How to Save Your Marriage After an Affair

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“I’m having an affair.” If you’ve heard these words, then you understand the weight they carry.  They are daggers to the heart and can be deadly to a marriage.

 

I received an email from a reader whose husband recently confessed to having multiple affairs during their ten years of marriage.  She believes that he is completely remorseful and fully realizes that he has broken his vows…over and over again.  This couple has 2 children and has been together a long time.  Even after hearing his gut-wrenching confession, she still loves him and wants to stay with him.  Trying to hold it together, she doesn’t know how to deal with the myriad of emotions she’s experiencing…sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, desperation…you name it.  As a follower of our Facebook Marriage page, this woman reached out to me for advice on how to move forward and save her marriage after an affair.

You might be thinking, is this even possible?  Can a marriage really be saved after an affair?  Yes, vows have been broken.  Yes, trust must be earned once again.  Yes, it’s messy and emotional and hard.  However, after years of meeting with and talking to couples both in person and online, I can tell you that IT IS POSSIBLE…but it takes lots of work and constant prayer.

 

So, if you desire to stay with your spouse after an affair, here are 3 questions to consider:

 

1. Is he/she being completely HONEST with you about EVERYTHING?

I don’t believe that the “guilty” spouse needs to tell his/her spouse ALL of the details of the relationship, but I do think he/she needs to be willing to answer ANY and ALL questions that the spouse may have.  Trust has been broken.  The process to regain trust is a slow one, and this can only happen with full transparency.  With that said, I want to remind the “innocent” spouse to be cautious when asking for specifics.   It is hard for us to get things out of our mind once they are in there.  You don’t want to keep replaying images of your spouse cheating on you with someone else over and over in your mind.  This will only hinder your healing.  It’s okay to want certain details to better understand what lead to the affair, but knowing the details isn’t going to change the fact that it happened.  Important questions to ask include: Have you completely ended the affair?  Have you cut off all contact with this person?  Have you gotten rid of any devices or apps (i.e. secret cell phones, snapchat, etc.) that links you to this person?  Are you willing to get rid of passwords, change jobs, move, or do whatever it takes to not be around the person with whom you committed adultery?  If you or your spouse answers “no” to any of these questions, then you are not ready to move forward together.  If you or your spouse willingly and honestly say “yes” to all of these questions, then you can move on to the next consideration.

 

2.  Are you BOTH fully COMMITTED to saving this marriage even when it feels ugly and uncomfortable?

In order for any marriage to last, even when no affair has taken place, BOTH the husband and the wife must be FULLY and COMPLETELY committed to one another.  True love will not last without commitment.  When an affair occurs, the commitment has been broken, and that is precisely why some decide to divorce.  The only way a marriage can survive and even thrive after an affair is by both the husband and the wife recommitting to one another.  Both spouses must be willing to go through all the emotions that follow the news of an affair, and your emotions will be all over the place.  The “innocent” spouse is absolutely allowed to be angry, but we must try to not sin in our anger by punishing the “guilty” spouse with hateful words and actions.  The “guilty” spouse must understand and deal with the reality of his/her sin, and he/she must give the “innocent” spouse time to cope and approach him/her with tenderness and humility.

 

Both spouses must also be willing to do things differently, and this can be very frustrating and awkward at times.  A marriage counselor or pastor is extremely helpful in navigating through all of these steps and helping the couple move forward.  We cannot forget the past, but we can move forward with recommitment and God’s help through prayer and counsel.

 

3.  Are you BOTH willing to FORGIVE and TRUST AGAIN?

 

Luke 17:4

Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.

 

Please understand that when a spouse commits adultery, he/she has chosen to break his/her marriage vows.  The other spouse is NOT to blame.  However, no spouse is ever completely innocent of sin in a marriage.  We all fall short.  We both have wronged each other in some way and are in need of forgiveness.

 

It is amazing what God can do when we both humble ourselves and ask the other for forgiveness.  I have been referring to the spouse who had an affair as the “guilty” one and the other as the “innocent” one, but none of us are completely innocent.  Yes, the spouse who had the affair is asking for a greater amount of forgiveness in this situation, but there are certainly things that the other spouse can confess.  Beyond seeking forgiveness for the affair, both spouses need to ask themselves:  Have I been fully present with my spouse?  Have I been harboring resentment towards him/her?  Have I been physically absent?  Have I been taking care of our kids but not our marriage?  Have I been avoiding communication?  Have I been keeping something from my partner?  If we can answer “yes” to any of these, then we need to seek forgiveness from our spouse.  Both partners must humbles themselves before the Lord and seek HIS forgiveness FIRST. Then, they must seek it from each other.

