Nov. 1, 2010 — -- After 15 years of marriage, Kevin and Dawn Nordin would describe themselves as an average Midwestern couple. They have two teen children, three mortgages and a dog.
But their marriage is now in crisis because Kevin cheated.
"Everything I thought I knew about my husband, I didn't have a clue and I second-guessed everything because, obviously, I had to do something or he wouldn't have done it," Dawn said. "(It) had to be my fault somehow, because if I was a better wife, it wouldn't have happened."
The Nordins' story is hardly unique.
Infidelity is the dirty little secret that rocks more than one in three American marriages.
Statistics show that more than a third of those marriages never recover from the affairs.
"Good Morning America" decided to see whether the Nordins' marriage could be saved through counseling.
We sent the Anoka, Minn., couple to Boston to meet with relationship expert Terry Real. They had an intense day of counseling to see if the marriage was salvageable.
As they talked, the story unfolded.
Do you have a question for Terry Real about marriage and cheating? Click HERE to submit your question, then check ABCNews.com/GMA tomorrow to see his answers.
The Nordins' schedule was harried. Dawn, 46, went back to school, and worked days, while Kevin, 45, worked mostly nights and weekends.
They told Real that things changed once they had children.
"It just got to be crazier and crazier. And the kids took over our lives. And basically, we didn't exist," she said.
They took very little time for themselves as a couple because of their schedules and tight money.
Dawn acknowledged to Real that she was "a yeller" and not proud of it.
"That's how my mom got us to do things," she said. "Unfortunately, I turned into my mother."
That took its toll on Kevin.
He told real that he felt "Unhappy. Worthless. Unloved.
"Honestly, it got to the point where I felt like Dawn hated me. I dreaded coming home, 'cause I knew the minute that I walked through the door or she walked through the door, there was going to be some kind of huge blow-up," he said.
Husband's Loneliness Leads to Other Woman
Living like that felt "lonely," he told Real.
In his loneliness, Kevin found companionship on his iPhone. What started as anonymous chatting and instant messaging with many women evolved into an affair of the heart with one specific woman.
Kevin said he wasn't looking to meet somebody, but just wanted to "talk to anybody."
Asked whether he was afraid that he would be caught, Kevin admitted to Real that he feared that "all the time."
But he continued. In fact, while he lay in bed next to his sleeping wife, he would text and instant message the other woman.
"I felt like somebody was talking to me," he said.
About five months into the relationship, Dawn received a phone call.
"I got a phone call from … a man and he said that he thinks that my husband was having an affair with his wife. And I'll tell you what. My heart stopped. Life as I knew it stopped. All I wanted to know what why, and he couldn't tell me," she said.
Within a month of that shocking revelation, Dawn had kicked Kevin out of their house.
He continued seeing the other woman, and the affair that was emotional became sexual. But Kevin missed his family and broke it off with his mistress.
Kevin and Dawn moved back in together in March but the relationship fell apart again.
Adding to the stress, the children have taken sides. The couple's daughter, Emma, lives with her father. Their son, Blaine, lives with his mother.
During the therapy, Dawn admitted that she was tough. In fact, she described herself as "a bitch.
"That's a good word for me. It's been used a lot," she said.
Real commented to her that she seemed to be good at being hard. Then he asked her how she was at being soft.
Dawn admitted that being soft "scares the hell out of me. Because I'm a very emotional person. And I don't like to be hurt."
So told Real that she drives the people she loves away, acknowledging that her own mother had done the same.
"You want to fix this?" Real asked.
"Yeah," she replied.
"Tell me why," he prompted.
"Because I want my daughter, I want my daughter back … I don't want my daughter to be like me," she said, adding, "I don't want her to be harsh all the time."
Couple Must Work to Repair Marriage
Real told her that if she really wanted to repair the relationships, she would have the break that repetitive chain.
"Give me the bolt cutters, we'll do it right now," she said.
During a break in the session, Real told "Good Morning America" that he thought Dawn was on the verge of a breakthrough.
"I think she goes back and forth between, "'I'm the victim' and 'he's a creep.' And 'I know I have some part in this' and 'let me work it out.' I think he clearly understands that the old rules are gone. And if he wants this marriage, he's going to have to roll up his sleeves and fight like a man for once in his life."