Infidelity is a heavy word. It takes something complex—the union between two people—and changes it. Everything could be fine on the surface until the shock of a long-term affair strikes. Once you find out about a long-term affair going on, things are going to happen in waves. For the betrayer, it’s a call to atone for their mistakes. For the betrayed, it’s a call to be understanding and forgiving.
While there are many marriages that end up in divorce because of a long-term affair, there are also marriages that have survived multiple instances of infidelity. There are relationships that have been strengthened because of an affair.
Whether your marriage can survive a long-term affair, however, depends on a couple of factors.
Some Marriages Will End
Depending on the marriage as it is, it might not survive. This is a hard thing to swallow at times, especially if you have been trying to make it work. Keep in mind that a long-term affair often means this isn’t just two of you. There’s the affair partner to consider and how they feel.
Long-term affairs are so devastating to marriages because it often means that the unfaithful spouse has feelings for their affair partner. It means they have a life together, too. It might not be as complete as the marriage, but they have spent years together.
For this reason, there are usually three avenues after the discovery of a long-term affair:
- You decide the marriage is not healthy and decide to end it.
- You choose to preserve the marriage and end the affair.
- You decide to maintain both relationships, remaining in Limbo. This doesn’t mean a polyamorous relationship, just one where the partner committing the affair gets to continue without recourse.
Obviously, for most married couples, the last option isn’t doable. After such a blatant betrayal of your trust, tolerating the affair seems unthinkable.
That is why you have to evaluate this as objectively as possible. Ask yourself:
- Do you enjoy spending time together with your spouse?
- Do you support one another?
- Do you share the same values?
- Do you see yourself with them in 5, 10, or 20 years?
- Are you sexually attracted to them?
- Can you communicate and disagree without getting into an argument?
- Do you respect them?
- Have both of you shown interest in preserving the relationship?
If most of the questions are answered with a yes, then you can work on saving your marriage. It means you have a decent foundation that hasn’t yet faltered.
On the other hand, if you can’t say that you respect your partner, then you no longer want to support them or be with them in the future, then your marriage may not be worth saving.
How to Heal After a Long-Term Affair
There are a couple of rules to abide by before you work to survive a long-term affair. First, if your partner cheated on you, don’t blame yourself for what happened. There are weaknesses in every relationship, but that doesn’t mean you were the cause behind the infidelity.
Secondly, don’t alienate yourself. An affair, particularly a long-term one, is embarrassing for your family. But you need to tell someone about it, be it a life coach, marriage counselor, or a close friend. Having someone to talk to about this trying time could change everything for the better.
Steps to Keeping The Marriage Alive
In order for a marriage to survive a long-term affair, you need to consider the following steps:
1. The Unfaithful Spouse Must Act
Nothing can begin to heal if the issue isn’t solved first. Whoever had the affair needs to first understand how damaging the long-term affair was to the marriage. They need to realize that what they’ve done negatively reflects on the whole family and could potentially tear everything apart.
Secondly, the unfaithful spouse must take responsibility for what they did. They can’t put blame on you. This was their choice, and they have to accept that they betrayed you, not the other way around.
Thirdly, they must commit to fixing the marriage, too. This means that they should take the steps to regain your trust, such as ending the affair. They must promise to change their behavior. If the cheater can’t do these three things, your efforts to survive the long-term affair are going to fall through.
2. Seek Out Professional Help
Speaking with a marriage counselor or infidelity recovery specialist can help you move forward with your efforts. Plus, this is a great way for you to communicate with one another and learn how to be vulnerable. You can also assess how the betrayer feels about saving the marriage. If their heart isn’t in the counseling, then maybe it’s a sign that you both should move on.
Honesty, transparency, and communication can help you deal with the issues that caused the affair in the first place. With professional help, you learn how to communicate. At home, you start to talk about your likes, your dislikes, and how to work around the scars of infidelity.
4. Let Time Heal…and Bring Forgiveness
Forgiveness is going to be difficult, as you will fear that your spouse is going to break your heart again. While working through the steps to recovery, though, you will be able to acknowledge your emotions and grief. Eventually, both of you may be able to heal and forgive each other.
Until then, though, part of saving your marriage is vacillating between emotions. The important part is that you’re willing to express your emotions with your partner.
Create a Newer, Stronger Marriage Today
Whether you have committed the betrayal or you were betrayed, you can work to save your marriage after a long-term affair. Just because there was another relationship going on during your marriage, it doesn’t mean you aren’t loved. It doesn’t mean you can create a new marriage and come out stronger than before.
Surviving a long-term affair is going to require careful planning and tools. If you’re looking for proven steps to make the path to recovery easier, consider Couples Academy. Developed by an infidelity recovery specialist, Couples Academy helps you and your partner learn skills that strengthen your marriage from the inside out.