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Nothing rattles the foundations of a marriage like infidelity. But while infidelity can certainly destroy the trust in a relationship, therapists say that in many cases, while always a terribly painful experience, one partner’s cheating and the reconciliation process that follows can actually strengthen a marriage.

How to Handle Infidelity

Learning of such an enormous breach of trust can put you in an emotional tailspin and strong feelings of anger, sadness, a lack of self esteem and a sense of betrayal are normal during this initial period.

Your partner’s infidelity may well be reasonable grounds for a divorce, but marriage experts say that the volatile emotions of the first period after learning of infidelity make sound decision making difficult or impossible. While cheating is certainly all the justification you'd need to end a marriage, the experts say that you’re better off waiting for a bit, until your feelings settle down, before making any major life changes.

After Learning of Infidelity:

  • Get some distance from your partner, so you can sort through your feelings more objectively
  • Get the advice and support of close friends, family and other people you trust
  • Put off major decisions for a while, until you can get things sorted out in your head a bit1
  • Don’t tell your children about the affair right away – you may regret having done so down the road
  • Take care of your emotional, mental and physical health

How Often Does Infidelity End a Marriage?

A cheating spouse can certainly push a marriage onto the rocks, but according to marriage therapist and psychologist Beth Hedva, of those who come into her practice after an infidelity, more than half will stay together.

She says2:

  • 1/3 will take the infidelity as reason enough to end a marriage
  • 1/3 will use the infidelity to rebuild a stronger than ever marriage
  • 1/3 continue to work on rebuilding trust and are in the process of trying to make things work again.

Getting Marriage Counseling after Infidelity

Once you’ve given yourself some time and space, thought things through and received the advice and support of those close to you, you’ll have to make a decision on whether or not your marriage relationship is worth salvaging.

If there is worth in at least attempting a process of reconciliation, here are some tips for maximizing your odds at success:

  • Seek out marriage counseling from a qualified relationship (marriage) therapist. A therapist can help you look more objectively at what’s working and what’s not in your relationship and can help the two of you steer a course towards rebuilding the trust and intimacy that’s shattered by infidelity. If you and your spouse want to save your marriage or even if you’re not sure about divorce, getting some marriage counseling is a very good idea.
  • Be honest with yourself and with your partner and admit that both parties play some role in the problems and successes of any relationship. Be prepared to look at your own weaknesses as well those of your cheating partner and to work, as your partner will have to work, to strengthening your union.
  • Forgive – You will have to ultimately learn to forgive your partner for the affair. Forgiveness takes time, but you have to be willing to try for it.
  • Be patient – Restoring trust in a broken relationship will take time and energy, and it’s a process that’s measured in years, not months. Don’t expect things to return back to normal overnight. Do expect your partner to take firm steps to end the affair and to rebuild trust by severing all ties with the person they cheated with.
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Page last updated Jun 30, 2011

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