 

My husband, Dave, always says, “Give forgiveness quickly, but trust slowly.  Forgiveness can only be given freely, but trust can only be earned.”

 

Again, no spouse causes the other to have an affair, and an affair is NEVER warranted.  We all fall short of being the perfect spouse, and there is always a reason to humble ourselves.  Humility will move us towards harmony.

 

James 4:10

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

 

Nothing is impossible with God…even saving a marriage after an affair.  It’s not the easy road, and it will take everything you both have to fight for it.

If you are in this position and desire an effective next step, please go to “Save My Marriage” for more information.

Also, please check out our latest book, “The Marriage Minute”, by clicking here.

I also encourage you to watch my husband, Dave Willis, talk about “How to Heal After an Affair”, by clicking here.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Chokwadi

    When u are the one who was cheated on you may decide to forgive and stay but forgetting is not easy. Sometimes thoughts of the affair just drift through your mind even in moments of happiness and they steal those moments away. You live in constant fear of being hurt again and ask yourself time and again if your decision to stay was the right thing to do. You may learn to trust again but not completely because things will never really be the same no matter how both spouses may try to fix their marriage. Its like trying to stick broken pieces of glass together. Its so easy to feel used and taken for granted even when your spouse is really trying to make amends. Every time their phone rings or even when they take a look at their phone just to check their time you can’t help but wonder if it the other person trying to contact them. When they leave the house to hang out with friends you can’t help but wonder what they are really up to. Its like once bitten twice shy. Going to public events with your spouse is a nightmare at times when surrounded by people who knew about the affair but only decided to tell you after you found out on your own. You constantly feel like you’re trying to keep up appearances. When affairs happen they not only destroy trust and true ,pure affection in a marriage but the public image of that union is also affected. Its not an easy road to healing

  • Darrell B. Harrison

    My husband, Dave, always says, “Give forgiveness quickly, but
    trust slowly. Forgiveness can only be given freely, but trust can only
    be earned.”

    Though I understand what is meant by that statement, I tend to disagree, particularly with the first part. I am of the opinion that, first and foremost, forgiveness must be genuine rather than expedient. Of course, expedience of forgiveness is the ideal, however, a forgiveness that is immediate but disingenuous is not true forgiveness. Given that God knows our heart, I believe it honors Him when we are transparent with Him about our hesitancy, or even our refusal, to forgive someone, as opposed to trying to convince ourselves of the opposite simply so we can mouth the words “I forgive you”, especially when we know in our heart it isn’t sincere.

    I personally believe that forgiveness is oftentimes a process and, as such, can take time before it can be granted in earnest. Merely mouthing the words “I forgive you” without it coming from a truly forgiving heart, is only delaying the inevitable of revisiting the hurt later on down the road.

  • Misty

    Your third point is in error. Yes, we all sin; but in the case you described, only one of them broke the covenant. One is the perpetrator, and one is the victim. Trying to level out the sin puts an undo burden on the spouse who was betrayed. And the questions at the end of that point seem to imply that the faithful spouse in some way caused the affair to happen or contributed to the fall out afterward.

    If a married person has had an affair, they have broken the marriage covenant. Their spouse is free to stay or leave as they choose. Even if you put in the “work and constant prayer,” that’s not a guarantee that that it will all be better. God can change anyone, but that person has to want to change. And in the meantime, the entire family is going to suffer. The faithful spouse is at risk for contracting STIs brought home by the adulterer, and the children are exposed to very bad examples of what healthy relationships should be. Sometimes the most loving choice the betrayed spouse can make is to let the adulterer face the consequences of their actions.

  • DMcG

    Such a hard situation. I couldn’t do it. I was faced with an unfaithful wife and was relieved that she didn’t want to reconcile because I didn’t know how I was going to deal with the emotions of hurt and betrayal. On the other hand, dear friends made it through, after she got pregnant by her lover during an affair. Talk about a difficult conversation! But they are raising this child together as their own. He’s a teenager now. I look at my friend and marvel that he finds the grace day by day to love as he does. And oh, my, he does love his wife, and their son. God can accomplish anything through us if we are willing vessels of his love and grace.

