Books to Help You Deal with Affairs in Your Marriage

I know many of you are in really rough places in your marriage because of infidelity, and you need some help.

I find myself getting lots of emails from women whose husbands are having affairs, or are heavily involved in porn, or are texting another woman. And these readers don’t know what to do.

And I also find myself recommending the same books to different people, over and over. And so I thought today that I’d put together a resource post of books I know of if your spouse is having an affair, or flirting with having an affair, or if you are trying to recover from an affair. I’ll likely add to this later, so if you have other favourites, leave them in the comments! (And I would count heavy porn use as an affair, too, as I wrote in this post on “Is Porn Cheating“?)

Here are some that are often recommended, and I’ll review them here. To sum up:

Love Must Be Tough–awesome if your spouse is cheating or doing something to endanger the marriage and doesn’t seem to care or want to rebuild.
Surviving an Affair–awesome and compassionate advice for both the one who cheated and the spouse who is cheated upon to help you rebuild.
Torn Asunder–meant to help you rebuild, but seems to blame the victim. I’d recommend Surviving an Affair instead.

Read below for more detailed reviews!

Love Must Be Tough by James Dobson

Love Must Be ToughIn Love Must Be Tough, Dobson asks the question, “what do you do when only one person wants to save a marriage?” As a counselor, he says, he’s used to seeing couples. Two people walk into his counseling room, and they start talking about their issues.

Yet Dobson was finding that this model wasn’t really helpful to many people, because in most cases when a marriage goes sour, only one person wants to save it. The other seems content to let it go.

So what do you do if you’re the spouse who wants to save the relationship, and your spouse is having an affair, or is heavily addicted to porn, or is doing something else that is completely destructive to the relationship?

Dobson walks you through a process of “waking the other spouse up”, showing them the consequences of their actions. Most people, he says, when confronted with a wayward spouse, panic and try to bend over backwards, thinking that if they’re just nice enough, and if they’re just forgiving enough, and if they’re just sexy enough, the spouse will return. Actually, says Dobson, the exact opposite is true. Becoming a doormat is not going to save your marriage. Allowing your spouse to experience the repercussions of their actions and be jolted into doing the right thing is a better course of action.

And it’s also better for you spiritually. So he shows you how to rely on God during this time, how to make wise decisions for you and the kids, and how to leave the door open so that reconciliation is not only possible, but far more probable than if you turn yourself inside out for a cheating spouse. And if reconciliation doesn’t happen, you’re still in a stronger place with God, and you’re able to move forward.

A great book if you’re the one being treated horribly in your marriage.

Surviving an Affair

Surviving an AffairHow do you end an affair? Can you rebuild after an affair? How do you learn to trust again?

Dr. Willard Harley Jr. and Dr. Jennifer Harley Chalmers tackle these sticky problems in this excellent and practical book which walks couples through the recovery process.

They start the book with analyzing affairs and how they end, and I learned something important here: 95% of affairs which are exposed die a natural death within 2 years. In contrast, if affairs remain secret they can last decades. This makes sense to me. Once an affair is public, and it has to then be a real relationship, it likely won’t last because it’s built on such a shaky foundation. But if it remains in secret, it’s really just a fantasy. It has nothing to do with real life. And you can carry on a fantasy for a long time.

So if a spouse learns of an affair, chances are that affair will end.

And that’s what the Harleys insist upon–if you want an affair to end, you MUST cut off all contact, cold turkey. They walk you through how to do that, sharing different stories that are poignant, that all readers will relate to. They talk about what to do if your spouse won’t cut off contact. And they talk about how practically to make sure that the person involved in the affair can no longer reach you–even if you have to change emails and phone numbers. And they strongly recommend switching jobs if the affair was with a co-worker.

They walk couples through how to be accountable with their time and money, so that the other spouse knows that they can trust again. And then, and only then, do they start to rebuild the relationship.

And if the offending spouse refuses to end the affair? They walk you through how to expose it–because it expose it you must. They say:

Reality has a way of bursting the bubble of illusion, and an affair is one of the biggest illusions that anyone can experience in life. It’s based almost entirely on emotions with almost no logic to support it.

That fact becomes clear when children, employers, clergy, family, and friends all hear about the affair. Because they are not in the fog, they see the affair for what it really is: the cruelest, most devastating, and selfish act anyone can ever inflict on a spouse. With so many people seeing the situation logically and not emotionally, the unfaithful spouse has an opportunity to be advised and influenced by these people. Furthermore, the betrayed spouse gains support when he or she needs it the most.

If that doesn’t work, they walk you through Plan B, showing how having the unfaithful spouse face true consequences often jars them into reality.

When the spouse does want to rebuild, they walk through the psychological drama that often accompanies it–the unfaithful spouse suffering withdrawal; the innocent spouse desperate to rebuild RIGHT NOW.

