surviving an affair and rebuilding trust in a marriage
An extra marital affair ruins a relationship. It takes away the most important aspect of a marriage, which is trust. It could be an emotional infidelity or a physical affair or a just a fling that lasted a few months, but after that everything in a marriage goes topsy turvy. A partner is left grappling with betrayal after an affair. At that point surviving an affair and reinstating trust in a relationship become the hardest things to achieve.
Can you survive an affair? Yes you can but rebuilding trust is a tough job. You not only need to help your spouse to heal from your betrayal, you need to do a lot of soul searching after infidelity. There are stages of coping with infidelity and going through those stages can prove to be painful.
When you see the distrust in your partner’s eyes after every call you get, every text you smile at or you are late in getting home for 20 minutes, it could make you feel awful. But to survive an affair and reinstate trust in a relationship you have to go through the stages and then only you can bring back normalcy to the relationship.
What Percentage Of Marriages Survive An Affair?
It’s hard to say exactly what percentage of marriages survive an affair. It is probably easier to say how many head for a divorce.
If a marriage will survive cheating or not depends a lot on the culture and social set up of a country. In the US, Institute of Family studies conducted a survey titled: Who Cheats More? The Demographics of Infidelity in America among 441 respondents where 20% married men and 13% married women admitted to cheating 1.
The percentage that broke up immediately after cheating was 54.5%. So the divorce statistics after infidelity is more than 50%. Only 15% couples survived an affair and got on with the marriage.
The scenario is different in India though. According to a survey2 conducted by the Gleeden App for married people it became clear that 77% women in India cheat because of their boring married lives. But the divorce rate in India is as low as 1% . In India out of 1000 marriages only 13 result in divorce
So statistics prove that most marriages in India survive an affair.
This is because despite the changing times, divorce is the last option. Also women, who are not financially independent or do not have a support system find it hard to walk out of a marriage. In that case the marriage survives.
Another thing is in India in a marriage two families are involved. When an extra marital affair happens sometimes the families try to straighten out the issues so that the marriage won’t break.
12 Steps To Reinstate Love And Trust In A Marriage After An Affair
Now the pertinent question is how to fix a marriage after infidelity? This is a question that’s uppermost in people’s mind after an affair. And going by the statistics in India marriages do survive an affair more often and divorce isn’t that common.
But rebuilding trust in a marriage after an affair is not an easy job. Sometimes the foundation of the marriage continues to remain shaky but how much a marriage will be restored depends on how much effort a couple is willing to put in.
Shikha Misra, a Canada-based college professor, (name changed) who is trying to rebuild trust after her husband’s affair says, “The first instinct you will have is not to trust him anymore. You will jump to check his phone and if he is an hour late from work you start doubting where he actually was. It’s very, very hard to trust again and it’s a time taking process.”
So when an affair happens the initial recovery is still possible but going back to a healthy relationship where only love and trust prevails is hard work.
Related Reading: 10 Common Marriage Reconciliation Mistakes To Avoid After Infidelity
Psychotherapist Dr Neeru Kanwar says, “Out of every 10 couples that came to me say in 2000, I would say, 4 would have come because there was an extra marital affair to reckon with. If you talk about the current situation, it is 7 out of every 10 couples. A lot of extramarital affairs are developing at workplaces and because both husband and wife are working, these cases are more.”
The psychotherapist says when couples come to her to straighten out their marriage after an affair, “My focus is to try and have their attention on their emotional needs that are not being met and that would lead to a clearer articulation of one’s emotional needs to the partner and also greater understanding of where your partner is coming from.”
But if you take these 12 steps it is possible to fix a marriage after infidelity.
1. For surviving an affair, both spouses have to be willing
A marriage cannot survive an affair unless both spouses are willing to put in their 100 percent to heal it. The partners should be sure that they want to stay with each other and work on the relationship to bring it back from the brink.
There has to be a renewed commitment to make the relationship work and a lot of extra effort needs to be put in for that. Couple who survived infidelity would tell you that double commitment is needed to recover from an affair.
For instance the spouse who has cheated should make the extra effort to keep the partner posted about their whereabouts. This is the first step to show that you are trying to come clean and rebuild trust in the relationship.
2. See a relationship expert
Many people go to a marriage counselor as a last attempt at restoring their marriage after infidelity. But in our opinion seeing a marriage counselor at the very beginning when the affair has been unearthed and has given a bad blow to the marriage, is the sensible thing to do.
The counselor could help in processing the negative feelings and get to the bottom of the issues in the marriage. The counselor could guide the couple in the right direction that would help in rebuilding the marriage after infidelity.
3. Sort out the issues in the marriage
Sometimes a marriage has issues that we don’t even realize when we are going about our daily lives. Rees and Mac (name changed) got so comfortable in their 16-year-old marriage that they completely ignored the fact that sex had ceased to be a part of their marriage for years.