  • JC

    What about when a child is produced due to the affair. That other person is always there. How do you move past that, you can’t cut off all contact then.

  • EjH

    I would like to know if the person writing this article has actually had to endure any of what they are giving advice on?

  • Ashley Ledwith

    My husband cheated on me and the woman he
    was with got pregnant. We decided to work it out. I think the reason we could and wanted to work it out was because we are best friends, not just spouses. We didn’t even have our own child together yet at the time, and we still wanted to work it out, so this is not a staying together for the kids only type of situation. We truly loved and cared for each other. I’m a Christian, my husband is agnostic. Over the course of intense counseling, our weekly meetings at home between the two of us, and reconnecting as friends and lovers we are actually stronger now. I read one person’s comment that said she was constantly worried after reuniting about it happening again. I don’t worry about it at all day to day. There are times I may feel uncomfortable about a situation and if I do, I speak up immediately and resolve any uneasiness, before I allow my mind to wander. I do not feel the need to check up on my husband because I know he’s changed. I know he has made the choice to respect our marriage. Also, he has begun to open his mind to God and will pray with me, which is a great place to start. If you can’t move past certain feelings and you care what others think of your relationship, after you made the brave and loving decision to forgive your spouse, then you haven’t ACTUALLY forgiven, and maybe you can’t, so in that case you should probably move on. I know I couldn’t stay in my marriage feeling that way. My husband’s daughter from his past affair is 4.5 years old now and now we have an 18 month old. We are just another kind of family that loves each other. I feel blessed to have the relationship I have now with my husband instead of being afraid to “rock the boat” as I was before I discovered the affair. Just wanted to give anyone dealing with this hope. It can work. And it can be a great life.

  • Ashley Ledwith

    That happened in my situation. It was hard for a while, but I just keep the perspective that it was not my husband’s daughter’s fault. She is a product of their sin, but she did not commit the sin. I respect her mother for doing the right thing and keeping her, and my husband made the right choice to be part of his daughter’s life, no matter how hard that was for me to personally swallow at first. I decided if I love my husband enough to forgive him, then I should be able to forgive the other party involved who hadn’t even made any kind of commitment to me. It was pretty easy to love the baby once I interacted with her, not to mention she is my son’s half sister.

  • ashleywillis4

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog and respond. I wrote the article based on my time working with couples who have experienced the terrible wreckage of an affair. My husband and I work with many couples on a weekly basis. There are many that choose to leave and some that choose to stay. I wanted to write this blog for those that choose to stay.

  • ashleywillis4

    Misty, I agree with you. I apologize if that didn’t come across in my blog. Thanks for bringing it to light. Take care.

  • ashleywillis4

    You are correct. Forgiveness MUST be genuine or it isn’t forgiveness at all. The Bible tells us to forgive quickly, however. This doesn’t mean it is easy or should be flippant. Thanks so much for reading and responding.

  • ashleywillis4

    Chokwadi, you are so right about the consequences of an affair being both public and private. It is a rocky road. Thanks so much for your response. Take care.

  • Kaci

    I know that no one likes the option of “divorce” here, but after an affair, most do because they cannot bring themselves to forgive or trust their spouse ever again, and remaining in the marriage is a daily lesson in agony.

    However, to say (using your example) that the wife is responsible for the affair because she didn’t want to have sex is complete rubbish. If she chose to deny sex to her husband, then she is at fault for denying sex. That doesn’t make it her fault that he, in turn, chose to have an affair. That decision was his own. He could have told her sex was a must for him in the marriage, and if she refused, he has many options: marriage counseling, wooing her, divorce, an affair. There is NEVER an excuse for an affair, because it is saying, “Well, she broke the covenant first, so it’s okay for me to do it in return.” An affair is ONLY the fault of the person in the marriage who CHOSE to have the affair–no matter the reason.

    Am I saying the complaint of a sexless marriage isn’t a valid one? Not at all. In fact, my first marriage was sexless after the first couple of years, despite many subsequent years of me begging, pleading, threatening, counseling, etc., and it never got any better. He was just no longer interested. However, if I’d chosen to have an affair, that would have been MY fault, not his. I had many choices to pick from when I realized the marriage was never going to involve sex again. An affair was not one of the choices I considered, because it’s wrong on every level.

