How To Heal From Infidelity: Six Stages Of Healing And How to Reconcile

Updated April 8, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Finding out that your spouse has had an affair in your marriage is one of the most difficult things that a person can go through. In fact, discovering infidelity can be one of life’s biggest hurts. Cheating in a marriage happens much more often than you might think but recovering can be possible. You can opt to engage in therapy related to affair recovery, which may be a good idea if you want to continue in your marriage, but it might also help you even if you are unsure.

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How common is this in a marriage or any marriage?

It seems that both men and women cheat within their marriage, for a number of reasons. An individual may claim to be in a sex starved marriage, or they might have developed a not just friends relationship with someone at work or in their life.

Just because cheating is common and is something that's possible to overcome, doesn't mean that you will have an easy time recovering. At some point, you will have to decide if the cheating means the end of your marriage, but you might not want to decide that right away.

One way to proceed with infidelity recovery in a marriage is to go to couples therapy and go through the infidelity recovery stages, at the end of which you will decide how you want to proceed together. If you wish to, you can take your time and research a marriage counselor with a proven track record or specialization when it comes to infidelity.

The recovery stages

The recovery stages of infidelity may look a little bit different depending on the therapist that you work with or the self-help books that you may read. Anyhow, many relationships grow even stronger with greater degrees of intimacy after surviving infidelity, even if it takes time and is still possible when both spouses are dedicated to total healing and forgiveness. However, the basic structure of the recovery stages is the same.

Keep in mind that you may read books on the subject, but it might be a better idea to trust a therapist and not a book. On the other hand, if you do want to read information on the subject, be sure to check out articles or books written by psychologists or an internationally renowned relationship expert, for the most practical advice.

The main goal of the cheating recovery stages is to work your way toward forgiveness. Yet, forgiveness does not necessarily mean that the marriage is saved. Forgiveness can be as much for you as for your spouse. It is important to work through all the stages when possible.

The first stage to recover in your marriage

The relationship and the affair

The first stage of recovery is to examine the relationship and the affair in detail to try to discover the root cause of the problems that led to the affair. This can be difficult work between both the unfaithful partner and you, and the therapist can often help keep you on track so that sessions do not become blaming sessions. Healing from infidelity can require a deeper look at the relationship.

The fact of the matter is that there is a reason your spouse had an affair. That reason might not make sense to you, and it might not even make sense to them. But there was a reason. Therapy helps you uncover this reason and see if it is a problem that can be resolved.

Rediscovering your relationship

When you discover that your spouse has been unfaithful, your entire relationship becomes defined by that cheating. To be able to decide whether or not to stay with your spouse, you need to rediscover your base relationship and what makes the two of you great together.

This is important for trying to save the marriage, but it is also important for facilitating recovery on both sides. It does help when you can look at your relationship objectively and say, "No, it wasn't all bad."

Uncovering the deeper issues about the affair or infidelity in the marriage

While there sometimes is no good reason given for having an affair, often an affair is a symptom of a deeper problem. People have affairs because they are depressed because they are not feeling appreciation or love in their marriage because they have fallen into substance abuse, or because of past trauma in their lives. They may even be experiencing post traumatic stress disorder, or other mental health conditions. It is important to uncover these deeper issues that led to the affair.

You will not be able to get over an affair  and potentially rebuild your marriage and your life until you are aware of what the problem was, whether or not it can be fixed, and how to fix it. This is one of the reasons why marriage counseling can be helpful after infidelity, in order to heal and process your emotions. 

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Addressing the pain of cheating 

Addressing the emotional pain and heartache that you feel after cheating in your marriage is of the utmost importance to recovery. You will need to address your intense emotional pain with your spouse, so that they are fully aware of your feelings, why you have those feelings, and what they can do to help alleviate those feelings and aid you toward recovery.

Creating a timeline or plan

If you haven't already decided whether or not you will stay with your spouse, your therapist will probably have you develop a timeline or plan for healing from infidelity. At the end of that timeline or plan, you will have to decide on whether or not you are going to try to save your marriage. In other words, you must determine if you want to continue this relationship moving forward. The timeline might be a month, three months, or more, depending on the depth of the betrayal, the depth of your emotional pain, and other factors that can make recovery more difficult. During this time, your therapist will work with you to heal yourself and the relationship.


