Current research indicates that 20 to 25 percent of married men cheat, and close to 25 percent of marriages with an instance of cheating stay together. Infidelity can mean different things to different people but is generally defined as an emotional or sexual relationship outside of marriage. It can happen in happy as well as not-so-happy relationships for countless reasons, but in every situation, one partner is betrayed, and trust is broken. Those interested in repairing a marriage after infidelity should consider the following steps.
Few things in life cause as much heartache as infidelity, which can leave a relationship in ruins. It’s not like someone can just apologize, and the other party simply moves on. But an affair doesn’t have to mean the end of a relationship. When both spouses are committed to true healing, if they are willing to do the hard work and move forward with brutal honesty and care, a marriage can not only survive, it can flourish with deeper levels of intimacy and true connection.
Understandably, many women can’t get past infidelity. If this is the case for you, allow yourself to move on. Grieve, heal, and start your new life—hopefully one full of adventure, independence, peace, and ultimately new love.
Don’t file for divorce the same day you learn of the infidelity or blast your partner on social media. So many women make the mistake of posting the nitty-gritty details of their partner’s affair—text conversations, photos, videos, etc.—as a way of gaining sympathy, but only end up hurting their children and other innocents and undermining any chance of saving the marriage once the dust settles.
Take a breath; emotions are high. Try to avoid loaded, intense conversations early on. Don’t try to “talk it out” the same day you found it out. Take the space you need to process what has happened. Stay with a friend, sleep in another room, take yourself on a three-day vacation, etc. Most importantly, take care of yourself. A consistent, self-care routine is key. Once you begin to heal, you will be able to refocus your energy on rebuilding the relationship.
Before deciding whether or not to leave your marriage, take some time to understand what was behind the affair in the first place. Infidelity happens for countless reasons, from unaddressed problems in the marriage to health issues to changing life stages like empty nesting to plain old boredom. The point is affairs don’t generally appear out of thin air, and if the marriage is to be saved, it’s crucial to address the reasons for the cheating in the first place.
The first step in repairing a marriage after infidelity is ending the affair. All cheating must stop completely in order for the relationship to heal. Further, any temptations to re-engage with the other person must be removed—if they were a co-worker, this might include finding a new job. And if he happens to see her by accident or she reaches out to him, he needs to inform you immediately. This will allow you to feel reassured that no information is being withheld.
It can be reassuring to know that you are not alone in this. Leaning on trusted friends and family could bring you comfort. But be selective about whom you tell. Avoid those who might be judgmental, critical, or biased, and especially those who will tell your story all over town.
Seek the advice of those you respect and trust: religious leaders, spiritual guides, or a licensed marriage counselor—some of whom specialize in infidelity. This safe environment will allow you and your spouse, alone or together, to talk about heated feelings without judgment, criticism, contempt… or thrown furniture. It is a safe space for old habits to die and new beginnings to take shape.
This is where courage comes into play. Try not to bottle up your feelings, but share them in a healthy way. It is important to engage in brutally honest, safe discussions about the affair. And the person who cheated must answer questions freely and honestly while being sensitive to the pain the cheated-on partner could experience from the conversation. Nevertheless, questions answered will take the unknown out of the affair, helping the cheated-on partner feel a little more grounded in the situation.
Then let it go. Don’t hold a grudge, avoid bringing it up in arguments down the line, and don’t dredge up the past with the slightest mistake. Rehashing will only keep the situation alive, dragging out the pain and sabotaging any hope of repairing a marriage after infidelity. If he is committed, it’s important to step away from negativity. Rather, let your spouse know you are ready to devote yourself to rebuilding the marriage as well.
Reconnection in a meaningful way is essential to saving a marriage—both emotionally and sexually. Try spending quality time together. Talk, be honest, and open up. Support each other and become best friends again. Your husband is your partner, not your enemy. Date, go to the places you used to love as a couple and find new places to enjoy together. And when you are ready, be willing to risk physical intimacy. If based on emotional connection, sex can be better than ever and only deepen and strengthen your love. Then stay connected by continuing to spend regular time together, in and out of the bedroom.
Renewed loyalty and trust are the most important things. But learning to trust again after a betrayal is a slow and taxing process. It is a case of actions speaking louder than words. If he is sincerely sorry, takes full ownership of the affair, and commits to honesty, you should also be willing to forgive and work together so that a new type of marriage can develop. Try to express your feelings without accusations. “I feel hurt,” as opposed to “You hurt me.” Listen to each other’s needs, and allow for vulnerability and trust to grow once again.
As heartbreaking as it may be, cheating is something many couples face. Nevertheless, it doesn’t have to mean a marriage is over. The fact is, post-infidelity, your ability to save the relationship has less to do with the affair and more to do with the responses to it. Accepting your partner’s actions and working towards forgiveness gives you the best chance of building a renewed and meaningful bond and a marriage built on honesty and love that exceeds the one that came before—and lasts a lifetime.
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