Can your marriage survive infidelity?
It depends… Are you willing to do the work necessary to fix a marriage after an affair? The percentage of marriages that survive infidelity varies, but in our experience, if a couple is willing to do the work – The marriage can be saved.
In This Article
- Is There Hope After an Affair?
- What if I’m not sure if I want to save my marriage?
- What if my spouse isn’t interested in getting help?
- But I don’t have any feelings for my mate, why should I think my feelings would change?
- Why bother, it sounds like too much work?
- The Right Way To Heal
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Is There Hope After an Affair?
It could be your worst nightmare to wake up one day and discover the love of your life had or is having an affair. Your spouse having an affair could be something you saw coming. For others it could be a bomb was dropped out of the blue. Regardless of how you found out about the affair, it is PAINFUL. To know your husband or wife was potentially touching, kissing, holding hands with, saying I love you too, or having sex with another person is devastating.
You may obsess over the details of what might have happened and at the same time not want to know any of the details at all. It is possible you do not want to know what happened because knowing the details would make it even more painful. Or you could not stop thinking about what he or she did.
It is possible you have spent hours or even days checking phone records, Facebook messages, emails, credit card statements, text messages, etc. to find out what happened. It is common for someone who has just discovered their spouse has been unfaithful to experience a time of shock, disbelief and rage.
To be betrayed in this way is devastating, so devastating you may not know where to start to pick up the pieces of your marriage or if you should even try.
When emotional and physical affairs are combined research shows that 45% of men and 25% of women have engaged in sexual infidelity.
Here are some of the common phrases heard from men and women who have discovered their partner had an affair:
- How could this happen?
- Was I not good enough sexually?
- Am I not attractive enough?
- Am I not romantic enough? Am I not skinny enough?
- Am I not witty enough?
- Am I just boring?
- What do I do now?
- Do I get a divorce? Separate? Work it out?
- Who do I talk to about this?
- If anyone knew would they judge me or us?
- This will ruin our reputation of being the “it” couple everyone views us as.
- What really happened?
- Did they have sex?
- How often did they have sex?
- Where did they have sex?
- What positions?
- What was he or she wearing?
- Did they have sex with them the same day they had sex with me?
- Does my spouse have an STD?
- Do I have an STD now?
- What else has my spouse been lying about?
- I need to find the person whom my spouse had the affair with and talk to them. Maybe it will help me.
All of these thoughts are very normal and the questions need answers. Many of the answers can be found in this article series. Some of them you’ll need to work with an experienced affair recovery counselor to figure out.
What if I’m not sure if I want to save my marriage?
You Have Time To Make A Decision
It is important to take the time to gain an understanding of what happened. When you learn your spouse has just had an affair you may feel as though everyone is looking at you to see what decision you will make next. You may believe you are on some sort of timer to make a decision about your relationship today or tomorrow. This is a false sense of urgency. You may have friends say to stick it out with your spouse or to leave him or her. You may have your kids in mind and thinking about what they would want you to do. All of these factors contribute to the difficulty of making a decision. Instead of being impulsive, take some time to think about the decision you want to make.
Allow yourself to hurt, feel the pain and process it. After that begin to decide what you want to do. Consult with people you trust who are not biased and seek professional help.
What if my spouse isn’t interested in getting help?
We often get the question “What if my spouse isn’t interested in saving our marriage, or getting help? Is there any hope?” The answer is a definite YES. While you can’t make your spouse want to save or work on a marriage you do have 100% control over 50% of the relationship.
Many times we start work with one spouse only to find the reluctant spouse later willing to engage the process after they start seeing a difference in their partner. It doesn’t always happen, but it certainly does happen often. Part of the mechanism at work here is that God is interested in repairing and reconciling relationships. When we get on board with what God wants to do, we find that He is able to accomplish things we never could.
Another component at work is that families and relationships are what we call “systems.” That is, like a mechanical watch, with all its gears and springs, the pieces of a relationship react with each other. Just like turning a gear in a watch a different direction is necessarily going to change the way the watch works, so changing one part of a relationship will necessarily change the way the relationship functions. It’s unavoidable. Now, that doesn’t mean it will be easy or your spouse will come around to your way of seeing things. It just means things will be different and can be better.
