“My spouse cheated, is my marriage over?” Dr. Fillmore answers

Many of you have told us that you’ve been impacted by some sort of infidelity and you reached out to us at StrongMarriageNow.com to ask for help.  On our webinar, “5 Secrets to Save Your Marriage.” Dr. Fillmore addressed that very concern.

The most common questions you asked about affairs were: “Is my marriage over?”  “What can I do to save my marriage?” and you asked lots of questions about inappropriate “friendships.”  Got another question, Ask us by commenting below or contact us directly!

Here are the answers to your questions:

“My spouse cheated, Is my marriage over?”  “What can I do to save my marriage?”

Well, this one’s complicated, but interestingly, a marriage can not only be saved after an affair but it can actually get a lot better with some work.  I don’t want to minimize how painful the betrayal and loss of trust caused by an affair can be. And it happens to a lot of marriages, in fact 50% of marriages are impacted by some sort of infidelity at some point in the marriage. But if the couple decides to stay together and work on it, finding out why their relationship was vulnerable in the first place and then fixing it can actually lead to a stronger, happier marriage.  If you find you’re in this situation and you’re not sure what to do, I recommend following six steps to save your marriage.

  1. Understand that it’s about meeting each other’s emotional needs. Research shows that 95% of affairs are caused by one or both parties feeling as if they are not understood, appreciated and/or loved. It’s not actually about the sex. Affairs are about feeling connected, wanted and meeting core emotional needs. One or both members of the couple need to stop getting these needs met outside the marriage and instead rely on each other to meet them.
  2. You have to stop the infidelity in order to move forward with the marriage. The partner that had the indiscretion must stop having anything to do with the person that they’re seeing outside the marriage. The type of contact that must stop includes face-to-face meetings, email, phone, Facebook, chat or anything else. You can only move forward in the marriage if the affair is totally in the past and stays there.
  3. Both members of the couple must accept some responsibility. This is a hard one for people.  But, both members of the couple must recognize that they are both responsible for the state of their marriage. When the marriage has significant issues, it is vulnerable to an affair. Please note, those of you who have not been impacted by an affair yet. Let me repeat, any marriage that has significant problems is vulnerable to an affair.  Accepting some of the responsibility is typically extremely difficult for the injured party to understand but is essential in order to move forward. One of you may have stepped over the line but because both of you were not connecting and meeting each other’s needs, the marriage was vulnerable.
  4. Give the injured party time to heal. The injured party will need time to recover from the hurt and lack of trust that the infidelity caused and the partner that engaged in the affair needs to be generous with the time it takes to recover. Trust must be earned back.  The goal of the injured party needs to be to forgive.
  5. Understand that your marriage will never be the same. But that’s a good thing because the state of the marriage caused this situation that led to the infidelity. You need to work together to create a new and better marriage and future. Like I said before, there are many marriages that end up much stronger after an affair because the couple knows how incredibly important it is to stay connected, supporting each other and strong together.
  6. Learn relationship skills to build a new strong marriage. Being in a successful marriage is a learned skill that many of us never learned from the role models around us. The good news is that the skills that make a strong relationship can be learned and that’s exactly what we dedicate ourselves to at StrongMarriageNow.com.

Bottom line, if you’re in this situation, you have to ask, can both of you commit to these steps? If so, there is hope to save your marriage. And again, if you have kids, I hope that you can both find it in your hearts to do the work.

But in answer to the original question “Is a marriage over after an affair?” Absolutley not, a marriage can be saved after an affair if you both commit to forgive, get the education you need, and to work on the marriage. In fact,  it can even be a heck of a lot better.

I’m uncomfortable with some of my partner’s “friendships.”  Am I over-reacting?

Many people find themselves in this situation.  Some of you have said “My husband spends a lot of time with another woman.”  “My wife is really close with her male co-worker.”  “They say they’re just friends, but I’m worried.”

If you find find yourself in this situation, the answer is: when you are married you should never be close friends with someone of the opposite sex who is not just as close to your spouse.  The reason this matters we covered above is that most affairs start because emotional needs aren’t being met in the marriage.  So if a spouse is going to another person to get their emotional needs met, it’s very difficult to get those needs met in the marriage.  This behavior can put your marriage in extreme jeopardy.

Be very careful with these situations and do your best to nip the relationships in the bud before things get out of control.

