I wish this word never happened to anyone, and I hope it never happens to you. But in my job I hear it almost every week. The word is AFFAIR.

I once thought this word was guaranteed to end a marriage, but after seeing countless marriages put back together by the grace of God — even actually strengthened following an affair — I now believe an affair definitely does not have to be the final chapter of a marriage.

I hope you never hear the word — but if you do, I want to share some tips from my observations.

Expect numbness

For the first few days or even weeks, you may not feel anything. Don’t be surprised. You’ll feel a range of emotions in the days ahead, but right now you may not know what to feel. This is perfectly normal. Your emotions have been shattered. Trust has been violated. There is a huge hole in your heart. Don’t make major decisions during these initial days. They will be purely emotionally based and you may regret them later.

Get counseling soon

In my experience, when couples call the day or two after they learn of an affair, the counseling starts off in on an unhealthy track. There are too many emotions in the way. But, you will need someone to walk through this with you. This is not an issue you can solve on your own or just ignore. Saving the marriage will take two committed people, but counseling can help you either way. Certainly, if you intend to save the marriage (which I hope you do), then you will need help.

Decide where you want to go with the marriage

This is not a decision to make in the first few days, but eventually you’ll have to make some hard decisions. Do you want to make it work or not? This may take a season — and counseling — to discern. I believe every marriage can be saved if two people are willing to make it work. But without your personal commitment to doing so, it is unlikely you will be successful in saving the marriage — or, at least, in making it strong again. Think about the vows you made to each other. Obviously, they have been broken. But, are you willing, at least on your part, to making them work again?

Think about the vows you made to each other. Are you willing, at least on your part, to making them work again?

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Get a plan to restore your marriage and work the plan

Work together and with a counselor on practical steps to grow the marriage back into complete trust. This will be a difficult, long process. The biggest concern I hear from the offending spouse is how long it takes — but the results are worth it.

Eventually you will need to forgive your spouse for the hurt he or she has caused you

Forgiveness is a choice, but it is a difficult process, a work of grace. Sometimes God grants you this ability quickly and sometimes it takes time. Trust is always rebuilt over time. But you cannot have a successful marriage if one spouse holds a grudge against the other. Forgiveness is a necessary step to restore the marriage.

Build safeguards into your life

To rebuild trust and to help ensure this doesn’t happen again, you need to learn how to protect your marriage in the future. What went wrong? Where were the holes in the marriage? How did it get to this point? A counselor can help sort through these issues, but it will be up to you to implement safeguards against them as you move forward. In our marriage, my wife and I have certain “ground rules” and practices that we believe help protect our marriage. You may need similar processes.

Invest in other marriages

Once your marriage is healthy again and you’ve semi-recovered, you will have valuable experience to help others. Don’t be afraid to let God use you in this way. Helping others will actually serve to further strengthen your marriage.

I’m praying for those who read this and are directly impacted by an affair. I’m praying for your marriage to be saved.

Reprinted by permission from RonEdmondson.com.