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Couples & Married, Love

Can Marriage Survive Infidelity?

by Melissa Chapman

Many of us believe that our marriage would be so over if we ever found out that our spouse cheated on us. But would it be, really? It’s hard to know until you are in that position. Acclaimed marriage therapist, Michele Wiener-Davis offers 10 things you should know about how to recover from infidelity in your relationship.

The ultimate betrayal

When you get married you  take vows to honor, cherish and never have sex with anyone other than your spouse. You enter into this contract with unilateral trust.

Most of us believe in the sanctity of  marriage and our ability to sustain monogamy with our chosen spouses for 50 fairy tale years (or more!) of wedded bliss.  We want to believe that our marriage and the bonds we share with our spouse are unbreakable, especially if we’ve worked hard to maintain open communication and an active sex life.

And then maybe it happens: Someone cheats. And we’re left wondering if our marriage can survive this infidelity?


According to Michele Weiner-Davis, author of Divorce Busting and The Sex-Starved Marriage, the short answer is: Absolutely. Yes, you can forgive your spouse for cheating.

“A lot of my work involves working with just one spouse.  However, when it comes to working out the issues of forgiveness about betrayal, both spouses are necessary,” says Weiner Davis. “But the cheating spouse may not be ready to participate and that’s when my working with the spouse who wants the marriage to work can be helpful.  Together, we can lay the groundwork for future work as a couple.  But in the end, if the cheating spouse completely refuses to take responsibility forever, there’s not much hope for the marriage.”

Healing shattered trust

As a marriage therapist for two decades, Weiner-Davis admits she’s heard countless clients confess that the discovery of an affair was the lowest, darkest moment of their entire lives. And because affairs shatter trust, many seriously contemplate divorce after infidelity occurs.

However, she points out, it’s important to know that no matter how bleak things might seem, it’s possible to revitalize a marriage wounded by infidelity. It’s not easy – there are no quick-fix, one-size-fits-all solutions to save a marriage from divorce – but years of experience have taught her that there are definite patterns to what people in loving relationships do to bring their marriages back from the brink of disaster.

Here are 10 things you should know:

1. Healing occurs in stages.

Healing from infidelity involves teamwork, notes Weiner-Davis. Both spouses must be fully committed to the hard work of getting their marriages back on track. The unfaithful partner must be willing to end the affair and do whatever it takes to win back the trust of his or her spouse.

The betrayed spouse must be willing to find ways to manage overwhelming emotions so, as a couple, they can begin to sort out how the affair happened, and more importantly, what needs to change so that it never happens again. Although no two people, marriages or paths to recovery are identical, it’s helpful to know that surviving infidelity typically happens in stages.

2. The betrayed spouse will feel a range of emotions.

If you recently discovered that your spouse has been unfaithful, you will undoubtedly feel shock, rage, hurt, devastation, disillusionment, and intense sadness. You may have difficulty sleeping or eating, or feel completely obsessed with the affair. If you are an emotional person, you may cry a lot. You may want to be alone or, conversely, feel at your worst when you are. While unpleasant, these reactions are perfectly normal.

3. Your marriage can improve, but not immediately.

Healing from infidelity takes a long time. Just when you think things are looking up, something reminds you of the affair and you go downhill rapidly. It’s easy to feel discouraged unless you both keep in mind that intense ups and downs are the norm. Eventually, the setbacks will be fewer and far between.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the affair.

Although some people are more curious than others, it’s very common to have lots of questions about the marital affair, especially initially, says Weiner-Davis. If you have little interest in the facts, so be it. However, if you need to know what happened, ask. Although the details may be uncomfortable to hear, just knowing your spouse is willing to “come clean” helps people recover. As the unfaithful spouse, you might feel tremendous remorse and guilt, and prefer avoiding the details entirely, but experience shows that this is a formula for disaster. Sweeping negative feelings and lingering questions under the carpet makes genuine healing unlikely.

5. Why it happened may be a lingering unanswered question.

Once there is closure on what actually happened, there is typically a need to know why it happened, says Weiner-Davis. Betrayed spouses often believe that unless they get to the bottom of things, it could happen again. Unfortunately, since the reasons people stray can be quite complex, the “whys” aren’t always crystal clear.