They spend the rest of the book talking about the concept of Love Banks: how we are to avoid withdrawals, and try to make as many deposits as possible during this turbulent time. And they’re really practical about it.

That’s what I like about this book–it’s super practical, and it tells you exactly what to do in each situation to rebuild your marriage and deal appropriately with a wayward spouse. And reading through it, I felt hope, even for desperate couples. It really can be done. I highly recommend Surviving an Affair.

Torn Asunder by Dave Carder

Torn Asunder: Recovering From an Extramarital AffairI agreed with Dave Carder’s reasoning in his book Torn Asunder–that the message of an affair is important to understand, and that when you both decide to work through that message, the marriage can be saved. He also was very clear that the affair is the infidel’s responsibility.

However, he didn’t make that clear until nearly halfway into the book, and honestly, if I were a woman who had just found out my husband had cheated on me, this book would have made me feel horrible.

It opens with a rather bizarre several-page-long letter from “the other woman”–except that she’s not “the other woman”. She’s an infidel herself, and to call her “the other woman” isn’t very sympathetic to this guy’s husband. Anyway, in the letter she justifies her affair and is upset at her friends for confronting her on it. I don’t know why he felt it necessary to start with this letter.

Early in the book, too, he shows how personality and background can contribute to affairs, again cementing the idea that the person who is cheated on is somehow responsible.

I don’t think that’s what Carder believes, but if you were to just read the first few chapters, that’s what you’d come away with. I think Surviving an Affair does a better job at helping a couple with practical ideas to rebuild their marriage.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.


  1. ButterflyWings says:

    Love Must Be Tough is a great book that I wish I’d found early in my first marriage rather than after we were already separated. It’s useful for more than just affairs/sexual stuff. I found it had a lot that was useful for dealing with a husband with an addiction of any sort (in my exhusband’s case, it was a major drug addiction as well as peer pressure issues with his drug using friends).

    I highly recommend it. Even before things go wrong in a marriage, it’s a useful read for “just in case”

  2. Surviving an Affair was instrunental in my personal recovery after my husbands confession and in the healing of our marriage as we went through much of the book together as well.

  3. Another helpful book is “After the Affair” by Janis Abrahms Spring.

  4. Thanks for the suggestions. I don’t know anyone who needs them at the moment but I will remember this if it comes up.

    Just to let you know, there are a number of typos in the quote from ‘Surviving an Affair’.

  5. “Holding Onto Heaven While Your Husband Goes Through Hell” by Connie Neal is my favorite after the affair book for women
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  6. I see you talk about men having an affair a lot but what about women? Do you recommend the same books when it’s the woman whose had the affair? My mom had/is having an affair (I confronted her). Just wondering if there is any books/advice I can pass on to her.

  7. Munchkinsmom says:

    Speaking from recent experience, I highly recommend ‘NOT “Just Friends”‘ by Shirley P. Glass. I had an affair many years ago and kept it a secret from my husband until last year. I felt convicted by the Lord and knew I had to confess to my husband and ask for his forgiveness (I confessed and am forgiven by Jesus). During many hours of marital therapy with a Christian counselor, we are slowly healing and building a stronger marriage the way God created it to be. This book helped us discuss what happened and understand what the other was going through and feeling. It is not a Christian-based book, but it is written by an author who supports the covenant of marriage.

  8. {Editor’s Note: This comment has been erased for being offensive. All further comments by this man will be erased. I’m sorry for the offense he caused on this blog while I was on vacation and couldn’t check comments regularly.}

  9. Thank you for sharing this resource. As the husband of wife who has two affairs this is most helpful. Although I can’t change her I can work on my issues. God bless you.

  10. My husband and I have been married for almost 3 yrs, but we have known each other since we were children. Recently he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. He is fighting for his life and just spent the last week on 3 rd round of chemo. I love my husband. I was staying with him through this, but when his first round of chemo began I was holding his hand as it began to go through his veins in a IV. The next day, he could not remember I was even in the room. I have since been pushed away by his mother, sisters, and talked about terrible. My husband keeps being told lies about me by his family, and when he forgets they remind him. I quit going to hospital, because it just seemed to upset him, because he has no idea of what’s going on. I have just returned to our home and went back to work. I was told one day that his sister posted so many lies on Facebook that I left her brother fighting for his life. I have never left , I just am staying away to keep problems and stress off him, but now he don’t text me call me, and when I text I get the reply ok ttyl or no, yes, unless he thinks he can get me up there for sex then afterward treat me like crap again. Confused. Please help…

    • Melissa, that’s so tough–but he is your husband. Go back to the hospital and insist that you be the one to sit with him. You are next of kin. You can even ask the nurses to only let his family there at certain hours and restrict their visiting hours. Fight for your marriage–don’t let other people sideline you. That’s the best I can think of! I hope that helps.

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