Can a Marriage Survive After an Affair?

sad couple

Imagine a young couple that seemed to have everything going for them. We'll call them Josh and Lisa. They married shortly after graduating from college. Josh was heading into medical school, and Lisa was teaching elementary school to support them financially. Things seemed to progress delightfully in their marriage relationship, and soon they added a daughter to their family. But Josh began working long hours at the hospital, while Lisa continued to teach full time and cared for their daughter.

Soon they were going in separate directions most of the time and both could feel the distance between them growing. A female classmate began to show interest in Josh, yet he tried to pursue Lisa even more. However, he could sense the bitterness his wife was carrying because he was gone so much. During a late night study group, Josh gave in to the advances of his classmate, and before he knew it, he was involved in a full-blown extramarital affair.

It didn't take long before Lisa was certain that something was different with Josh. He was distant before, but now there was a "Grand Canyon" separating them. And he had no interest in her physically. Lisa's greatest fears came true one month later when Josh couldn't keep his secret any longer. He told Lisa that he was leaving her for another woman.

Lisa was devastated and shared her heartbreaking news with several girlfriends. One of them asked her what she wanted and if she was willing to fight for her marriage.

Although Lisa wasn't able to give an answer at first, over the next several months — through fervent prayer, sleepless nights and unceasing tears — she realized that she wanted to fight for her and Josh's marriage. She knew both of them would have to work at healing their relationship, so she approached Josh about the possibility of attending a marriage intensive together. Surprisingly, he agreed.

Success in recovery

Although Lisa and Josh were able to work things out, not all couples make it. However, the number of marriages that will survive an affair and go on to build an even stronger relationship afterward is growing significantly.

Help for the journey

If you desire to fight for your marriage, I'd recommend that you surround yourself with a godly community. Having support can make all the difference in the pursuit of restoring your marriage.

Seek out friendships — not with people of the opposite sex — in which those who care about you are willing to walk with you through the difficulties of piecing your marriage back together. Find a Christian counselor who can walk you through the emotions of restoration and also help you come up with a reasonable plan for healing.

Focus on the Family offers a program called Hope Restored for marriages in crisis. If you recently discovered that your spouse has had an extramarital affair, or if your marriage is crumbling for any reason, please look into this program. The success rate has been amazing. About 85 percent of the couples that have attended a Hope Restored Intensive are still married two years later.

The Enemy wants you to believe there is no hope — and that things will never change. But we serve a God with whom all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). He cares for you and will be with you through the difficulties of rebuilding a marriage after an affair.

I've personally witnessed the Lord heal marriages in miraculous ways. It starts with two willing hearts.

Erin Smalley is a co-author of The Wholehearted Wife and serves as the program manager of marriage ministries at Focus on the Family.

Do you know of a marriage in crisis? Learn more about Focus on the Family’s marriage intensives by visiting

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Hope Restored®: A Marriage Intensive Experience gets to the root issues of intense marital crisis with personalized, faith-based, multiday, marriage counseling sessions. Our team of caring counselors have helped thousands of couples in crisis find hope for their marriage since 2003. A new beginning is possible.

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