6. The cheater needs to come to terms with what motivated their actions.

No one “forces” anyone to be unfaithful. Infidelity is a decision, even if doesn’t feel that way. If you were unfaithful, notes Weiner-Davis it’s important to examine why you allowed yourself to do something that could threaten your marriage. Were you satisfying a need to feel attractive? Are you having a mid-life crisis? Did you grow up in a family where infidelity was a way of life? Do you have a sexual addiction?

7. It’s important to explore whether your marriage is significantly lacking.

Although no marriage is perfect, sometimes people feel so unhappy, they look to others for a stronger emotional or physical connection, says Weiner-Davis. They complain of feeling taken for granted, unloved, resentful or ignored. Sometimes there is a lack of intimacy or sexuality in the marriage. If unhappiness with your spouse contributed to your decision to have an affair, you need to address your feelings openly and honestly so that together you can make some changes. If open communication is a problem, consider seeking help from a qualified marital therapist or taking a communication skill-building class. There are many available through religious organizations, community colleges and mental health settings.

8. The unfaithful spouses must demonstrate sincere regret and remorse.

You can’t apologize often enough, says Weiner-Davis. You need to tell your spouse that you will never commit adultery again. Although, since you are working diligently to repair your relationship, you might think your intentions to be monogamous are obvious, they aren’t. Tell your spouse of your plans to take your commitment to your marriage to heart. This will be particularly important during the early stages of recovery when mistrust is rampant.

9. Conversely, talking about the affair can’t be the only thing you do.

Couples who successfully rebuild their marriages recognize the importance of both talking about their difficulties and spending time together without discussing painful topics. They must intentionally create opportunities to reconnect and nurture their friendship. They should take walks, go out to eat or to a movie and develop new mutual interests. Betrayed spouses will be more interested in spending discussion-free time after the initial shock of the affair has dissipated.

10. The key to healing from infidelity involves forgiveness.

According toWeiner Davis, this is frequently the last step in the healing process. The unfaithful spouse can do everything right – be forthcoming, express remorse, listen lovingly and act trustworthy, and still, the marriage won’t mend unless the betrayed person forgives his or her spouse and the unfaithful spouse forgives him or herself.

Forgiveness opens the door to real intimacy and connection. But forgiveness doesn’t just happen. It is a conscious decision to stop blaming, make peace and start tomorrow with a clean slate. If the past has had you in its clutches, why not take the next step to having more love in your life? Decide to forgive today.

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Reader Comments:

27 Responses to “Can Marriage Survive Infidelity?”

  1. Su says:

    no forgiveness

  2. nr says:

    it’s hard to forgive but if u love someone to save the relationship then there will be a second chance… it takes time and not easy.. keep on praying for God help

  3. pl says:

    if one forgive but did not forget as life goes on still the cheater will not feel confidentable in the marriage thinking there is still problem. Love but no Trust pains!

  4. Andrew says:

    Yes marriage can survive infidelity,it has happened and it can still happen o so many families..1st you need to have a better uderstanding of a human being and then life..Forgiving is allowed and God incourages us to do it because it is a good thing to do.We have different reasns for doing things and for not doing them..you will find that someone who does not one to forgive in the marriage has been hurt so many times,someone will not forgive because they were also on the verge of cheating and so they will make ths difficult so that they can have the chance to do it,some will refuse to forgive because they can’t feel the magic in their marriage anymore and always wait for something like that to happen.Some because of the negative influence from outside,so yes it is possible to forgive and ths requires a lot of deep thinking so that you know wht is what..creamy0608@yahoo.com,wish i had enough time to write but if you have some challenges,any…talk to me!Bye and take care and lets try and be good hey

  5. no matter, what your partner do, you duty is to forgive, cause, there will be no you with him / her, forgiveness is the best thing that can move a relationship ahead..

  6. When you partner offend you don’t be hard on the person, making them feel, that they have done the worst thing ever, the essence of human is imperfection, forgiveness always speak the word to the heart, CHRIST was crucify for our sins, still He forgive us, forgiveness is wealth in the soul of human kind

  7. No One says:

    Once a Cheater always a Cheater – if you spouse has been caught cheating and not even 3 later you find out they have been with someone else. Then they say Oh I am sorry – my whole point is if they were sorry they wouldn’t of cheated if they loved you they would not of cheated, if they were thinking of their family they would not have cheated, if they felt remorse after the first time they wouldnt of cheated with the same person over and over again. ONCE A CHEATER ALWAYS A CHEATER – How can you forgive or have trust for someone who has constantly lied for years. If a cheater never got caught they wouldnt stop!

