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How to Stay Married after Adultery

by Judy Kilpatrick, studioD

Infidelity can occur even in a happy marriage. Factors contributing to adultery include low self-esteem, alcohol or drug addiction and lack of emotional intimacy, as well as attraction to another person. Although the disclosure of adultery to a marriage partner can lead to the end of the marriage, most marriages can and do survive adultery. Many marriages are actually stronger after couples work through the healing process. If you want to stay married after adultery, it helps to understand the process of healing and rebuilding trust.

Give each other time and space. Disclosure of adultery to a marriage partner is painful for both spouses. Anger, accusations and blame are common reactions. However, pain is a signal that you still have feelings for each other. Allow time for the initial shock to wear off before making decisions that could further harm your relationship. The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy states that the reactions to disclosure of infidelity are similar to post-traumatic stress responses in victims of catastrophic events. Hypervigilance regarding the activities, behaviors and assumed motives of the unfaithful spouse, along with heightened physiological arousal, are common in the betrayed spouse.

Communicate with your spouse. Communication is vital to the healing process and rebuilding of trust in your marriage. Be specific about your needs. Many couples refer to a counselor to help them through this part of the process. Counselors are trained to ask questions and elicit information from people who are not skilled in recognizing or expressing their needs. Marriage counselors are also familiar with the types of issues that create difficulties and insecurities for couples who have experienced adultery.

Give positive feedback. An important part of communication is letting your partner know what makes you feel loved and secure. When your spouse behaves or responds in a manner that helps you feel closer and more optimistic about your relationship, communicate this response.

Re-establish marital boundaries through open, honest and frank discussions. Recognize why the relationship is important to you and set safeguards around your union to protect you both from the vulnerabilities that led to or were created by adultery. If the affair partner cannot be avoided, establish how to handle that contact and how to communicate about the contact to the marriage partner.


  • You will know your marriage is healing when you both understand the vulnerabilities that led to infidelity and how to address them, and when you as a couple have developed trust, commitment, mutual empathy and shared responsibility for change, says the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.


  • Some individuals may experience extreme depression or suicidal thoughts after disclosure of adultery. See a medical doctor or mental health therapist if suicidal thoughts occur.

About the Author

For Judy Kilpatrick, gardening is the best mental health therapy of all. Combining her interests in both of these fields, Kilpatrick is a professional flower grower and a practicing, licensed mental health therapist. A graduate of East Carolina University, Kilpatrick writes for national and regional publications.

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