a couple holds hands, in a list of signs your marriage can survive infidelity
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12 Signs Your Marriage Can Survive Infidelity

If you want to stay married, here are signs that might be a possibility.

by Jill Di Donato and Jennifer Parris
Originally Published: 

When a spouse strays, both parties in the relationship are likely to feel like their world has been shattered. An affair — whether emotional, physical, or any other variation on cheating — is a betrayal to your relationship. But that doesn't necessarily have to lead to divorce. If you're not sure which way you and your partner are headed, it’s normal to be on the hunt for signs your marriage will survive infidelity — particularly if that’s what you’re hoping for.

“Infidelity can often be a sign that the relationship was in trouble, but it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker,” Beth Sonnenberg, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), relationship expert and counselor, tells Romper. “If the couple is motivated to change things and realize that their love and history are too strong to give up on it, these can be signs that a new and improved relationship can be possible.”

That’s all fine and good, but right about now, you’re probably feeling pretty raw. If someone asked you before what you would do if your partner cheated on you, you might have thought that you’d kick them to the curb without a second thought. It's a different story when you’re actually posed with that question in real life. The hurt might never completely go away, but challenges like infidelity can be an opportunity to work on your marriage and make it stronger if you want to stay married. The following signs could mean that your relationship will survive — and even thrive.


You've always been friends

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Friendship plays an important factor when it comes to the fate of your marriage post-affair. “Couples who can articulate the importance of having a partner who gets them and who they feel emotionally connected to can weather an affair,” psychotherapist and relationship coach Toni Coleman, tells Romper. “This friendship can be used to help them find their way back as friends and then committed lovers.”


You are working together to rebuild trust

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Trust (or more aptly, the lack of it) is the crux of whether your relationship can survive infidelity. For some, it’s almost impossible to get past the betrayal. “[Taking] active steps to rebuild trust is critical, Babita Spinelli, a psychotherapist, tells Romper. If you’re both willing to put in the work, your relationship can weather the rupture caused by an affair.


You realize that a cheater isn't always a cheater

If you share the news of your partner’s cheating with friends or family, someone is bound to tell you, “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” But that’s not always true. “The idea that someone who cheated will always cheat is not necessarily accurate,” says Spinelli. “People cheat or have an affair for different reasons, motivations, situations, and needs.” Spinelli advises viewing your partner as a complete person without labels before deciding if your relationship will work.


You talk openly about the infidelity

Don't feel the urge to issue a press release. But you shouldn't feel ashamed of what happened either. Just remember, friends are not there to give you advice on how to save your marriage, but rather to listen to you. So be selective about who you share this life-altering information with.


You're open to counseling

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Having a therapist there during difficult conversations is a great way to navigate through the murky waters of their relationship after the affair. “The couple must be willing to be honest with each other about what they both need to stay together,” Fran Greene, LCSW, a dating and relationship expert and author of The Secret Rules of Flirting, tells Romper. “Often professional help is the only way to do this.” So find a therapist, or marriage counselor, and see how to make your relationship stronger.


You & your partner make time to be intimate

Having sex after infidelity can be fraught with emotions. But a healthy, loving partnership should have a sexual component, which is why you’ll eventually want to work on reconnecting intimately. “Although it may feel uncomfortable, at some stage of processing the affair, being physically intimate is a step towards a relationship moving in a healthy direction after infidelity,” says Spinelli. “This piece may take some time and may not happen until trust is restored, but is a significant part of the marriage healing and remaining healthy.”


You both value the marriage

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Sure, it seems kind of ironic to think that your partner values marriage (if they did, why did they cheat?). But your relationship can rebound (and for the better) if both of you place pivotal importance on making your marriage work and keeping your family together. “There are couples who love their home, their children, and the shared life they have built together and don’t want to lose this,” says Coleman. “These couples might come from a background where marriage is valued, and that there’s an expectation that partners should work towards resolving their differences than rush towards divorce.”


If you’re the cheater, you never say “get over it”

Psychologist Janis Abrahms Spring, author of After the Affair, told Psychology Today that if you cheated on your spouse, never, ever encourage your partner to “get over it.” Instead, she suggested that you listen to your spouse's pain, and absorb it.


You’ve had a strong relationship otherwise

Your relationship has a good chance of surviving infidelity if it’s been fairly solid from the time you were dating and into your marriage. “If you and your partner don’t have a history of cheating on past partners or while you were dating or engaged, that’s a strong sign that your relationship can survive,” says Coleman. It might just mean that the affair was a fluke and won’t happen again.


You’re invested in activities together

Once your partner has cheated, there might be a tendency to pull away from each other. Thing is, after an affair, you should make even more of an effort to do things together that you both enjoy. “Great couples spend time together,” Dr. Fran Walfish, a family and relationship psychotherapist, tells Romper. “So schedule time together and find things to do that each of you enjoy.” It can serve as a reminder of why your relationship was good in the first place, and motivate you to get it on solid ground again.


You’re willing to talk about yoru relationship honestly

Sometimes (but not always), there might have been signs that there was trouble in paradise. And that’s when you have to own your potential part in why the affair happened. Says Spinelli: “Couples who can stomach difficult, honest, and vulnerable conversations about the affair and what lead to it are highly successful in moving forward and making their marriage work in a positive way.”


You know when to move on

At some point, you’ll probably have talked about the affair until there’s nothing else to say. Then, it might be time to stop asking questions or bringing it up so that you and your family can move forward. “You can’t punish your partner forever and there is a point where you’ll have to let go,” advises Spinelli.

It goes without saying that an affair can make you feel like your entire world has turned upside down — because it has. If you decide you want to stay with a person who has been unfaithful — or at least try to make things better — these signs that your marriage will survive infidelity may be heartning. This is surely a difficult time, but it can perhaps also be a great time of growth, for you as well as your relationship.


Beth Sonnenberg, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), relationship expert and counselor

Babita Spinelli, LP, psychotherapist

Dr. Fran Walfish, a family and relationship psychotherapist

Fran Greene, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), relationship expert and author of The Secret Rules of Flirting

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