The more you grow personally and spiritually the more likely it is that you will act more lovingly in all your relationships. This will ensure that the 50% of the relationship under your control is the best it can be. In response, often times we see reluctant spouses become more interested in pursuing some changes of their own.
But I don’t have any feelings for my mate, why should I think my feelings would change?
Not having feelings at this point is normal. It’s common for either spouse to have lost all desire for their mate when a marriage is struggling. In fact, it maybe even worse than that, often it feels as if it’s less than zero and the thought of your mate touching you or you having to touch your mate is repulsive. Even so, there is a strong probability those feelings will come back, but not without some changes on both parties parts.
Now look, let’s get real. People can and do change. The very fact you have different feelings today than you did on the day you got married is proof that you can change. In fact, if on that day someone had told you that you would change and come to the point you couldn’t stand to be near your mate, you would have laughed and said it would never happen. So when I tell you that you can change and find a strong desire for your mate again, then you’ll laugh and say it couldn’t happen, but your wrong, it can happen.
The challenge, however, is that negative change can happen with little or no effort, but positive change takes effort on our part. If you’re not willing to do the work, then you’re right, change won’t happen. But if you’ll get the necessary help then it can.
Why bother, it sounds like too much work?
Imagine being able to have a marriage where there is mutual respect, mutual caring, mutual honesty, love, and passion. If you could have that type of marriage, why would you settle for an empty, lonely room?
Divorce is a nightmare, and while that may seem like the only path out of your dilemma, it’s not true. Research shows that it takes about five years to recover from divorce, but less than two years to move beyond even infidelity in marriage. And it will only take 90 days to get your marriage back on the right track. Why wouldn’t you spend 90 days to see if you could save yourself five years of your life?
If you have children, then for their sake at least explore whether you can work it out. The impact of divorce on children is staggering; not only does it complicate their lives, but research indicates it puts them at higher risk for all sorts of life problems, it impacts their future quality of life, and literally takes years off their life expectancy.
For your own sake, if you are the type of person who believes in the institution of marriage and never imagined yourself as part of the divorce statistics, then personal integrity would suggest you explore working through your marital problems, even if it’s infidelity.
Research on emotionally focused couples counseling shows that 3 out of 4 couples (~73%) who engage professional relationship counseling to reach a place of satisfaction with their relationship.
Approximately 70% of couples engaging in therapy report staying together after an affair and of these couples approximately 50% state their relationship is stronger than it was before the affair. (Getting Past the Affair).
The process of feeling better normally takes 18-24 month but in the scope of the next 20 years of marriage, it is a short investment of time. The choice is really up to you. In our experience as therapists, when both spouses engage in therapy and work hard that they have stayed together.
The Right Way To Heal After an Affair
Similar to cleaning out a gunshot wound there is a process for healing when an affair occurs during a marriage. Putting duck tape over the wound may make the blood stop from oozing out of you for a few minutes, but will not heal the wound. In the same way there is a process for helping couples and individuals to navigate through after effects of an affair, so that they can move on and have healthy, functional, and fulfilling lives moving forward.
Millions of people have experienced affairs. Fortunately, because of this, there are materials and trained professionals out there to help couples to navigate through the pain of affairs. You may feel as though you can make it through by yourself, but there is a better and more effective way to move past the pain. Seeking professional help to assist you personally or to help you and spouse navigate through the pain may be essential in helping to heal.
A trained therapist will help you to recover from the affair and will help you to navigate through the trauma. It also will help you to understand what happened and why. Lastly, it will help you to make decisions where to go and what to do during each stage of recovery.
- Snyder, D. K., Baucom, D. H., & Gordon, K. C. (2007). Treating infidelity: An integrative approach to resolving trauma and promoting forgiveness. psychologist psychologist, 12. 
- Glass, S. P., & Wright, T. L. (1997). Reconstructing marriages after the trauma of infidelity. 
- Lebow, J. L., Chambers, A. L., Christensen, A., & Johnson, S. M. (2012). Research on the treatment of couple distress. Journal of Marital and Family therapy, 38(1), 145-168. 
- Gordon, K. C., Baucom, D. H., & Snyder, D. K. (2005). Treating couples recovering from infidelity: An integrative approach. Journal of clinical psychology, 61(11), 1393-1405. 
- Learning to Love Again After an Affair – The Gottman Institute
- AffairRecovery.com – First Steps Bootcamp
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