Affairs That Trigger Change

More than half of all married couples will confront an affair at least once in their marriage. It's a frightening statistic about what many regard as the ultimate betrayal.

But does an affair necessarily doom your marriage? Recently the CBS News Early Show caught up with a couple who say just the opposite: the infidelity they thought would spell the end, actually brought a new beginning.

For a long time, Dennis Price kept a big secret from his wife, Toby.
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"I was operating under the assumption that this was sort of an accident that had happened once, and that would be it, and we'd get together again," recalls Dennis Price.

"It's always about to end, kind of like a short war," he adds.

But the affair didn't end. He kept cheating on his wife with an old girlfriend for six years.

It ended only after the other woman broke it off. Dennis Price saw a therapist and decided to confess to his wife.

"I was attracted to telling her because it was taking action that would make a difference," says Dennis Price.

"I was completely devastated; this was the worst thing my husband could have done to me, just the worst betrayal," says Toby Price.

Despite her rage, Toby Price agreed to visit a couples counselor who suggested the pair examine the problems in their marriage.

"In my case, there was so much pain I had not yet realized, not processed from the death of my mother; she died when I was 15 and there was a tremendous amount of grieving that I had not yet done," explains Toby Price.

After months of counseling, Toby and Dennis Price resolved to stay together. Today seven years later, the family is intact.

But to this day, Dennis Price isn't sure what would have happened if his girlfriend hadn't broken it off.

"I don't know; that's a hard question to ask. It's a hard question to answer, probably an easy question to ask," he says.

Not every couple can repair the damage brought by infidelity. How do you determine if your marriage is salvageable?

"What they did right was struggled with this stuff that was painful," says Emily Brown, a licensed therapist who worked with the Price family and the author of Affairs: A Guide to Working Through the Repercussions of Infidelity.

"And they didn't hide from it. And they looked at how they had really both contributed to setting the stage for an affair," notes Brown.

Men and women who have been cheated on are remarkably similar, says Brown.

"An affair should be viewed more as an opportunity," she says in her bookbecause it means there are things in the marriage that arenÂ't getting dealt with, she says.

"And if they can understand whatÂ's not getting dealt with, then they can use this opportunity to make some real significant changes," she adds.

According to Brown, there are four steps couples can take to heal their marriage once an affair surfaces.

Avoid big decisions in a crisis.
If you wait, you may get a broader perspective on where you are.
Determine how the stage was set.
For example, both people may not talk about difficult situations. That makes space in the marriage where a third party can fit in.
Delve beneath the anger.
Get in touch with the deeper feelings of pain and fear of the future.
Commit to change the behavior.
Both parties contributed to the problem and they need to change.

"Not every marriage should be saved," notes Brown. But in cases when the parties decide to stay together, there is a good chance that their marriage would, in the long run, be better off, if they do the work, she says.
Affairs: A Guide to Working Through the Repercussions of Infidelity
Children need to know what's going to happen in an age-appropriate way, Brown says.

"They shouldn't be the confidants for one of the parents, and they shouldn't be told about it in a way that it blasts the parent who had the affair," she adds.