Healing After Affairs 

Can Marriages Heal After An Affair?

by Sally R. Connolly, LMFT and John E. Turner, LMFT

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"Can my marriage heal after this affair?" is a question that we often hear.  The pain and devastation that the hurting party experiences after an affair can seem impossible to overcome and, especially early on, we find that most couples feel only a little hope.  Research shows that about 70% of couples who want to find a way to work through it are able to save their marriages and even come out in a healthier place.

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Learning that your partner has been unfaithful, sexually or emotionally, feels like a punch in the stomach. Often the first reaction is to kick out the cheating spouse, tell everyone about how “wronged” you have been and see an attorney about a divorce. It is hard to think that there can be healing after an affair.

Our advice to you … step back, cry, be angry, talk things over with a “safe” person like a therapist, a person in a helping profession … or someone that might be “for” your marriage. Let a little time pass before making any kind of decision about your marriage. Healing from an affair takes time and hard work.

Many of the couples that we see have actually called the revelation of the affair a “gift” to their marriage. Generally, affairs do not happen in strong marriages, although that can sometimes be the case. Often couples have grown apart because their attention has been turned elsewhere … to work, children, alcohol, activities … or one or the other has not been able to talk out loud about things that bother them. When someone is not allowed … or does not give themselves permission to talk out loud about things that bother them, they can build up walls of anger, hurt and resentment that turn them away from their spouse and toward another person.

Talk about the affair, then address the marital issues.

Healing from an Affair Comes in Waves and Stages.

After the initial aftermath of the disclosure, and if this is not a relationship where there have been multiple affairs, couples can then look at the issues that brought them to the space in their relationship that “eased the way” for the affair to develop. This “wake-up call” often helps couples then learn how to talk more openly with each other about what they want and need in their relationship, discover ways to handle conflict effectively, turn more to each other and away from other interests, renew their sex life and develop
more positivity in their relationship.