Healing After an Affair: Has Too Much Damage Been Done?

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I think anybody who's gone through infidelity comes to the point where they ask themselves:

"Is there ever a time when there's too much damage to try and recover from?"

It's a legitimate question, and it's a completely understandable question. It's a question that a wayward spouse or a betrayed spouse feels when they're surveying the area, if you will, and wondering, "Is healing after an affair possible for us?"

When you're bombarded with messages from people who are still angry, still bitter, still upset or still struggling in their own healing or affair recovery, it's understandable to have this question. But I have to tell you: The loudest voices aren't always the most healed voices.

For the betrayed spouse, healing after an affair can be incredibly challenging when you're bombarded with messages such as:

  • "Once a cheater, always a cheater."
  • "You can never come back from this."
  • "They're guaranteed to do it again."
  • "Give up on them; they'll never change."

These messages can be endless. That's why we at Affair Recovery work so hard to put out messages of encouragement, perspective and insight that give you hope for your situation. We know every situation is radically different, but we're going to continue to give you hope for restoration — both for you as an individual and your relationship. Whether you're the betrayed spouse or the wayward spouse, we really want you to feel safe.

Additionally, I really want to answer the questions that are plaguing you as you're healing after an affair. As for the question of whether there's ever a time when too much damage has been done, here's my answer:
  • Because I come from faith, I'll say it this way: I don't think there's ever anything that God cannot heal.
  • If you don't come from faith, I'll say it this way: I don't think that there's a situation that you cannot heal from if you're willing to do the work.

Can I Come Back From This Pain?

I've seen people who've come back from situations that were absolutely devastating. To give you some examples:

  • I've seen people who've had affairs, contracted sexually transmitted diseases and still restored their marriages.
  • I've seen affair partners become pregnant and, in spite of that, the married spouses found a way to move forward, find restoration and heal.

Alternatively, I've seen situations that people could not come back from. Time and time again, I've seen where one spouse was, or both spouses were, unwilling to do the work. You're not going to get a bunch of false promises here, but I will tell you, at the core of my being:

I believe there's nothing you cannot heal from if both parties are willing to do the work.

Should I Work to Heal My Situation?

Inevitably, there comes the question of, "Are you saying that every situation should be healed?" Absolutely not. There are several instances when it would absolutely be wise for you to pull away, seek safety and reconsider whether you should save that relationship:

  • When they don't want to get help.
  • When there is abuse, be it physical, verbal or emotional.
  • When they refuse to stop acting out.

When healing after an affair, there comes a point where you have to ask yourself, "Is this situation safe for me to be in?" Only you know that answer. We can give you marker upon marker upon marker, but you have to do what you feel is right for your situation.

No matter where you're at today, I believe you can be healed if you're willing to do the work. Whether you're the wayward spouse or the betrayed spouse, restoration is absolutely possible if you commit to the work.

Why Does Everything Feel Hopeless?

The thing about pain is that it can discolor everything. When you're in pain, certainly when healing after an affair, it can discolor all the relationships around you: your job, your finances, your health, your family, etc. Pain causes you to see things so differently because you're overwhelmed.

Another thing about pain is that it zaps you of your strength. When you're constantly in pain, it's so hard to find the energy you need just to survive. Pain can overwhelm you and suck the life out of you.

Pain can also blind you. When you're in pain, you can become blind to:

  • The beauty around you.
  • How fortunate you really are.
  • People who are trying to help and support you.
  • The positive things in your life.

Pain can also be disorienting. It's in that disorientation that you find yourself with this palpable sadness and sense of lostness, if you will. You don't know where to turn, what to do or how you're going to survive. You can't seem to see the hope you so desperately want to see.

How Can I Tell Whether There's Too Much Damage?

Now, I've covered how disorienting and painful healing after an affair can be, but how do you answer this inevitable question: "Is there ever a time when there's too much damage?" Here are some things you can do when pondering this answer:

1. Evaluate the Help You're Getting

I'm going to say this very straightforwardly today: You cannot treat infidelity with just general care. When dealing with infidelity, you absolutely need targeted care. If you're asking yourself whether too much damage was done, the last thing you need is a general approach — you need targeted care.

