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Surviving Infidelity: 12 Steps to Affair Recovery

Surviving Infidelity: 12 Steps to Affair Recovery

Surviving Infidelity: 12 Steps to Affair Recovery

Surviving infidelity is not something anyone wants to have to do in their lifetime. Enduring the pain of betrayal is something we all prefer to avoid completely. No one stands at the altar on their wedding day expecting to one day walk into affair recovery.

Yet, statistics show us that at least one in four marriages have experienced infidelity. And researchers repeatedly share that their findings may be even higher, as they suspect many couples do not admit to infidelity when surveyed.

If your marriage has been shattered by the revelation of an affair, you may be wondering if there is any hope for restoration. Your heart may be so crushed by this trauma that you can’t possibly imagine trusting ever again. Or you may be struggling to decide whether you should stay in your marriage.

We have experienced the pain of infidelity in our marriage, and we doubted whether or not our marriage could possibly weather the storm. 

It’s been 15 years since we decided to stay. And we both can say with confidence that we made the best decision of our lives! Our marriage is better than we could have ever imagined. 

The suffering we experienced through the darkest time in our life gave us the opportunity to trust God with our marriage and our lives.

We were able to forgive, rebuild trust, be vulnerable and honest, and create a completely new marriage. If you desire restoration after the revelation of an affair, we’ve got the steps for you to take. 

In this article, we are going to lay out the 12 steps we took to survive infidelity in our marriage. We will keep it short and simple here, but you can dive deeper in our book, The Journey to Stay: Our Story of Navigating the Aftermath of Infidelity and Finding God Along the Way.

Are you ready to experience hope and healing after an affair? 

Take a breath, say a prayer, and keep reading.

1. Remember

Remember who you married. Remember how excited you were on your wedding day. Recall back to how you felt when you first met your spouse. Right now, it may feel as though your spouse is an enemy. But not too long ago, you viewed your spouse as your best friend and closest confidant. You can restore that intimate relationship with time, effort and prayer.

Resist the urge to block out the memories of good times together in an effort to disconnect as a way of relieving pain. Instead, remember the good times so that you are able to remember what you are fighting to restore.

The heart of a man plans his ways, but the LORD establishes his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

2. Confess

If you are the spouse who had the affair (we call this the wayward spouse), you must fully confess your infidelity. Don’t try to hide details or keep secrets in an effort to save your spouse from the pain of the facts. 

If you want to rebuild trust with your spouse, you must start by being trustworthy with full disclosure.

Everything exposed by the light is made visible…
Ephesians 5:13

3. Pray

Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. When we experienced the aftermath of an affair, prayer was our direct line to God during desperate moments. 

Your prayers don’t need to be aloud or fancy, they just need to be directed at the mighty God who saves. Keep God at the center of the healing journey–you won’t regret it.

Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy…come to my relief…For I have put my trust in you.
Psalm 143:1,8

4. Repent

To repent means to change completely, turning away from the secret, deceptive life and toward the path God has designed for you and your marriage. You can’t have one foot in your secret life and one foot in your marriage. It doesn’t work and will only create more destruction and pain. Choose to turn away from anything that could connect you to your affair partner, and turn toward your spouse.

Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.
Acts 3:19

5. Grieve

Oftentimes, couples want to “get over” the sadness and grief, quickly sweeping  it under the rug, so that they can “move on.” However, grief is a necessary part of the healing journey. To ignore the grief now is to simply defer it to future days. 

Allow yourselves to grieve now. Comfort each other. Don’t rush through it. Cry out to God with your pain and suffering. He welcomes your lament.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the LORD comes to the rescue each time.
Psalm 34:18-19

6. Commit

At some point, you must decide whether you are in or out. Sitting on the fence for an extended period of time will only prolong your pain. For us, it was liberating and motivating once we both made the verbal commitment to each other and our marriage.

You may not feel like committing to restoration of your marriage. But, if you and your spouse have removed the affair partner and are leaning in that direction, we recommend you jump “all in” to your marriage. The act of saying “there is no out” can be a huge catalyst for trust, forgiveness and true reconciliation.

So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.
Matthew 19:6

7. Dialogue

Talk about it. It may seem counterintuitive to have a conversation about such a painful topic, but it is immensely important. It’s likely the wounded spouse is craving these conversations while the wayward spouse would rather “just forget about it.” 

