotional attachment between two people not married to each other, even if there is no sex, is cheating on their respective spouses. Do you agree or disagree?

Peggy Vaughan: The classic definition of an affair is when a married person has sex (intercourse) with someone other than their spouse. However (as is clear from the above questions), that definition is far too narrow to cover the experience of today's couples.

Sexual intercourse is not a requirement for there to have been an affair. An affair has taken place whenever you are in a committed relationship (whether or not you're married) and your partner:

- Secretly engages in a relationship with another person that involves any kind of sexual activity.

- Secretly becomes involved in a sexually-charged relationship with another person, without sexual activity.

- Secretly develops a deeply meaningful emotional connection, whether sexual or platonic.

- Secretly engages in any variation or combination of the above.

As you can see, the primary factor is "secrecy." So the key to defining an affair is that secrecy and deception are involved. In fact, people often recover from the fact that their partner had sex with someone else before they recover from the fact that they have been deceived.

Under this broader definition, a person is likely to feel that an "extramarital affair" has taken place whenever there have been "secret" interactions with a third person-whether sexually-charged or emotionally close. Basically, if it "feels" like an affair to the spouse of the one involved in the behavior in question, then in "practical" terms it's an affair.

In the final analysis, it's up to each couple (and indeed, each person) to determine for themselves whether their particular situation fits the "definition." However, a focus on defining an affair often distracts from getting down to the issue of dealing with the situation-because in practical terms, it's an issue that needs to be addressed in a serious way, no matter how it is defined.

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Washington D.C.: Of course an affair is difficult for the husband and wife to deal with, but what about the other parties involved (i.e., the adult children). I recently learned that my father had a revolving door of affairs with women (housekeepers, secretaries, even other married women). I cannot look at my father the same way. Mom's is hurt but deals with the betrayal and says its in his nature and she is use to it. Call me naive, but I want to think that marriage is sacred sure looking outside your fence is okay but blatant betrayal is not . . . thoughts?

Peggy Vaughan: Affairs affect EVERYONE involved -- including family members. But, despite your (understandable) feelings, your first responsibility is to respect your mother's way of handling her own marriage -- no matter how difficult this may be.

This does NOT mean you need to agree with her or "see your father" the same way. But you can try to see him through your mother's eyes - at least enough to be civil and decent to him.

It will help to keep in mind that this "niceness" is not to be "nice to HIM." It's to avoid your mother having to deal with yet another burden - your own sense of betrayal. So try to let your love for your mother guide you.

lead to "devastating results" for many people, whenever someone learns about an affair (whether of a spouse or a parent), there's an inevitable difficult period of assimilating this new information into what had been a person's "reality." So part of the answer to the question: "How can I deal with this?" is the same way anyone deals with it at any point.

Some of the standard efforts that can help involve:

- Getting as much understanding and perspective as possible about affairs in general-in order to put this new information into a larger context. (For instance, recognizing that affairs are quite prevalent and happen to all kinds of people from all walks of life.)

- Talking with other trusted friends/relatives in order to avoid feeling so isolated and alone.

_______________________

Ellen McCarthy: Recently news was made by scientists claiming to find a gene that made some men more prone to affairs. Do you think that some of this behaviour is genetic? And how can a couple try to avoid affairs?

Peggy Vaughan: Yes, the news is always full of new theories on WHY men are more prone to affairs. By the way, those of us who work full-time in this field believe that men are not necessarily more prone - or at least more active in pursuing - affairs. It USED to be that more men had affairs, but the gap has closed.

It began about 30 years ago as more women came into the workplace - so there was more "opportunity." (I was a corporate consultant on male/female issues during the 70s and saw this firsthand.) Then women's affairs REALLY took off with the Internet. (I served as the expert on affairs for AOL's Online Psych back in the late 90s, and saw this firwsthand as well.)

Anyway, it's good to be informed about ALL the "possible" contributors to affairs. But it is NEVER just "one" reason. It's always a combination of 3 different kinds of factors.)

- Factors that PUSH people into affairs (problems/faults/shortcomings of individuals or relationship). Unfortunately, this is the ONLY factor that most people consider, but it's never the total reason.

- Factors that PULL people into affairs (excitement, curiosity, enhanced self-image, "falling in love").

- Societal factors that contribute to affairs (fascination with affairs, using sex to sell, deception learned as teens due to our inability to talk honestly about sexual issues, and the secrecy surrounding this issue that serves to protect those having affairs from dealing with the consequences of their actions).

So even if there is a genetic factor, it's like most genetic factors: it means you have a "predisposition," not an inevitable fact. As for "how to avoid affairs," I've written a whole book on that topic - "To Have and To Hold." It's based on a Survey I conducted that had 755 respondents.

575 were female and 180 were male. 728 were married and 27 were single. 552 had personal experience and 203 had no personal experience. Honesty! was by far the most significant factor in preventing affairs - based on comparing groups, etc. (All in the appendices of the book.)

Here's the "Bottom Line" - from the book: The first step in preventing affairs is to recognize that although most people intend to be monogamous-no one is immune. With this awareness, you're better prepared to take the steps as an individual and as a couple that can help you prevent an affair in your marriage.

