Stay Or Go? 4 Dealbreaker Questions To Survive An Affair

Love, Heartbreak

How to feel confident you're making the right decision about whether to continue the marriage.

In the two previous articles in this series, Love, Marriage & Adultery: Can Your Relationship Survive? and You Both Want To Save the Marriage After Infidelity, But How?, I've discussed ways a marriage can heal from an affair. Not every marriage can heal though.

So how do you know?  

Here are 4 top ways to tell if your marriage can make it:

1. Are both partners willing to commit to each other again?

If both of you regret what happened and want to get back together, your chances are high for success. If, however, the desire is merely unilateral, recovery will be an uphill battle.

Of course, the willing partner can choose to give the unwilling partner time to get used to the idea. However, the willing partner must honestly address whether an investment of time is warranted and desired.

2. Can betrayee trust betrayor?

If the cheater claims he or she wants to continue the marriage, the betrayed partner will need to feel they can fully trust this sentiment. Unfortunately, cheaters are often serial liars. If your partner cheated, ask yourself some blunt questions:

Did the cheater tell me directly about the affair, or did I find out behind their back? If you found out by catching them in some way, how did they respond when you confronted them — remorseful or flippant? Did their explanations make sense? Is your partner dishonest in other areas of their life? Can you confirm the affair is truly over?

Answering these tough questions will provide you the insight to know if you trust enough to restart the marriage. Find out the facts, and go with your gut.

3. Can the betrayer grasp the pain of the betrayed?

There is no question that the betrayee will be deeply hurt and will be rightfully angry. The betrayer has to be willing to bear the suffering they have caused with compassion and empathy, resisting the urge to become righteous or angry.

4. Can betrayee forgive betrayor?

Holding a grudge is an understandable response to being betrayed and victimized. Metamorphosing from anger into forgiveness is a tough process. The cheater needs to give the betrayed partner time for processing the resentment, providing patience and understanding.

At the same time, moving forward requires that forgiveness be on the slate. The marriage will not recover from anger mode and therefore will not be successful. 

5. Does this marriage truly have a chance?

The key is being brutally honest about what you want, what you are willing to forgive and what you are willing to commit to, moving forward. If the affair was merely a symptom of a lack of closeness, relearning how to maintain a fulfilling marriage is actually very doable.

If the affair was just one of many or just an excuse to get out of the marriage, it's chances are slim for renewal. Either way, you want to feel confident that you're making the right decision about whether to end the marriage or to continue it.

To learn more about Dr. Clark, and the work that she does, please visit, follow her on Twitter @DrAliciaClark,  or like her on Facebook at AliciaHClarkPsyD.


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