Looking for Love: How to Overcome Emotional Affairs

Have you ever heard of the phrase, “Looking for love in all the wrong places”? It’s a phrase we throw around to our peers when we casually talk about a hopeless romantic who may be searching for love in areas where they will not find true love, such as emotional affairs. This idea of true love is what many are searching for.

Think about the following: fame, fortune, popularity, success, power, family, and so forth. Why do we want all these things? We want them because we want to be loved. Maybe we won’t admit it but at the end of the day, we work hard because we are searching for that endless love. There are some interesting proverbs in the Bible that support this.

What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar. – Proverbs 19:22

Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find? – Proverbs 20:6

Unfailing love is what we all want right? That comfort of knowing that your partner or loved one wants to prioritize you and to hold you dearly. We look forward to that warmth and affection with our partners because it makes us feel so special. I remember the first few dates I went with my wife Nicole how easily I had butterflies in my stomach. I couldn’t help it.

My emotions and thoughts just overwhelmed me with this notion that I wanted to be with Nicole and no one else. Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays, vacations, holidays are all special because we cherish these moments with those we genuinely love.

The flip side to that coin also is that we want a partner who is willing to be tried and true with us. Forgiving one another, being patient, understanding, supplying encouragement and support are all aspects of when things aren’t as blissful. We prefer that our partners work with us during challenging times and not give up on us when we royally mess it up.

So good or bad, we want true love that overrides all situations. Those two proverbs aren’t there by accident. They are there to provide insight into how we think and to bring to the forefront what our mission is. Our mission isn’t to be right, or to amass wealth, or to be famous. The goal is to find the cherished love that is so evasive at times. The question is how are we searching for this love?

2021 will be a year of growth for many of us and I’d dare say that growing in our relationships is a very top priority for many of us. 2020 brought hurt and discouragement for many of us also. Addiction grew, domestic violence went up, many betrayals surfaced because the pandemic of COVID-19 exposed our true natures.

One of those exposures may have been emotional affairs. Some may have caught their partners watching pornography on the internet. Others could have wondered why their finances were disappearing and still others may have been that substance abuse was uncovered. However, emotional affairs may explain why you are reading this article.

Maybe you were the partner that was affected by a spouse who connected with someone online in an inappropriate way. Maybe your partner has a bad habit of being flirtatious with the opposite gender with certain staff at a certain establishment which pains you to see. Despite bringing it up you may get accused of overreacting.

Another possibility is that maybe you or someone who is in an emotional affair and you’re wondering if you’ve gone too far. This article interested you because you are at a crossroads in your relationship, and you may have ventured out of the boundaries in an emotional relationship and now you are contemplating on what you are going to do.

Lastly, you could be a friend of someone who is either a victim or a perpetrator and you want to help them out. I applaud you along with our readers for your noble heart to research and understand ways to help your friends potentially stay together for the long haul. Not sure where you are at in this, but you’ve come to the right place to get some extra resources that can help them lovingly and spiritually.

What’s Wrong with Emotional Affairs?

Why are emotional affairs wrong? I want to tackle this first because some may say “there’s nothing physical so what’s the issue?” Indeed, an emotional relationship may not include any physical involvement but there’s a reason it hurts our partners. When we enter a relationship, we may not show our deal-breakers upfront. So, some partners may think they can enjoy their relationship if there’s nothing physical with someone else.

It’s kind of a taboo thing but nothing that could have enough substance to become a deal-breaker. We may point out that the Bible says that the only three ways out of a marriage are death, adultery, or abandonment. As an evangelist in my church, I can agree with that. However, emotional affairs cause major disruption in your marriage.

Think about it this way, would you want someone to be with you at the altar ready to say, “I do” only to hear them state that they will only be faithful to you “99% of the time”? No one would accept that. We want our partners to genuinely love us 100% of the time. It would be insulting to have dinner with your spouse only for them to be daydreaming of some crush they have.

Emotional relationships are a matter of the heart and that’s what needs to be addressed. Jesus calls this out as “matters of the heart”:

For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person. Mark 7:21-23

Jesus is calling out these physical issues, but he is addressing them from the perspective of the heart. Usually, perpetrators of emotional relationships state that they were reacting to someone else flirting or making advances. The perpetrator needs to understand that those boundaries aren’t to be crossed because something that has no strong boundary needs to be questioned.

