Can your marriage go back to the way things were before he cheated?

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More than anything else, you probably just want your marriage to go back to being the way it was before he cheated. Remember how it was, back in the days when you loved your marriage, and you’d have sworn so did he? Back then your marriage was fun. What would it take to be that happy again?

Maybe a better question is whether it’s even possible for your marriage to return to the way things were. Can a marriage survive infidelity?

You’d be surprised how many women find themselves in the same position you’re in, and ask this same question. Most women, when they ask, don’t understand that the question itself is an indication of the kind of “wrong thinking” that often ends with the couple divorcing.

Why is that?

It’s because returning to the way things were before he cheated is not the answer.

Think about this: If things were so great in the beginning when you thought you were happy, then how did you end up having this problem you face today?

Makes you think, doesn’t it? Something had to be wrong.

My position, and the position of many respected marriage counselors like Dr. Frank Gunzburg, has always been that you never blame the victim. Only the cheater bears the responsibility for the affair. You don’t. Don’t let yourself believe that it’s partly your fault this happened, because it’s not.

But, your thinking that your marriage was ideal once upon a time is probably mistaken. If it was truly ideal, it’s not likely your husband would have decided to go through with actions that would cause so much pain and damage.

That’s why there’s no reason you should desire going back to a situation where you were unknowingly heading straight for the disaster you face today. Why would you want to step back into the time leading up to the affair, if what was going on in your marriage back then made your husband able to justify having the affair to begin with?

To save your marriage, you have to understand: Your marriage before the affair was not in an optimal state. You don’t want to go back to the way things were.

No doubt you have memories of being a happy couple. You remember exciting times and romantic moments, and you remember feeling safe, and having a sense of belonging, and a sense of achievement. You thought what you had was a steady, healthy marriage.

But if your ultimate goal today is to survive the affair and rebuild trust, then viewing your past through rose-colored glasses and ignoring the way that past led to the affair is not going to help you reach your ultimate goal. It doesn’t help you in any way to fantasize about how things would be great if you could just go back in time.

It’s a moot point anyway; we can’t go backward, only forward. There’s no regaining the past, no matter how hard we wish it so. Here’s what you should really be asking: What do you wish for your future to be like? If you could build your ideal marriage to last the rest of your life, what kind of marriage would it be?

Spend some time thinking about that question instead.

It’s hard to hear it, but the fact of the matter is your marriage can never be the same as it was. Your relationship’s path — your life’s path and your husband’s — have been undeniably altered.

You might be tempted to make believe the affair never happened, but that’s not constructive. You might want to pretend it will have no long-term effect on your marriage, but that’s naive.

You can’t be successful at these pretenses anyway. No matter how hard you try to forget it happened, you will always remember the affair. Yes, with dedicated effort you can heal your marriage and reach a point where you stop wondering about the details he never shared, and stop seeing constant mental images of him with her. You can make the pain recede. But don’t expect to ever forget.

Still, don’t feel your situation is hopeless. Professional counselors will tell you how again and again, they see marriages healed after an affair. You can make a fresh start, in a marriage healthier than it ever was before. You can arrive at a place where you feel safer, happier, and an even stronger sense of belonging than you ever felt before the affair.

As a matter of fact, used correctly, the affair can be the catalyst that triggers your marriage to evolve into this better-than-before state. Usually when couples first hear this, they don’t believe such a relationship metamorphosis is possible.

After listening to Dr. Gunzburg though, I came to believe it. He has witnessed many couples, willing to exert the effort required to heal their marriages, end up rebuilding their relationship into one stronger than when it started.

These marriages are flourishing. These couples have regained love. They feel safe and happy with each other.

Could you ask for more?

To reach this place, you really must give up on the idea that your relationship needs to revert to the way it was before he cheated. Only after you’ve abandoned that notion will you be ready to undertake the work needed to achieve a healthy marriage and a happy future.

You can start on that work just as soon as you accept this “eureka” moment, and stop wishing for what cannot possibly happen or help. Make this mental adjustment. Understand that the marriage you desire, the one that will carry you to the end of your life, is one you can start building today if you’re willing to look forward, not back.

Here is what you need.