2. Focus on Your Work — Not Theirs

You cannot do the work that your spouse or mate needs to do. If you do all you can do, that's only half the battle. You have to ask your loved one to do their work, whether they're the wayward spouse or the betrayed spouse.

If you're the betrayed spouse, here's the rub: You didn't cause their affair, but they did have an affair or an addiction that traumatized you. You may or may not know that you've been traumatized but infidelity, unfortunately, comes with trauma. Many times, I hear the betrayed spouse say: "They need to heal themselves." Absolutely! But you have to care for yourself, too. You have to heal yourself of the trauma you've been subjected to.

Some of us also say this: "I'm going to do so much work, I'm going to be so healed, that my spouse won't have to do very much. My healing will spill over into their life." What happens is these people work so hard to get in a good place, but then their spouse won't do their work.

Healing does not happen by osmosis. You cannot do their work, and you cannot be the one to change, heal or restore them. I wish it worked that way but, sadly, it just doesn't.

Regardless of how much work you do, the unhealed areas of your spouse or mate will find a way to invade the relationship. If they are willing to address these areas, then you can get through this.

What Questions Should I Ask Myself?

Alternatively, if they don't want to talk about what happened or deal with the pain then, I'm sorry, there comes a point where you can only go so far, you can only heal so much. Does that mean that the relationship is over? Absolutely not. It means that you're at an impasse that will require you both to have a conversation.

There comes a point where you have to ask yourself, "Can I stay in this relationship? Can I continue this way?" Only you know the answers. We at Affair Recovery are here to help you, but answering these questions is part of your own journey. As I end today, I want to remind you:

  • You are not unhealable.
  • You are not unredeemable.

Whether you're the wayward spouse or the betrayed spouse, do the work that you need to do to heal yourself. You can be as healed as you want to be.

Tickets are NOW AVAILABLE for Hope Rising 2021!

There is hope after infidelity and betrayal. If you're the betrayed spouse, we invite you to take the first step in transcending your pain by attending our virtual Hope Rising Conference on October 2. Our eight incredible speakers have been through the heart-wrenching, devastating experience of infidelity, and they want to inspire you and empower your healing and rebuilding.

"It was an overall great experience. Finally seeing that I was not on an island by myself. Listening to the speakers as well as being a part of a larger group that could all relate to each other was a strength giver." — Previous Hope Rising Conference attendee.

Regardless of whether the wayward spouse is supportive, unsupportive or gone, we want you to feel hope again; we want you to feel whole again. Join us at Hope Rising to learn from and grow with others as you navigate this challenging season.

Get Tickets For Hope Rising 2021!
Add New Comment:


Am I too damaged

Hi, I saw your article on when a relationship to damaged and whether the relation can get over it. My question is. Am I too damaged? I definitely am traumatised. I am 7 months post finding out that my husband had an affair. He is 100% remorseful and 200% wants to get it sorted. But, I am so damaged, it like I’ve had a nervous breakdown. I can berly cope with stresses of normal life. I can’t even think about healing ‘us’ as I need to prioritise my own wellbeing! And it feels like him being here at home, puts pressure on me e.g. responding appropriately to simple touch. I think trying to sort us will break me fully. I feel like I need permission to lay to burden down for my own mental health. Have hun experience of this? Many thanks

Are you doing individual

Are you doing individual therapy? I absolutely need it to be able to sort through these emotions.


Hi, I’m 5 months post discovery and I feel abandoned. The level of ambivalence and contempt I am experiencing in the recovery is becoming unbearable. There have been attempts at making an effort and seeing progress, but it is ultimately erased by the contempt that follows. I was told today that I am not a priority. I have also been met with uncertainty about remaining committed to the marriage. There’s a great lack of respect from him and at this point, I’m starting to feel a lack of respect for myself.

Wives never come back for real

I’d wager $100 that almost all of the examples where they’re able to recover it was almost always a cheating husband. Wives are usually just too far gone. Too cruel and too unremorseful. They always love the AP more.

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