We have doors in our home, locks on our windows, alarms for our cars, codes, and passwords to our computers for what reason? It’s to protect what we cherish. We protect what we love. If the boundaries are off, then we invite danger to our most intimate places and Jesus takes the ax to the root by saying that we need to look at our heart.

Adultery doesn’t just happen, it evolves, and these scriptures point out that it started within us. It could be why in the gospel it says that the most important commandment is to love our Lord with all our Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength. God wants all of us. He doesn’t accept partial love.

That expectation makes sense to me because I don’t want my wife to be thinking of some guy who flirted with her at the supermarket earlier that day. If we are having dinner, I want her to be present with me. We all want that. Should that situation arise, my wife has some great women in her life with whom she can be open about that temptation. She can seek input from women who will follow up with her and pray to God for her to be victorious in that area of her life.

The same thing goes for me. If I am tempted, I can call a brother in Christ who can listen and provide me with input so that I can tackle this from the beginning instead of it running ramped in my heart. Remember that these expectations are supposed to be high because we are searching for unfailing love. Our partners deserve to have us be present with them in mind, body, and soul.

Tips for Overcoming Emotional Infidelity

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a solid approach for confronting emotional affairs. A foundational core principle of CBT is that it helps us understand the relationship between our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Anyone who is either a victim or perpetrator of emotional affairs should seek professional help to confront this at once to salvage their relationship.

A trained Cognitive Behavioral Therapist can validate your struggles from the start because they want to listen to your story without judgment. Does this mean that the perpetrator can be validated as well? Absolutely. As professionals, we are not here to take sides. Our goal is to provide you with tools to discover what is going on and work together to move forward in healthier ways.

Most Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) are trained in some form or fashion to provide CBT because it is one of the most widely used approaches for therapy. One of the main reasons it is widely used and accepted is because it deals with problems from the inside and out. Adultery is physical which means in CBT language that it can be labeled as an action.

But how would you go about an emotional affair? Can people just sweep it under the rug? Not with CBT. It can be classified as an emotional issue. The therapist would not just focus on emotions but would help the client process their thoughts behind their emotions and what actions they took.

With CBT it all works together. Not one part is left out. Interestingly, the gospels say that if we are to love the Lord then we need to do it all with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. There is no shortcutting this process.

This approach is excellent for those who have been hurt by emotional infidelity because they feel the pain of being betrayed. They can explore those feelings and realize past trauma tied into the current hurt. The process continues as to what they are thinking and possible actions they can take to empower themselves. This is one of many possible approaches but in my work with hundreds of clients, I can’t think of a better approach.

Here are some tips to overcome emotional affairs based on the CBT approach that would include Thoughts, Emotions, Actions (T.E.A.) dialogue:

Thoughts

What thoughts are we processing? This is crucial to start with because so many times we rush to the evidence (phone, internet, talks, etc.) Once an emotional affair has been discovered, we need to ask both partners what they are thinking. One may think that the relationship is over. But is that true? Many people have different emotions, and they stem from what we think.

We don’t condone the affair, but we must try to listen to what our thought process was like to get to the root, recalling Jesus’ words to focus on the heart. The injured party should also voice insecurities, betrayal, shame, embarrassment, etc. The party who was emotionally unfaithful should be a great listener and confirm their partner’s thought process as well.

Remember this rule, if you do something or feel something, you must have thought of it beforehand. Unfaithfulness of any kind is not to be dismissed as a reaction incident. The mind played a role all along.

Emotions

What are we both feeling? What goes on inside of us internally is something to be appreciated. We love romance, zeal, and passion. Those same emotions can but in two ways because someone who is charismatic could also be a big-time flirt. So, we need to address our emotions and validate them further recognizing that emotions are tools and not weapons.

Validation by all parties, the partners, support, and the therapist are crucial. There is no such thing as crazy emotions. The betrayer should allow ample time for the hurting individual to gather their emotions and join in their mourning. This can be a painstaking process but one that leads to success more times than not.

Actions

The whole story must be told. This may sound unfair to the one who is betrayed but it is paramount that both spouses share their entire story of what happened without judgment. We don’t need to be sentimental with the party who committed the infidelity, but we need to understand what is going on in their hearts.