Monogamy is not achieved through a one-time decision or condition that settles things once and for all. It's a challenge that must be met on a daily basis, with awareness and commitment. Preventing affairs is an ongoing process throughout the life of a long-term marriage.

Preventing affairs requires letting go of the idea that you can rely only on your attitudes and beliefs to keep you safe. This means that you also need to demonstrate the kinds of ongoing actions and behaviors that will sustain your intention to be monogamous.

You can't avoid affairs by assuming your marriage will be monogamous. My concern about this and other false assumptions about monogamy led to the title of my book, The Monogamy Myth. (The 'myth' refers to the 'set of false assumptions' that people make about affairs, leaving them even more vulnerable.)

The best way to avoid affairs on an ongoing basis is to fully commit to responsible honesty and to practice it throughout the marriage. Start talking now. Start from day one of the marriage. In fact, start long before you get married; start when you first begin getting serious.

Don't pretend that neither of you will ever find anyone else attractive. Engage in ongoing honest communication about the reality of attractions and how to avoid the consequences of acting on them. The process of discussing attractions actually decreases the likelihood of acting on them because it focuses on the potential problems and consequences. And the effect on the relationship is to create a sense of closeness and a knowledge of each other that replaces suspicion with trust, making it more likely that your marriage will be monogamous.

Don't let attractions develop into temptations through secrecy that serves to fuel the fantasy of acting on them. When a person is tempted to have an affair, their private thoughts usually dwell only on the potential pleasures. There's an added fascination and excitement about feelings that are kept secret as compared to those that are acknowledged and discussed. Shedding the cold light of day on secret desires goes a long way toward diminishing their power.

So, preventing affairs is not like having a one-time inoculation or even getting occasional booster shots. It's more like taking a pill every day for the rest of your life.

_______________________

Toledo, Ohio: How can a married man involved in an affair truly feel sorry or remorseful after the affair, if it made him happy by satisfying his emotional and/or sexual needs not being met in the marriage?

Peggy Vaughan: Most people don't fully accept/realize the potential pain that will be caused if/when the affair is discovered. They actually "block out" any focus on consequences. The denial and rationalization are so strong that it's only when confronted with the reality of what they've done that they THEN can feel "truly sorry or remorseful."

Even IF someone involved in an affair DOES consider possible consequences, that's relegated to the back seat. The basic mindset of those having affairs is:

"Never tell. If questioned, deny it. If caught, say as little as possible."

Finally, as to him "satisfying his emotional and/or sexual needs not being met in the marriage."

We USED to assume that affairs were due to "unmet needs." However, we now know that affairs happen to "good people in good marriages." Affairs are often about "newness, novelty, etc." - not about better BETTER. Comparing the fantasy of an affair with the reality of real life in a marriage is like comparing apples and oranges.

When I finally fully understood/accepted this, I stopped being so crazy about all the "other women." I realized that if my husband had been Married to one of them, he might have wanted to have an affair with "Me." It's far more about the role they play than about the person in the role.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: In your case, have you regained all trust and love you had for your husband? Or will there always be a hole left behind, no matter how small. Do you think they'll ever be a time in your life when you forget this happened?

Peggy Vaughan: Of course, you won't "forget." People don't "forget" traumatic events in their lives: death of a loved one, etc. And, in many ways, this IS a death. It's more than just an affair (as if that's not enough). It's that:

- My spouse isn't who I thought they were.

- My marriage isn't what I thought it was.

- My WORLD isn't what I thought it was.

This is why recovering from a partner's affair is so traumatic. You're having to adjust to the new reality of your life.

However, as with ANY crisis . . . it can either destroy you or make you stronger. It can EVEN allow you to build a "stronger" marriage.

It's always a little dangerous to suggest that a marriage can actually become stronger after an affair -- because some people will use this as a way of "justifying" an affair, saying that it "helped" the marriage. I have never seen an affair "help" a marriage. What does sometimes happen (as happened with us) is that the work we did together-and the rock-bottom commitment to honesty that we made together-did force a stronger bond than we had had before. It wasn't the affairs that helped our marriage -- (they could just as easily have destroyed it) -- it was the way we dealt with this crisis that made it possible for us to grow stronger as a couple.

This is true of any life crisis. It can destroy you or it can strengthen you. So it is with a marital crisis like affairs. It, too, can destroy your relationship-or it can lead to actions that wind up strengthening it.

When someone is in the early stages of dealing with the devastating emotional impact of a partner's affair, it's difficult to hear that it's possible (with lots of time and effort by both people) to eventually come through this with a stronger marriage. On the other hand, it can be helpful to understand that it's possible for this to happen. Recovery doesn't have to mean simply "surviving;" it can actually mean "thriving."

Once we worked through James's affairs (a process that took 2 to 3 years), we developed a relationship that was stronger than it had ever been before the affairs-and probably stronger than it ever would been without having faced this and dealing with it together. This is not to say I would have voluntarily gone through this experience in order to have the relationship that we developed, but it certainly helps to put the whole experience in perspective.