Hope you found the answers to these questions helpful.  If you would like to have any of your questions on the next webinar sign up today for our upcoming "5 Secrets to Save Your Marriage" Webinar.

"5 Secrets to Save Your Marriage"

Feeling stuck? Want to save your marriage but aren't sure how? Register for our FREE "5 Secrets to Save Your Marriage" Webinar and you'll discover:
  • The answer to "Can my marriage be saved?" Dr. Dana Fillmore will tell you how almost any marriage can be saved even if you’re the only one working on it
  • 4 Relationship Myths that are probably getting in your way – Believing in these myths can actually prevent you from saving your marriage
  • How to avoid common mistakes you may be making in your marriage. Did you know that most people’s attempts to save their marriage fail?
  • The most important thing you need to do to save your marriage – And you’ll be surprised it’s practical and easy to apply for almost everyone
  • Clear, straightforward steps that you can take immediately to get your marriage on track
Register Now for 5 Secrets to Save Your Marriage

If you’d like to learn Marriage Success Skills to save your marriage and join the thousands who have come back from the brink, check out the StrongMarriageNow System.

Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart,StrongMarriageNow.com

  1. Peter Boudreau says:

    I still foolishly hope. She left 7 months ago after our 36-year marriage and 3 grown kids. She lives with him in another province. He was also married with 3 grown kids when they had their affair which started online. She left after a couple clandestine meets with him and after a 2-3 month online affair. In those 7 months he has left her twice and came back to her both times - couldn't live in sin - he's very religious apparently although I'm told he cheated on his wife for 20 years with different women. One more thing, my wife knew this fellow 44 years ago when she was 14 years old - he was her first boyfriend and took her virginity she told me before she left. After 36 years it's like I've lost a big piece of myself and I would take her back in a heartbeat - how foolish is that? So, tell me, is this situation not hopeless? I don't contact her unless I have to, usually about our kids. One of those 2 times that he left her she asked me if I wanted to try and work on our marriage but she changed her mind when he came back to her. I couldn't say yes to her at that time anyway since she told me that she loved him more than me. I still wait and hope for the day he leaves her again or she leaves him and asks me again to try and work on our marriage. If that never happens, it'll take me a long time to get over this and to be a happy person again. I'm not a very strong person. How can I try to win her back while she's living with him - doesn't seem right for me to try under these circumstances. - - - Still hurtin' in Canada.

    • Sorry to hear that you're suffering from this painful situation. Dr. Fillmore answered the questions "Can your marriage be saved" and "How to Know When to Call it Quits" in an article on our blog. I think this will help you make your decision on what to do. Check it out here

      • Peter Boudreau says:

        Thank you Ms Barnhart. My head says it's over, my heart says never give up. I think maybe all I need is more time to accept it. Eight months of pain, hurt and longing is obviously not long enough. I can't believe I still want her after what she (they) did to me (and I do accept my part in it - in that I took her for granted etc). Just never thought she could ever do something like this, especially after she berated other women in the past for doing exactly what she ended up doing herself. Infidelity, especially after such a long time together, is definitely the most painful experience I've ever had in my 60 years on this planet. How can someone who professes to love another, inflict such a cruel, heartless, act on another. I thought I knew her, I guess I didn't. I've rambled on enough here. Thanks again for this site and the empathetic ear. Time is the great healer they say, I hope they know what they're talking about. It will take me years to heal if ever I figure. Thanks once more.

        • I hear you Peter. Thanks for your comment. The empathetic ear is definitely hearing you.... Hopefully at some point, you can get to a place where you can forgive her and forgive yourself for the situation. One thing that may be helpful to you to think about is a great quote about forgiveness: "Forgiveness is letting go of the hope of a better past." The fact is you can't change the past at this point but you can work towards letting it go and moving forward with your life. The best you can do is to learn from the situation and make healthy choices for yourself going forward. Wishing you the best as you heal.

  2. I am one of the victims. I am glad you acknowledge the pain that would go through the broken heart ( infidelity). I am working hard to reconciliation, and forgive but my wife wants to move on without even talking about it. i believe she regrets but that want heal the problem.
    Anyways i will try to share the 6 things you mentioned to convince her that it is possible.
    I will come back to you after her reaction.