Sharing your story will cause discomfort but it will help the healing process the more times you share it. Get help and support. You don’t need to tell the world but view it as an opportunity to empower yourself. Recommit yourselves to one another, set up boundaries, and have weekly accountable times with your support system.

In conclusion, I want to say that no flaw is fatal. People who either commit emotional affairs or are betrayed by them can still recover and do well. We can make some terrible mistakes, but the grace of Jesus helps us during those crucial times. These are hurtful times but if we seek help and support there’s no telling of what incredible progress we can make as couples.

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Is Emotional Affair Recovery Possible?

Emotional affairs aren’t often talked about but can be as disastrous to relationships as physical affairs would be. You might be asking yourself, “Are emotional affairs even real?”

Unfortunately, not only are emotional affairs real but they are increasingly common in our extremely connected world. Spouses who cross certain emotional boundaries with someone other than their spouse are most likely involved in an emotional affair.

Whether you are the one who is trying to define the relationship you are having with someone outside of your marriage or you are the spouse who wants to understand what to do next, this article might be just right for you.

4 Steps to Emotional Affair Recovery

Here are four steps to achieving emotional affair recovery:

Step 1: Accept that you are participating in an emotional affair.

Emotional affairs often begin as casual friendships, so it can be hard to identify in the early stages. Normally, people are looking for something in another person that they aren’t receiving from their spouse.

Let’s say your spouse never compliments your appearance or talents. At work, your assistant is constantly building you up and giving you daily compliments. You begin to grow closer to your assistant and further away from your spouse.

You begin to look forward to seeing your assistant, making sure you are looking your best. Those everyday compliments transform into late-night chats about home life and work stress. Your assistant is overly compassionate and nurturing, something you haven’t felt from your spouse in years.

Although you notice desires begin to arise, you tell yourself that you respect your marriage too much to jeopardize anything. As the months pass, you begin to celebrate special moments in your life with your friend at work exclusively.

Your wife thinks you are constantly working late, but you are spending time at the office working with your assistant and swapping stories. Your assistant takes emotional priority over your spouse and you begin to feel a greater intimacy with her.

One night you get in an argument with your spouse. She doesn’t remember something you told her that was important to you. Suddenly, you remember it wasn’t your wife you shared these feelings with, but your assistant at work. You are not sure how your appropriate relationship turned inappropriate, but you now recognize that it has to stop. You want to make things right.

Here are some common signs that you are in an emotional affair:

  • You feel you have to hide your conversations with your friend from your spouse.
  • You begin to send more flirtatious messages to each other.
  • You find ways to spend more alone time with this person.
  • You desire to spend more time with this person and make sure you look your best if you know you will see him or her.
  • You compare your spouse to this friend, noticing your friend has qualities your spouse lacks.
  • You share personal issues with your friend because you see them as someone you can trust.

Step 2: Have a conversation with someone.

Now, that you have identified what’s happening as an emotional affair. The next step is to have a conversation with someone, admitting to the emotional affair.

If you are comfortable talking to your spouse about what’s been going on, this might be the ideal place to start. If you don’t feel safe sharing with your spouse yet, enlist the help of a pastor or Christian counselor to support you as you prepare to share with your spouse.

You might be afraid of the outcome of sharing this news with your spouse. Guilt and shame could be overwhelming right now and you are still confused exactly how your friendship became something more. Telling someone will help bring freedom into your life and put you on the path toward healing.

Broken places in your marriage can be restored as you learn more about root problems. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” There is power in talking to a pastor or a Christian friend of the same sex and asking for prayer.

It’s important to share, but you still might be wondering how to begin a conversation of this nature. You can start by saying something simple like “I really got caught up in a situation that went too far emotionally. I would like to tell you about it now.”

Your goal is to share with someone (spouse, counselor, or pastor) what has been happening and then work toward discovering what led you to enter into an emotional affair. A Christian counselor can offer ways to ensure you avoid going down the same path in the future.

Step 3: Find a Counselor

It would be beneficial to find counseling individually and with your spouse. Individual counseling will help you uncover why the affair began and continued over time. A Christian counselor will walk you through different aspects of marriage and what a healthy marriage looks like to you.

You might be dealing with a past hurt that you carried with you into marriage. Individual counseling can help make you healthy and whole which will then contribute to a healthy marriage.

If you are the one who just found out your spouse had an emotional affair, counseling is a safe place to share your current feelings. You might be dealing with anger or bitterness that can be talked through with a professional before beginning a dialogue with your spouse.

