The 9 Most Important Things You Need To Know About Surviving Infidelity

Surviving betrayal in your marriage is possible if you want it to be.

surviving infidelity Jayson Hinrichsen | Unsplash

Few things will shatter a heart or marriage like the emotional pain of infidelity. It's a veritable implosion of everything marriage stands for and a betrayal of your trust. If you're in the recent throes of an affair, surviving infidelity in your marriage may seem impossible. And it can feel as impossible for the offender as it does for the offended. But surviving infidelity in your marriage is possible if you want it to be.


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Here are the 9 most important things you need to know about surviving infidelity in your marriage:

1. Surviving infidelity is a choice

Either of you could easily and rashly throw in the towel on your marriage.

If you're having an affair, it can be very tempting to follow the pull toward the source of all your external validation. After all, who doesn’t want to feel desired, valued, and understood? And if you're the spouse whose world has been ripped out from under you, you have every reason to slam the door on your cheating spouse.


But you may also have every reason to stay and work on your marriage. You have a history together. You may have children together. And you both may have a deep love for one another despite an action that flies in the face of it.

An affair places everyone at a fork in the road. Things don’t “just happen,” no matter how passive a choice may seem in the moment. Whichever road you travel will be the result of a choice. But staying stuck in this moment and this state isn’t an option.

2. Infidelity doesn’t happen only in bad marriages

Affairs aren’t limited to couples on the fringe of divorce. Things like work environments and opportunity can be fodder for testing the limits of curiosity and flirtation. That’s why an affair is so shocking to a spouse who believed their marriage was wonderful and not at-risk.


3. It’s going to involve a lot of hard work

If you're going to survive infidelity in your marriage, you're going to have to prepare yourself for a lot of work. By allowing yourself this reality check, you'll spare yourself the shock when change doesn’t happen linearly or in a desired timeframe.

That’s why the work of saving your marriage starts with a choice. Yes, you both chose the altar — and one of you violated that choice. But this is a new choice, a new commitment. The potential is a stronger, richer, and more deeply intimate marriage than the one you initially vowed to.

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4. You’re going to feel a lot of negative emotions

You'll most likely feel at odds with yourself, not to mention your spouse. Choosing to work on your marriage isn’t going to spare you the untimely, often unrelenting anger, resentment, and depression. The experience will be like having a deep chemical peel brushed over your marriage. All the toxic stuff is going to rise to the surface and test your peace of mind and resolve for quite some time.

@quotelectures “Being cheated on will make you question yourself”- Adrienne Bailon #adriennebailon #quotelectures ♬ original sound - quotelectures

5. You’re going to feel like giving up

Who wouldn’t? Sometimes, the easiest thing to do when you feel overwhelmed, exhausted, wounded, and hopeless is to surrender. But collapsing into frustration relieves you only in the moment. And you will still be looking into the future with a choice left to be fulfilled.

6. Both of you are going to have to take a unique responsibility

You may feel completely at odds with your spouse as you each navigate your accountability in the relationship. If you are the violated spouse, you may believe you have no responsibility. But, while you certainly have no responsibility for the choice your spouse made to have an affair, you do have responsibility within your marriage.

The cheating spouse will have to end the affair and break off all connection with the affair partner to start the work. They will have to be humble and ultra-accountable. And both of you will have to examine how you have contributed to the marriage being less than it can and should be.


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Woman on couch struggles with surviving betrayal in marriage Nicoleta Ionescu via Shutterstock

7. You will need help to get through it

When your relationship is already suffering from communication and intimacy issues, your toolkit for resolution is all but empty. Trying to resolve something like infidelity with the same behaviors that led to the marriage’s failure only sets you up for more failure. That’s why trusting an expert in marriage and infidelity issues can be an exponential help in surviving infidelity in your marriage. No matter what, it will be imperative that you commit to learning new ways of interacting healthily. An intensive therapy format like a marriage retreat may be the best gift you can give your marriage.


8. Restoring trust is an active process on both sides

As mentioned, the cheating spouse will have to be humble and hyper-accountable to re-earn their spouse’s trust. That may mean releasing passwords access to a cell phone, and an accounting of where they are at all times. The spouse who was cheated on will have to give space for the earning of trust to happen. They will also have to make efforts to trust and earn trust about emotional intimacy.

9. Forgiveness is possible

Forgiveness, just like working on your marriage, is a choice. It won’t happen immediately, and it may not happen for a long time. But allow yourself the assurance that forgiveness is possible.

The root of infidelity may look like several things — lack of intimacy, diminished emotional connection, boredom, and revenge. But at its core, infidelity is most often rooted in a need for personal validation. It’s not about suddenly and serendipitously running into “the one.” It’s about a deep yearning to feel like “the one.”


In short, an affair isn’t about the affair partner, no matter how wonderful they may be. It’s about something missing, aching, longing on the inside of the one(s) having an affair. And buried in that hole of unfulfillment is the key to surviving infidelity in your marriage. Your task, no matter on which side of the breach you stand, is to go into the darkness in search of that key if surviving infidelity in your marriage is your goal.

Couple hugs after surviving betrayal fizkes via Shutterstock

Surviving infidelity in your marriage is a difficult but very possible accomplishment. If you're willing to do the work and get expert help, your marriage will experience exponential possibilities. And that moment when you realize your heart has forgiven — yourself and your spouse — will be the beginning of a brand-new marriage.


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Mary Ellen Goggin offers relationship coaching for individuals and collaborates with her partner Dr. Jerry Duberstein to offer private couples retreats in the quaint seaport, of Portsmouth, NH.