Can a relationship recover from an affair? I am often asked that, usually by someone in tears at the time of the asking. The answer is simple: maybe. The first condition that must be met in order for a relationship to heal is to see if both partners want it. It takes a great deal of work to bring a relationship back to a healthy place. If you are not ready to put in that work, then, no, it cannot recover. That conversation, when both partners have to be honest about their answers, can be quite difficult. If the answer is half-hearted or forced, then it will not work.
Another condition that must be met is that whoever had the affair must give up the girlfriend/boyfriend. Now that may be obvious, but you would be surprised how many people are reluctant to give up the new person. They may have strong feelings for the new person. Or perhaps they are just hedging their bets in case the marriage doesn’t work out. But, as long as the new person is in the picture, the marriage does not stand a chance.
Once the first two conditions are dealt with, then comes the next stage. Both parties have to admit to guilt. You may be saying, “Wait a minute! Why should the one who didn’t have the affair admit to any guilt?!” Both partners created the dynamic that allowed for the affair. Both people helped to form a relationship that lacked communication or intimacy or perhaps even fun. Therefore both partners have to admit to what was created and work on fixing those areas. In all honesty, the one who cheated may have more apologizing or perhaps a longer period of apologizing, but both need to spend some time in this process.
As the couple is working on the issues that brought them to this point, they also have to work on building trust again. The person who cheated must realize that most probably their emails and phone activity will be examined thoroughly, as will any credit card usage. It is to be expected. After a while, as time passes with no new incidents, this will fade. But it does take time. In the meantime, expect that you will be checked on, often.
Another important part of the healing process is to begin to have fun together again, to remember why you became a couple in the first place. This is the time to go on dates, to create some happy times and memories again.
There are more steps, but these are some of the biggies. Each journey is as unique as the couples who undertake them. The bottom-line is, yes, marriages can recover, IF you are willing to do the work.