    • I congratulate you for investing in and working on your marriage despite the painful situation. Please keep in mind that being happily married is a learned skill. I encourage you both to learn the marriage success skills that Dr. Fillmore teaches. We recently posted a replay of our teleseminar on "5 Secrets to Save Your Marriage." Dr. Fillmore talks a lot about saving your marriage after an affair. I think this would be very useful for you and your wife. It'll only be available until Friday, 2/4/11. Listen now to "5 Secrets to Save Your Marriage"

  3. N. Darlene Tataryn says:

    What a wonderful website...I appreciate the directness, the perspectives taken, the learning...and... the fact you make this available.


  4. why is it so hard for mens to forgive in a relationship? Especially if they haven't done everything they need to do with family but can see the other person faults so easy but can't see their faults?

    • In answer to your question, people who have a hard time forgiving are typically hurt and scared themselves. That feeling of hurt and fear can make them feel defensive and angry, which makes it harder to connect over a painful situation. One thing that can help improve the situation is when a partner feels truly heard and understood. We've got an article I think you'll find useful: How to Improve Your Communication Another thing to be aware of is that no one likes to feel shamed or criticized, especially men. Shaming a man can make them withdraw and avoid you and the whole topic. Try this communication tip and see if it helps you get through this painful situation.

  5. I have been married for 11 yrs. I have 3 children. One 18 yr old by a previouse marriage and two 8 yr olds by my husband now. I have been the one to sin. I moved out 7 months ago. I am still seeing my long time friend but I do miss my husband and my family. My oldest son and my husband have NEVER gotten along (that has made our relationship very difficult). I know I have really hurt my husband and my kids. (the twins), I want my family back!! I just don't know if he would after what I have done and how he feels. I want to work out our marriage, I am also concerend on how my oldest will react. I don't think he will ever speak to me again. I pray about it but I feel like the lord is so ashamed of me he won't answer my prayers to give me any answers. How do I get my marriage back with out loosing my son? Will he even take me back?

    • Hello - I can tell you that a marriage can be saved after an affair and we're committed to helping people just like you save their marriages. I don't know if he'll take you back but if you truly desire your family and marriage back, I recommend you take action and do what you can. Did you read the six steps in this article? Following these steps are the best way to recover from an affair and rebuild your marriage. In a few days, we're going to be announcing a free teleseminar "5 Secrets to Save Your Marriage" that I believe will be very helpful to you. We held it in January and it was very well received. Be sure to signup for our email list (at the top right of this page) and you'll get the announcement of the teleseminar. My heart goes out to you and your family!

  6. Hello, my wife and I have been together for nearly 30 years and in March just gone, celebrated our 25th Anniversary. We live in Australia. We have 3 children (19, 21 and 23), the youngest recently (July last year) went to the States on a baseball scholarship. It was at this time my wife had an affair overseas in Bali while holidaying with a girlfriend of hers. Some people have suggested this is a case of empty nest syndrome, which I don't believe. 12 years ago my wife separated from me because she was having an Internet relationship with someone from North Carolina. I asked My Wife, what went wrong for you to do this to our relationship. Was it something i did or didn't do in our relationship. I am told by My Wife, that it was nothing that I did and that I have always put Her and our kids before Myself. My Wife says it was something that was very foolish she did and she would understand if left her buy hoped that I wouldn't. I have read the above steps and and we are trying to work things thru. But the hurt and pain is still there. We normally can't talk about this situation as she wants to put it in the past, which I can understand. When she has had a couple of drinks ( not drunk ) she relaxes and we can talk about it. At no point have I got angry and yelled and screamed. The trust has been severely damage thru lies and deceit when I originally asked had she been with another man. I want to spend the rest of my life with her, but how can I trust her?

  7. james fletcher says:

    i, too was a victim of infidelity, as my ex- wife was going to bed with 5 different men! i was taking a marriage counseling course when i realized i was the only one working on our marriage, so i told her to "get-out!" she left & my 3 kids,ages 16/16/ & 14, went with her! Then i found out the truth! i never said a bad word about her to my kids& i had taught them that she was the only Mom they wil ever hav! i left myself out, & it cost me, as they didnt know the truth, but i left ALL of the past BEHIND me,& went on with my life, & i prayed for about a year fo God to send a Christian woman to me, & he Did & i married her, so get on with your life & pray & God Will send u someone- in His own time!

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