_______________________

Fairfax, Va.: So, the affair happened. My husband was away at training and met another woman. I believe they had both an emotional and obviously sexual attachment. This happened about six years ago. I made the decision to forgive and move on. I have not dwelled on the past or thrown it back into his face. We have since had another child and I feel like our marraige is in a good place, but I still don't feel like I can trust him. How do I get over this?

Peggy Vaughan: It's completely understandable that there's difficulty in trusting what someone says--once trust has been broken in this way. Partly, this is because it's not just a question of not trusting the spouse, it's also a question of not trusting your own instincts. Once someone has been deceived, there's a tendency to feel foolish at having trusted in the first place -- and a fear of "letting their guard down" again.

But trust is not something you "bestow" on someone. The old "blind trust" is gone, and it can only be rebuilt on the basis of ongoing honesty about this and all important issues. Trust depends on developing a real "knowing" of each other, instead of guessing/hoping where things stand.

So it sounds like you've come a very long way along this path - and that focusing on ongoing honesty is the best way to deal with the lingering feelings of distrust. He can EARN your trust by his behavior on an ongoing basis, which should gradually allow you to feel confident in trusting him again.

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: My ex-wife did not have an "affair," but did have an emotional affair, and it was very devastating to our marriage. Do you find that most physical affairs start with an emotional connection? If so, then aren't emotional affairs far more prevalent (with some leading to physical affairs) and how does one deal with a non-physical affair? It seems kind of childish to complain that your spouse cares for somebody more than you if they haven't actually "done anything." That's what my ex told me, "childish."

Peggy Vaughan: "Emotional affairs" are just affairs that have not YET become sexual. So addressing it sooner rather than later is a good idea.

For those who question just was is meant by an "emotional affair..."

Signs of Emotional Affairs (any of the these)

- Look for opportunities to be with other person

- Don't tell spouse when seeing other person

- Say things to other person that would displease spouse

- Feelings of trust and closeness with other person

- Sexual attraction to other person

I once did a survey of 1,047 people who had online affairs (70% were women, 30% were men)

- 79% said they were NOT seeking an affair

- 49% said they eventually developed into a physical sexual relationship

As I said, generally . . . emotional affairs are just affairs that have not YET become sexual. They either END or ESCALATE

The impact of the "emotional" part of a sexual affair takes the longest to overcome. In fact, people recover from the fact that their partner had sex with someone else..before they recover from the fact that they were deceived.

There are no statistics on the number of "emotional affairs"- since they are a moving target.

_______________________

Georgetown, D.C.: Do you believe that "once a cheater, always a cheater"? My now-husband made some errors in judgment when we were dating, and I still find myself concerned, angry, suspicious, etc., that it may happen again. More importantly, how do I move past the past? Should I?

Peggy Vaughan: Since I've stayed in touch with some couples for many years following an affair, I'll share my opinion based on the general patterns I've observed.

In general, when couples thoroughly talk through and work through the affair issues and commit to continuing their honest communication about all aspects of their relationship--then there is unlikely to be a repeat affair.

However, when couples do not talk through it and fully deal with (but try to bury it or set it aside and just go on), the pattern of secrecy continues and there's more likely to be a repeat.

So while it's possible that a person who had an affair now "knows what not to do so you won't suspect," you also now know what to do to make it less likely that they can deceive you -- by continuously insisting on honest communication. The importance of this is that simply "not discussing" these kinds of issues makes it easier for someone to deceive you, but making them talk about these issues means they have to outright lie. This is not only more difficult for them to do, but it's easier for you to detect if there is an effort to be deceptive.

The bottom line is that everything depends on what happens once the affair has been discovered as to whether there is a repeat in the future. Ignoring it, setting it aside, not discussing it, etc., does not help in preventing a recurrence. While ongoing open discussion of all related issues doesn't "guarantee" it won't happen (since there's no such guarantee), it certainly offers the best hope for preventing a repeat of this painful situation.

_______________________

Philadelphia, Pa.: I think what you're sharing is great, helpful, enlightening, supportive. But I also think that it's important to acknowledge that you may never again feel the same about the spouse who cheated on you. You may never again trust him or her, and that infidelity can undermine the most basic thing between you to such an extent that the relationship can't be saved. If so, the person who's lost that will have to go through a painful process to admit it and move on. Sometimes, it's the best you can do.

Peggy Vaughan: I want to acknowledge that not ALL marriages can survive an affair. But it's important to know that MOST can! And even if there is a divorce eventually, it makes a HUGE difference in the rest of your life if you FIRST make a strong effort (for at least a year, preferably two-years -- unless the spouse is unwilling to work on the marriage).

This is because I have talked to many people years later who "second-guess themselves," always thinking, "could I, would, should I..." But if you do ALL you can do -- for as LONG as you can reasonably do it -- and THEN walk away.

you'll be able to LIVE with your decision in a very different way.

_______________________

Ellen McCarthy: Thanks, everyone, for the questions and thanks especially to Peggy Vaughan for being with us.

Peggy Vaughan: I have appreciated this opportunity. And while I'm a fast typist, I regretnot being able to get to EVERY question.

You can read my books or visit my website for more. Thanks, Ellen, and all.

_______________________

Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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