Is Your Marriage After An Affair Doomed?


, ,
Is Your Marriage Doomed After an Affair

Can a marriage after an affair survive in the long run? Can you save a marriage after an affair or is there any chance of fixing a marriage after an affair? People who have been cheated on have often found themselves asking these questions.

Courtney came to my office after her husband had an affair. She wanted counseling to help her decide whether to forgive or divorce him. She was concerned about her three young children and worried about being able to support herself financially. She’d loved being a stay-at-home mom, and didn’t want to give up time with her children.

She’d heard from a friend that she would be forced to go back to work. Courtney was open to doing some intensive couples therapy to see if the infidelity wounds could be healed, but she wasn’t sure her husband would be willing.

Related: Repairing A Marriage After An Affair: How to Rebuild Your Marriage After Infidelity

The Numbers

I shared the research about infidelity and divorce with Courtney: The data shows that when there is an affair, partners are much more likely to divorce than when cheating was not a factor. But infidelity doesn’t always cause a divorce: Marriages can heal and recover even when there has been a betrayal.

American Psychological Association research found that 20-40% of divorces are caused by an affair. The discovery of an affair may trigger a divorce, but there were likely problems in the marriage before the affair. When marital problems are not addressed, unhappy spouses may turn to someone outside the relationship.

Other data finds that 40% of adults who have ever cheated during a marriage are separated or divorced, while only 17% of partners who had not cheated are separated or divorced. But about 50% of partners who did have affairs are still married, compared to 75% of partners who never cheated.

Men are less likely than women to divorce when there is an affair: 61% of men who cheated are still married, while 34% are separated or divorced. But only 44% of women who have cheated are still married, and 47% are divorced or separated.

Those who stayed married may have worked through the betrayal, worked on forgiveness and recommitment to the relationship, or worked with a marital counselor to address the underlying issues.

How does one make sense of these statistics? While interesting as data, the numbers won’t help Courtney decide about the future of her marriage. She thought about whether she wanted to save her relationship, and we spent several sessions exploring her dilemma. She wondered how the affair would affect the divorce if she chose to go through with it.

marriage after an affair
Marriage after an affair

How Affairs Affect Divorce

In the past, adultery was grounds for divorce, but you had to prove it — and if you did, you were more likely to get what you asked for in the divorce, whether that was money, support, or assets like the home, or custody of the children.

Courts now recognize that a fair and equitable settlement serves families best, and creating a parenting plan that meets the children’s needs is more important than a parent’s infidelity. If you are the one who strayed, you probably don’t need to worry that this will affect the divorce settlements.

All states now have some version of no-fault divorces as well: One spouse just needs to claim “irreconcilable differences” and a divorce will happen, whether or not the other partner agrees.

Some spouses look for justice or revenge in their divorce, but they’re unlikely to find it in the courtroom. Infidelity is generally irrelevant to the outcome of a divorce settlement, in terms of custody or finances.

The emotions of divorce are intense and complex, and seeking professional help from a therapist or divorce coach will better serve your needs, as well as your recovery. I advise clients to work through their intense emotions before deciding whether to divorce or to work on the marriage.

Related: Cheating In Relationships: How To Move On From Infidelity

A Few Complications

Despite a no-fault divorce, some people seek reimbursement for money that was spent on an affair, such as dinners, hotel rooms, travel, gifts, etc. Forensic accounting is expensive, can take time, and rubs salt in the wound with each discovery, at a time when the financial effect is usually fairly minimal.

But if you believe that your spouse spent a lot of money on their affair partner—by paying their living expenses, for example—it may be worth paying for your lawyer or financial specialist to do the research. In a community property state, you may be entitled to reimbursement for half of the money spent.

Cheating and affairs affect children, whether or not their parents’ divorce. If there is a divorce, children will suffer during and after it if there has been an affair, especially if they have witnessed a parent’s trysts (direct harm) or if the parent who feels betrayed tells the children about their other parent’s affair (indirect harm).

Courtney and I discussed how she might protect her children from the harm caused by her husband’s affair.

Do affairs cause divorce?

The answer is: It depends. If you or your spouse had an affair, take the time to consider whether you want to divorce or not. If you decide to keep the marriage together, find a therapist with expertise in couples counseling if there has been a betrayal. If you divorce, find an out-of-court process, such as a Collaborative Divorce.

Courtney ultimately decided to divorce. Her husband’s affair was a long one and she believed it was ongoing. She felt she could have worked through a one-night-stand, but her circumstances felt overwhelming. When her husband declined to do couples therapy, she raised the subject of divorce with him.