The last hard stage of cheating recovery is forgiveness and recovery. It can be very difficult to forgive an unfaithful spouse who has hurt you so badly. Yet forgiveness is important for both of you, especially if you both decide to heal and start new relationship after cheating with your partner again. For you, if you forgive your spouse for their cheating, it can help you let go of feelings of resentment, anger, abandonment, betrayal, and other negative emotions that you feel when you see or talk to your spouse.

Letting go of those intense emotions is important for your emotional health and healing.

Patience with yourself about the affair

The recovery process looks different for everyone. If you are going to be trying to salvage your marriage, the recovery process will be done together and involves things such as reconnecting as partners and friends, rebuilding trust, and recommitting to what could be a broken relationship. It may take some time to rebuild the trust and physical intimacy with your partner, although it is possible.

If you decide at this point not to stay with your partner, you will need to process and recover by determining what led to the cheating, what possibly contributed to other problems in the relationship, who you are as an individual, and how you can learn from this experience to better future relationships.

Facilitating recovery

Recovery can either destroy a marriage or make it stronger. It is also important to note that recovery from cheating may look differently for the deceiver than it does for the deceived. You will have to work on recovery individually and together to mend your marriage and this is a possible way to get past intense emotional pain that you are experiencing.

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Recovery and closure for the deceiver

First step

The very first step in recovery for the deceiver is to end the affair in question. But how do affairs end? How do most emotional affairs end? How to end all forms of affairs? Do affairs ever work? If you have any hope of regaining commitment to your marriage and mending the rift that you have created with your betrayed spouse, you are going to have to end the affair completely. Stop all communication with the individual and focus your efforts on your marriage and your recovery.

Second step

The second step in recovery for the deceiver is to determine why you had the affair. Was there an underlying cause? Were you unhappy in your life or marriage? What made you unhappy? Is it something that you can fix, or something that needs to be fixed as a married couple? It might also be the key when it comes to preventing future affairs.

Other helpful tips for your marriage

It is also helpful for the deceiver to heal, recover, and move on if you are willing to look at the history of the affair and understand how and why it happened, and how and why it continued if you felt guilty about the affair from the beginning. At the same time, you cannot blame yourself and beat yourself up about the affair while going through this process. It should be a healing journey for both you and your betrayed partner, when you both wish to survive infidelity that has occurred.

Recovery and closure for the deceived

Recovery for the deceived has to begin with healing the emotional pain that the infidelity caused. This can often be made easier if the person who cheated has empathy and understanding for the pain that they have caused.

When the deceiver is empathetic and understanding and is willing to hear about the pain that they have caused and try to make it right, this can greatly help in healing the emotional pain and heartbreak.

To be entirely healed

To fully recover from infidelity, you will have to be able to express your emotions without acting on them. It is quite normal to have feelings of shock, rage, and vengeance, but when you act on these emotions impulsively it can cause more harm, and it will not facilitate healing for either of you or your marriage. You need to express these feelings, but you need to do so in a constructive manner that allows your spouse to respond.

Different parts

Part of the healing and recovery for the deceived is an explanation and detailed information from the deceiver. You need to be able to listen to how the affair happened, how your spouse feels about the affair, what they have done to make amends, and what led to the affair. This includes hearing intimate details of a sexual affair or an emotional affair that your partner has engaged in, why, and who their affair partner was. You must be able to listen to all of these explanations quietly and constructively, without angry outbursts. You also need to be able to discuss them openly, either alone or with a therapist.

What to do next - moving forward

When you want to make sure that your marriage can recover from infidelity and give them a second chance after cheating, your best bet is to seek out therapy or counseling for you, your spouse, and together as a couple. Having therapy both individually and together with an unfaithful partner can help you learn from the experience, recover, and move forward in your marriage.

If you are unable to go to a therapist or counselor in your area due to cost restraints or time constraints, there are still options available for you.

Regain can help your marriage after the affair

Regain offers online counseling and therapy for couples and individuals who are struggling in their relationship. Regain has specialists that are experienced in working with couples and infidelity. Contact them today for more information or to get started.

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