One in three Americans have admitted to cheating on their partners. Of those who had cheated, 24 percent also reported admitting the details of the affair to their partner. The results can be emotionally devastating.
It is possible for a relationship to survive and to rebuild the trust between a couple after infidelity. However, complete honesty and hard work from both partners are essential.
For those whose relationships have been rocked by infidelity, answered below are some of the most common questions about rebuilding your relationship. This information can provide extra guidance and help to point you in the right direction.
Table of Contents
(click on a question to be directed quickly)
Can you overcome infidelity through counseling?
How do I help my spouse trust me again?
How long will my partner be mad at me for cheating?
What should I not do to save my marriage after an infidelity?
Is it true that some marriages become stronger after an infidelity?
How do I earn forgiveness for cheating?
How do I win back my partner after cheating on them?
Should I tell my partner about my infidelity? What should I tell them?
How long does it take for a marriage to survive infidelity?
Can You Overcome Infidelity Through Counseling?
Attending regular therapy sessions is often one of the most effective ways to repair a relationship after infidelity. Both individual therapy and couples counseling are useful in these situations.
Individual therapy is good for both the individual who was unfaithful and the individual who was cheated on. These one-on-one sessions can help each person to understand why they chose to have an affair or why they responded to the news about the affair in a particular way.
Couples counseling is also beneficial. It can give both you and your partner the tools you need to strengthen your bond and save your marriage.
Discernment counseling is also another option if you are considering ending a relationship but are not yet sure. Even if you ultimately decide to separate (infidelity may be the cause of 20 percent of divorce), attending couples counseling can help you and your spouse to have a more amicable divorce. This protects you and other family members from additional harm. Plus, you don’t need to be a married couple to consider Couples Counseling; dating couples also benefit.
Seek the guidance of a professional that has been trained and educated in dealing with mental health conditions. Psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists are some of the professionals that have specialized knowledge and skills that are essential for constructing a mental health care plan.
Our previous article on picking a good therapist covered several factors to look out for when seeking professional help, including expertise and credentials. Knowing how to form a team of trusted, qualified professionals will lead to a superior quality of treatment, and increase your chances for a successful recovery.
How Do I Help My Spouse Trust Me Again?
It’s normal for the betrayed spouse to have trouble trusting their partner again after infidelity. Even if they have technically forgiven their partner, the healing process takes a long time for most people.
When rebuilding trust with your spouse or partner after infidelity, you should avoid contact with your affair partner. Delete their cell phone number, stay away from their social media accounts, and prove to your partner that you’re no longer going to pursue a relationship with that person.
Trust is going to take a long time to slowly earn back. It comes though many good decisions on your part, including doing your own therapy to discover the reasons why you cheated.
How Long Will My Partner Be Mad at Me for Cheating?
When contemplating the effects of infidelity and your partner’s healing, it’s important to remember that many people experience post-traumatic stress after experiencing infidelity. In fact, according to this study published by the journal Stress and Health, more than 45 percent of participants showed signs of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) after their partner was unfaithful.
There is no one-size-fits-all timeline for your partner to forgive you and heal from an affair. Everyone grieves in their own way and works through trauma at their own pace.
Some people may take a few weeks or months to get over their feelings of anger and hurt, whereas others may take years before they can fully forgive and move forward. Some may never stop being angry at all, in which case you may need to end the relationship altogether.
To some degree, your partner may always be upset about your infidelity. There is no guarantee that your partner will no longer be mad about it. That is something that you must keep in mind when developing expectations for each other moving forward.
What Should I Not Do to Save My Marriage After Infidelity?
Everyone’s healing is different. In general, though, some actions should be avoided at all costs after infidelity.
For example, you should not lie to your spouse or partner. You must be completely honest and forthcoming about your actions.
If you keep secrets, gradually drip out information and intimate details over a long period, it will be harder for your partner to heal and feel that they can trust you.
Being defensive or placing blame on your spouse or partner isn’t helpful to the relationship, either.
Your partner has a right to be hurt, sad, and angry after finding out that you were unfaithful. Pushing them to brush their feelings under the rug or forgive you before they’re ready will likely backfire.
Is It True That Some Marriages Become Stronger After Infidelity?
Some marriages do get stronger after infidelity. It takes a lot of work to get to this point, though.
When the couple works with a licensed professional, such as a marriage and family therapist, and both partners put in the effort to understand the other, rebuild trust, and repair the damage caused by the affair, they can recover and come out stronger on the other end.
How Do I Earn Forgiveness for Cheating?
It’s not enough to shower your partner with love and affections after infidelity. Sometimes, this can even make your partner feel worse instead of better.
Acknowledging what you’ve done wrong, cutting off contact with your affair partner (or partners), and committing to repair the relationship are all better steps to take to earn forgiveness.
Relationship recovery also takes consistent effort on your part moving forward. You need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
How Do I Win Back My Partner After Cheating on Them?
Honesty and a willingness to admit what you did wrong (without defensiveness or excuses) can go a long way when it comes to winning back your partner.
Working with a therapist or counselor is also helpful. They can help you gain a deeper understanding of why you were unfaithful and give you the tools you need to be a better partner so that infidelity doesn’t happen again.
Should I Tell My Partner About My Infidelity? What Should I Tell Them?
Most experts agree that it is best to be honest and tell your partner about your infidelity, particularly if you are committed to staying married and genuinely want to make the relationship work.
Explain to them that you were unfaithful, and expound upon why you made the decisions you made. When you’re doing this, be careful not to make excuses for yourself or shift blame onto someone else. Take responsibility for your actions and accept that there will be consequences.
How Long Does It Take for a Marriage to Survive Infidelity?
According to the Infidelity Recovery Institute, the average recovery time for a relationship and a spouse to heal after an affair is around 18 months.
The actual timeline for your relationship could be longer or shorter, though. It depends on a lot of factors, like the type of affair (emotional, physical, etc.), the duration of the affair, the number of partners with whom you were unfaithful, etc.
Amato, P. R., & Previti, D. (2003). People’s Reasons for Divorcing: Gender, Social Class, the Life Course, and Adjustment. Journal of Family Issues, 24(5), 602–626. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X03254507
Roos, L. G., O’Connor, V., Canevello, A., & Bennett, J. M. (2019). Post‐traumatic stress and psychological health following infidelity in unmarried young adults. Stress and health, 35(4), 468-479.
Infidelity Recovery Institute: Affair Recovery Timeline
Written By: Natalie T.
Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, LMFT
Last Updated : 04/18/2023
Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives. We do this through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. Inspired by this, we write content for your own education. Also, our content is researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals. However, the information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, it should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.