The recent breach of the Ashley Madison cheating website has affected many marriages and even allegedly led to two suicides. It has left many wondering, “Can a marriage be saved after an affair?” As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I believe it is possible to move past infidelity, even though an affair is one of the biggest obstacles a marriage can face. There is a way to move on from infidelity and create an even stronger bond with one’s spouse.
A marriage does not end because of an affair; a marriage ends based on how the couple deals with the aftermath of the cheating. Healing from infidelity takes hard work. Identifying the emotional and/or physical disconnection within the marriage is essential. The couple must be committed to repairing the damage, rebuilding their trust, and reconnecting emotionally and physically.
- The unfaithful spouse must stop the affair and all contact with the other person, provide all details honestly and completely and take the steps necessary to rebuild trust.
- The betrayed spouse must take their job of healing seriously. They should not minimize or try to speed up the process.
- Each person must take responsibility for his/her part in how the marriage got to this point and learn from it.
In order to regain trust, spouses must show understanding of their partner’s feelings and the unfaithful spouse must prove true regret.
Showing willingness to change is a start in earning back a spouse’s trust. Proving one is serious, reliable, and safe to love again is the goal. Rebuilding the trust in a marriage means rebuilding the credibility with one’s spouse.
There are some immediate changes the unfaithful spouse can make, such as answering any and all questions, providing passwords and checking-in throughout the day with his or her partner. The betrayed spouses should ask for what they need to feel secure in the relationship again.
Reconnecting with one’s spouse both emotionally and physically after an affair is perhaps the most difficult, but can be achieved with determination and dedication. Rediscovering the love and affection for one another does not happen overnight.
It takes time for both to work through the distrust and pain caused by the affair and reach out to each other again with genuine love, respect, and admiration.
The First Step
Determining whether there was an emotional and/or physical disconnection in the marriage is the first step in the reconnection process. Discussing which areas in the marriage need to be nurtured so that both partners can feel reconnected is important.
Next, the couple must be fully committed to repairing the damage.
Finally, reconnection can commence.
Physical reconnection should be taken very slowly. It should start with hand holding, move to hugging and kissing and then finally move into sexual intimacy.
Emotional reconnection happens through trust rebuilding, becoming a team again, complete honesty and mutual interests.
Marriage counseling is a key factor in helping facilitate the many changes that need to take place in order for a relationship recovering from an affair to fully heal. A marriage therapist can help the couple learn to understand and resolve their conflicts, develop communication tools and problem solving skills and re-establish their intimacy and trust.
Given a willingness to work hard on their marriage, most couples can repair the damage from an affair, heal completely, forgive and make their marriages healthy and satisfying once again.