Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

When to Save a Marriage and Surviving Infidelity

At Affair Recovery, we're committed to helping people heal as individuals and couples. But how does one know whether it's worth the effort, pain and commitment to pursue restoration?

Before couples attend our EMS Weekend or take one of our online courses, I'm often asked: "When is it worth the effort to work things out, and when is it best to just move on?" It's an excellent question, so how do you begin answering it? Dr. Laura Schlessinger talks about the three A's as reasons to end a marriage: abuse, addiction and affairs.

In these circumstances, the betrayer has chosen something other than the marriage, and I fully agree with this concept. The betrayal of a marriage is no small matter, and surviving infidelity is not easy. For many, infidelity is the most devastating and painful event in their lives; however, leaving a marriage after an affair to escape the pain and loss of self-respect is not always the answer. It is possible that, in a strange way, the crisis created by the betrayal might provide the right environment for healthy change.

Recognizing and Understanding Your Baggage

There's an old saying: "Those who fail to learn from their past mistakes are destined to repeat them." It's true. There is no action that either spouse could have committed that would justify any of the three A's. At the same time, no person is guiltless. Don't take what I just said and go verbally beat your spouse with it. The point is to look at your personal failures and not just your mate's.

We all bring our own personal baggage into a marriage and, unlike with airlines, it never gets lost in transit. It will always arrive at our next relationship. Before abandoning ship, we recommend discovering the nature of your personal baggage and how it has contributed to the problems in your marriage. This is a key process in surviving infidelity. The answers that each of you discover may well provide motivations for reconciling your marriage.

We all bring our own personal baggage into a marriage and, unlike with airlines, it never gets lost in transit. It will always arrive at our next relationship.

Determining Whether to Reconcile or Move On

One of the first signposts in determining whether you should reconcile a marriage after an affair is the unfaithful spouse's initial response. They need to display a strong willingness to do whatever it takes to move toward health and recovery. If they're not willing to be honest and stop their hurtful behaviors or inappropriate relationships, then the chances of saving the marriage become questionable.

We suggest that betrayed spouses give wayward spouses a short season to see whether they will come back. If they don't, then it's time for the betrayed to move on. The wayward partner needs to truly grieve over what they did to their mate and the pain they caused them. Without this remorse and reflection, moving past infidelity becomes much more difficult. We're not saying it's hopeless, but it will be a very challenging road.

Taking the Time to Properly Decide

Another thing to consider is timing. It's difficult to make sound decisions when we're emotional. At the initial impact of the revelation of a betrayal, it's difficult to know whether it's worth the effort to save the marriage. When dealing with infidelity, the pain and trauma for both partners can override any sense of reason.

Additionally, it's impossible to tell how one's mate is going to respond over the first 12 months. The betrayed spouse may find themselves on an emotional roller coaster for as long as 18 months. While 18 months is not that long, it can feel like an eternity to the couple going through its ups and downs. The ride does get less intense as the process goes on, but it can feel as if it will go on forever in the beginning. The more time you allow for emotions to subside and reason to rule, the better your chances will be of making a sound decision after an affair.

During this initial process, it's key that both mates receive the proper support to care for themselves, their relationship and to minimize any further damage. To simply rough it out on your own will not only exhaust you mentally and emotionally, but it will also cause additional collateral damage to your marriage.

The more time you allow for emotions to subside and reason to rule, the better your chances will be of making a sound decision after an affair.

Considering the Good and Bad

One of the simple factors in deciding whether to reconcile a marriage is past history. If at least 10% of the marital history was positive, then the probabilities of a positive outcome and surviving infidelity increase significantly. Of course, it may be difficult to be honest about the marital history.

The pain of the betrayal might cloud judgment when considering the positives in the past. Often, all the betrayed spouse can see are the failures — not the successes. At the same time, it's not uncommon for the unfaithful spouse to rewrite the marital history and eliminate all the good times in order to justify their actions. I encourage both mates to try to honestly look at the reality of their history. If it was good at some point in the past, then it's possible for it to be good again in the future.

There are also some more common reasons for trying to salvage a marriage, such as finances, children and shared history. In reality, one of the main reasons for saving a marriage is because it's worth it, not only for yourself but also for those around you. At the point of revelation, there is often little or no perceived value in the marriage but, whether you see it or not, there is value in saving your relationship. It is worth it.

But there's one reason that trumps all the others: When God tells you the path you need to take, then that path doesn't need to make sense. It's our belief at Affair Recovery that if there is a clear sense from God that you should work on the marriage, then you must absolutely work on the marriage. In our private practices of marriage and infidelity-specific counseling, me and the other counselors frequently ask our clients, "What is God telling you?" Interestingly, many of them have a clear sense of what they are being told. In those situations, we believe following that path is the most important course of action. If you don't have a clear answer, please wait to take action until you do.

I encourage both mates to try to honestly look at the reality of their history. If it was good at some point in the past, then it's possible for it to be good again in the future.

