If you or your spouse has had an affair, it's very likely that your relationship is in big trouble. The two of you might even be on your way to divorce. An affair is a loud and clear signal that your relationship needs serious reexamining. But, don't assume your marriage is definitely over. In the majority of cases, it's possible, with determination and outside help, to salvage your relationship.
Your Spouse Cheated on You
If you found out that your spouse was having an affair, it would probably be one of the worst moments in your life. Some people feel there is no way they could ever forgive their spouse if he or she cheated on them. It's certainly justifiable to feel that way. But remember, if you cannot eventually forgive your spouse, you will never be able to repair your relationship.
If your spouse cheated on you, ask yourself the following questions:
- Did you suspect that something was wrong in your marriage?
- Do you have any idea what it is?
- Do you think it could be fixed with time and hard work?
- Is there at least a small chance that you will be able to forgive your spouse?
- If you feel there is no way that you could ever forgive your spouse, do you want to give up on your marriage?
Don't push away the hurt, pain, anger, and fury you feel if your spouse has cheated on you. If you bury your feelings, you will not be able to work through and get past them.
After their spouse has an affair, many people realize or can finally admit their marriage needs work. Look at your answers. If you can identify a problem and are willing to go to therapy and work on it, there is an excellent chance your marriage will improve greatly. But, you also need one more element—forgiveness. It will take time to forgive your spouse; that's okay. But the most important thing is that you need to be open to the idea of forgiving your spouse over time. If you feel you can never forgive your spouse, you're saying that you're giving up on your marriage.
You Cheated on Your Spouse
If you are cheating on your spouse, you need to end the affair completely. This might seem obvious, but it needs to be said directly. Some people think that once their affair is discovered, they might simply need to be more careful! This will only prolong the agony of the situation, both for you and your spouse. You must end your affair completely before you can have a successful relationship with your spouse.
Marriage Q & A's
Q: I love my spouse and my lover. Can't I have a good relationship with both of them?
A: Some people fool themselves into thinking they can have a good marriage and an outside affair as well. They think they can keep each relationship separate and rationalize that they get different things from each person. There is absolutely no way that you can have a successful marriage while having an affair. You may only see this many years later—when it's too late to repair the damage you have done.
If you cheated on your spouse, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why did you cheat on your spouse?
- Do you know what is wrong with your marriage?
- Do you think that it could be fixed with time and hard work?
- Are you willing to completely give up the affair?
- By having an affair, are you saying that you want to give up on your marriage?
Many people have an affair as a way of expressing their frustration in their marriage. Look at your answers. Consider carefully why you had an affair. If you're willing to go to a therapist and work hard on repairing your marriage, there is an excellent chance you will be able to have a great relationship with your spouse. If you feel like giving up on your marriage and continuing your other relationship, we still strongly encourage you to seek counseling. The decision to stay with or leave your spouse might be the biggest one you ever make. You owe it to yourself and your spouse to think it through carefully and make the decision for the right reasons.
You and your spouse absolutely must do three things for the two of you to get past the infidelity and continue your marriage:
- You both need to recognize that your relationship needs work and agree to work on it.
- The person who is having the affair needs to end it completely.
- The person whose spouse was unfaithful needs to forgive, over time, and move on.