Jake had a feeling that his wife was cheating for a couple of months. She was distant, acting differently, and seemed to start fights so they would end up sleeping separately. Jake looked through her phone and found a string of “love messages” from his wife’s co-worker and evidence of a physical and emotional affair.He confronted them both. His wife was frantic and tried to shift the blame to his shortcomings. He has two young kids and while he’s ready to hire a lawyer and get a divorce, he wonders: Should I try to save my marriage?
For Shawna, grief comes in waves. When she thinks about her husband’s affair and the “other woman,” she’s sick to her stomach. Her husband has been texting and messaging another woman for two years and while she lives in another state, her husband has sent her gifts and money – the kind of romantic gifts Shawana hasn’t gotten since they were dating 15 years ago.
Shawna asked her husband to stop talking to the other woman and block her when she saw the inappropriate pictures they were sending back and forth. Shawna has three kids ranging in age from 8 to 21 and she envisioned growing old with her husband. They were so in love. She wants to try to save her marriage, but he won’t stop talking to his long-distance girlfriend.
If you’re wondering what adultery really means, both Shawna and Jake are experiencing adultery in their marriages even though the circumstances are different.
Infidelity Vs. Emotional Infidelity
Infidelity or adultery is the act of being unfaithful in marriage. While we often think of the physical act of unfaithfulness in a marriage as infidelity, adultery can result from an emotional affair as well.
Emotional infidelity occurs anytime a spouse devotes time, attention, and energy to someone outside of marriage to the point that high levels of emotional intimacy exist. Taking it a step further, it also exists when a married person feels an attraction to anyone that is not his or her spouse.In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus tells us, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” According to God’s holy standard and His desire for deep intimacy in marriage, even lust means that you have violated the prohibition on adultery.
Both Shawna and Jake wonder what to do about the adultery in their marriages. They both have well-meaning and caring friends and family members, but often their advice is to get a divorce, fight to save their marriage, or grow a backbone when what they’re both looking for is deeper support and answers.
What to Do After the Affair
Christians who have been unfaithful or cheated on often wonder what to do after the affair. Because we place a strong emphasis on marriage as a sacred bond and many are deeply concerned about how their children will cope with divorce, they often ask themselves: should I get a divorce?
They also understand that divorce has a ripple effect, impacting extended family members, circles of friends, job performance, living situations, financial situations, and more.
This question is complicated and it often depends on other factors. There is no right answer and it often involves discernment from the Holy Spirit and professional support and insight. We read that Jesus permitted divorce on grounds of infidelity, but He did not demand it:
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.– Matthew 19:8-9
Matthew 19:6 says, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” We understand from scripture that God’s heart is that “no one separates what God has joined together” and through countless examples of restored marriages, we can see that He is fully able to heal your marriage after infidelity.
So, the question of whether or not to get a divorce might be reframed as: Do you want to restore your relationship with your spouse? If so, why? If not, why not? The answers to those questions can be truly insightful.
Whether or not you choose to restore your marriage following an affair, it’s also quite possible that you’ll need to restore your relationship with God. Having an affair involves a great deal of lying, deception, and sin. This often causes a person to feel distant from God, but their sin has caused them to move away from God.
When a person spends time in His presence, he or she often feels a holy conviction that leads to repentance. Adulterers who are caught in an affair often don’t want to repent, because they don’t want to end the affair or let go of the individual they have become intertwined with.
This is why many people distance themselves from God when they’re caught in sin. Their Bible reading and praying begin to decline. Then they often distance themselves from people from Church or small groups. They might feel guilty at Church when they worship or hear the sermon, so they might stop going to church altogether.
Many people who do this tell themselves that God is distancing Himself from them due to their wrong behavior when really they are distancing themselves from God and the people they love because of their sin.
Affair recovery always involves reconciliation with God and a turning back to Him through repentance, prayer, Bible reading, church attendance, and fellowship with other believers. It also involves reconciliation with your spouse and it always involves forgiveness and healing in order to mend emotional wounds and hurts.
Surviving infidelity is absolutely possible in a marriage. If both partners are willing to mend the relationship, rebuild trust, and get help, it is possible to rebuild a thriving marriage that is stronger and healthier than before the infidelity.
It takes hard and intentional work to uncover the underlying conditions that lead to the affair and learn new ways to relate and engage, but there are many stories of Jesus’ redeeming love entering a marriage and breathing new life back into it. It is possible.
If one or both of you are unwilling to salvage the marriage, have been advised by wise counsel to walk away from the marriage, or believe it’s the right decision to divorce due to the affair, you might still feel like you’ll never recover from the trauma, breach of trust, or betrayal. You may be deeply hurt and find yourself in a place where you are unable to forgive or let go of your unmet dreams, desires, and expectations for your life.
Bitterness and resentment may plague your heart and you may experience a number of sleepless nights as you replay the events in your head or act out what might have happened in your imagination. You might be consumed with finding out the truth about every specific detail that happened and probing your spouse with questions.
It’s important that you grieve all that was lost and process all of your emotions. There may be a number of unresolved issues, questions, or challenges that you need to work through following an affair and it’s important that you process and work through these rather than bury them or distract yourself from feeling them. Speaking to a pastor or Christian Counselor can be a great support and form of healing.
Christian marriage counseling can help couples recover from an affair and rebuild trust to restore the marriage. We would love to support you and walk with you. To speak with a counselor about marriage counseling or how to recover from an affair, reach out to us today.
“It Hit Me”, Courtesy of Claudia, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Caught”, Courtesy of Nik Shuliahin, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Black Heart”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sunset Kiss”, Courtesy of Filipe Almeida, Unsplash.com, CC0 License