Taking the Next Steps in Surviving Infidelity

Again, although it is very possible, surviving infidelity is a long journey. I've only begun to touch on some of the issues that arise when couples consider whether to save their marriages. If you're a wayward spouse and need help with how to begin your recovery journey, I hope you'll consider our Hope for Healing course. This 17-week course is designed for wayward spouses to heal, develop empathy and recover after infidelity.

If you're struggling with the decision of whether to continue this marriage, consider participating in our free First Steps Bootcamp. This seven-day bootcamp can help you determine whether it's worth it to fight for your marriage, and it also discusses what that recovery would take. In just a week, you'll gain the tools needed to make an informed decision about whether to start anew on your individual recovery or together as a couple.

Registration for EMS Online Opens Soon!
Alongside an intimate group of other couples and a trained Group Leader, EMS Online is a safe space for you and your mate to heal after infidelity. In 13 weeks, you’ll gain the tools and guidance needed to transform your pain and restore your lives. Over the years, EMS Online has helped thousands of people, including this participant:

"EMS Online saved our marriage. I was going to leave and was searching for divorce lawyers when an Affair Recovery video appeared in my feed. Before then, I had no clue that reconciliation was an option after an affair.” — EMSO Alumnus, Canada

Don't wait to kick-start your healing journey! To snag a spot in future sessions of this life-changing, small group course, subscribe to registration notifications using the button below.

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Wife won’t recommit after her affair

We’d had problems over many years,I was unfaithful she was too,as she admitted to a friend,we nearly split a couple of times,but we started a music duo together,6 years ago,it got us closer,and in april 2019,we committed to moving abroad for her health mainly,she has Psioratic Arthiritis,and needed warmer climate,,we were to gig and have a wonderful easy life.

We had a tough 5 months selling our home,emptying it and moving for 9 weeks in a box room with 4 dogs at her sisters,we also started getting organised and buying this house.moved here oct 2019,and struggled with red tape and transition pereira language barrier etc,,I got a bit depressed with slow progress,missing my Gigging,,then out the blue,she started an affair with a friend of mine she had gone hiking with,,I was shocked,he wasn’t particularly attractive,and I that were ok just a bit frustrated at slow progress.

Anyway they continued on and off for 8 months,she moved out for a few months,she moved back reluctantly for financial reasons,but stated she never wants to reconcile with me,I have tried my best to do the 3+1 Strategy and we are getting on great,spending some time,learning spanish,spending some quality time,but every time we have a good day,she always spoils it by saying “Don’t get the wrong idea !! And my heart sinks,,,she says my improvement to myself is too little too late,has stated age difference,and different levels of growth in ourselves mentally,and interests my weight etc as reasons she cannot “Love me like that” ever again,,we are simply co habiting as friends,but tbh,I don’t not want to witness her move in,with yet another guy,,I’m gutted I just want her to try.


It has been a year and a half since d-day. I still look at pictures during the time affair was going on and try to figure how he can look so happy and content. Too me it shows me that he can be two different people and it makes me
Question myself how would I know again of this happened. He tries to tell
Me it’s separate. I can’t comprehend that. I have take. Some
Pictures down so that I don’t have to look at them everyday. I can’t imagine ever feeling differently.

I’m sorry but I’m

I’m sorry but I’m disappointed in this video. I look forward to Wednesday’s videos and listen to them repeatedly.
Why does the cheater need so much care? I’m an empathetic and don’t get that. After all we’ve been thru why do we need to be concerned with their self absorbed shame?
Also why so little of the marital past needs to be positive to go thru this hell?

Is it infidelity?

Three years ago, my husband took a job that required him to work 8 hours away from home. Within five months I found out that he and his secretary were spending time together after work. He took her to supper and always paid for her meal. (She was also working away from home and her husband.) When I found out about their time together, I asked him to stop. I told him two things: (1) That his time with his secretary after hours bothered me, and (2) That they were both putting themselves in a situation that could be “questioned” by others. He told me he understood and that he would stop spending time with her after hours. Instead of stopping, his time with her after work continued and he started lying to me about it. He’s consistently told me that there was nothing “physical” about their friendship. However, since he knew how I felt about their time together yet continued to see her and lie to me about it, I’m having a hard time believing him. He tells me I’m overreacting and (basically) says I need to get over it. Does his behavior fall into the category of infidelity?

What if friends are hindering reconciliation?

How do you deal with friends who actively encouraged your partner to cheat? Even going so far as to set him up with his affair partner? Even though they continually badmouth me - like a little devil on his shoulder at all times - my partner refuses to cut them out of his life & makes no effort to stand up for me or our relationship. He doesn’t get that they’re like a walking, talking, 24/7 trigger for me - and that they are noticeably influencing his behaviour to the point that it is compromising our reconciliation. How do you deal with enemies of your relationship - and thus, enemies of your reconciliation?

False reconciliation

The resources on your website are very informative and helpful. However, there doesn't appear to be any information/videos on false reconciliation, where the betrayed spouse discovers the affair, only to find out that the affair was still going on a few months into recovery, which makes this even worse than the initial discovery of the affair.