02/11/2013 01:20 pm ET Updated Apr 13, 2013

Rebuilding a Marriage After an Affair

What makes a marriage successful? What can be done to rebuild your marriage after an affair? Valentine's Day, despite the Hallmark hoopla, offers an opportunity to reflect on how to be happily married.

Recently, I interviewed Victoria, who discovered her husband was having an affair. She decided she wanted to remain married; ultimately, the whole episode made their union stronger.

Of course, it is worth acknowledging that no one really knows what goes on in another person's home. Take my 50th birthday, for example. My husband and I were a picture book couple and we had a picture book family. At my birthday party, among other things, he read:

"To a wonderful wife, lover, mother and friend. May the next 50 years be as productive, interesting, and as full of love."

Two years later, Husband and I separated.

Victoria, a 58-year-old retired history professor living in Chicago, shares her experience after her husband had an affair:

The biggest challenge I faced in my marriage was when my husband had an affair. But I was certain it was a one-time thing, that it was a mid-life crisis and that it would never happen again. He assured me I was totally right on all counts. I wanted to stay married, I really loved my husband and wanted my children to grow up with their father, so we stayed together.

I insisted on certain rules, however. For six months, he had to let me know where he was at all times. Also, we did not have sex for those six months. I wanted him to know I meant business.

There was never another moment that I worried my husband was looking at another woman and I always felt totally secure in our marriage after that. Clearly, I made the right decision, learning you can forgive, even if you can't forget.

But you can forgive only once!

In our early years, when we would argue, it took me a while to realize that my husband's tactic was "the best defense is a good offense." He would turn our arguments around and complain about something I had done, totally unrelated to what we were arguing about (which was usually something he had done). When I finally realized what he was doing, I would immediately stop him cold and remind him what the subject of our argument was. You have to learn to argue constructively. Do not to go to bed angry. Grudges are really bad.

Best things to do to keep a spouse happy -- keep the sex lively!

Read more tips for a successful marriage on my blog, Confessions of a Worrywart
note: Victoria's identity has been disguised to protect the innocent as well as the guilty.

What tips do you have for healthy relationships?


Confessions of a Worrywart: Husbands, Lovers, Mothers, and Others now on Amazon, Kindle, and Smashwords.

The perfect Valentine's Day gift for worrywarts or anyone who would enjoy a "neurotic, hilarious, poignant" deeply personal memoir.

"A first-rate personal essayist, Susan Orlins delivers the goods time and again. Underneath her self-mocking voice, her abundant humor, her brio, there is the serious candor of a moralist who worries the problems that won't go away."
-PHILLIP LOPATE, author and editor of The Art of the Personal Essay