survite infideltity

Can Marriage Survive Infidelity?

While there are several scenes that make the movie Love Actually inappropriate it does give some intriguing story lines. A painful one is the story of a married couple named Harry and Karen played by Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson. Karen figures out Harry has cheated on her and confronts him with an interesting question. She asks, “What would you do if you were in my position? Would you stay, knowing that your life would always be a little bit worse, or would you cut and run?”

That question is one any couple going through the pain of infidelity is forced to confront. It’s also easy to default to hopelessness about the relationship because the pain of betrayal cuts so deep. Many couples make immediate decisions based on the emotion of the moment, which can end the relationship or damage it even more. The emotions are valid, but while the short term appears bleak, what about the long term? Can a marriage survive an affair? Is getting over infidelity even possible? If so, how? Here are the answers to those questions.

Rebuilding a Great Marriage

Life won’t necessarily always be worse after an affair has occurred. In fact, it could possibly be better. When I say better I’m not saying that life will be easier, and I’m certainly not suggesting that having an affair is good for a marriage. However, it could be used to flush out the behaviors and attitudes that created an environment where an affair was desirable.

Most affairs occur because of a lack of communication. Couples will stop listening to one another or never listened in the first place. Nothing makes a person isolated like when they consistently feel unheard. [Tweet This] There is an opportunity to air out all of the dysfunction and start over. The process of recovering from an affair can be like rebuilding a house that has been destroyed by an earthquake. You can redesign and rebuild it the way you want by getting rid of all of the unhealthy habits. The problem is the foundation is now cracked.

Repairing a Cracked Foundation

Great marriages are built on love and trust. When those are violated it creates a powerful break. Frankly, sometimes it creates a break that never fully heals. But even then that doesn’t mean all is lost. When there is complete remorse from the offending party and an offering of forgiveness and grace from the offended party, the process of healing begins. From that point, trust can be re-established.

In order for that to happen each person, particularly the one who cheated, has to live truthfully, honestly, and transparently day in and day out. The offender needs to be willing to discuss the affair in detail, not withholding any information the offended seeks. Everything must be put on the table. The goal should be to build a resume of reasons to be trusted again. The offended should be allowed to discuss the affair whenever and for how long they need. This may be for years. Forgiveness may need to work over time. However, forgiveness means the offended will no longer punish the offender for the affair or hold it against them.

Choosing Hope

Both husband and wife need to commit to achieving the best possible outcome as a couple. A decision has to be made to hope for what the marriage could be with hard work instead of despair and divorce. Each person needs to fight for their spouse and the marriage. Optimism for the future has to be the focus and it must be protected. The couple must have faith that a great marriage is achievable. Disbelief and hopelessness are unwelcome.

Finding Objective Help

All marriages need wisdom, insight, and encouragement, but particularly marriages in crisis. First, the marriage most likely got to where it is because of dysfunction below the surface. An objective, outside point of view is helpful to identify the trouble spots and challenge the couple to change. This can come in the form of professional counseling and/or mentors. They also need to surround themselves with people who will support them to reach the marriage they hope to reach – people who will help them remember that a thriving relationship is possible.

Sound Off

What do you think it takes for a marriage to survive infidelity?

BJ Foster

BJ Foster is the Director of Content Creation for All Pro Dad and a married father of two.

  • John

    My wife was unfaithful and left. We have 3 kids. I confronted the other man, who married my ex-wife a few weeks after we divorced. I needed closure and I asked my ex to arrange for us to meet in a public place. It was one of the hardest encounters I have ever made. I told him that “We could go outside and beat each other up, or we can act like men and set a good example for the children.” At that point I swallowed hard, reached my hand out towards him and said “I forgive you. We all fall short. My kids are worth fighting for, don’t ever let it come to that.” We shook hands and he told me that I was more of a man than he will ever be. I don’t know if what he said is actually true, but I walked out of that store with my chin held high and feeling like a King with all the stress melted away behind me. 6-7 years later now after sharing week-on week-off custody with my ex wife, he turned out to be a good step dad for my kids and my ex-wife and I are best of friends. Forgiving was one of the best things I could have ever done for me and my family. Its time to move on. Put it in the past and let go. Let God. I have found the divorce turned out to be the biggest blessing in disguise. I feel free and life is good. My kids and the family are happy and what could have gone bad, turned into something positive. There is hope. Now if I can only find a girlfriend lol Maybe God is preparing my heart for the right woman. God bless.

    • CJ

      John, all I can say is wow! God gave you more grace in your heart to move past the most painful thing in your life. I am not sure if I could be as graceful as you. My wife only had an emotional affair for a couple years and it has rocked me to the core. We are still together, but a year-plus later she remains disconnected from me as we try to navigate our way via marriage and individual counseling. I still love her (it is hard at time since she stays disconnected physically, emotionally and spiritually), but I am praying that some way, some day God will soften her heart to actually love, respect and cherish me again. We have 3 amazing kids, too, so I can only pray for all our sake that we can remain together. Praying that God will provide a woman to come into your life!

