I've never come close to marital infidelity. No one in my extended family has either (and that covers lots of people); but it has now come close to me. Not in a family sense, thankfully, but a colleague who I sit on a committee with confided to me recently that her husband just announced that he'd had an affair with one of their friends! The other couple has now separated.
Its very different when one sees the raw emotion of betrayal in real life, up close, and not in the puerile reduction of cinema. Its far more complex, deep, and full of meaning when one talks to a shattered person. The pain is palpable.
My friend's life has changed irrevocably. Even if she and her husband are reconciled, there is no peace in the marriage any longer. No settled trust. She sees in her children's puzzled eyes (their father explained the matter to them) the loss of family cohesion, and uncomprehendingly.
Her home is no longer her home. She feels betrayed at every level. She asks was the other woman more attractive, nicer to be with, unencumbered by the banalities of everyday life and free from the rugged contours of intimacy with its good and bad in equal measure, unhidden from the other.
Imagine the feeling that you no longer feel joy or peace in the prospect of going home after work, in preparing for your children's next morning readying for school. You no longer look forward to bed, except hoping for the quick overtaking of sleep. Will it be sound? Will you hear your partner and wake, remembering the dagger to the heart? Helping the children with home work is not a family thing, now, but an obligation, with the husband in the house, representing his unloyalty!
Does she leave him? Her mother's instinct is to preserve the children's home life...but its now an effort and not a natural outflow of unstinted love flowing through the family, because there is now a choke on that flow. It effects everyone.
That's what its really like.