A marriage doesn't come to an end because of an affair, it comes to an end because of how the married couple deals with the affair, notes psychologist and author Jay Kent-Ferraro in a May 2011 "Psychology Today" article. Keep in mind that it's completely possible to avoid separation and divorce, and create a happy, healthy marriage if both parties are willing to put the necessary time, effort and energy into making this happen. In fact, an affair can be a positive turning point for a couple that is willing to recommit themselves to each other.
Talk to your wife. Be honest and get everything out in the open. Tell her how her affair made you feel, and how it affected your confidence, your trust in her, and your feelings about the marriage. Ask her any questions you may have about the affair. It may hurt in the short term, but complete honesty is necessary if you both want to make the marriage work.
Accept that your wife did something wrong. If you are sure that she is genuinely sorry, decide whether you can forgive her. This won't happen overnight, of course, but being willing to forgive her is a crucial step toward saving your marriage. Give yourself time to get there and try not to dwell on what she did, advises Dr. Phil. Attempting to rationalize her behavior is a waste of time and won't help you get past the affair and move on with your lives together.
Set specific boundaries for your wife as part of the process of forgiveness. She must be willing to rebuild the trust she destroyed, notes Kent-Ferraro. This might include changing her cell phone number and checking in with you at pre-arranged times every day. You must be 100 percent sure that your wife's relationship with the third party is completely over, and that there is absolutely no contact between them.
Seek professional help if you -- or both of you -- are struggling to rebuild the relationship after your wife's affair. Ask friends, family or your primary care doctor to recommend an experience, suitably qualified couples counselor. Embrace the opportunity to learn about and improve yourself, as well as arm yourself with the tools you need to create a happy, healthy, trusting marriage.
Be aware that there may come a point when you decide that you simply can't forgive your wife. At that stage, you need to move on from the relationship and concentrate on yourself. Don't stay in an unhappy marriage just for the sake of your children, warns Dr. Phil. Kids will be better off with two happy parents who are apart than two miserable parents who are together.