When a spouse cheats, both parties in the marriage are likely to feel their world shatter. No matter if the affair is emotional, physical, or another variation, the level of betrayal felt in the marriage is hard to overcome.
So, is it possible to still have a thriving relationship after an affair? The answer: yes!
"Infidelity is a tough thing for a couple to work through because it affects the core trust of the relationship," Talia Wagner, a licensed marriage and family therapist told Women's Health. "Many couples are able to come back from this act of betrayal and rebuild the trust."
A marriage can survive infidelity if both parties are willing to put in the work and effort it takes to rebuild to relationship. There are four concepts that your marriage must grasp in order to be saved: forgiveness, rebuilding respect, building trust, and building love. These building blocks are the core of a relationships foundation.
There are signs your marriage will survive infidelity. If you indicate that you are willing to heal your relationship and move on with your life, and your partner does the same, then you are already at a great start. This is especially true if your spouse indicated in a genuine way about their desire to try again.
When debating if you think your relationship will survive, note this criteria:
- You and your partner are committed to rebuilding trust no matter what it takes (or how long.)
- You are willing to work through the uncomfortable conversations. No matter how hard it may be, you stomach the awkwardness and stay open and honest with your partner. Despite the occasional anger and outburst of sadness, you focus on keeping an open line of communication.
- You both work on raising your self-confidence. After an affair, the one who is cheated on will likely feel like they are not good enough, while the cheater will have overwhelming guilt and shame.
- You spend time together without speaking about the affair. If you still are going to trivia night with friends or hike your favorite trail together, this is a sign that you can be around each other without hostility. These instances are important in building trust again.
- You are open to discussing the problems in your marriage that may have led to the affair. While this may be tough, talking with a therapist about why the relationship faulted can help it become stronger later.
- You practice empathy with one another, without also playing the “blame game.”
If you want to try and save your marriage, you are not alone. In an article by The Atlantic, they noted that when it comes to sticking a relationship out past an affair there is a strong desire from millennials to have enduring relationships. Basically, they don’t want their marriage to end in divorce. Research's study found that 74 percent of millennials thought that marriage was still a meaningful institution, which might explain why people are trying to work through an affair, as painful as it might be.
Once you have decided you want to continue trying, a couple can follow these steps to deal with the infidelity.
First, do not try to go through it alone. Regardless which side of the marriage you are on, it’s important to find friends, family, or other people you trust that has been through similar experiences. Gain some courage to share your situation with a few others, and you will be surprised at the number of people who have also been there.
Secondly, the spouse that strayed need to understand that they cannot work on two relationships as once. The infidelity needs to stop at once, and repairing the marriage should be the center of focus.
Look at the situation like an alcoholic would look at getting sober. The addict wants to continue drinking and may try to cut back, but they still desire the drink. The person keeping the affair may be doing the same, which makes it impossible for the marriage to also survive. There is a major difference in saying “we shouldn’t do this” and “do not ever call me again.” Simply put, the affair has to completely stop.
Once the inappropriate relationship has ended, the last step is finding a couple’s therapist that meets your needs. The therapist should have a structure for recovery, a safe environment, and a goal of marriage stabilization. It is important to want to build the relationship back to success, but that will take time. A therapist should want to help build a foundation to keep you both safe, at ease, and stable until then.
At the end of the day, only you can truly decide if you want your marriage to continue after infidelity. You have to do what is best for you even if that means moving on as separate people. However, if you are able to put in the work and are dedicated to making it work, you and your spouse can grow from this experience and overcome it. Your marriage can thrive once again.