They agreed to do their divorce as amicably as possible, to protect their children. Courtney continued to work with me in therapy to help her manage her grief and anger. Ultimately she forgave him, freeing herself from the pain of the betrayal. Then she was ready to move on.

Want to know more about whether a marriage after an affair is worth saving or not? Check this video out below!

Should I end my marriage after an affair


Written By Ann Gold Buscho
Originally Appeared On Psychology Today
Is Your Marriage Doomed After an Affair pin

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply

Up Next

When You Outgrow Love: What Is Grey Divorce And How To Thrive After

What Is Grey Divorce and How to Redefine Your Story

Divorce is never an easy decision to make. But sometimes life happens and you have to do the unimaginable. Grey divorce is one such experience that can feel like an unthinkable decision, yet, you know you just need to take the step. But what is grey divorce?

In life, at a certain stage we may feel that it is absolutely crucial that we start over, not only to survive but also to thrive. It becomes necessary that we step into the unknown regardless how scary or irrational it may sound. And the same goes for a marriage. 

Even if you may have shared a lifetime together and created lasting memories and experiences, a divorce may be the only option left for a happier, healthier and better life. That’s the reality for an increasing number of couples who find themselves in the realm of “grey divorce.” 

Up Next

7 Reasons People Regret Divorce: Understanding The Post-Divorce Journey

Reasons People Regret Divorce: The Post-Divorce Journey

There are many people who feel like they got a new lease of life after getting divorced, but there are also people who end up regretting divorce. But, why do some people regret getting a divorce? This article is going to focus on some of the reasons people regret divorce and what goes through their minds.


While divorce can be a healthy option for some people, others might experience pain and regret.

It’s not uncommon to underestimate the effects that divorce will have in various areas of life.

Therapy, communication, and time can help heal the wounds.


Up Next

7 Emotions You May Feel When You Decide To Divorce

When You Decide To Divorce: Unexpected Emotions You Feel

Making the decision to divorce is one of the hardest decisions to make. When you decide to divorce your spouse, you may feel a ton of emotions that you did not expect at all. This article is going to talk about those feelings and emotions so that if ever you make the decision to divorce, you know what to expect.


The decision to divorce is a personal and deeply emotional experience.

There is a common misperception that the person who decides to divorce doesn’t suffer from the decision.

The emotional journey is unique to each individual, and there are no right or wrong ways to feel.

Up Next

10 Honest Reactions Of Children To Divorce

Honest Reactions Of Children To Divorce

When two people divorce, we think about how they might be feeling about the breakdown of their marriage. What about the reactions of children to divorce? How does a child cope with divorce? How do children react to divorce? Let’s find out!

When your children experience your divorce, their reactions will vary depending on their ages, personalities, family dynamics, and the circumstances of the divorce. Some children will experience immediate distress, while others may not show signs of distress until later. Some children internalize their emotions and appear more resilient than they are.

However, the biggest factor affecting their reactions is the level of conflict between you and your spouse. Even if your children don’t witness conflict, they can sense it, even in the way that you hug them.

Up Next

5 Ways To Reduce The Stigma Of Divorce

Stigma Of Divorce: Ways To Normalize Divorce

One of the worst parts of getting divorced is the stigma that comes with it; the social stigma of divorce is sometimes more painful than the actual divorce. That’s why it’s important to normalize divorce and reduce this stigma of divorce. This article is going to explore the best ways to cut back on the stigma of divorce.


The language in Western cultures around divorce reinforces the stigma of divorce.

Normalizing divorce can reduce the stigma and foster a more supportive environment for those going through it.

Divorce is often a difficult and emotional process, and offering support can make a significant difference.

Up Next

How To Date A Widower? Finding Love Again

Dating A Widower: Tips and the Red Flags You Can't Ignore!

Picking yourself up after losing a spouse is a traumatizing experience. Learning how to date a widower will allow you to provide a safe space for healing for the man you love and care for.  

If you’re thinking about dating a widower, it’s important to know how to handle things. It can be a tricky road to navigate, but can provide you with a loving and fulfilling relationship.

This article is here to help you out. We’ll give you some simple tips and advice that can make things easier for you.

How To Date A Widower? 

When it comes to dating a widower, it’s essential to approach the relationsh

Up Next

How To Get Over A Failed Marriage

How To Get Over A Failed Marriage: Nine Strategies For Healing

Is your marriage going down the drain? Do you feel heartbroken, lost and confused, with no apparent way to make things better with your spouse? Well, you can still heal yourself and move on. Let’s explore how to get over a failed marriage.

A Union of Blessings or Pain?

Marriage is often considered a sacred bond between two individuals, filled with love, companionship, and dreams of a shared future. It is a union bestowed with blessings, often from a higher power.

However, not all marriages have a fairy-tale ending. When a