    • someone who has been there before says:

      i agree you with u 100% they are only sorry cuz they got caught if you wouldnt of found out they would have nothing to be sorry for.

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  9. MarriageMan says:

    If someone really wants their marriage to work and will take the spouse back in spite of the infidelity, it’s very important that the “cheating” spouse be completely open and honest. No secrets. And he/she (the cheating spouse) will basically have no privacy until the other spouse feels that the cheating spouse is trustworthy again. If the cheating spouse is offended by this, then he/she is not as sorry and should be the case.

  10. shaniece says:

    you must forgive GOD forgives us

  11. Sharonicia says:

    if the man is just not in love with the wife anymore and shows this in more ways than one and the wife cannot handle being alone or is still in love with the unloving husband is it really healthy for the kids to be exposed to this kind of an unhealthy environment? They might both justify this as beneficial for the kids who obviously need both their parents together.

  12. Hurting says:

    what happens when you forgive & he does it again & again? do you forgive again?

  13. Lo says:

    Infidelity doesn’t have to cripple a relationship. Trusting again does take alot of time. Good piece.

  14. lhora says:

    even it hurts forgiveness is a key to start a new life…it can make one’s life worthy..

  15. A.B.Colton says:

    no forgiveness

  16. Mike says:

    Absolutely NOT! My ex-wife cheated on me after a wonderful 23 year marriage. After a year of trying to salvage what ever I could, I finally realized that I could never trust her again. If she went down the road to the store, I would always be wondering, is she meeting someone. It’s not worth it. The scumbag can have her!

  17. Howard says:

    Been through all of that!!! I am trying so very hard to forgive her. I just wish she would show some sort of remorse for how she has hurt me, the relationship, our two children, and our forever more….

  18. olivia says:

    My husband cheated after 24 years of what i thought was a great marriage. When i caught him he changed into a complete stranger.He dissapeared on me and two of the three children who blamed him for what he did. He left two years ago and have not contributed, cared for or tried to contact his family. I sued for divorce after not hearing from him for more than 1 and a half years, and the only contact I have with his is via email and he treats me like a business person dealing with a business issue, he is just as eager to get it over and talk to me in this very profesional way like you would talk to your colleague at work, using the biggest and most sophisticated words. He never admitted that he cheated although I have proof, black on white and caught them together, there is absolutely no remorse no regret, he just never answer any of the questions I asked in th beginning. His behaviour is like a cold blooded murderer who grins when he receives his sentence. I have become very scared of him. Is he normal? How can someone change so much or was he like this all along but just a very good con artist? Please give me advice I feel like I am going insane!

  19. Emily says:

    ‘The unfaithful partner must be willing to end the affair’ – beware this is highly unlikely! The unfaithful partner will do whatever it takes to win back the trust of his or her spouse, while finding an alternative route to the affair!!

  20. Kia says:

    My husband did not have sex with another woman, to my knowledge…but while deployed he had a problem with emailing other women. He forgot to sign out of his email one day and I found out a lot. I feel like I was cheated on. I will use these tools to help our relationship. The “cheater” has to want to change though. I believe that my husband really does.

  21. Shafiya says:

    infidelity, marriage life is very beautiful life.

  22. Mercy says:

    He not only cheated me instead he cheated my pure love.How can i forgive him to keep up our marriage life?

  23. SweetLotus says:

    A marriage can survive infidelity if and only if:

    1. There is an absolutely crystal clear understanding of the issues leading up to the infidelity
    2. There is a commitment to overcome those issues on both parties
    3. There is absolute transparency on the part of the “cheater” (i.e. never letting your spouse doubt where you are and what you are telling him/her)

    I believe that infidelity can actually make a relationship stronger- but only if both partners are willing to be open and honest about what needs to change.

  24. Ameen says:

    infidelity, marriage
    I like love stories.

  25. Denise says:

    Yes…..Not overnight of course, but you can forgive and not forget. It takes time to rebuild that trust. And do you really want that marriage to work.

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