Does the thought of one of you having an affair spell the end of the relationship in your mind? Infidelity can seem insurmountable and whether you are the one who cheated, or the one who was cheated on, the end of your relationship might seem unavoidable.
At the very least, you might feel like even if you continue, your relationship will never really be the same again and you’ll carry the scars of the infidelity for the rest of your time together.
But is that really true? Is it impossible to rebuild your relationship after an affair, or is there still hope? Or to get right to it – can a couple survive infidelity? Let’s dig into the issues and find out.
Infidelity is not insurmountable
That’s the first thing we want you to know – infidelity is not insurmountable. It’s painful yes, and the damage it does takes time to heal, but healing is possible.
The first part, when you’ve just found out (or been found out) is often the most painful. It feels like everything is crashing down around you. But given time and commitment, many relationships can be healed.
Good communication is key to healing
Poor communication is often one of the factors leading to an affair. A breakdown in understanding of your partner and their needs or intentions, a lack of emotional closeness, and even a lack of understanding of your own needs, can all contribute to infidelity.
To heal your relationship, you’ll need to learn clear, honest, non-accusatory communication that gives you both a chance to be heard and validated.
100% Commitment is non-negotiable
Let’s be realistic – not every relationship survives infidelity. So which ones do? The ones where both parties want the relationship to recover, and are willing and able to get back in touch with their love for and commitment to each other.
You can get through this. You can heal. But you both need to be in it 100%. If you can both say for certain that you want your relationship to heal and you want to be happy together, your relationship has a chance.
There are going to be some awkward conversations
Ignoring the affair isn’t a healthy way to deal with it. At some point, you’re going to need to talk with each other about what happened, and why. That means you’re going to be having some awkward conversations.
You’ll need to get comfortable with each other’s feelings. You’re going to be hearing, and expressing, some difficult things, and that will be painful. But if you can learn to speak kindly and listen to your partner, you can get through it and heal together.
Both parties need to take responsibility
As hard as this may be to hear, it usually takes two people to break a relationship (unless your partner is abusive or doesn’t care about your feelings, in which case it’s time to move on).
Of course the person who was unfaithful needs to take responsibility for that, but both parties are responsible for mending the relationship going forward. Be honest about what each of you can do to rebuild your relationship, and then commit to doing that.
Forgiveness helps a lot
Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning the other person’s actions. It simply means being willing to let go and move forward.
Of course the person who was cheated on will feel hurt, bitter and betrayed. That’s natural, and it’s important to work through those feelings so that they don’t fester into long term resentment. But at some point there needs to be a willingness to let go and move forward.
Infidelity is something to work through and heal from together. Don’t let it become a weapon that’s taken out every time you disagree in the future.
Trust needs to be rebuilt
Trust takes time to rebuild. Your relationship isn’t going to recover instantly, and it’s normal to have trust issues after infidelity.
Both of you need to be committed to rebuilding the trust between you, and both of you need to be honest about what it will take to do that. Don’t expect it to happen quickly. It’s going to take time to nurture your relationship and create an open, safe space where trust can eventually grow again.
It’s vital that the person who was unfaithful starts keeping their promises, even little things like being home when they say they will be, and calling when they say they’ll call. Never, ever use the phrase “get over it.” The other party will need time to trust again, and that’s ok.
It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom
When you’re working on healing from infidelity, it can quickly start feeling like that’s all your marriage is about these days. And that’s no place to be.
Give yourselves permission to have fun again. Finding a new hobby or project to do together, or arranging regular fun date nights, will remind you how good things can be between you and spur you on to keep healing together.
Infidelity is painful but it doesn’t have to be the end of your relationship. With time, patience and commitment you can rebuild, and might even find yourselves closer for it.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.