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, there are certain
signs your marriage will survive infidelity, according to experts.
“Infidelity can often be a sign that the relationship was in trouble, but it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker,”
relationship expert Beth Sonnenberg, LCSW, 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. The following signs could mean that your relationship will survive — and even thrive.
1 You Are Working On Rebuilding Trust Pramote Saisawat / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images
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,”
psychotherapist Babita Spinelli, LP, tells Romper.
If you’re both willing to put in the work, your relationship can weather the rupture caused by an affair.
2 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.
3 You've Always Been Friends
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, LCSW, tells Romper. “This friendship can be used to help them find their way back as friends and then committed lovers.” 4 You Can Talk Openly About The Affair
Don't feel the urge to issue a press release (I mean, you're not Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt circa 2004.) But you shouldn't feel ashamed of what happened either. Friends are not there to give you
advice on how to save your marriage, as one Huffington Post article noted, but rather to listen to you. So, bear that in mind when you figure out with whom you want to share your business. 5 You & Your Partner Make An Effort To Be Intimate Westend61/Westend61/Getty Images
Having sex after infidelity can be fraught with emotions. But a healthy, loving partnership should have a sexual component, which is why you’ll need 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.”
6 You & Your Partner Value Marriage & Family
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.”
7 You Never Use The Words "Get Over It"
Psychologist Janis Abrahms Spring, author of
told After the Affair, 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. 8 You've Had A Strong Relationship For The Most Part
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.
9 You And Your Spouse Are 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. 10 You Are Willing To Give Up Passwords Sandra Couto / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images
Once an affair is out in the open, there can no longer be secrecy in the relationship. And part of that means being able to learn how to trust again. “You and your partner might need to work on trust-building behaviors like looking at another’s phone at the end of the day, changing your phone number, or even getting a new job or moving to a new city which are all ways to rebuild a solid foundation,” says Sonnenberg.
11 You're Open To Counseling
For some couples, 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
, tells Romper. “Often professional help is the only way to do this.” So find a therapist, marriage counselor, or even a trusted clergy person to speak with, and see how to make your relationship stronger. The Secret Rules of Flirting 12 You're Willing To Evaluate Your Relationship Before And After The Affair
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.”
13 You're Willing To Forgive
“Sometimes there’s a
misconception that forgiving is about giving in, or that it’s letting people trample all over you,” Dr. Tyler VanderWeele, forgiveness researcher and co-director of the Initiative on Health, Religion, and Spirituality at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told The Oprah Magazine. “The research we’ve done suggests that’s not the case, and that it’s actually an incredibly powerful and self-healing response to an offense.” 14 Your Partner Is Sorry & Promises To Do Better
“Infidelity is really painful and destructive within a relationship, and when there’s been a betrayal of trust, one person’s forgiveness alone isn’t sufficient to reconcile and move forward,” Dr. VanderWeele
told Oprah. But there also has to be “repentance on the part of the offender, and some sort of assurance that this isn’t going to happen again. Both partners have to want that healing to take place.” 15 You Know When To Stop Asking Questions
At some point, you’ll probably have talked about the affair ad nauseum. And 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. But it can also be a great time of growth, for you as well as your relationship.
Experts: Beth Sonnenberg, LCSW, relationship expert and counselor Babita Spinelli, LP, psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish, a family and relationship psychotherapist Fran Greene, LCSW, relationship expert and author of The Secret Rules of Flirting What Parents Are Talking About — Delivered Straight To Your Inbox
This article was originally published on
July 18, 2016