After last week’s talk at New Life, many people have asked me how someone can recover when their spouse has been unfaithful. I believe in the power of the Gospel to restore all of broken humanity including those who have experienced the deep hurt and trauma of adultery. While the road to complete recovery is sometimes long and demanding, healing can definitely happen.
How can someone overcome a spouse’s affair?
1. Forgive the person who violated the covenant.
Forgiveness means you are releasing your spouse to God and trusting God to work deeply in their heart for lasting change. You are not responsible for your spouse’s behavior, but you are responsible to keep your own heart free from bitterness. This is when your heart will begin healing. When you really release your spouse to God, the spouse no longer has the ability to corrupt your heart and God is released to do what He does best – convict, redeem and restore.
2. Get help from someone who can really help you.
This is not a road we are supposed to walk alone. Find a mature, trusted friend or pastor and let them walk alongside you. It is best that this person is objective and able to see above the emotions of the moment so they can give you clear and wise direction. It is certainly ok to go a licensed counselor to deal with the deep inner issues that have surfaced during this trauma in your life.
3. Talk honestly about your feelings.
You feel the way you feel. If you hurt, say so. If you are angry, yell a little. It is ok not to be ok. Stop all the religious talk and speak candidly. You need ministry and God works best when we have an honest heart before Him.
4. Do not expect the same relationship as before.
Many times the spouse who has committed the adultery wants you and everyone else to simply forgive them and act as if nothing happened. It is not that simple. You have been violated and abused so the offending spouse cannot be allowed the same trust as before. In fact, the relationship will never be the same as before. Trust is difficult to earn and even tougher to get back. You are not required by Scripture to trust your spouse as before. You have to set new and tighter boundaries for their behavior until they have proven over time they can be trusted. This may take years and that needs to be communicated up front. Anyone can jump through hoops for a short time in order to win back a hurt friend, but someone who is really remorseful and repentant can live free for a lifetime.
I know couples who have overcome adultery and lived together in strong marriages because they made these fundamental choices up front. I am sad that other couples I know have lost their marriages because they ignored these principles. Marriage requires a lot of hard work and an unwavering commitment to God and each other. Rest assured, marriage can survive an affair and can even thrive afterwards. This is the power of the Gospel which gives us hope that nothing can separate us from the love of God and because of Him, two people can love again even after the darkest of days.