  • Nick

    Can a marriage survive, infidelity…? NO. Cheating is beyond the worst possible offense one person can do to another especially after committing themselves to someone. My ex-wife cheated on me and first tried to lie about it and then eventually I found out first hand. To this day, I hate her and this was 11 years ago. We had no children thankfully, but I also don’t feel like it’s my place to forgive her. God can choose to do so if she asks, but frankly she is a terrible, heartless, spineless witch that doesn’t deserve anything but pain and heartache in her life. I’m happily married now with 2 great children, but I still am scared more often than I want to be that it will happen again. I couldn’t stand to be away from my children and this whole every other weekend thing is not fair or even possible to think about. Why does the mother get all the power in a divorce? If they are the ones that cheated, they should be penalized. I gave her everything I possibly could and she still was unfaithful. No one is going to take my kids away from me let alone a two-bit cheating tramp whether she was their mother or not. If she was the one who cheated, what type of role model is she anyway?

  • I would say that “An objective, outside point of view is helpful to identify the trouble spots and challenge the couple to change” is gracious but not strong enough. I would urge any and every couple to immediately pursue godly counseling and start with your own local church leadership.

  • CJ

    I will be totally honest here. It has been a little more than a year since I exposed my wife’s emotional affair of two years with a man in our church and, even though she stayed and we are both going to individual and martial Christian counseling, it is very, very, very hard to get past everything. To know that she disconnected from me during the darkest trials of my life going through unemployment for long bouts over a 3-year span and trying my best to keep our financial boat afloat (which didn’t happen and led eventually to bankruptcy).

    We are both committed to a new foundation in our marriage through Christ, but we both still harbor a lot of bitterness, resentment and blame toward one another that has been pointed out by Godly friends and our martial counselor. I know I haven’t been the best husband in the world as I have fought my own demons that included going most of my life in victim/self-pity mode and allowing the demonic spirits of rejection, fear and poverty to keep me distant and angry at God. Now that I am through that battle (which I still have to fight daily by putting on the full armor or God) and I can see the enemy for what he is and that God truly is on my side in this battle and journey, I can say that I am growing spiritually daily finally through Christ’s strength an not my own.

    But like I said, until my wife and I can break through this horrific demonic battle of forgiveness for one another, I know it is going to be a long, long time before we can ever truly start to heal. I know in my mind it is the right thing to do because unforgiveness just eats away at the inside of you like poison and I hate that. I still love and cherish this woman even though she is still so distant from me emotionally, physically and spiritually. I want to honor my martial vow to God and also the vow both my wife and I made 20-plus years ago that we wanted to leave a Godly legacy for our children.

    So please pray for us to break through this oppression of unforgiveness. I know once that battle is finally over, then we can start the true healing process that has hindered us to this point. My heart and spirit are so heavy and the journey is so weary on a daily basis.

  • John Coloe

    Can Marriage Survive Infidelity?

    Wow, this is an huge, loaded question.

    The short answer is, “Yes!” If, and only if, both husband and wife want the marriage to survive.

    Affairs, whether emotional or physical, are thermometers, not thermostats. Much like a thermometer indicates the temperature it senses, affairs merely *reflect* the health of a relationship. We “set the temperature” of our relationships—how healthy or unhealthy they are—every moment of every day through our thoughts, words and actions.

    Affairs are attempts to meet legitimate needs illegitimately. Most often they are desperate cries signifying that some need for safety, security or significance isn’t being met.

    The choice is ours when an affair comes to light. We can react to this breach of trust out of raw emotions like fear and anger, or we can respond out of love, putting our woundedness aside and working faithfully to restore trust and rebuild the relationship.

    This isn’t some platitude. It’s certainly not easy. However, it is what actually works. In fact, it’s the only thing that works. I know because I’ve witnessed it…many times.

    I have friends with the most amazing marriages. Better and stronger than most. Individuals, marriages and families that were redeemed in the wake of infidelity.

    I also have friends who divorced due to infidelity. Those who owned the part they played in the loss of their marriage and sought godly counsel to change, were able to forgive their ex-spouse and themselves. They were able to heal and move forward, better and stronger than before.

    Those who focused outwardly, blaming the ex-spouse for their infidelity, may have moved on, but they didn’t move past the hurt, the anger, the bitterness, the hate. These folks are either “single for a reason” or they’ve gone on to repeat the mistakes of the past in new relationships.

    Andy Stanley quips that he’s never seen “marriage problems”, only two people with problems who got married. Humorous as that may be. It’s also a simple truth that directs us to resolving most every issue/problem in a relationship: To look inward and upward, not outward. To seek to overcome our issues. To fix our problems, not to change others.

  • Don Dunlap

    Close friends husband had multiple affairs when they had four children under 10 years old. she decided just her life could be miserable or five lives could be miserable. she said it was the hardest thing ever done in her life to reconcile but now 15 years later they’ll tell you their marriage is better than it’s ever been. However it takes commitment to the marriage.

    IM currently going through divorce for reasons I not consider not legitimate but my wife has quit.

    I don’t agree with this statement “The offender needs to be willing to discuss the affair in detail, not withholding any information the offended seeks”

    the offender should not need answer how many times per week or which sexual acts were performed or what locationd it only harms the offended

  • Savior Satin

    Monogomy is not a natural state, fidelity is a myth propogated because of puritanical roots.

