What You Learn from the Affair Could
Actually Save Your Marriage
By Susie and Otto Collins
Jennie and Adam both feel like their marriage is back on
track. But, in the not so distant past, divorce seemed
When Jennie discovered that Adam was having an affair, she
wasn't sure that she could stay with him.
Even though she knew it would devastate their children to
have to go through their parents
splitting up, she couldn't fathom being able to love him or
forgive him for cheating.
But Jennie gave herself time. She took the kids and went to
stay with her sister for a few weeks. After those weeks,
Jennie had cooled off and was ready to talk with Adam about
After many talks-- including sessions with a counselor--
Jennie and Adam decided to remain married.
Since making that decision, they have both made changes in
their relationship habits and Adam is especially working on
proving to Jennie that he is trustable.
From where she sits today, Jennie can see that the affair
was actually one reason why her marriage is still together
today...and even better than ever.
This may sound crazy to you. How can an affair "save" a
Well, of course, a marriage can be saved and trust and
connection turned around without infidelity having to
You can certainly make changes now that could prevent an
affair. But, once an affair occurs, a couple can learn
valuable lessons from it.
Get to a place where you are open to learning.
Those first months after discovering that Adam was having an
affair, Jennie didn't want to hear anything about lessons.
She was angry, hurt and afraid about the future.
But after deciding to give Adam a second chance, Jennie was
able to start making a shift.
Little by little, she could begin to see that there were
many disconnecting dynamics going on in their relationship
that were unhealthy for their marriage.
It wasn't just the affair that damaged their relationship.
We encourage you to be honest with yourself about what
you're feeling. And we also encourage you to question what
you are thinking along the way.
When, for example, you think to yourself: "If my partner
hadn't cheated, we'd be happily married right now," ask
yourself if this is absolutely true.
In just about every case, when infidelity happens, there are
major disappointments and significant unmet needs that one
or both people are experiencing.
These don't usually get talked about-- or, if they do, they
are not communicated about in ways that are connecting.
When you come upon a thought and you question it, you can
start to widen your view of your own relationship.
This isn't about making a list and determining who was to
blame for all of your marital troubles. You can do that and
it might even feel satisfying in the moment to make such a
But a list like that won't help you learn from what
happened. It certainly won't allow you to save your marriage
if that's what you choose to do.
Be willing to own up to your part and to make changes.
That blame list might seem easy to you to make because if
your mate is the one who cheated, it could seem obvious that
he or she is the one responsible for where you are today.
From a widened view, however, you can begin to see the ways
in which your own habits and behaviors might have
contributed to distance in
We often advise coaching clients to "take no more and
no less than your share of responsibility."
Focus on how you tend to communicate (or withdraw from
communication) when disagreements or tension arises.
Pay attention to how honest you usually are about what you
want from your partner in terms of emotional, sexual or
other ways of connecting.
Get clear about any unmet needs that you might have in your
marriage as it stands now (and as it was before the affair
Be willing to listen to your partner talk about his or her
How can the two of you work as a team to ensure that both of
you feel satisfied and (eventually) passionate and excited
in your relationship?
You might not know the exact answer to this big
question right away.
Being open to sharing and listening with honesty is a great
Learning from the affair can be painful and a challenge. But
the payoff is worth it.
As you widen your view, take responsibility for your share
and open up to possible solutions, you'll probably find that
healing and trust-rebuilding happens more quickly and that
it will last.