There's no denying it – couples have been cheating on each other since the dawn of time, however in today's modern, media-driven society, infidelities seem to be everywhere, and our attention is turned time and time again to the news of the latest celebrity who has betrayed their partner.

It has been estimated that up to 60% of married individuals in the USA have had an affair at some point, and evidence has shown that increasing numbers of younger people are now being tempted to cheat.

While in many cases the spouse never finds out about their betrayal, if they do discover an infidelity, they are left with the problem of where to go from there.

Should they end their relationship or try to salvage their marriage? Is it ever possible to save a marriage after an affair?

The answer is yes, which may come as a surprise.

In fact over 50% of relationships endure for years after an infidelity has come to the fore.

However, for love to survive, it is essential for both partners to put in the effort to re-design their relationship and heal the damage that has been caused by the affair.

In short – a marriage does not end because of an infidelity, it ends because of the way both partners deal with the situation.

If you have noticed your partner showing signs of unfaithful behavior, you are probably wondering if your marriage could survive the aftermath of an affair.

Here, we look at the five steps that you can take to give your relationship the best chance of success.

1. Re-building Your Trust

A key part of saving your relationship is learning to trust your partner again, and in order to do this, it is essential for both of you to be brutally honest with each other.

Owning up to your mistakes has a major role to play in the re-building of your marriage.

To trust your partner, you must be able to feel safe with them, and so the person who strayed must make an extra effort to take active steps in re-building that safety net.

They must go out of their way to show that they can be counted on and demonstrate their love consistently, perhaps by arranging thoughtful gifts or surprises, not only on occasions like anniversaries or birthdays, but just ‘because’.

And the gifts or surprises in question are not supposed to be lavish. After all, money cannot buy trust and does not make up for what has happened. Instead, these special gifts and surprises need to be symbolic and considerate of what your partner needs in their daily life. For example, why not leave a love-heart shaped note on the kitchen counter to tell your loved one you have done all their laundry? Or, a note to say “I’m think of you today when…..” (and make this about something important that might be happening for them that day).

A willingness to share social media and email passwords will also go a long way to restoring confidence, as will making sure that there are no secrets between you.

Trust will never magically re-appear overnight, but can be slowly won back over time.

2. Having Those Difficult Conversations

Talking about the affair may not be easy, but it must be done if you are ever going to move on.

Although you may both prefer at some level to try to shut the door on the past and act as if nothing ever happened, discussing feelings of remorse, anger and sorrow with frankness ensures that both partners know where they stand and have had a chance to really listen to both sides of the story.

When everything is out in the open, you can both feel more confident that no further secrets will rear their ugly heads at a later date.

While it will certainly take time to work through all of these emotions, involving yourselves in these difficult discussions is the first step to forging a new way forward.

That said, it is important to know when to stop asking your partner questions about everything that happened, otherwise the interrogation threatens to consume the entire relationship.

By restricting the questioning to a few minutes per day, you will eventually be able to leave the past where it belongs without allowing jealousy to thrive.

3. Develop Confidence in the Bedroom

In the aftermath of an affair, both parties may suffer from a lack of confidence in the bedroom.

The betrayed spouse may worry that they do not measure up to their partner's other lover, and jealousy may prevent them from enjoying the experience.

The cheating partner may also experience some awkwardness around the renewed intimacy with their spouse, and so the couple must work together on regaining the passion in their marriage so that they can be confident in their relationship.

However, taking things slowly and allowing the physical side to return to normal naturally is a better idea than rushing it and trying to force something to happen.

The good news is that many couples find that their sex lives are better than ever once an infidelity has been discovered and worked through.

4. Spend More Time Together

One of the main catalysts for an affair is when a couple become distant and there is lack togetherness.

To rectify this problem, it is essential for both parties to be committed to investing time and effort in spending time together, perhaps enjoying joint activities.

Above all, when enjoying quality time together, it is important not to discuss the affair, but to instead focus on the here-and-now and to plan positively for the future.

Couples who find shared interests and actively pursue them are much more likely to be able to restore a floundering relationship than those who have nothing in common.

5. Evaluate Your Relationship

Understanding the reasons why one of you was tempted to stray is key to resolving the issues within your relationship.

Often, the cause is a marriage that is emotionally or sexually distant, and there can be no re-building the relationship without addressing these problems.

Both parties need to look objectively at how their marriage functioned before the infidelity took place and perform a critical analysis of what must be changed, improved and worked upon in order to enjoy a happy and successful future together.

It is important, however, to avoid placing the blame on each other, but to instead strive for an empathic approach.

The words of Anna Karenina in Tolstoy's famous novel are especially appropriate when trying to salvage a marriage following an affair. “I could not be the same, no; but I could forgive it” the heroine declares, and so many betrayed partners find that if they follow these five steps, they too can find a way to make their marriage survive despite all of the odds.

Sometimes, unfortunately, it turns out that your marriage is just too damaged to endure.

If that is the case, you can read about indicators for when it is time to separate.

I would love to hear your comments or answer any questions you might have about this post.

Yours sincerely,   


Dr. Carissa Coulston, Clinical Psychologist

BSc(Hons), MPsychol(Clinical), PhD, MAPS