It is helpful to have a conversation with a counselor about ways for you to regain confidence in yourself and your marriage. Meeting with a counselor will grant you clarity and help you move forward in a healthy manner.

Marriage counseling is vital at this point. A Christian counselor can help you both navigate your emotions so that you can understand where things may have taken a turn in your marriage. Counseling sessions are meant to equip you with the tools to communicate with your spouse.

It’s difficult to recover from an emotional affair without understanding fully why the affair happened, what maintained the affair, and how to prevent an affair in the future. A Christian counselor is trained to work through the deepest of pains and more complicated of emotions.

Step 4: Forgiveness

After going through the previously mentioned steps, you might be at the place where you are willing to work on forgiveness.

You will likely have to decide what forgiveness will look like for you either as the person asking for forgiveness or having to forgive. Some people need a verbal apology and explanation of what was wrong and how they will not do it again.

Other people don’t value a verbal apology and would rather see proof of changed behavior. The two people in the marriage should discuss what the offense is and how the future will be different. Trust-building is an important part of this step.

Forgiveness is unique to each individual so understanding what your spouse is needing from you in order to forgive is helpful.

You don’t have to face emotional affair recovery alone. Contact a Christian counselor to begin your journey toward healing and restoration today.

Photos
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What is an Emotional Affair? Identifying and Protecting Against It

When we think of affairs, we often think of soap opera scandal, and of husbands and wives jumping into bed with each other. But many types of affairs actually occur on a purely emotional level.

Maybe you’re wondering, “What is an emotional affair?” An emotional affair is when a spouse is getting their needs met by someone of the opposite sex who is not their own partner. And it happens a lot.

What is an Emotional Affair? Here are Some Examples

So, say a husband has a real interest in music but the wife has never been at all musical. Sensing a lack of interest from his spouse, the husband may join a community music group. There, he meets an attractive woman, and they get on well. He realizes that he shares a common interest with this woman and that she appreciates his talents more than his own wife does.

He starts looking forward to spending time with the woman, as he enjoys the company and appreciates being encouraged and built up in his abilities. He starts to think about her more and more, and begins trying to figure out a way that he can spend time with her alone.

Or maybe it is a wife who is very artistic, but her husband has no interest in her work. She has a group of artsy friends who she likes hanging out with. A handsome man joins the group and his artistic ability is incredible. She is impressed by both his looks and his skills.

The pair begins to bond over their shared love of certain famous artists and begin to meet up so they can work together on different projects. The wife starts to work her schedule around the man so that they can spend more time together. She also begins to take longer to get ready for when she meets him because she wants to look good for him.

Identifying Emotional Affairs

Emotional affairs always develop outside of the spouse’s awareness. They increase gradually and become more dangerous over time, as bit by bit the two people grow closer.

It is worth thinking regularly about any people you might know who meet a need in your life that is not being met by your own spouse. If you realize you have been engaging in an emotional affair, don’t beat yourself up.

It is, however, time to deal with it by being open and honest with your spouse. Don’t rush in and accuse your spouse of neglecting your needs, but think carefully about how they are feeling, and be cautious with your words.

In a marriage, very little is ever beyond repair. Yes, you might have got a bit lost along the way, but with the right help, you can get things back on track.

How To Re-Engage With Your Spouse

Re-engaging with your spouse is an absolutely essential part of recovering from an emotional affair. This can be difficult if the affair has been going on for some time behind the spouse’s back. You must both be willing to work on engaging with each other once again.

If you are both committed to fixing your marriage, here are some key steps you can take:

Get Into Counseling

Marital disconnection is often deeply rooted in past trauma. In order to identify the triggers for the emotional affair in a safe and secure environment, it is worth getting some counseling. This will give both parties a chance to voice their frustrations and concerns with a trained therapist who can help decipher exactly what is going on.

Set Healthy Boundaries

After being married for a while, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of feeling as if you never get your own way. Both partners should be allowed to say “No” in any given situation without a massive relational fallout.

When disagreements do arise, it is important not to engage in knee-jerk reactions that only serve to heighten emotions and bring about more strife. Setting personal boundaries in terms of individual decision-making is absolutely essential, and these must be respected at all times.

