Do most marriages survive infidelity?

Infidelity is an unfortunate reality in many marriages. When one spouse is unfaithful, it can be devastating for the other spouse and shake the foundation of the marriage. Many couples struggle with whether it’s possible to repair the relationship after such a betrayal of trust. The big question is: do most marriages survive infidelity?

Quick Facts on Infidelity and Marriage

  • It’s estimated that 15-20% of married couples experience infidelity at some point.
  • Men are more likely to cheat than women, with 20% of men and 13% of women admitting to infidelity.
  • Younger couples are more at risk of infidelity than older couples.
  • Up to 50% of divorces cite infidelity as a contributing factor.
  • Recovery from infidelity is possible but challenging; experts estimate 30-60% of couples stay together after infidelity.

The statistics show infidelity is relatively common among married couples. However, the divorce rate connected to cheating suggests overcoming infidelity and recovering the marriage is difficult for many couples.

Why is Infidelity So Destructive?

Infidelity is so damaging because it represents a profound betrayal of the trust and intimacy in a marriage. When one spouse cheats it can make their partner feel:

  • Hurt at being betrayed
  • Humiliated and disrespected
  • Insecure about themselves and the marriage
  • Angry at the spouse’s deception
  • Worried about long-term trust and happiness

The unfaithful spouse has broken the fundamental agreement of marriage – the vow of faithfulness. This causes deep emotional wounds for the betrayed spouse that are difficult to heal. Infidelity also often leads to major conflict and strained communications between spouses. This “relationship trauma” from the affair can linger for years, even if the marriage survives.

Overcoming Infidelity

Rebuilding a marriage after infidelity requires tremendous effort from both spouses:

  • The unfaithful spouse must take full responsibility for their actions. They need to become completely transparent and honest in the relationship.
  • The betrayed spouse needs help processing their emotions and grief. Having support systems is critical.
  • Couples counseling focused on healing the trauma of infidelity is often necessary.
  • The unfaithful spouse must work daily to re-earn the trust of their partner through changed behaviors.
  • Learning to communicate better and meet each other’s needs helps spouses reconnect.
  • Ultimately, the betrayed spouse must find a way to re-commit and truly forgive.

This process takes consistent hard work, humility and commitment from both members of the couple. It often takes multiple years to fully recover after infidelity. Unfortunately, many couples simply reach a point where the damage seems too deep to repair.

When Infidelity Leads to Divorce

For many couples, the betrayal from an affair is simply too difficult to move past. No matter how hard they try to reconcile, the trust is broken beyond repair. In these cases divorce often results:

  • The betrayed spouse feels too hurt, insecure or resentful to stay married.
  • The couple argues constantly and can’t seem to move forward.
  • Ongoing deceit or multiple affairs re-traumatize the relationship.
  • One spouse unwilling to take responsibility and make changes.
  • The marriage lacks true intimacy despite counseling efforts.
  • letting go seems healthier than staying stuck in pain.

Even when both spouses want to save it, some marriages just can’t survive infidelity. The damage is too deep. Moving on becomes the only path forward after exhausting other options.

Key Factors in Surviving Infidelity

While overcoming infidelity is difficult, many couples prove it is possible. Research has identified key factors connected to recovering marriage after cheating:

How long the affair lasted

Short flings are easier to move past than long-term affairs with emotional investment. A spouse is more likely to forgive a one-time slip versus a double life of deception.

Reasons for the infidelity

Couples tend to do better when the cheating resulted from individual issues like substance abuse, depression or impulse control problems rather than fundamental marriage problems.

History in the marriage

Couples with an otherwise strong, stable relationship have better infidelity recovery odds. Longer marriages also survive affairs better than newer marriages.

Who initiated reconciliation

When the unfaithful spouse quickly admits fault and seeks help, reconciliation seems more plausible. Forced confessions after getting caught reduce trust.

True remorse and effort of the unfaithful

The cheating spouse must fully commit to repairing the marriage without defensiveness or blame. They need to be patient, account for their actions and re-earn trust over time.

Therapy and Counseling

For marriages damaged by infidelity, professional counseling is often crucial. Therapists help in key ways:

  • Providing a neutral environment to discuss the affair
  • Teaching communication and conflict resolution skills
  • Promoting radical honesty and vulnerability between spouses
  • Overcoming inevitable relationship trauma and PTSD symptoms after the affair
  • Developing pathways to rebuild intimacy, passion and trust
  • Enabling forgiveness and reconciliation of the relationship

With skilled marriage counseling, many couples find their bond becomes even stronger after healing from infidelity than it ever was before. The extensive work required to reconcile the marriage deepens their commitment and understanding of each other.

How Many Marriages Survive Infidelity Statistics

Estimates of marriages surviving infidelity come from several studies tracking couples over time:

  • A 2015 study found only around 30% of couples remain together after an affair.
  • A 2005 study showed 31% of marriages survived when the husband cheated compared to 50% when the wife cheated
  • In a 1991 study, around 50% of couples stayed married after therapy seeking help for infidelity.
  • One study found the highest recovery rate with 72% of couples overcoming cheating in the marriage.

Based on these statistics, approximately 31% to 72% of marriages may survive infidelity. The average rate across studies is around 50%. However, exact numbers are difficult to determine given the complexity of real-life situations for each couple. Every circumstance is unique.

Marriage Infidelity Survival Chances by Gender

Research suggests marriage survival rates after cheating may differ for men versus women:

  • Men are more likely than women to cheat in a marriage, with 20% vs 13% admitting infidelity.
  • One study showed 50% of couples stayed together if the wife cheated vs only 31% when the husband cheated.
  • Experts speculate men have a harder time forgiving their wife’s sexual infidelity due to masculinity constructs and ego.
  • Women may be better able to work through their husband’s cheating if he seems truly remorseful.

