God, this is a really personal and difficult question to answer. Feel free to message me if you want – I think a conversation would be better. I have struggled with this response, to the point of deleting a long reply twice and starting over.
The truth is – my opinion shouldn’t matter too much – so take it with a grain of salt. I believe that you already have the answer within you already – don’t get the answer from me, from your friends, from your therapist. You already know.
I am a firm believer that only abuse, sexual or physical, of the kids or you, is the only nonnegotiable problem that should always, no matter what, dissolve a marriage. Other than that, everything is a case by case basis.
I think two things are central to your answer: your ability to move past this and his remorse. The shitty part, is Yes, to answer your question – Yes, you have to move past this – and I know you did not deserve that. But if you want a happy marriage down the road with him, there is no way to have that if you are constantly in your own head. You don’t want to change your role and become his punisher, holding his balls forever; I know a couple who has that life and 3 years later they still fight like it happened yesterday, in front of everyone, him relentlessly kissing her ass to the point it is pretty disturbing to watch.
So yes – if you want a happy marriage with him, you will need to eventually forgive, move on, and start anew. I know it sucks, since you are the innocent one here.
Also, I recommend seeing a therapist on it – you need to talk with somebody, and you don’t want everyone knowing your personal business, because if you do move forward, you don’t want this getting back to your family, friends, and eventually the kids one day. Those people naturally will want to defend you and sometimes hating him and punishing him is their only way to do that. But you need to get it off your chest. Talk it out. With somebody reasonable. Go see a professional who has tested advice. Not just together, but alone.
The second part: His remorse – only you know if that is genuine. He is your husband; you know him better than anyone. If he is really remorseful, then you have something to build on. If not, and he is just saving face and lying to you, I say exhaust your options with counseling and if that doesn’t work, pack up and be happy with another man eventually.
You deserve happiness. Period. You aren’t doing your kids any favors by showing them how a bad relationship looks. As a parent, most people think it’s our job to prepare them for adulthood. I think it’s our jobs to prepare them for their whole life, from age 0 to death, and part of life, especially as adults, is knowing how to love somebody and be loved. Witnessing that is how they learn; if they can’t witness it with you and He, then you need to see it as just as important as a feeding your newborn; you are enabling them to be happy as adults. Show them what love looks like. Their lives as adults will better for it.
The reality, as much as it looks like I am defending his actions (and I am not), I recognize we are all human and make mistakes. A quarter of all married people do it at least once and 75% (men and women) would do it if they knew they wouldn’t get caught, so I think most people naturally end up there in their minds, at some point, and the only reason they don’t all act is more about opportunity than loyalty. Irony is, more than half that cheat actually are happy in their marriage – which says to me, it’s not about you per se, but where he was in his mental state when it happened. If it’s not about you, then you don’t really need to beat yourself asking yourself “what could I have done to prevent this?”, “what did I do wrong?”, etc. I’m not saying you should go back to the way it was – clearly your communication needed work. Regarding cheating, a lot of people do this and immediately wish they could take it back – my guess is that is him.
Honestly, my gut tells me, I think you Love him and he Loves you and you can and will get past this. You have beautiful family & Love – that’s all that matters.
I think you have a lot to work on, but you can prevail. I really hope you do.
Keep your head up; smile. Sometimes, as weird as it sounds, couples come out stronger after things like this happen, probably because it breaks up the monotony and forces communication where it was lacking. Plus, he might have realized that you are gold standard and he just didn’t have a frame of reference before. Now he does, and he may appreciate you more.
I hope this helped.