Resist the desire to put the affair on a shelf. You need to process this. The wounded spouse especially needs these conversations. 

Wayward spouse, answering your wounded spouse’s questions is a key to rebuilding trust.  Be honest and open, willing to share. A bonus is if you offer to have a conversation about the affair before your spouse asks for it.

Wounded spouse, choose your questions wisely. In general, ask questions that will help to discover motive rather than fishing for details you will have in your memory bank for years to come. (we learned this the hard way)

…a time to be silent, and a time to speak…
Ecclesiastes 3:7

8. Subtract

Subtract anything from your life that is associated with the affair partner. For some couples, this results in some extreme changes such as a job change or move. For others, simply tweaking schedules, contact information, and apps can be enough. Decide together what needs to be done.

In addition, subtract things from your life that allowed this type of betrayal in your marriage. It’s likely there are some habits, activities or people that may have helped to open your marriage to betrayal. 

In general, remove from your life anything that isn’t helping you stay married.

Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all the strategies of the devil.
Ephesians 6:11

9. Add

Once you’ve removed some of the non-helpful items, you have room to add things that are helpful! Add healing resources such as a Christian marriage counselor, Christian marriage books that will guide you through this, and support from your local church.

Also, add some fun! Schedule as many dates as you can. Reserve a getaway weekend. Hire a babysitter so you can have some dedicated couple time alone. Having enjoyable activities and time to connect will speed up your healing time. These moments together will help you remember why you fell in love in the first place and keep you on track toward a restored, thriving marriage.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me…for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:4-5

10. Protect

For an affair to occur, there were likely some cracks in your marriage walls. It’s time to patch up the areas of weakness and set boundaries around your marriage.  These needs will vary depending on the couple, but we have yet to guide a couple that didn’t have a problem in their marriage long before the affair began. 

Whether it is busy schedules, poor conflict resolution, or pressure from outside forces (in laws, perhaps?), you can identify the weaknesses and make the choice to find solutions in order to fortify your marriage. 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.
John 10:10

11. Trust

Trust is earned by favorable behavior over time. While love can be offered freely and unconditionally, trust can be broken in a flash and takes time to restore.

Trust is a necessary component to a healthy, thriving marriage. But remember it takes time. The best way to rebuild trust in the affair recovery process is to identify trust-building actions needed and make a point of doing them often.

For example, if the wounded spouse is able to trust the wayward spouse better with access to all phones and devices, then plan to share all your passwords and give full access to your digital world. 

There are no secrets in a healthy marriage.

(For more guidance, read our most popular trust-building article)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

12. Forgive

First, it’s important to understand what forgiveness is and what it isn’t. 

Forgiveness is not forgetting. You don’t have to forget in order to forgive.

Forgiveness and reconciliation are not one in the same. Forgiveness requires one person. Reconciliation requires two. 

Forgiveness is releasing a debt owed. Someone has wronged you, and forgiveness is a cancellation of the debt owed because of the wrongdoing.

Forgiveness is an action, a process, and a posture.

Affair recovery requires forgiveness, but it is more of a process than a one-time thing. Be open to forgiving your spouse. If you are the wayward spouse, ask for forgiveness. Wounded spouses should expect that forgiveness can happen in a moment, but will also need to be revisited often. 

Is “I’m sorry” enough? Find out in this article on apologies and forgiveness.

You may wonder if forgiveness will ever happen in your marriage. The wrong seems too big–the pain is too great. We wondered, too.

But, once we made the commitment to our healing journey, we quickly began to see that forgiveness was not only possible, but we both experienced the fruit of forgiveness much faster than we anticipated.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Colossians 3:13

Surviving Infidelity is absolutely possible.

We hope this brief journey through 12 steps to affair recovery provided even just a glimmer of hope for you and your marriage. If you’d like to dive deeper into the steps we took to go from broken to thriving, grab your copy of The Journey to Stay, which walks you through our story and the path we took to stay in our marriage after an affair. 

We believe your marriage can not only survive infidelity but end up stronger and happier when you follow these 12 steps to affair recovery.

You can do this.


More Resources

Your journey to stay starts here.

Side By Side

Side By Side Music, Inc is registered as a 501(c)3 Non-profit organization by the IRS.

Side By Side guides marriages divided by infidelity to journey from hurt to hope.


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