Ask For Needs To Be Met, But Be Able to Hear “No”

Related to the last point, a healthy marriage is one in which either partner is allowed to ask for their needs to be met, but is also allowed to say “No.” This may be a crucial element in protecting your sex life. If you say “I think we should have sex,” and your partner responds “No, I don’t want to right now.” That should be taken as a final answer and you should not push it any further.

By allowing each other to express how you feel, you are showing honor to each other as respected adults, and are ridding your marriage of coercion and unhealthy power dynamics. You must always seek to work toward a mutually-respectful relationship where you are both fully listened to, steering clear of the parent-child relationship in your marriage.

Work On Pairing Action With Emotion

Reintroduce some emotion into your marriage. If you are leaving for work, don’t just slam the door without as much as a wave goodbye. Leave a few minutes spare to hold your spouse, to tell them how much you love them, and to kiss them properly.

Try and get off autopilot when it comes to showing affection. Be sacrificial with your time and spend it willingly to reconnect with your spouse in a physical way.

Engage in Healthy Dating Behaviors

Make a list of places you want to visit, restaurants you want to have dinner at, or walks you want to take together. Go on some dates! Reconnect in a romantic setting. Compliment your spouse when they have made an effort to look nice for you. Buy flowers, take them on surprise trips, and just make them feel special!

Find Your Spiritual Practices As A Couple

Find a way of connecting with God as a couple. Be creative and wise in this. For example, if you both struggle to stay awake after getting into bed, scrap the bedtime Bible and prayer time. Agree to get up an hour earlier and do it first thing in the morning. Go to Church together, hang out with Christian friends in the community and spur each other on in your faith.

Put Your Spouse First

Prefer your spouse over others. If your friends ask you to come and hang out with them, check with your spouse before saying yes. See if your spouse wants to do something that evening, and let them know that they take priority over anyone else. Similarly, if you sense your spouse could do with a bit of time on their own, make it clear that you are totally okay with this.

Stay Alert, Protect Yourself From An Affair

Keep your eyes open to any possible threats to your marriage. Perhaps an attractive man or woman has just joined your small group, and you find your eyes lingering on them for a moment too long.

Catch it early. Let your spouse know of any potential snares and figure out ways to combat them. If you are highly attracted to someone, be wise and don’t hang out with them on your own, no matter how plausible you deem the reason to be.

If you are worried that someone may have taken a personal liking to you at work, talk to them about your spouse in a positive light – this will kill any potential emotional affair!

Be tuned in to your emotional state when you are around people. If you feel a fluttering of the stomach when you see someone who isn’t your spouse, take note of that and be sure to avoid spending too much time with this person.

These are just a few tips and tools for reconnecting with your spouse and protecting yourself against an emotional affair. Remember why you married your spouse, keep your wedding vows close to your heart and mind and be bold in tackling the difficult things of marriage together as a couple that is united under the protection of God.

Photos:
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Top Three Excuses for Having an Affair – and How to Deal with Them

References “Intimate Allies” by Dan B. Allender and Tremper Longman III and “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller

Marriage is about integrity. As a covenant first and foremost with God, one should keep that promise despite their spouse’s shortcomings. Marriage should be a journey about the husband or wife that you would like to become with God’s help. This journey should not be disrupted just because of dissatisfaction with your spouse.

Three (Sinful) Excuses for Having an Affair

Here are the top three excuses people give for having an affair:

1. My spouse let him or herself go.

Some people believe that the person that they married should generally continue to be the same throughout married life. They rationalize that if they knew that their spouse would end up becoming a lazy slouch or balloon into somebody physically different then they would not have gotten married.

But why do people decide to “let themselves go” in the first place? For many husbands and wives, this occurs because they feel underappreciated and so they are no longer willing to make the effort to look and act the way they did when they were still dating.

In many cases, it is a passive-aggressive move to show that they are unhappy with their partner. The end result is that the other feels that they are being driven away or they believe that they have made the wrong choice, so they search for someone more “ideal,” leading to that person having an affair.

2. I haven’t felt this way in years.

Blame it on Hollywood or people’s obsession with romantic love, but many today wrongly believe that true love should always mean having butterflies in your stomach whenever you see your loved one.

Sadly, this feeling does not last and neither do the romantic dates as couples, particularly married couples, choose to prioritize practicality over needless spending to impress.

