“I don’t know what I was thinking; I was stressed out and drunk and she was there”
I’ve never bought in to the idea that a happy marriage is somehow affair-proof. People cheat because they can, and because they put their individual pleasure above the happiness of the family/couple.
If people cheat, it’s because something other than the relationship is more important to them. It may be power over others. It may be validation through sex. It may be giving in to their own impulses. Whatever it is, it’s clear that the cheater’s values are not aligned in a way to support a healthy relationship.
The problem here is that most people who get caught cheating apologize and give the “It will never happen again” spiel and that’s that, as if penises fell into various orifices completely by accident. Many cheatees accept this response at face value, and don’t question the values and fucks given by their partner (pun totally intended); they don’t ask themselves whether those values and fucks make their partner a good person to stay with. They’re so concerned with holding on to their relationship that they fail to recognize that it’s become a black hole consuming their self-respect.
If someone breaks your trust, words are nice; but you then need to see a consistent track record of improved behavior. Only then can you begin trusting that the cheater’s values are now aligned properly and the person really will change. Unfortunately, building a track record for trust takes time—certainly a lot more time than it takes to break trust. And during that trust-building period, things are likely to be pretty shitty. So both people in the relationship must be conscious of the struggle they’re choosing to undertake.
Trust is like a china plate. If you break it once, with some care and attention you can put it back together again. But if you break it again, it splits into even more pieces and it takes far longer to piece together again. If you break it more and more times, eventually it shatters to the point where it’s impossible to restore. There are too many broken pieces, and too much dust.