Marriage has been called the ultimate statement of trust–and infidelity, the ultimate breach of trust. After such a deep wound, can a marriage still be saved? How do couples work through infidelity and come out stronger on the other side?

Marriage expert Erin Smalley says it’s possible, though it is a challenging process, especially for the husband or wife whose spouse has been unfaithful.

“To the spouse who has been betrayed, I’m so sorry. I can’t even begin to imagine how painful that revelation is, because it rocks every foundation of a solid marriage you ever thought was there. However, there is hope. Granted, it does take someone who is willing to walk away and end the affair, and really work on restoration.”

“Research shows it takes years to rebuild a healthy relationship (after a breach of trust) but it is worth it. There is hope.  You can get to the other side of this. It probably feels impossible, but you have this God– He is the God of the universe, who can do anything with two pliable hearts. So hang in there, and surround yourself with amazing, strong, godly friends to support you as you walk through this.”

In order to begin the process of rebuilding broken trust, the unfaithful partner has the responsibility to confess to their spouse, and end the adultery:

“The first step is absolutely bringing it into the light. It’s the hardest conversation you’ll ever have; you may want to bring in a professional (a Christian counselor, a pastor, a trusted friend) so you can have that conversation. Bring it into the light: as it’s in the darkness, the enemy has so much power over you, and it is worth coming forth, being vulnerable and authentic in where you’re at/what you’re experiencing. Then, end it–100% end (the affair). It is worth it to fight for that marriage relationship.”

Erin says it’s important for every couple to understand (and be reminded of) the true purpose of marriage.

“Really, the true purpose of marriage…it’s not about happiness, it’s about holiness. We’re not saying, ‘get married and be miserable, so you’ll grow to look like Christ.’  The truth is, you are going to grow to look like Christ, because marriage is difficult. It says in Scripture, ‘those that are married should expect difficulties,’ but it’s an opportunity to grow.”

“Also, God is giving you this person to journey through those difficult seasons together. There’s going to be rapids down the river, there’s going to be smooth sailing. God has given us the gift of our spouse to travel through those difficulties together.”

“We’re not advocating for a miserable marriage; we’re saying have a great time! There’s going to be difficult seasons, there’s awesome, amazing seasons, but you have this travel buddy that you get to journey with.  And if you’re in a difficult season, get help: go and talk to somebody about that, surround yourself with community. You are not alone.”

Erin Smalley serves as the strategic marriage spokesperson for Focus on the Family’s marriage ministry, where she develops content for the marriage department.

Smalley is also an author and conference speaker. She presents with her husband, Dr. Greg Smalley, at marriage enrichment seminars where they guide couples in taking steps toward enjoying deeply satisfying marriages. She also speaks to women on faith, family and the importance of healthy friendships.

Hope for marriage after infidelity