An affair is a savage blow to a relationship. The trust between you and your partner, so vital to a successful relationship, is shattered. If both of you are determined to save your partnership, and are willing to work hard at recovery and spend as much time as it takes, it may be possible for you to stay together and eventually be happy with each other again.

One thing must be recognized about having an affair – it isn’t the reason for a breakup. Something has failed in your relationship. Maybe you have stopped communicating effectively. Maybe anger over small things has built up between you. Maybe you and your partner feel you can’t be vulnerable to each other.

Relationships change so much due to life circumstances. For example, we need to be real and honest regarding the pressures of having children, along with the joy that they bring. People are continually changing, and their relationships need to adapt over the years.

You may think that once you have worked through the adjustments that every couple must make at the beginning of a relationship, all your problems are solved for life, and you can both relax and coast. Coasting won’t keep you together and satisfied. It’s hard to make a marriage last; it takes a lot of work. You may not realize that until something bad happens. An affair is about as bad as it gets.

Couples recovering from infidelity go through a process that’s not unlike grieving a death. The first response is denial; this isn’t happening to me. Then comes sadness and anger. If you were cheated on, you’re likely to spend some time cataloging what you’ve put up with. You’re likely to feel terribly vulnerable to the hurt: you are never going to be on the same wavelength with that person again. Lies – and the truth – will break our hearts.

If you aren’t able to work through the stew of emotions on your own, therapy should be the next step. I would first see you together, and then separately, so each of you can have your say. Maybe one of you feels that you have been giving, giving, giving or that you want to talk about things that your partner doesn’t. We can look at what you are willing to put up with. Marriages can grow stronger after infidelity, but I have also seen them being torn apart.

You and your partner may not realize that you’re stuck in a pattern of repeating the same sorts of relationships. You tend to choose the same type of person with the same dynamics. Therapy can help you explore why you do what you do, so that you don’t have to repeat that pattern.

If you decide that your relationship is just not going to work, you may want to turn this into divorce therapy, and talk about how best to share your lives with your children, or how to split your possessions. It’s not easy or pleasant work, but it is necessary if you are going to move on with your lives separately.

If you agree that you both want to repair the relationship, you must first recognize that it won’t be the same relationship. You may be able to stay together and to be happy, but you will have a different relationship. You will be embarking on the adventure of trying to figure out who you are, and who your partner is, as you did when you first became a couple. There’s nothing cuter than seeing a couple that has been married 50 years walking hand in hand. You know it hasn’t been easy for them, but they worked hard and they were able to continue building their life together.