  • Ben Williams

    Monogamy is a choice. Getting up early every morning to go to work doesn’t feel natural most of the time either, but I choose to do that because I know that it is the right thing to do.
    Thanks for your insight Mr. Coloe. I think you’re exactly right in saying that the way we decide to react to the situations in our relationships can make all of the difference. It’s the same idea, that it may not feel natural to make an effort to respond by “working faithfully to restore trust and rebuild the relationship”, but it is the right thing to do and it is a choice.
    Especially in our smaller interactions, it can seem to be an overwhelmingly difficult thing to do, but we can know that we are doing what is right if we make an effort to humble ourselves and seek to overcome issues or problems for the sake of strengthening our relationships. All we can control is the way we act and the things that we say.

  • David

    To those who have commented, great insight from the heart from Nick’s honesty all the way forward. I join this because I am the one who committed the affair and began the healing process with my wife because I loved her and wanted nothing more than to continue to be married to her. Unfortunately we didn’t make it after a 4 year battle to save it from a very short affair. Not minimizing it by any means.

    Putting myself in her shoes, I would do everything I can to learn why our marriage went that direction. I would have to own up to my own issues. I would have to be willing to spend the time getting myself under wraps with why it went sideways in the first place. Secondly, I would have to be willing to move forward and not keep one foot cemented in the past because that is the foothold the enemy wants. It severely limits the healing process.

    I owned up to what I had done. As a matter fact, I was the one who came forward with the affair in the first place. I got myself into the situation and wanted out. We went to counseling sessions and I would begin by stating what I had done, I knew it was wrong, and I wanted to do what it took to rescue our marriage. We went to several different counselors until we settle on one we both agreed to. (Let me just say, there are many counselors out there that shouldn’t be in the business of helping others.) A couple were taken aback by how I fully admitted to what I had done. Apparently the one committing the affair doesn’t always take ownership for what they had done, but I wanted to heal our marriage. I fully agreed with her being angry, endured her punching me and slapping me without retaliation, she put a dent in the hood of our van during an argument, she vented, cried, was silent, angry some more, etc… All which were valid, appreciated, received, and not once in the first few years of working did I respond in anger to her.

    One thing that I would disagree with in the original article is giving details of the affair. This was a detriment to the healing process and one that kept flaring up and only set us back. I believe it is a case by case and not a rule of thumb. My former wife and I agreed that we let our marriage get to the point of the affair, I took full responsibility for the affair never blaming her, and we wanted to walk forward. Let me repeat, I never blamed my former wife for the affair! Not once in all of the whole process. We wanted a better, stronger marriage and I thought that we were well on the way. There was about 1 1/2 years of the 4 that were absolutely incredible. I was excited again, there was laughter, we enjoyed each other, our kids were very happy, but there was a seed of discontent that my former wife had, a jealousy that I was resuming life to the fullest because not EVERYONE knew what I had done. It was a seed that I should be punished more. This reared it’s ugly head when she brought up the affair again, and instead of me replying with my standard, “I am sorry for what I have done in the past to cause this trigger that you are having at this moment. What can I do to help you walk through this trigger?” I decided to ask her, “When are we going to work on the issues that we both agreed that were issues in our marriage pre-affair?” At that point, the train came untracked and her response was, “Wow, that was very arrogant of you to ask! You are the one that committed the affair!” At that point, I knew that my former wife had not forgiven me. I felt defeated, we resumed heavy counseling, and the damage couldn’t be contained. She stated that a house divided cannot stand. I asked if I am dividing the house, she said yes, I packed my bags and she filed several months later. I STILL wanted to work things out, but she then gave me a laundry list of things I had to do. I did them, another list followed. I did those, another list followed and another 6 months out of the home. Anytime when began to talk about trying to work things out, she would somehow bring up the affair. I knew that we would never be able to go forward.

    All this is to say, offender or offended, in order to make your marriage work after something devastating like this, you HAVE to be willing to move forward using the past to HELP in the rebuilding, NOT focusing on it to punish or control. THIS IS A CHOICE!

    Let me just say that if at all possible, WORK ON YOUR MARRIAGE BEFORE YOU EVER GET TO THIS POINT!!! I hope this helps someone.

  • Tony Bright

    Only if the cheater admits her affair was wrong and makes corrections to her decision making process that made an affair seem like a better choice than sitting down with her husband and asking for what she wants and asking him for what he wants in their marriage.

    It is not the affair, but the dishonest nature that is destructive. If he has asked and she says fine when it isn’t fine, it is hard to fix the issues. If he has said what he needs and it gets dismissed as being too carnal or unimportant, well, no real hope.

    • Thorpe Connor

      Have you tried using a private investigator/programmer to acquire information you need from another mobile device without physical access to the target’s phone ? I recently used this service out of curiosity and it didnt require me installing any app on the target’s phone . All thanks to the hack team for the expertise displayed , for help contact [email protected] .com I’m sure they’ll solve your problem.

      • Diane Waterbury

        I know about new edge hackers , they’re geniuses

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