Can your relationship survive an affair?

Communication is key to working through this rough patch

Clive had seen “the other woman” for months. Their meetings took place during his regular business trips to her city. When his wife, Cheryl, discovered the awful truth she was devastated, angry, and ready to split. All she could think of was hurting him back.


In her rage Cheryl took off to hide out at her sister’s home. For three months she refused to talk to Clive. When she had finally calmed down and felt more secure, she agreed to meet and talk.


Clive, realizing his love for Cheryl, had tried hard to get her back. He apologized sincerely and sought her forgiveness. Clive explained that for many years he felt that he couldn’t reveal his true feelings to her. He was afraid of her criticism and of her cutting judgments. When Clive met a woman who made him feel safe, he opened up to her and found himself drifting into an affair, though he still loved Cheryl.


Clive’s words struck a chord. He and Cheryl both realized that they had invested too much in the relationship to let it go and that they still loved each other. The marriage resumed, but Cheryl’s wounds never quite healed.


A year later, she was still consumed by suspicion every time Clive went out of town. She believed without reason that he saw the other woman and imagined the worst if she couldn’t reach him on his cell phone immediately. She started spying on him, checking his phone bills and credit card receipts.


By constantly feeding her fears, she didn’t give the relationship a chance. Rebuilding trust, essential to a good marriage, requires letting go of grudges and fears. On the brink of divorce, she finally recognized that this time she was the one putting their marriage at risk.


The statistics on adultery are going up: Newsweek magazine reports that up to 40 percent of married females are cheating on spouses versus 50 percent of men. Obviously, with the divorce rate hovering around 50 percent, many couples resolve sexual infidelity by quitting.


For those who seek to save the marriage, here are some curative steps many therapists advocate.


Learn what the affair was based upon. Understanding whether the infidelity was an isolated incident, an ongoing psychological pattern or a liaison that evolved into an ongoing love affair is essential. Clearly, a singular “one night stand” is easier to deal with than an obsessive philandering partner that simply cannot stop cheating. Most difficult of all is repairing a relationship if your loved one has been involved in a longtime affair.


Understand the underlying cause(s) of the affair. In each case it is imperative for the couple to learn through open discussions without accusations and rancor what caused him or her to go astray. This is not easy and may require several sessions. Sometimes a crisis may open emotional doors that have been shut for years.


Often the “deceived” partner learns that she or he may have participated in causing alienation and transgression. Both partners have to own up to their responsibilities in the breakdown. Endless accusations won’t work.


Seek professional help. Sometimes the emotional issues are so complex and difficult to resolve, that the help of a therapist or marriage counselor is essential. A professional who has both partners’ interests at heart may identify the underlying problems more easily and help you find the way to each other.


Forgive your partner. Recriminations on both sides must stop to give the marriage a chance. Both partners must find it in their hearts to truly forgive each other. You cannot create positive feelings when negative ones fill your heart.


The “trespasser” must be very understanding and offer more support than ever, and enough time for healing, no matter how long it takes. The partner who was deceived must do internal work to regain confidence and self-esteem. Both partners must make it their practice to be completely honest with each other. Words alone cannot rebuild trust. It is your deeds that count.


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Jacqueline Brandwynne has worked in the health and beauty industry for more than 25 years and is creator of the Very Private line of products. Visit her at

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