There's an old myth/fable that a King once tasked his wisest councilors with finding a piece of advice that would apply to every situation. After a while, they finally came back with, "This too shall pass."
Well, on this forum, there is also a piece of advice that is universally true: "Pay close attention to whatever Bigger says, and give it careful contemplation, re-reading his posts as often as necessary."
This isn't quite saying that he's always right, as I'm sure he'd be the first person to admit. But he has a lot of wisdom, a lot of experience, and has seen a lot of people pass through these forums. He is careful in his replies, and is very quick to admit he is wrong on the few occasions where he is. He is a bit like an Elf in Tolkien's mythology: he listens, he asks a lot of questions, he's hesitant to give absolute advice, but if you listen to him, you become stronger and wiser.
My only contribution to this discussion is advice that I believe to be so true and so relevant to almost every case of infidelity that I sort of think that it should just be auto-posted as the first reply to every Just Found Out thread: Love is not necessary for a successful marriage, nor is love a sufficient factor to make a happy marriage.
I know multiple people of Indian/Pakistani decent in the tech industry who have arranged marriages. Some of them have found love within the marriage, but some of them haven't. Some of the ones that never have still have happy, rewarding lives and marriages: friendship, mutual respect, common goals, honesty, commitment, emotional support, and raising children together is more than an awful lot of people get out of their marriages, and love (at least romantic love) isn't a requirement to have those things.
In most cases, it's the other side of that coin that applies in cases of infidelity: love is not sufficient to make a marriage work. For example, if one person knows they need to raise a family in order to be fulfilled, and the other person knows that they would be bitter and resentful at needing to spend the enormous amount of time and energy it takes to raise children, then no amount of love will result in a happy marriage. They can pursue some other sort of relationship (hopefully not deceiving anyone else), but they're just not compatible for a marriage.
Fortunately, humans have the capacity to fall in love more than once. Passing up marriage to someone you love isn't consigning yourself to being alone forever or always having regrets. No matter how unlikely it might feel at the time, if you continue to try to be your best self, remain true to who you are, and allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to let other people in, it's pretty normal to fall in love with someone who would be a much better marriage partner.
In cases of infidelity, I believe that this is often the case when it comes to Trust. A lot of people could probably overcome the hurt that comes from sexual infidelity. What's harder to overcome is the lack of trust. If someone has lied to you (and presumably others) for an extended period of time, about one of the most important and fundamental things that matters to the person they supposedly (and may even actually) love, it's very hard to ever trust that person again. For myself, and for some other people as well, it is impossible to ever sufficiently regain trust in that situation.
Someone like myself could, under certain not altogether unlikely circumstances, forgive a one-night stand that's followed soon after by a confession, and rebuild trust in a reasonable amount of time. But I could never trust someone who carried out an ongoing affair, with all the lies, deceptions, and half-truths that are necessary to conduct an ongoing affair. I would argue that the only way to regain that trust is to have Faith, and make a conscious decision to discard the rational and evidence based probabilities. But in any event, whether my love was destroyed or lessened by the infidelity would not matter, at all. Because love isn't enough, and I could not be married to someone that I just fundamentally distrust. If I loved her a lot, or a little, or not at all-- it just doesn't factor in. It's like having an amazing meal waiting for you to eat, inside a luxurious and comfortable home, but the air isn't breathable: the quality of the food and the lodging can't in any way ever make up for the lack of air.
I think a lot of suffering could be bypassed if our culture didn't so consistently tell us that love is the most important thing, that love can overcome anything. It's simply not true, and I think anyone who gives the matter serious thought would see how obviously untrue that is. If people abandoned the (perhaps subconscious) idea that just because two people love one another they automatically have some path to a happy marriage, I think the decision to divorce or try to reconcile could be reached much more quickly. It's that seductive, romantic notion that "We love each other, we should fight for this marriage" that often leads to long, drawn out, unsuccessful attempts to reconcile. If you want your marriage to have mutual love for one another, great, go for it, insist on it; just don't forget about other things that you may find necessary, like trust, respect, empathy, and so on.
[This message edited by Sordid at 1:36 AM, Tuesday, June 14th]