“I’m having an affair.” If you’ve heard these words, then you understand the weight they carry. They are daggers to the heart and can be deadly to a marriage.
I received an email from a reader whose husband recently confessed to having multiple affairs during their ten years of marriage. She believes that he is completely remorseful and fully realizes that he has broken his vows…over and over again. This couple has 2 children and has been together a long time. Even after hearing his gut-wrenching confession, she still loves him and wants to stay with him. Trying to hold it together, she doesn’t know how to deal with the myriad of emotions she’s experiencing…sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, desperation…you name it. As a follower of our Facebook Marriage page, this woman reached out to me for advice on how to move forward and save her marriage after an affair.
You might be thinking, is this even possible? Can a marriage really be saved after an affair? Yes, vows have been broken. Yes, trust must be earned once again. Yes, it’s messy and emotional and hard. However, after years of meeting with and talking to couples both in person and online, I can tell you that IT IS POSSIBLE…but it takes lots of work and constant prayer.
So, if you desire to stay with your spouse after an affair, here are 3 questions to consider:
1. Is he/she being completely HONEST with you about EVERYTHING?
I don’t believe that the “guilty” spouse needs to tell his/her spouse ALL of the details of the relationship, but I do think he/she needs to be willing to answer ANY and ALL questions that the spouse may have. Trust has been broken. The process to regain trust is a slow one, and this can only happen with full transparency. With that said, I want to remind the “innocent” spouse to be cautious when asking for specifics. It is hard for us to get things out of our mind once they are in there. You don’t want to keep replaying images of your spouse cheating on you with someone else over and over in your mind. This will only hinder your healing. It’s okay to want certain details to better understand what lead to the affair, but knowing the details isn’t going to change the fact that it happened. Important questions to ask include: Have you completely ended the affair? Have you cut off all contact with this person? Have you gotten rid of any devices or apps (i.e. secret cell phones, snapchat, etc.) that links you to this person? Are you willing to get rid of passwords, change jobs, move, or do whatever it takes to not be around the person with whom you committed adultery? If you or your spouse answers “no” to any of these questions, then you are not ready to move forward together. If you or your spouse willingly and honestly say “yes” to all of these questions, then you can move on to the next consideration.
2. Are you BOTH fully COMMITTED to saving this marriage even when it feels ugly and uncomfortable?
In order for any marriage to last, even when no affair has taken place, BOTH the husband and the wife must be FULLY and COMPLETELY committed to one another. True love will not last without commitment. When an affair occurs, the commitment has been broken, and that is precisely why some decide to divorce. The only way a marriage can survive and even thrive after an affair is by both the husband and the wife recommitting to one another. Both spouses must be willing to go through all the emotions that follow the news of an affair, and your emotions will be all over the place. The “innocent” spouse is absolutely allowed to be angry, but we must try to not sin in our anger by punishing the “guilty” spouse with hateful words and actions. The “guilty” spouse must understand and deal with the reality of his/her sin, and he/she must give the “innocent” spouse time to cope and approach him/her with tenderness and humility.
Both spouses must also be willing to do things differently, and this can be very frustrating and awkward at times. A marriage counselor or pastor is extremely helpful in navigating through all of these steps and helping the couple move forward. We cannot forget the past, but we can move forward with recommitment and God’s help through prayer and counsel.
3. Are you BOTH willing to FORGIVE and TRUST AGAIN?
Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.
Please understand that when a spouse commits adultery, he/she has chosen to break his/her marriage vows. The other spouse is NOT to blame. However, no spouse is ever completely innocent of sin in a marriage. We all fall short. We both have wronged each other in some way and are in need of forgiveness.
It is amazing what God can do when we both humble ourselves and ask the other for forgiveness. I have been referring to the spouse who had an affair as the “guilty” one and the other as the “innocent” one, but none of us are completely innocent. Yes, the spouse who had the affair is asking for a greater amount of forgiveness in this situation, but there are certainly things that the other spouse can confess. Beyond seeking forgiveness for the affair, both spouses need to ask themselves: Have I been fully present with my spouse? Have I been harboring resentment towards him/her? Have I been physically absent? Have I been taking care of our kids but not our marriage? Have I been avoiding communication? Have I been keeping something from my partner? If we can answer “yes” to any of these, then we need to seek forgiveness from our spouse. Both partners must humbles themselves before the Lord and seek HIS forgiveness FIRST. Then, they must seek it from each other.
My husband, Dave, always says, “Give forgiveness quickly, but trust slowly. Forgiveness can only be given freely, but trust can only be earned.”
Again, no spouse causes the other to have an affair, and an affair is NEVER warranted. We all fall short of being the perfect spouse, and there is always a reason to humble ourselves. Humility will move us towards harmony.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
Nothing is impossible with God…even saving a marriage after an affair. It’s not the easy road, and it will take everything you both have to fight for it.
If you are in this position and desire an effective next step, please go to “Save My Marriage” for more information.
Also, please check out our latest book, “The Marriage Minute”, by clicking here.
I also encourage you to watch my husband, Dave Willis, talk about “How to Heal After an Affair”, by clicking here.