Simply put, they had a sexless marriage. They were busy handling a family, jobs, children, parents and never paid heed to their own physical and emotional needs. They never realised because of the lack of physical intimacy, despite sharing the same bed every night, how they had drifted apart. It was only when Rees had an affair with an office colleague this reality came to the fore.
This kind of issues should be looked into with more clarity. Psychologist Kavita Panyam says, “After an affair you first need to establish trust, then become friends and then only you can get back to physical intimacy. You need to give this process the time it needs.”
4. Don’t involve too many people in the issue
The one big mistake that many couples make is talking about the affair to too many people that include relatives and friends. This often results in people asking uneasy questions and interfering in the marriage. This could have a worse effect especially when a couple is trying to recover from the affair and start afresh.
So it’s best to keep the whole thing under wraps. If you need to share do it with really trustworthy people who will not judge you in future.
Related Reading: What Are The Consequences Of Affairs Between Married Couples?
5. Stop the blame game
When an affair happens it is inevitable one spouse will blame the other and vice versa. Blame-shifting is natural and frequent fights would lead to mudslinging.
One feels like releasing the frustration by saying hurtful things. But the first step to surviving the affair is to stop the blame game.
Why the affair happened? Who was responsible for it? These things should be a thing of the past. Rebuilding marriage after infidelity should be about looking at the future.
You should look at the future where rebuilding the trust and restoring the marriage should be your prime focus. Do your soul searching after infidelity but our advice would be to look forward instead of looking back.
6. Be completely honest
The onus of building trust falls on the cheating partner. A good way of doing that could be to hand over passwords to social media accounts, email and phone to the partner to show your willingness to prove that nothing will be amiss anymore. This goes a long way to help you survive an affair.
Both partners should be honest about how they feel after the affair and should not refrain from communicating honestly when something irks them. But that should be done in a mature way.
7. Rebuild communication
It is often because of a breakdown of communication between spouses that leads to more complications. Sue could understand her husband David (names changed) was having an emotional affair but it took her 8 months to confront him.
Although they had their dinners together and the customary TV time after that on the living-room couch but there were so many times Sue refrained from telling David what she really felt about his obsession with the phone.
She now feels that if she had communicated her true feelings 8 months back things would not have come to this point. Rebuilding and improving communication is also an important aspect of rebuilding trust. Couples need to communicate their feelings constantly to rebuild trust and survive an affair.
8. Recreate the relationship
The only positive side of an affair is it helps couples to understand who they are and how they can deal with adversity. There is no denying the fact that betrayal hits you in the face.
But going back to the past and recreating the relationship can help in surviving an affair.
You can go to the same coffee shop that you frequented before, organize family trips with the kids or just go for movies together. Start redoing the things that you always cherished.
9. Do away with the resentment
When an affair ends and even when the partner pledges his or her absolute commitment to the relationship a certain level of resentment stays on.
The anger, hurt, jealousy, rage that you initially felt after discovering about the affair takes the form of a lingering resentment. For you to survive the affair, you need to let go of the resentment and anger.
That’s when you need to focus on all the good things about your partner and the positive sides of your relationship. It will help in processing that feeling of resentment.
10. Heal yourself first
For a marriage to survive an affair it is very important that both spouses should heal themselves first. The spouse who cheated will have their own set of negative emotions to deal with while the person who feels betrayed need to process their emotions too.
While the cheater needs to battle with his guilt, the person cheated on battles trust issues. Going on a lone holiday is a good way to find clarity in thoughts and to heal.
After realizing what you feel and how you want to take the relationship forward can you only start on rebuilding trust and restoring the marriage.
11. Stop looking back
This is easier said than done. But try to start the relationship as a new chapter in your life. You must be having your reasons for giving the relationship a second chance that could be the love and bonding that still exists or your children or the need to be together and not move out of the comfort zone.
Whatever it is you need to look ahead and be positive about where you want the relationship to go. Looking back would only increase the hurt and resentment.
Rebuilding your marriage after infidelity is only possible if you stop looking back and keep on thinking of what happened and why it happened.
12. Never rake up the affair
There would be arguments, fights and nasty situations but you have to make it a point to never rake up the affair if you want your marriage to survive. Your effort is to move on and not keep accusing your partner about what had happened. This is a strict no-no.
Some relationships don’t have a chance after an affair and in that case it is best to opt for a divorce and move out of the marriage. Take our divorce checklist help to be sure. But if a couple feels that they could give their marriage a second chance and it can survive an affair, then they should seriously think and make the requisite effort together. Remember, a marriage is always a team effort and you have to put in double the effort as a team for it to survive an affair.