The short answer is “No.” Only you two can save your marriage, but counseling can help if there is commitment to change on both sides.
Few experiences in life are as painful as finding out that a spouse or partner has been unfaithful by having an affair. Whether a one-night fling or a long-standing extra-marital relationship, the impact on the spouse is devastating and the recovery, if possible, is grueling.
Imagine this: You wake up in the morning, slowly tumble out of bed and make your way to the bathroom to shower. Before you step in, you dare a glimpse in the mirror to assess what you have to work with, and the face staring back at you is not your own. You don’t recognize the face in the mirror. Suddenly your universe changes. You think you are losing your mind. Reality as you know it is gone, and you know nothing will ever be the same.
That confusion and loss of trust in reality is not dissimilar to how spouses feel when they are hit with the news of a partner’s affair. Suddenly the very person you thought you knew and could trust with your life is unknown to you, and untrustworthy. To make matters worse, that is also the very person to whom you would reach out for support in a traumatic situation, but they are now the source of the trauma.
Very often when infidelity occurs in a relationship, the result is an irreparable breach of trust, and the relationship cannot survive. This is often the case when an affair has been going on for a long time, or when there have been multiple affairs. A pattern of affair after affair carries a fairly grim prognosis for meaningful change in a partner.
If both spouses are committed to the marriage and wish to rebuild trust and remain together, recovery is possible. Many of the couples that I see in marriage counseling have experienced the pain of an affair and wish to restore their relationship. This is difficult, yes, but it is possible with honesty, commitment, patience, and hard work.
Marriage counseling should never be about “good guy/bad guy” dynamics, and this is just as important when there has been an affair. When I work with couples in this situation, we work together to diagnose pre-existing problems in the relationship, determine where effective communication and resolution broke down, and repair and restructure the relationship to strengthen intimacy and rebuild trust.
This isn’t easy, but it can be done. I have seen many couples not only recover from an affair, but become stronger, closer, and more fulfilled than before the affair occurred. The healing process takes time and requires diligent effort, but the payoff can be the difference between a broken marriage and a strong, loving, lifetime relationship.
Chris Lewis, Ed.S., LPC is a therapist who specializes in Marriage and Family Therapy in Denver, CO. She provides individual, couples, and family therapy through Maria Droste Counseling Center.