How to Repair a Marriage After Infidelity

by Shelley Frost ; Updated March 15, 2018

Infidelity happens for a number of reasons, from lack of affection and care in the marriage to sex addiction or mental health issues. No matter what the cause of the affair, it is possible to stay together with your spouse and repair the damage. The relationship will likely be different than before, but you can make it work with genuine effort, counseling and a commitment to one another.

End the Affair

To move forward, the affair must end completely. That means the person who was unfaithful needs to cut off contact with the person. Even innocent interactions can cause the other spouse to question the spouse's motives. Continuing contact with the other person shows that the partner who cheated isn't really committed to saving the marriage.

Take Time to Process the Infidelity

You can't quickly return to a healthy marriage after infidelity. Both people have lots of emotions to work through, and it takes time to repair the broken trust that comes with infidelity. The person who cheats may want her spouse to get over the affair quickly, but it's up to the person who was betrayed to decide on the length of time it takes to recover. It's unfair to expect her to just move on with the marriage when she still has doubts, feelings of betrayal or pain.

The recovery period may require some time apart or at least some space. Feelings are intense after an affair is revealed. It may be better for both people to have some distance while emotions are raw.

Open Up

When you're ready, open communication helps get the marriage back on track. Shutting down or failing to communicate doesn't help repair any of the damage. The person who cheated especially needs to open up to show that he is ready to be honest and open. It's not always easy to admit the affair or share the details of what happened. But the partner who was betrayed has the right to know what happened and have questions answered. The discussions are part of taking responsibility for the affair, so you can mend the damage.

Commit to the Relationship

Both parties in the marriage need to have a strong commitment to saving the relationship. It can't be a one-sided thing. If the person who cheated has lingering feelings or hasn't fully cut off the affair, the marriage can't succeed. If the person who was betrayed has no intentions of ever forgiving the spouse, it's going to be difficult to get back to a healthy point in the marriage.

Work to Make Improvements

Making changes individually and in your marriage can help strengthen your relationship. The person who cheated should consider what led to the infidelity and what changes need to be made to avoid the situation in the future. If the person has a sex addiction, treatment for that addiction can help the situation, for example.

You might also need to examine your marriage as a whole. If lack of affection led to the affair, work on being more caring toward one another. If communication is the issue, focus on talking and listening to one another. Both people in the marriage can work to better themselves and the relationship even when only one person had an affair.

Find a Support System

Making a marriage work after an affair is challenging, so you'll want a support system to help you through it. Close friends or loved ones can provide love and support as you grapple with the emotions of the situation. Perhaps you know a couple who went through a similar situation and survived. Seek their guidance as mentors to help you.

You may want the professional guidance of a therapist to help you work through the trust issues after an affair. Individual counseling can help each person deal with issues. Marriage counseling is also a good idea. This gives you a chance to sit down together with a professional to identify the specific damage and roadblocks in the marriage. A therapy session can feel like a safe space to get the information out into the open with an experienced person in the room to keep the conversation productive.

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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.