(Peggy's contributions are in italics)
By CHANDA TEMPLE GUSTER
When Silda Wall Spitzer's husband resigned as governor of New York last week after being linked to a prostitution ring, she stood by him before flashing bulbs and on live TV.
Such a scene of spousal support has been played out with celebrities and political couples over and over again, prompting onlookers to declare they'd leave their marriages in a heartbeat if their spouses were ever unfaithful.
But would they really?
Many more marriages survive affairs than end after one, according to psychologist Bert Pitts of Pitts & Associates in Homewood, Ala. And the older a marriage is, the more likely the couple is to stay together and work things out.
"People are human; they (mess) up and do things that aren't wise," Pitts said. "But then, when it's time to consider ending a marriage, whoa! Then that would bring most of us to our knees."
He added, though, that if a couple opts to reconcile, they should seek counseling to help repair the damage. They should also be open to discussing the state of the marriage before the affair. Some marriages have even ended up being stronger than ever, Pitts said.
Peggy Vaughan, the San Diego-based author of "The Monogamy Myth: A Personal Handbook for Recovering From Affairs" (Newmarket Press, $14.95), said people stay in their marriages for various reasons, including money, the children, the history they share and, yes, love.
In 2004, she questioned 1,083 men and women whose spouses had had affairs, and found that 76 percent of them were still married to the person who had the affair.
Another study she did showed that most people recover from the fact that their partner had sex with someone else long before they recover from the fact that they were deceived.
"It's the breaking of the trust ... that's more difficult to overcome," said Vaughan, of www.dearpeggy.com. Her new book, "Preventing Affairs," is slated to be released this summer.
But once an affair is uncovered, it's hard for the betrayed spouse to digest it. It doesn't matter if it was a one-night stand, a prostitute or a longtime affair with a co-worker, experts said.
And when news of an affair does drop, the faithful spouse needs to understand it's going to hurt, said minister Brenda Clarke, who founded Helpmate Ministries. With chapters in central Alabama, the group helps women overcome everyday issues, including infidelity.
She said when a spouse cheats, that heartache will be just as painful as if someone has died. But people need to allow themselves time to hurt and understand it was not their fault, she said.
"Understand that there is nothing wrong with you and know that it will get better," said Clarke.
Gary Pate, a divorce court judge in Jefferson County, Ala., said that when spouses do decide to reconcile, they need to know how to deal with the skeleton they've tucked away in the closet. At some point, the bones will rattle and come out.
"Sometimes people have no trouble forgiving, but that doesn't mean (they) can always forget. It does stay there," he said.
"Even if it's a perfectly legitimate reason why (they) got home at 10 instead of 7, in that three-hour span when that spouse doesn't know where that husband or wife is, you better believe they hear those bones again," he said.
Diane Sollee, the Washington, D.C.-based founder and director of www.smartmarriages.com, said a lot of people gossip about wives on the national stage, saying they stay in marriages after their husbands stray for power or for money. But wanting to stay in a marriage is not specific to one group, Sollee said. It transfers to the middle class and poor, too.
"Whatever level we are at, we have invested our love and lifetime into these men and these marriages," she said.
BOOKS ON COPING WITH EXTRAMARITAL AFFAIRS
"My Husband's Affair Became the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me: An Inspiring True Story" by Anne Bercht (Trafford Publishing, $27)
"How Could You Do This to Me?" by Jane Greer with Margery D. Rosen (Main Street Books, $12.95)
"Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy" by Frank Pittman (Norton, W.W. & Co., $15.95)
"Infidelity: A Survival Guide" by Don-David Lusterman (New Harbinger Publications, $14.95)
"After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful" by Janis Abrahms Spring with Michael Spring (Harper Perennial, $14)
"Close Calls: What Adulterers Want You to Know About Protecting Your Marriage" by Dave Carder (Northfield Publishers, April 2008, $14.99)