Can your relationship survive an affair?

young couple being playful in...
young couple being playful in...

Can a Relationship Survive Infidelity
Can a Relationship Survive Infidelity

When you discover that your partner has cheated on you, it can feel like the end of the world. While some relationships never recover, others find that they're able to re-build trust, with some couples even saying that the affair made them stronger.

See also: The real reasons men cheat

See also: Could your wife be having an affair?

1: Look after yourself
If you're still in the "crisis phase", now is not the time to decide whether you can save the relationship or not. Your friends and family are likely to have an opinion on the matter, but right now your priority should be to take care of yourself and your family. Make sure you and the kids have somewhere safe to stay, find someone you can talk to, and look after your health. That means getting plenty of rest, eating well, and finding time for exercise and relaxation. Once the initial shock passes you're likely to start grieving - avoid going into "self destruct" mode and try to be a friend to yourself instead.

2: Learn to communicate
If communication wasn't your strong point before, it's likely to be even harder after one of you has cheated. Being honest is vital - if you find it hard to talk to one another, invest in a book that offers strategies to help, such as The New Monogamy: Redefining Your Relationship After Infidelity or seek out professional relationship counselling.

Most importantly, the adulterous partner must be prepared to face the heartache they have caused. If you're the one who has cheated, repeatedly saying "I'm sorry" isn't enough. Sticking around and dealing with the guilt and aftermath is hard, but only by allowing your partner to grieve and express their anger and sorrow, can you hope to rebuild trust. Once you've really listened, it can help to write a letter detailing the impact you know your actions have had and saying why it will never happen again. Your partner must first feel listened to and understood before they can even think about forgiving you.

3. Consider why it happened
After the crisis and grieving stage comes the "insight phase." You no longer speak about "his" or "her" affair, but instead start to think and talk about the affair as something that happened to you as a couple.

This is the time to look at the health of your relationship leading up to the affair. You may (understandably) have got into a position where one of you is victim and the other takes all the blame, but at this stage it's important that you both take responsibility for the relationship. You have to be honest about any shortcomings on both sides (perhaps lack of emotional or sexual intimacy) before you can begin to strengthen and re-build it.

4. Set some rules
While some couples draw up a new relationship contract, others choose to set rules that they both feel comfortable with. If you cheated on your partner via online dating, for example, it could be that you agree to let them check over your shoulder every time they see you on the computer. Rebuilding trust takes time, and you may need to set new boundaries and rules to ease your partner's insecurity.

5. Re-connect
Finally, make time to reconnect with your partner. That might mean going on a regular date night (and agreeing not to discuss the affair) or taking up a new hobby together. Once you feel ready, it's time to consider sharing physical intimacy again. Be prepared that you might make progress, only to take two steps back. This is completely normal.

The sad truth is that not every couple can survive infidelity. While your relationship won't go back to how it was prior to the affair, with enough time, effort and honesty, you may find that it emerges even stronger than it was before.