Even though infidelity is as old as time itself, it has never been more in the public forum than in our modern era.

The rise of social media and the internet has resulted in scarcely a month passing without one well known figure or another coming clean in the press about cheating on their spouse.

Recent Australian studies have shown that around 60% of men and 45% of women have been unfaithful at least once, and when a website was launched for people seeking extramarital affairs, over 40,000 people rushed to register.

Although in a great number of cases the partner never learns of their betrayal, when an infidelity does come to light it leaves the problem of what happens next. Should they divorce their cheating husband or wife, or should they try to make the marriage work, despite all the odds?

A surprisingly high number of marriages do manage to overcome the problems that an affair raises. Around 50% of couples who have gone through the trauma of a betrayal stay together for many years even after the infidelity has been revealed. Yet, for a marriage to survive this upheaval, it is necessary for both parties to be completely dedicated to rebuilding the relationship and healing the damage caused.

Whether you suspect that your partner may be cheating or whether you are facing the pain of a known infidelity, the question of whether or not your marriage is strong enough to survive has probably already occurred to you.

This article gives you five steps to follow that will give your marriage the best possible chance of succeeding.

1. Build up trust

Your relationship can never be fully rebuilt until you have learned to trust your spouse again, and brutal honesty is a key part of saving the relationship.

Feeling safe is the foundation of any marriage and when one partner has been unfaithful, that safety net is ripped away.

In order to put it back in place, the partner who strayed must acknowledge the need to work hard to rebuild that trust and to take extra steps to show their ongoing love and commitment to their loved one.

From remembering anniversaries and birthdays unprompted, to sharing passwords for your email addresses and Facebook account, and from the reassurance of daily “I love you's” to surprise romantic gifts, the willingness to restore confidence will go a long way towards banishing secrets.

While trust will certainly not make a reappearance overnight, with persistence and ongoing effort it will gradually be won over time. If you need some ideas for romantic ways to impress your partner, this article will help to inspire you.

2. Discussing difficult matters

It is very likely that both parties would rather pretend that the affair never took place so that they can avoid having the difficult conversations that must eventually arise. However, these awkward discussions are the very thing that may save your marriage.

It is normal to feel anger, remorse and sorrow in the aftermath of an infidelity, and talking frankly about these traumatic emotions will allow you both to speak out and to hear the other's point of view.

Bringing everything into the open ensures that the future will hold no unpleasant secrets or surprises, and working through the issues together will be a first step on the road to a bright new future.

However, the betrayed partner should take care not to interrogate their cheating spouse, but instead limit their questioning to a few minutes per day. Demanding constant answers or a blow-by-blow account of everything that happened can only lead to more jealousy and overwhelming feelings that will threaten to throw any attempt at reconciliation off balance.

3. A return to intimacy

Following an infidelity, it is easy to see why the betrayed partner may begin to lose their confidence when it comes to matters of the bedroom.

Fears about not living up to their spouse's expectations, or worries about competing with the ex-lover can easily lead to an unwillingness to return to intimacy. However, the cheating party may also suffer from their own awkwardness too, with concerns about their partner's emotional state and uncertainty about how to initiate physical affection once more.

It is therefore important for the couple to work with each other to regain the lost passion in the relationship and restore their confidence in the bedroom.

Many couples in this situation plunge immediately back into a physical relationship in an attempt to prove to themselves that everything is back to normal. However, this is never a good idea.

Taking it slowly and at a natural pace is the best solution, and may eventually lead to a better love life than ever before.

4. Enjoying quality time

In her New York Times best selling book “Happy Wives Club”, author Fawn Weaver declares that “connection starves suspicion”, and there is certainly something in this theory.

A primary reason cited by cheating partners for straying is a lack of connection with their partner and an increasing emotional distance from each other.

To resolve this problem, both partners need to make a commitment to spending more quality time in each other's company by finding joint interests and participating in shared activities.

Above all else, during this quality time, the affair should never be discussed. Instead, the focus should remain firmly on the present and the future, with positive thinking and planning ahead rather than dwelling on the past.

5. Evaluation of the relationship

When both parties have a clear understanding of the reasons for the affair, there can be a resolution of the issues that caused the situation to arise in the first place.

Honesty is the key here.

Was your marriage lacking in emotional connection? Were you rarely physically affectionate? Did you ever spend quality time together or were you usually too busy doing your own thing?

No relationship can be completely rebuilt without addressing these issues, so as a couple you need to take a close look at the way your marriage worked before the affair and critically analyse everything that needs to change or improve so that you can enjoy a positive future together.

Take care to avoid apportioning blame – empathy is the key to success.

If neither you nor your partner have yet strayed from the marital path but worry about your future together, this article will help you to save your relationship before it hits crisis point.

I would love to hear your comments or answer any questions you might have about this post.

Yours sincerely,   

Dr. Carissa Coulston, Clinical Psychologist

BSc(Hons), MPsychol(Clinical), PhD, MAPS