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This topic is adapted from the Dana M. Fillmore, PsyD YouTube channel.

An affair doesn’t haven’t to mean the end of your marriage. With the right focus, you can save your marriage.

[Related: Affair-Proofing Your Marriage]

Infidelity is a lot more common than most might think. Half of all marriages are affected by some type of infidelity at some point in the marriage. Married couples who are willing to work through an affair and learn the root causes that led to the affair often come out with stronger, happier marriages. Here are seven steps to help you survive an affair.

#1 Stop the Infidelity

The partner who committed the indiscretion must cut all ties with the person they were seeing outside of the marriage. Get a new job, go to a new church, get a new phone number or a new social media account. Do what you must to move the affair completely into the past – and keep it there.

#2 It’s About Emotional Needs

Affairs are rarely about sex per se. Rather, they’re about getting emotional needs met. The majority of affairs are caused by one or both partners feeling misunderstood, underappreciated, or not loved. Illicit sex may be the outcome, but it’s rarely the starting point. The emotional needs of each partner must be met within the confines of marriage, not outside of it.

#3 Accept Responsibility

Both partners are responsible to some degree for the state of the marriage. This doesn’t mean the injured party drove the offending partner into the arms of another. The marriage becomes vulnerable to attack when both partners fail to connect and meet one another’s needs.

#4 Forgive

Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning bad behavior. It is about letting go of the hope of a better past (i.e., accepting the truth of what happened and dealing with the real consequences). For a relationship to heal, the healing process must end. There must be a sincere apology and there must be true forgiveness. The marriage can’t move forward otherwise.

[Related: Is Forgiveness the Same as Forgetting?]

#5 Time to Heal

The injured partner will take time to heal. The partner who engaged in the affair must be generous with the time it takes to recover. Trust must be earned back. Working together toward rebuilding the marriage is a good place to start.

#6 The Marriage Will Never Be the Same

This is a good thing because the earlier state of the marriage caused the situation that led to the infidelity. Work together to create a new, better marriage focused on the present and future, not on the past.

#7 Learn the Relationship Skills You Need

Being in a successful marriage is a learned skill. The skills that make a strong relationship can be learned.

The bottom line: if you’re in this situation, can both partners commit to these steps? If you can, there is hope to save your marriage. Especially if you have kids, do the work it takes to remain a family. A marriage can be saved if you’re willing to forgive, learn, and work. In fact, the marriage can even get better.

[Related: Warning Signs on the Edge of an Affair]

Written content for this topic by Daniel Martin.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. Are you surprised by the high rate of infidelity (50%) within marriages? Why or why not?
  4. What steps must the offending partner take to cut all ties with the person outside of the marriage? List examples that may apply to your personal situation.
  5. Do you agree that infidelity is primarily about emotional needs, not sex? Explain why or why not.
  6. What steps must you take to accept responsibility for your role in the affair?
  7. What does forgiveness look like in your situation? How can you forgive?
  8. How long do you think it will take for you to heal? If you are the offender, what must you do to be generous in this regard?
  9. Your marriage will never be the same. What does this mean for you?
  10. What relationship skills must you learn to heal and improve your marriage? How can you learn them?
  11. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.