This is why when a disgruntled spouse meets somebody new and those romantic feelings are stirred up again, they believe that perhaps they have truly found the one meant for them. Happy fantasies of finding their “soul mate” are brought to the forefront and they drift further and further away from their spouse and into the arms of another.

3. I don’t love them anymore.

Emotions are fickle. One minute you are on cloud nine and another you are down in the dumps. This is particularly true in romantic relationships that are not centered on God.

Once the romantic feelings have ebbed away and the annoyances begin to pile up, it is very easy for people to feel that the love is gone. The spouse’s passive-aggressive behavior (or even outright aggressive behavior) simply reinforces the fact that the love has disappeared, making the person open to outside temptations.

And that is often how adultery begins as that “other person” sympathizes with the pain and disappointment that may be going on in the now fragmenting marriage. As the two become closer emotionally, then the adulterous relationship begins.

What should be done? Choose to love them still

The abovementioned reasons to cheat seem reasonable in the heat of the moment. But when looked at from afar, they are weak excuses. While physical appearances are part of attraction, a strong marital relationship is much more than that.

We will all age regardless of how much we try to take care of ourselves so a couple’s love should be based on a stronger foundation than that. Spouses, however, should still do their best to look good for one another as they did during their engagement period. But it should not be the final basis for love.

As for romantic infatuation, it is a short-lived feeling. In fact, researchers have proven that such a feeling can only last for around two years. After that, romantic feelings fade and all that is left is a broken marriage and a sinful and doomed adulterous one.

And while it would be great to always feel like you are in love, in marriage, what is most important is that we fulfill our covenant to God and choose to love our spouse through thick and thin. It is this commitment to God and to one’s spouse that strengthens the bonds of marriage until such time that the two truly become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

In his book, Timothy Keller shares, “You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must be tender, understanding, forgiving, and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.” (Keller 104)

Christian Counseling after Having an Affair

Having an affair is a direct violation of God’s commands (Exodus 20:14, Ephesians 5:25). Aside from the damaging effects on the spouse, children and other people around, the adulterers hurt their relationship with God as they pretend that He is not watching or they wrongly imagine that He actually approves of such forbidden love.

As Allender and Longman III state, “Adultery is like the worship of false gods. It allows for the passion that God intended without bowing the knee to the one whom we were called to love. Adultery is not merely sex with the wrong person; it is union with someone who will never require us to face our sinfulness or draw forth out glory so that we are more and more in awe of God. It is intimacy without commitment, flight from the struggle of intimacy without ever facing our part in the loss.” (Allender, Longman III 308-309)

Should a spouse be tempted to find someone new or should a marriage be on the rocks, then Christian counseling can help to repair what is seemingly broken. A professional Christian counselor can help both spouses to air out their grievances in a safe, neutral environment where no one is judged. The goal is not to find out who is wrong but to figure out how to make things right.

If you or someone you know is currently having an affair or tempted to run from married life, seek help soon. As creations of God made in His image, we are all meant to glorify Him in all that we do, including how family life is handled here on Earth. It truly matters to Him that spouses are doing all that they can to make their marriage work.

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Getting Over an Affair: Can Christian Marriages Survive Infidelity?

Possibly the worst betrayal you can experience is having your spouse choose to get his or her needs met outside of your marriage, whether those needs are physical or emotional. Is it possible for a Christian marriage to recover from an affair? What does forgiveness look like? Where is the hope in this situation?

The good news is that there is always hope. But this hope requires a willingness on the part of both spouses, the betrayer and the betrayed, to work through the situation with openness and honesty and a common goal of reconciliation.

Important Steps for Getting Over an Affair

This process of getting over an affair is extremely difficult to undertake, but if there is true repentance, the right form of counseling, and helpful strategies, a marriage can become even stronger than it was prior to the affair.

Ask For Forgiveness

It’s essential that the spouse who strayed asks their husband or wife to forgive them, but it’s also important to consider others who were affected by their sin. This might include one’s children or grandchildren, or other people like extended family, friends, and coworkers.

Humbling ourselves enough to admit wrongdoing is very difficult. It takes great effort and courage, but it’s so important to ask for forgiveness from those who were affected by our selfish, foolish, and sinful actions.

Seek Counseling

Everyone involved in and affected by an affair must walk through the difficult recovery process. This is a time when it’s vital to have someone else walk with us through a difficult season, so a pastor or trained Christian counselor Newport Beach should be involved.

