Infidelity: Mending your marriage after an affair

Infidelity causes intense emotional pain, but an affair doesn't have to mean the end of your marriage. Understand how a marriage can be rebuilt after an affair.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Few marital problems cause as much heartache and devastation as infidelity, which undermines the foundation of marriage itself. However, when both spouses are committed to authentic healing, most marriages survive and many marriages become stronger with deeper levels of intimacy.

Defining infidelity

Infidelity isn't a single, clearly defined situation — and what's considered infidelity varies among couples and even between partners in a relationship. For example, is an emotional connection without physical intimacy considered infidelity? What about online relationships? Each person and couple need to define for themselves what constitutes infidelity in the context of their marriage.

Why affairs happen

Many factors can contribute to infidelity, and most aren't fundamentally about sex. Some common reasons include:

  • Lack of affection
  • Loss of fondness and caring for each other
  • Breakdown of communication related to emotional and relationship needs
  • Physical health issues, such as chronic pain or disability
  • Mental health issues including depression, anxiety, ADD, learning disabilities or bipolar disorder
  • Addiction, including addiction to sex, gambling, drugs or alcohol
  • Unaddressed marital problems that have been building for years
Feb. 16, 2016 See more In-depth