Based on these findings, marriages appear more likely to survive infidelity when the unfaithful spouse is the husband rather than the wife. However, every couple exhibits a unique dynamic that defies gender stereotypes. The quality of the relationship overall matters most.

Chances of Marriage Survival If Husband Cheats

Studies estimate the marriage survival rate is around 30-35% when husbands cheat. Some key factors include:

  • Wives report feeling humiliated and undesirable when their husband cheats.
  • Men are less inclined to dig into underlying relationship issues through counseling.
  • When husbands cheat due to opportunity rather than marriage problems, wives may be more open to reconciliation.
  • If the husband ends the affair and shows remorse immediately, trust can be rebuilt over time.

If the cheating husband truly commits to repairing the marriage, he has up to a 35% chance of saving it.

Chances of Marriage Survival If Wife Cheats

The approximate marriage survival rate is 40-50% when wives cheat. Some insights into why:

  • Infidelity by the wife may threaten the husband’s sense of manhood and self-esteem.
  • When women cheat, it’s more often due to marriage problems or lack of emotional intimacy.
  • Husbands may have an especially hard time regaining confidence in the wife’s commitment to the relationship.
  • With emotionally-driven affairs, deeper counseling often helps wives convince their husbands to reconcile.

Wives who had short-term flings or owned up to their mistakes immediately stand the best chance of saving the marriage.

Younger vs Older Couples Infidelity Survival Rate

Affairs take a different toll at varying life stages:

Younger Couples

  • Up to 30% of marriages experience infidelity in the first year.
  • Younger couples tend to have less maturity and relationship skills.
  • Brief affairs are somewhat easier to recover from early in marriage.
  • Younger couples have more time to rebuild trust and intimacy over the years.
  • But they may lack the shared history to withstand major trauma like infidelity.

Survival rate: 25-35%

Middle-Aged Couples

  • Affairs around mid-life often relate to aging, losing excitement in the marriage and wanting to feel young again.
  • Decades of marriage are hard to throw away, so couples may fight harder to save the relationship.
  • On the other hand, emotional investment after so many years together makes the betrayal feel much worse.
  • Children are usually grown, removing a key reason to stay together.

Survival rate: 40-55%

Older Couples

  • Infidelity is less common among older couples married 40+ years.
  • Spouses are more motivated to avoid divorce given their combined history and older age.
  • At the same time, older adults may have less energy to do the hard work of recovering from an affair.
  • Some older couples agree to stay married but lead mostly separate lives.

Survival rate: 50-65%

The mid-life period seems most hazardous for affairs leading to divorce. Older couples often have more investment in staying together.

Does Marriage Counseling Increase Infidelity Survival Odds?

Professional marriage counseling markedly improves the outlook after infidelity:

  • Couples who get counseling have up to a 75% chance of reconciliation.
  • Early counseling yields the best results.
  • Most couples need to attend for 1-2 years to truly work through the issues.
  • Finding an experienced infidelity counselor is ideal.
  • Counseling is most effective along with the couple’s motivation to heal the marriage.

Marriage counseling supports the intense personal work and vulnerable communication needed to mend the emotional damage.

Healing as a Couple After an Affair

Recovering after infidelity is hard work. The couple essentially needs to grieve the past marriage, then rebuild a new relationship moving forward. That involves:

For the Unfaithful Spouse:

  • Ending all contact with the affair partner completely
  • Becoming an open book and accounting for all activities
  • Listening without defensiveness or blaming
  • Answering all questions about the affair honestly
  • Rebuilding trust steadily through dependability and consistency

For the Betrayed Spouse:

  • Processing the trauma of the affair through journaling, therapy or support groups
  • Avoiding “policing” and obsession over details of the affair
  • Identifying personal contributions to marriage issues
  • Committing to true forgiveness, giving up anger and resentment
  • Creating shared experiences to reconnect in the marriage

For Both:

  • Couples counseling to facilitate difficult conversations in a safe environment
  • Learning healthy communication patterns
  • Reinvesting in intimacy and friendship
  • Letting go of the past and focusing on the present
  • Making concerted efforts to demonstrate love and commitment

This deliberate reconciliation process allows moving forward with a renewed marriage.

Can Infidelity Ever Strengthen a Marriage?

It may seem impossible that anything positive could come from infidelity. However, some couples do report benefiting over time after the crisis:

  • Healing the marriage requires radical honesty from both spouses.
  • Each person must identify their own faults and shortcomings as part of the process.
  • Counseling equips the couple with relationship skills they previously lacked.
  • Choosing to love each other despite it all deepens commitment.
  • The marriage feels more sacred when they’ve had to fight to save it.

That said, the affair can never be justified. But surviving infidelity together forges a stronger union for some couples in the long run.


Infidelity poses one of the biggest threats a marriage can face. The broken trust, emotional trauma and strained communication shakes the foundation of the relationship. Statistics suggest only around half of couples remain married after cheating. Successful reconciliation is challenging. For those willing to do the work, marriage counseling markedly improves the chances the relationship will survive. Many spouses do manage to preserve their marriage even after such a monumental betrayal. But often the damage goes too deep, and moving on becomes the only option. In the end, there is no guarantee when it comes to recovering a marriage after infidelity. Every couple faces unique circumstances in their journey. With openness, professional help and consistent effort, some marriages can grow even stronger after surviving the ultimate test of loyalty.

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