While infidelity is nothing new, today's media-focused society has brought its relevance to the fore with scarcely a week seeming to pass without one celebrity or another apologising in the press for cheating on their partner.

Almost a fifth of British people admit to having cheated on their partner in a recent YouGov poll, with an astounding 5% of women and 8% of men having actually betrayed their spouse more than 20 times.

Although in a great many cases the betrayal goes undiscovered, once an affair has been revealed, you have to face the issue of what to do next.

Should you divorce your cheating spouse or should you try to make your marriage work?

Although it may seem impossible in the immediate aftermath of discovering an infidelity that you could ever trust your partner again, in fact more than half of all betrayed men and women end up staying with their spouse long after the affair has been uncovered.

This course of action does require a lot of hard work on behalf of both parties however, and both of you must be entirely committed to healing the damage and redesigning your relationship.

If you suspect your spouse of cheating, or if you have already discovered that they are having an affair, you may be asking yourself whether your relationship can possibly survive.

In this article, we outline the five key steps you must take together if you want your marriage to continue.

1. Rebuild the Trust

The first step to salvaging a marriage is to learn how to place your trust in your spouse again, and this is no mean feat.

A big part of this is done by being painfully honest about your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Admitting fully and frankly to all of your mistakes will help you to rebuild what has been broken.

Trust is the bedrock that every relationship is based upon, and in order to be able to trust your spouse, you have to feel safe and protected from harm when you are with them.

To this end, the unfaithful partner must understand that they have to put in extra effort, taking active steps to rebuild the safety net and to go above and beyond to demonstrate how much they love their spouse.

A betrayed partner will always be looking for reassurance that they can count on their spouse and the straying partner must acknowledge and appreciate this, and take action to leave their husband or wife in no doubt of their love.

There are many ways to do this – perhaps by giving an unexpected gift, treating your loved one to a special surprise for an occasion such as a birthday or anniversary, or simply by telling them that they are loved every day.

Relate, the UK's best known marriage guidance group also suggest that by sharing passwords for emails and social media accounts, it is possible to restore confidence.

However it must be borne in mind that trust will not reappear as if by magic overnight, but must be won back slowly over time.

2. The Importance of Frank Discussions

Nobody ever said that talking about the affair would be easy, and both of you would probably prefer to bury your head in the sand and pretend that it never happened.

However if you are committed to moving on with your relationship, you must sit down together and discuss your feelings of anger, sorrow and remorse with openness.

This frankness will ensure that both of you have been given the opportunity to share your side of the story and to bring your emotions out into the open.

This way, there will be no secrets waiting to be revealed at some future point and, although working through the raw emotions will take time, eventually it is only through this type of difficult conversation that you can work together to find a new path.

While asking and answering questions is important, it is essential to realise that there must be a limit on the interrogation as otherwise it will take over your entire relationship.

Set a restriction to just a few questions each day and use this as the basis on which you can start to leave the infidelity in the past, putting jealous feelings behind you.

3. A Return to Confidence in Your Bedroom

Following an affair, it is likely that one or both of you will find yourself lacking in confidence when it comes to getting intimate.

It is only natural for a betrayed partner to have concerns that they cannot match the performance of their spouse's ex-lover, and the jealous feelings arising from this can easily get in the way of any enjoyment.

Meanwhile, the partner who has cheated may also find that they are experiencing awkwardness and embarrassment once they try to renew their intimacy with their husband or wife, and this means that both partners must work as a team to regain the passion they used to have in their love life.

A strong physical relationship will enable you to regain confidence in your marriage, but rushing things before you are ready to take that step would be a mistake.

Allow the intimacy to return at a natural pace and never try to force anything as this may lead to resentment and arguments.

4. Spend Quality Time Together

One reason why many people have an affair centres around a lack of closeness and the distance that grows between a couple over time.

For any relationship to survive an affair, it is important to rectify this issue and to invest enough effort into spending more quality time as a couple.

Finding a common interest is a great way of bringing yourselves closer together, and shared activities allow couples to have something in common to talk about other than dwelling on the infidelity.

For example, it has been suggested that couples who sweat together stay together, so hitting the gym together or taking a daily jog in each other's company could be a good way to bolster your relationship.

And if you are not into running, ‘walking and talking’ is extremely therapeutic.

5. Time for Some Relationship Evaluation

Whatever the reasons for straying outside the marriage, the key to salvaging your relationship is in understanding why the affair happened and how to change things so that it will not happen again.

Maybe your marriage was emotionally distant or perhaps it was lacking in physical affection, and coming to terms with this and rectifying the situation must be the foundation upon which your marriage must be rebuilt.

Without addressing the issues that led to the infidelity, eventually any attempt to move on will inevitably fail. But to do this, it is essential for both partners to take an objective look at the way their relationship worked before the affair and then critically analyse what requires improvement and change so that a successful and happy future can be secured.

Above all, placing the entirety of the blame on the other partner must be avoided – the best approach is empathy and understanding.

This article about how to achieve a happy relationship may help to set you on the right track to a successful future together.

Of course, not every couple feel invested enough in their marriage to put in the time and effort that is essential to rebuilding the trust and love that has been lost.

If that is the case for you, it is best to make a clean break and forget your ex in order to pursue future happiness.

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