Had you asked the girl I was nine years ago this question, as I was entering into marriage (and of course having it all figured out at the ripe old age of 21) I would have given you a resounding "NO" and rattled off the reasons I knew to be true.
Of course a relationship founded on lies and secrets could not be healthy. How could you ever expect someone who cheated with you to not cheat ON you? Would you always be suspicious of them and would they be suspicious of you? These reasons of course would lead any rational person to say, "no...there is no circumstance under which an affair can lead to a healthy relationship."
Fast forward nine years. I am at the end of my marriage, have 3 children, a home, 3 dogs... and while I definitely still have a lot to learn about life, I will say I am nowhere near as jaded as I once was with the illusions of what marriage would be.
We failed at marriage in just about every way possible, all leading up to me saying "enough is enough" when it came to his substance abuse and... in the end... my falling in love with another man. This is about the man (let's call him 40) that I have fallen head over heels, getting hit by a freight train, madly in love with and whether or not we will be able to translate a relationship started while I was still married into a happy, mutually respectful, healthy relationship. The logical, college educated part of me says absolutely not.
However, let's just play devil's advocate here. What if -- in spite of the circumstances, and in spite of the underlying potential jealousy issues -- we manage to make it work?
And not only make it work but have the kind of love I once thought did not even exist. Does that mean that it is possible to trust someone you know is capable of adultery? I know myself and I know my heart. I know that what I did was not something I should have done. I should have done the brave thing and left my marriage before starting a relationship with someone else. I could have spared more feelings by leaving when I knew I wanted to. But I didn't. And now I am left with a bit of uncertainty about the future of my relationship with 40.
Adultery is a messy business. I would say to anyone that is considering an affair, in the middle of an affair, or just getting out of an affair, really spend some time looking at the reasons for your actions. I think the answer to whether or not you can make a healthy relationship out of an affair lies in these reasons.
If you were cheating just for the excitement, or just to get back at your spouse for their prior bad acts, the odds are you aren't looking for a healthy relationship to come out of it anyway. I do think there is an exception though. I think that there are times, such as when your marriage is essentially over, and you are just in limbo mentally and emotionally, when a relationship that begins with an affair can end in a happy relationship.
I know this is not the most popular opinion to hold. Infidelity is typically met with a great deal of opinion and judgment, and very rarely are any exceptions made in regards to how the general public views a "cheater". But I would suggest, before rushing judgment of the woman you work with or know from your child's school, that you take a moment to consider what could have led her to have an affair.
You most likely do not know the story of her marriage, and you do not know what sins were committed by both parties. If she does make it work with the man she had an affair with, good for her. Maybe her ex has forgiven her and she has forgiven herself. Maybe she has asked God for forgiveness and she is working to mend that relationship as well.
As for her and her new man, the best they can do is listen to their hearts and trust one another. Here's hoping the love 40 and I have for one another will be enough to weather the storm we created. I am looking forward to calmer days ahead.