An affair is one of the most devastating things that can happen to a marriage. However, it does not have to be the end of the relationship. With hard work and the passage of time, the wounds can heal. Both parties must want the marriage to succeed, and there is no guarantee that it will. Fortunately, there is no shortage of marriage therapists specializing in reconciliation therapy. A healthy support network for adultery-affected couple exists if needed.
Cut off all contact with the former lover. This is absolutely essential. There can be no phone calls, emails, texts or other communication.
Accept blame and responsibility for the indiscretion. Whichever spouse committed the adultery must own up to his or her actions. It is not the time for excuses or rationalizations. One spouse is going to have a need to blame the other, and the guilty spouse is going to have to accept it.
Listen to the spouse's feelings. Along with blame, the cheated-on spouse will likely have a need to express how he or she feels. This is especially true if there is no therapist involved in the healing process. The feelings may spew out unchecked, and this can be a difficult part of the process.
Address the root of the problem. Both parties need to acknowledge their respective roles in the relationship. This is where the marriage is analyzed for its strengths and weaknesses. This needs to be brutally honest. It can be difficult for one spouse to hear the other's rationale for cheating but this is part of addressing the problem. The marriage is only what each spouse envisions it to be in his or her mind. Unless that vision is the same in both minds there will continue to be a strain.
Work together to meet each other's needs. The cheated-on spouse will likely have more needs than the cheater for some time. The cheating spouse must deal with that and accommodate the needs of his or her partner.
Redefine the marriage. After all the blame, talk, guilt and analysis, the couple must sit down and decide how to move forward. Rules of engagement need to be established. Goals and expectations need to be clearly laid out. A new plan for marriage success must be initiated with purpose and a plan.
Rebuild trust. This is an absolute must and there is no telling how much time it will take. One hundred percent trust may never be regained but that should be the goal. The cheating spouse should be prepared to live transparently for as long as it take to rebuild that trust. That could mean allowing the cheated-on spouse access to phone records, emails, appointment book, hourly whereabouts and whatever else he or she wants to examine.