Couples Academy

Can a relationship survive after a long-term affair?

Can a relationship survive after a long-term affair

Infidelity changes everything. There is no denying that. The relationship, the people involved—everything is warped afterward. Even the shortest of affairs can lead to devastating consequences. Long-term affairs tend to be even more upending because they tend to last 15 months or longer. This means there is much more involved than a temporary lapse in judgment.

Can a relationship survive after a long-term affair? Should you try to stay together after such a betrayal? Here is what you need to know.

Marriages And Relationships Can Survive A Long-Term Affair

Most relationships can recover from a one-night episode of cheating or a short fling in the workplace. On many occasions, a slip-up is forgiven by the other spouse and life continues on. Maybe you decide to go to couples counseling to discuss what happened to make such an event occur and then work to correct it.

But a long-term affair is a different beast.

Affairs, in general, are a mess to maintain. The secrecy and lies often lead to someone admitting they were wrong. Long-term affairs, on the other hand, kept on going and had more than enough time to become something more than a fling. After a year, it’s a relationship. This means lines are blurred. Emotions become entangled.

So when the affair is discovered by the betrayed partner, working beyond that moment is incredibly challenging. Depending on the context of the marriage or relationship, you may be able to survive. However, it takes a combined effort from both partners to overcome the infidelity and move on.

If one of you is unable to move past the long-term affair, it takes a toll on the survival of your relationship.

What Percentage Of Marriages Survive Long-Term Infidelity?

When you are in a relationship or marriage, the idea is that for better or for worse you are in it together. Finding out about an affair makes those promises and vows seem like they were all for nothing.

Affairs are generally not listed as the main reason for divorce, meaning that other issues within the relationship were a precursor to infidelity. That said, a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) did find that 88% of couples who get divorced cite infidelity as a contributing factor. Having more than one affair increases the chance of divorce, too.

Here are some other stats:

  • 61% of husbands who had an affair are still married to their wives.
  • 44% of unfaithful wives remain married to their partners.

Long-term affairs often lead to divorce because it feels like there is no right choice. The betrayed spouse, the unfaithful spouse, and the affair partner all played a role in the affair; and one of those people is going to be hurt.

Even short bouts of infidelity are a deal breaker for many and causes untold amounts of stress upon everyone involved. Therefore, surviving a relationship after a long-term affair is going to be difficult, but there is hope.

Steps That Help Your Relationship Survive After Infidelity

Survival is more than sweeping the issue under the bed and never speaking about it again. You don’t regain trust in one another that way. If you truly want your relationship to survive a long-term affair, you both have to put in some work. Both your relationship or marriage and the affair have to be evaluated.

The important part is that you don’t give up hope. Surviving long-term infidelity is a triumph, but any triumph takes grit and determination.

Here are some steps to help you overcome the long-term affair and create a new marriage:

The Cheater Must Atone

A long-term affair is serious. Families can be damaged by such a betrayal. Therefore, moving onward means that the cheater has to apologize. More than that, they have to realize why their long-term affair was such a horrible thing; they should be honestly remorseful and willing to atone.

Full Responsibility Must Be Taken

Secondly, the cheater has to own their mistake and not blame anyone else. In the end, they were the ones who committed the crime. But they are not the only ones. Despite being hurt, the betrayed spouse must also realize that there were problems with the marriage that likely fueled the fire for an affair.

You Find Someone To Guide You

If you have decided to rebuild your relationship together, then infidelity therapy or couples counseling should be non-negotiable. Having a therapist on your side ensures that everyone is understood and heard. They can provide a safe place to speak freely and promote transparency between you and your partner.

Can You Forgive a Long Term Affair?

Underlying Struggles Have To Be Addressed

In therapy, you can discuss more than infidelity—though that is a huge component. The emotions connected to the betrayal, issues within the marriage, such as a lack of communication, unexpressed desires, and needs, substance abuse, or past traumas can be addressed. Once these issues are on the table, you may find it in your heart to forgive your partner for their actions.

Starting Over Together

Finally, you reach a point where you are ready to restart the relationship. You can do this by investing time together in a new hobby or going on a retreat for married couples, for example. You can use this time to build a better, stronger relationship. Some couples even step away from infidelity with bonds much healthier than before.


Surviving a long-term affair is emotionally taxing and puts cracks in the foundation of your relationship. But that doesn’t mean your marriage is over. Whoever is involved in such an affair never walks away from it the same. However, this doesn’t have to be negative. Sometimes affairs can bolster relationships when the partners decide to work through it together.

Couples Academy can help you strengthen your connection. Designed by marriage counselors and an infidelity recovery specialist, Couples Academy is an in-depth and comprehensive service that anyone in a relationship can use. With Couples Academy, you will do more than survive an affair, you will thrive.