Cheating Always Means Divorce -- and 4 Other Falsehoods about Adultery

Heart attacks are not always fatal -- and neither is adultery. Cardiac patients can survive and even thrive, once they find a healthier way of living. After an affair, a couple can do the same by finding a healthier way of loving.

I know how wrenching adultery can be, because I watched it nearly tear apart my own family. I also know from my own experience, both personal and professional, that adultery can be a forgivable sin. Fidelity is not a guarantee that love persists, nor is infidelity a sign that love has faded or died. In fact, adultery can even be a way -- albeit dysfunctional -- to try and stabilize a floundering relationship.

Why is adultery so frightening and yet so fascinating? In part because we recognize the appeal of it. We grew up in triangles, competing for our mother's attentions with our father and our siblings, and vice versa. That taught us, deep inside, to be terrified of abandonment and to resent sharing. We never quite give up on the childish fantasy that somehow, someday, we'll find someone all our own who only wants us. This is the destructive fantasy that keeps us looking for love in all the wrong places.

Despite our familiarity with adultery, we still don't understand it very well. It's time we stopped alternatively ignoring, excusing and condemning this epidemic. To deal with a problem, you've got to comprehend it first.

Let's start by correcting some dangerous misconceptions that have taken root in the conventional wisdom.

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