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Real-life stories of couples who fell in love while married to other people

Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW, is a clinical therapist, and the author of three books, among them, Love Lessons from Bad Breakups and The Complete Marriage Counsler. She gives love advice on programs including Today and HuffPost Live, conduct...

Couples who cheated on their spouses and married each other tell all

A relationship that starts with deceit is not automatically doomed to fail.

Affairs don’t start between the sheets. They start because one person in the relationship is dissatisfied in the marriage and doesn’t know how to fix it... or if it should be fixed. An affair can be a distraction from marital problems but typically all infidelity does is cause a host of new complications. Here is a ‘cheat sheet’ on why some couples succeed against the odds.

Understand what drove you to cheat

Samantha and Joe (names in this story are changed) are one of the rare couples to create something lasting from the ashes of extramarital debris. Samantha says, “We have been together 10 years and counting.” The 44-year-old says, “I think we've made it work because neither of us was in it for a thrill or to spite our mates for something they had done."

More: 6 Divorce rules all couples should follow

Both Samantha and Joe married out of college and came to realize they’d made a mistake. “Still, we took our vows seriously. My father had cheated and I knew what it did to my mother; it was not something I felt I’d ever do.”

The romance between Samantha and Joe began as a work friendship that gradually led to a kiss, and then stolen nights spent locked in one another’s arms. Samantha says, “After six months of cheating we had a serious discussion and said, ‘Either we end the affair or we end our marriages. Sneaking around is not something that feels good or honors the way we feel about one another. And it’s certainly not fair to our mates.’”

They divorced their spouses, feeling horrible for causing pain. Yet they were determined to make the pain count for something. In other words, they made a commitment to one another to doing whatever it took to make their union successful. Says Samantha, “Being trapped in bad marriages taught us the value of working hard to keep a good one thriving!”

Don’t marry immediately after leaving your mates

Marriage never works if it is an escape from a bad situation and/or a fear of being alone. A healthy relationship with another person is impossible unless you first have a healthy relationship with yourself.

Beth credits the success of her five-year marriage to the man she originally thought was going to be an extramarital one-night stand to the fact that they didn’t leap to tie the knot after both became free.

More: How to save your marriage when your spouse wants a divorce

The 38-year-old explains, “Jim and I met at an out-of-town conference. There was an immediate spark and coincidentally we lived in the same city but had no plans to ever meet again. Yet we kept running into one another and eventually began a full-blown affair.”

The affair led to the blowing up of their marriages after their spouses discovered the betrayals. However, Beth and Jim decided to break up and adjust on their own to being single. She explains, “We wanted to independently come to grips with all that had happened and all that we’d done. I went to a therapist and otherwise lived a pretty quiet life.”

When the pair had dinner nearly a year after the end of their marriages, they realized the attraction still existed. “We dated exclusively for two years before deciding to marry. “Since we took everything slowly, we got to feel good about ourselves as individuals, and to start really getting to know the other before officially pledging our lives to one another!”

Their marriage is a success because it is built on love and caring, and not from fear of living solo.

Be totally transparent with one another

Married 16 years, with a 6-year-old daughter, Denise is the first to admit it’s been a battle to get to this place of stability for her and Peter. “For years we socialized together with our respective spouses,” explains 48-year-old Denise.

Both their marriages were unraveling — hers due to a verbally abusive partner; his because of a wife obsessed with the desire to conceive a baby at all costs. Denise explained, “We were teachers at the same school and began confiding in one another and commiserating.” An affair followed. Eight months later they came clean with their spouses. “It was ugly,” Denise recalls sadly. “His wife went ballistic, and mine threatened bodily harm to Peter. The whole mess wound up front page news in our small town.”

More: How I hit rock bottom, went to buy sexy undies and met my future husband

Denise nearly lost her job due to the scandal; Peter was fired. They divorced their spouses but didn’t get married for three years. “Even then, it took years of therapy for us to really feel in a good place considering all the chaos our coming together had caused.”

Key to developing a feeling of stability was grappling with the question, how do you trust someone you know is a cheater? There must be total honesty.

Denise says: “We have all of each other’s passwords; we check each other’s cell phones. A few weeks ago a high school boyfriend unexpectedly contacted me on Facebook. I told Peter right away.”

Their lives are literally open books to one another!

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