  • Layla Miller

    My husband came home and asked for a divorce one day. Although denied at first, he was having an affair. He said he loved this woman(work affair) & was going to start a life with her. He filed for divorce, we had two small babies, 22 mos & 5 mos. We went to our first court hearing and then scheduled a second. All the while, I’m going to counseling with a pastor and praying and begging God to change my husband’s heart. I did not want a divorce. 6 days before our 2nd court date, God had answered my prayers. He repented to God and me and he came home that night. We have never looked back since. We went to counseling and have put God first in our marriage and we have the BEST relationship then we have ever had. This was 5 years ago. I promised God that if he brought my husband home, we would use our testimony to help others. We have done just that! It is very possible to save a marriage after an affair, although hard, it’s worth every hard moment! !

  • Krys

    The advice given is great. It’s what my husband and I had to do 2 years ago. He cheated on me during a deployment and it continued for a bit when he got home. He realized he still wanted our family. Those things listed are what we did. It wasn’t easy and it took a while, but we’re still together 2 years later and even have another child. He’s once again deployed and does everything he can to make sure he doesn’t lose my faith or trust.

  • MyRedSandals

    My husband has been unfaithful multiple times during our 40 years together, as well as developing a serious addiction to porn. He did an amazing job of hiding all of it from me and everyone else, and when he finally came clean, hearing about all the affairs at once was shocking and overwhelming. He seemed to be repentant, to understand my enormous hurt and ready to recommit to the marriage. So for the sake of our 3 children (just 6 years old at the time), I chose to forgive and stay with him. Yes, it was incredibly hard to trust him again and doing so became a daily challenge for me.

    Alas, it seems old habits are hard to break. When he left me to pursue his most recent affair (a woman at his workplace), I requested that he attend marriage counseling with me. He reluctantly agreed, saying he would go, but it would be “kicking and screaming”. In the end, he fired 3 different therapists because they refused to blame me for all our marital problems and he wouldn’t accept any accountability for his role. After 6 months of weekly counseling sessions, he finally bailed out and said he wanted a divorce. So that’s the path we’ve been on for the last 33 months; our court hearing is now scheduled to take place in two weeks, and then it will finally be over (sigh).

    I’ve taken full responsibility for the choices and mistakes I made during our relationship, repenting both to God and to my husband. I’ve spent more time than I can count on my knees in prayer, asking for the Lord’s will to be done in our marriage; I’ve been waiting patiently on Him for almost 3 years now and keep hoping that His will for us includes a miracle. However, with just 14 days until our court date, we’re pretty much down to the wire here. Unless there is an 11th hour reversal in my husband’s position, this story will not end in reconciliation. But maybe, that IS God’s answer to my prayer… that what my husband and I have/had needs to die so that something new can begin, even if it means we go our separate ways.

  • I Stayed

    I think you need to be honest with the spouse who was cheated on and let them know, this is a long and very painful road. To stay, I mean. The pain ( & everything else ) dulls over time, but it colors your relationship in your mind going forward, with no end.
    I didn’t understand that. I might have chosen a different path.

  • MyRedSandals

    12-08-15 UPDATE: After going to court on July 14th, our divorce was finalized on July 28th… sadly, there was no 11th hour reconciliation. It’s now been almost 5 months and we’ve had zero communication. I am pressing full steam ahead with my life, and after such a long haul, am getting settled into the reality of being “single again”. I thank Jesus and am grateful to Him that I’m doing so much better than I could’ve imagined. So yes, I think this was the “miracle” I prayed for (I just didn’t know it at the time)… I am now free from the decades of betrayal, pain, lies and mistrust. Actually, it’s wonderful to not have to wonder, worry, walk on eggshells and experience daily fear of “Oh no, what now?”… The Lord knew much better than I exactly what needed to happen with this marriage, and He took care of it. Amen!

  • Alyssa Kulina

    The true examples from real people gave me insight that you can really survive an affair! This web site is different from many others in that the focus of the “advice” and help really reflects the name..Save My Marriage Today fb.me/NxX7vuJH

  • Sasha Cohen

    This is a great blog post. I have been married for 10 years and have found reaching out online to seek the advice of others has helped me through the good and bad time. My husband had an a affair and we have always had relationship issues and have started to follow the advice of Dr. Robi Ludwig. I saw her on a tv show once and I really appreciated her take on current dating issues. I have really enjoyed her outlook on relationships. I have included a link to her latest article about marriage so other people can read it. If you are trying to save a marriage I recommend this article, http://www.hitchedmag.com/article.php?id=57