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.
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.
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.
“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