Should Melania Trump forgive her husband for his alleged affair? Americans have lots of opinions

Elise Solé

Whispers of infidelity have followed the first family since a report that President Trump paid off an adult film star to deny their extramarital affair. And now the public is weighing in: Cheating is not necessarily a deal breaker.

A majority of Americans believe Melania Trump should forgive the president in the event of an extramarital affair. (Photo: Getty Images)

On Wednesday, The Marist Institute for Public Opinion released the results of a poll called “Should She Stay or Should She Go?” asking whether Melania Trump should forgive her husband for his alleged affair. Here are the results:

  • 43 percent said the first lady should remain married to her husband and “try to work things out.”
  • 34 percent believe she should divorce him.
  • 23 percent are unsure.

Divided by gender, 49 percent of men vote Melania should stick with the president versus 36 percent of women.

Rumors persist that President Trump cheated on Melania. (Photo: Getty Images)

Infidelity is a difficult area to study since many who stray usually don’t admit to it. However, here’s what we know:

  • Men are more likely than women to cheat on their spouses (20 percent to 13 percent respectively).
  • Older couples are more likely to cheat than their youthful counterparts.
  • Surprisingly, people with hot sex lives are more likely to cheat because they feel “more positive about sex in general” regardless of the state of their relationships.
  • A person who cheats is three times as likely to do it again in a future relationship, compared to those who have never been unfaithful.

Whether those transgressions can or should be forgiven is individual. “Cheating reveals a deep flaw in a person or a relationship but it also presents an opportunity to work on a marriage,” Laurie Puhn, lawyer, and author of Fight Less, Love More, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “If couples don’t do the work, they carry that pain to the next relationship.”

Betrayal can feel different to each person, but the repair work is the same, whether it’s a one-night stand or a repeated transgression. The first step says Puhn, is to shelf the concept of forgiveness until the relationship is in a safe space, and that could take years.

“The person who cheated must be willing to take responsibility for his or her actions — not just shamefully — but also with empathy,” she says, adding that shame places the emphasis back on the cheater, not on the person who feels betrayed. “In a healthy conversation, the cheater hears the turmoil they caused and empathizes with what their partner is experiencing,” she says. “Likewise, the person who was cheated on must be willing to hear how and why the affair occurred, as marriage is built by two people.”

A genuine apology requires two steps: “When a person says ‘I’m sorry for’ they should fill in the blank by addressing the destruction of the relationship and the pain and loss seen and felt by their partner,” says Puhn. “Then, there should be a promise of ‘In the future, I will do….’ and that’s the huge task of discussing all the factors that led to the cheating.”

And though girlfriends are a valuable resource, the person who cheated must provide the bulk of emotional support. “Ironically, the hurt party will heal with the help of the person who hurt them,” says Puhn. “If a couple stays together after infidelity, they must start from scratch and get to know each other authentically. That’s how relationships get stronger.”

Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle: 

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for nonstop inspiration delivered fresh to your feed, every day.