In order to pursue the goal of getting over an affair and restoring the marriage, a mediator is helpful to facilitate conversations that are constructive and authentic. Having an outsider bring their perspective to the marriage can shed a lot of light on what contributed to the breach. This mediator can also provide accountability and guidelines for protecting the marriage going forward.

Share the Hurt Honestly

Getting over an affair requires peeling back many layers of hurt and betrayal in the betrayed spouse: in their emotions, spirit, mind, and body. All of their thoughts and hurts should be treated as important. Each layer needs to be examined so that the pain caused by the affair is evident.

It can be difficult to realize that sometimes the betraying spouse also has legitimate hurts from his or her marriage. This isn’t to justify adultery, but it’s possible that there are struggles that were taking place before the affair that should be addressed.

Listen and Admit to Personal Wrongs

It’s very hard to listen to our faults being described and be willing to admit our culpability. It’s even harder to listen to our wrongs and not respond by justifying our actions. There is a time for explanations, but this is not that time. It is very important to acknowledge that what you’ve done has caused deep pain for your spouse.

Identify Negative Patterns in the Relationship

There were probably negative patterns in the marriage before the affair started. To change these patterns and heal the marriage, the causes need to be identified. Like many marriages, yours may only have been surviving instead of thriving.

A pastor or counselor can help identify some of these negative patterns, such as lack of time spent together, lack of connection over hopes and dreams, preoccupation with daily life over developing intimacy, social media addiction, or prioritizing other relationships. Figuring out these unhealthy patterns is an important part of moving toward reconciliation.

Agree to Establish Healthy Patterns in the Relationship

Once these negative patterns have been identified, it’s time to put in place and work toward positive goals and then to ask what things need to be done in order to effect lasting change.

Establish Intentional Time Together (date night, face-time, and couch time)

For any marriage to thrive, and especially for one to heal from adultery, a couple has to intentionally set aside time to be together. This can be a weekly date night routine, having face-time twice a week in order to reconnect, or having daily “couch time” when the kids know it’s Mom and Dad’s time to spend talking.

Especially if kids are aware that an affair took place, it’s important that they see their parents spending time reconnecting and talking, and even eventually laughing together.

Establish Accountability

It’s crucial to ask a trusted friend or pastor to provide ongoing accountability. This isn’t just for the purpose of preventing another affair, but to ensure that the strategies put in place are carried out consistently. Questions such as “When are you going on a date?” or, “Did you have face-to-face time this week?” can help keep those habits in place.

Forgive, and be Willing to Move On

It’s not helpful to constantly refer to the affair going forward. Once the hurt has been shared and processed, and there’s been forgiveness and reconciliation, it’s crucial to focus on the positive to move forward.

New feelings will undoubtedly arise and can be shared and worked through, but the affair should not be used to shame or coerce the betraying spouse.

Understand that Grieving Takes a While

Even once the adultery has been forgiven, the grieving process is still happening, and each person has their own timeline for grief. Some may recover well within months, and for others, it may take years.

There needs to be an understanding that things are going to be hard and there will be some setbacks along the way, but there’s hope as long as things keep moving ahead and the marriage is being strengthened.

Abide by the Covenant of Marriage

And lastly, let’s remember that the only covenant on earth that we have, apart from God’s covenant with us, is our covenant with our spouse. This isn’t a contract you can cancel at any time; it’s a sacred vow. It’s not a relationship that’s a trap, but a context in which to thrive.

Don’t hesitate to invest time, energy, and even finances in your marriage (such as having a romantic getaway without children). Marriage isn’t an automatic success; rather, it is either invested in or it is not. Especially if you’re trying to help your marriage recover from an affair, you need to be willing to invest in it and make it a top priority.

When you are willing to seek Christian marriage counseling early on in the recovery process, you’ll prevent future heartache resulting from unresolved issues. Being married means living out the parable of Christ’s relationship with His church. So even when it’s difficult, it’s worth our time, effort, and desire.

Photos
“Let’s Sit a While,” courtesy of I’m Priscilla, unsplash.com, Public Domain License; “Not in Public,” courtesy of Ezra Jeffrey, unsplash.com, Public Domain License; “Paradise Found,” courtesy of Nathan McBride, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “To have and to hold,” courtesy of Jon Asato, unsplash.com, CC0 License