When Is It Not Worth Saving a Marriage After an Affair?

by Shelley Frost ; Updated March 15, 2018

Sometimes marriage shouldn't survive after an affair.

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Can you save a marriage after an affair? The decision to stay or go is often the focus once infidelity is revealed, but it’s not always clear-cut. Deciding to stay together is a very personal decision, with many factors to consider, but some situations make it more difficult to save your marriage. Consider the following warning signs that the marriage may not survive the affair, keeping in mind you are the one who ultimately decides if you want to stay together.

The Person Who Cheats Isn’t Remorseful

Whatever the reason for the affair, how both partners react afterward is often an indicator of whether the marriage can survive. If the person who cheated doesn’t feel bad about cheating, a chance exists that the infidelity may happen again.

If the partner who cheats realizes it was a mistake and understands how much pain it caused, you may have a relationship worth saving. That’s not to say the relationship will go back to the way it was before infidelity. The dynamics will likely change, but you may be able to work through the infidelity when the person who cheated feels deeply remorseful.

One or Both People Don’t Want to Work on the Relationship

Marriage takes commitment and effort from both people even when cheating isn’t a factor. An affair makes it more important than ever to have both parties committed to working on the relationship. Moving past infidelity isn’t a quick or easy process. The person who cheated needs to be willing to work toward forgiveness, and the other partner needs to be willing to give forgiveness eventually.

Working past infidelity is often a continuing process. You can’t have one conversation about the situation and decide you’re going to move on. You may need to go to marriage counseling to help you work through the residual anger, mistrust and betrayal. Both of you must be willing to take responsibility for things that have happened in the marriage and take a critical look at your actions. If either partner just goes through the motions, the marriage may not survive.

You Are Unable to Forgive Your Partner

Just as the person who cheats should show remorse for the marriage to work, the person who was cheated on should be able to eventually forgive the partner. If you hold onto resentment or hold the affair over your partner’s head forever, your relationship will suffer and may eventually end.

Forgiving your partner doesn’t mean you’re saying the infidelity is okay. You’re also not saying you’re completely forgetting what your partner did. Forgiveness simply releases the negative feelings about the situation, so you can move forward together. If you feel as if you’ll never be able to forgive your partner, you may have difficulty staying together.

Communication Isn’t Happening

Talking about an affair is uncomfortable and potentially painful for both partners, but you have to communicate if you’re going to stay together. The person who cheated needs to be honest with the other person and listen to how the other person feels, even if it’s painful. The other partner needs to be able to open up and express feelings rather than being cold or giving the silent treatment.

The unfaithful partner also needs to be open and honest about emails, phone calls and activities. Being secretive about text messages, hiding your phone, or otherwise keeping things hidden looks suspicious and breeds more mistrust.

Should You Stay or Go?

Ultimately, the decision comes down to you. You may need to ask yourself, “Is my marriage worth saving?” Spend some time really thinking about the answer. If you can’t move past the situation or aren’t willing to try, you may decide to part ways. If you feel your marriage has a chance and still has a strong, loving foundation, it may be worth fighting to stay together.

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About the Author

Shelley Frost writes professionally on a full-time basis, specializing in lifestyle, family, parenting and relationship topics. She holds an education degree and has extensive experience working with kids and parents.