7 Ways To Save Your Marriage After An Affair

Photo: Stock
how to save marriage after affair

Cheating doesn't have to signal the end of your marriage.

For several decades, I’ve owned and managed a thriving counseling practice with my husband, while also working as a marriage and family therapist. During all of those years, I saw many couples who were victims of cheating or affairs that were looking for ways to save their marriages.

Determining if a marriage can recover from an affair (or even multiple affairs) is not easy work. In fact, it is hard work — very hard work.

However, from my years of experience helping couples get through these tough situations, I know that it can be done.

RELATED: The Truth Behind Why Married Men Cheat

Here’s what it takes to save your marriage from cheating or an affair:

1. End the affair.

Enough damage has been done. If you want to have any hope of saving your marriage, you must stop this behavior now.

In most of the cases I have dealt with, the offender almost always has some compelling reason why the affair (in their unique case) can’t be stopped, or why they cannot break off all contact with this person. But if you want your marriage to have any chance of surviving an affair, the offending behavior has to stop immediately.

What's more is that your spouse has to know that the behavior has stopped and that you no longer are in contact with the affair partner. You’ve broken your spouse’s trust, and even though your spouse wants to be able to trust you, right now they can’t even trust their ability to trust you.

2. Seek forgiveness.

In order for a marriage to survive an affair, there must be forgiveness. Forgives is possible, but it is a process — and depending on the nature of the offense, it can take time and have multiple layers.

Don’t get stuck here and think it can’t or won’t happen, in your case. It can happen, but it takes time and willingness from both partners to come together.

3. Make restitution.

As the cheater, you are responsible for deeply wounding your spouse, and therefore, you are also the person who can help them the most.

Chances are that you have not seen the depth of the wounds they are experiencing because — even though they need your help to heal — they don’t know if they can trust you with their hurt.

4. Rebuild trust.

One of the most difficult tasks a couple looking to save their marriage after an affair faces is rebuilding trust.

As the offending spouse, your job now is to prove to your spouse over time that you can be trusted. The best (and really only) way to do this is to tell the truth 100 percent of the time. Get caught in a lie or half-truth once, and you are at ground zero and must start all over again.

And resist the temptation to express undue anger and frustration about the struggles your spouse is having with trust, too. It will backfire almost every time.

RELATED: How To Deal With A Broken Heart, According To Your Zodiac Sign

5. Help your spouse heal.

As the offending spouse who has committed the affair, you have inflicted untold pain on your spouse. Every time you get near that pain or hear about that pain or even see a little bit of that pain in your spouse, you feel guilty and you want it to go away. The good news is feeling this way is a sign that you're on track for a marriage that will recover.

Helping your spouse with their pain is hard, it is painful, it is sad, it can be time-consuming, it will happen at inopportune times, it is a process and there is a tremendous payoff if you can wade in and do it. You will be wading into deep waters at times and you will be offering your spouse one of the most healing things that can be done given our circumstances.

6. Uncover the cause.

An vital part of the healing process when a marriage has experienced an affair is to determine why it happened in the first place. Without the answer to that question, the faithful spouse will always be left wondering if it is going to happen again. 

For the faithful spouse, discussing the tensions that led their spouse to cheat can be a difficult and painful part of healing. But if there are deficits in the marriage, these must be acknowledged and addressed in order for you both to move forward. However, regardless of what circumstances led your spouse to cheat, this does not mean that the faithful spouse is responsible for the affair — it was not your fault.

7. Realize the wound will never fully disappear.

You can move beyond the pain and put the affair behind you when it's time, but you and only you will know when the time is right for this. The offending spouse usually wants this to happen as soon as possible, but the faithful spouse drives this one. 

Being cheated on is painful and leaves deep wounds — but wounds can heal if they're cared for properly. While this affair is part of your marriage's story, it does not have to define either one of you or your marriage. It may for a while, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

RELATED: 10 All-Too-Common Myths About Cheating... Debunked!

Sign Up for the YourTango Newsletter

Let's make this a regular thing!

If infidelity has hurt your marriage, we can help put you back on a healing path and save your relationship. If you're ready, take the next step now and call 331-308-0113 for a free 15 minute phone/Skype consultation with Drs. David and Deborah McFadden.

This article was originally published at DavidAndDebbieMcFadden.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.