The act of infidelity is a betrayal that cuts into the heart of any marriage. It is one of those acts that have far-reaching consequences. It can destroy families and bring many emotions to the core.
As the spouse who has been cheated on, we feel angry, we feel rejected, we feel pain, and at times we want to lash out. Our world has been turned upside down, and we have so many questions. If we have children, we try to maintain a sense of normalcy for them. Sometimes, we may pretend that nothing is wrong and try to keep our emotions hidden. But that is like trying to hold a beach ball underwater; we can’t hold on forever. It will escape our grip at some stage and rush to the surface.
As the spouse who cheated, we feel ashamed and guilty. We may try and defend our actions, trying to blame our spouse for the situation. We are faced with their pain and their judgment. We are faced with the likelihood that we are about to lose everything we hold dear. Our spouses will have many questions, some of which we probably won’t want to answer. And again, if there are children involved, we will also try and pretend that nothing is wrong and keep our emotions in check. If we’re honest, we most likely don’t want our children to know about our betrayal. But we can’t maintain that façade forever. It’s important to understand why the infidelity happened, and how we can repair the relationship.
Counseling – a safe space to share
Both spouses need a safe space to be able to share their respective feelings openly and honestly. Infidelity causes emotions that are not easy to keep in check; these emotions are deep and strong, and generally, this is not a marital problem that can be discussed rationally as a couple in the privacy of your bedroom.
As Christians, infidelity is the only act that is seen as grounds for divorce. Matthew 19:8-9 says, “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 19:6 says, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” And the spouse who has cheated has effectively tried to separate what God has joined. As Christians, we will feel an incredible sense of shame and perhaps even feel that we have lost our relationship with God.
As we said, infidelity has far-reaching consequences. We have not only caused our spouse and our family pain, but we have also caused ourselves great pain as we have gone against the word of God. But our God is a forgiving God, a lot more forgiving than our spouse is likely to be.
We can never heal what we don’t acknowledge – and that goes for both spouses. We both need to acknowledge that the affair has happened and how it has made us feel. We need to acknowledge our emotions – the pain, the anger, the shame, the guilt – all of it. A counselor will be able to keep us on track, knowing when to let our emotions run and when to rein them in.
Our reality and how we viewed the world has changed. As the spouse who was cheated on, we may wonder why we weren’t good enough or what we did wrong. We may want to cause our spouse pain so they can feel what we are feeling. As spouses who cheated, we have a lot to answer, and there will be many awkward questions.
We both will need to acknowledge that for an affair to have happened, there were underlying issues that we didn’t see or perhaps didn’t want to see. Lastly, we need to acknowledge where the relationship is right now and if we want to save it.
Saving our marriage
If there ever was a time when we needed to draw on our faith, it would be during this time. So saving our marriage will require us to practice what we so easily preach.
Forgiveness – we will need to forgive our spouse for cheating; that doesn’t mean that their behavior was in any way acceptable but to move on, we need to forgive them. Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” This is far easier said than done but if you want your marriage to succeed, and if you want to move forward together, forgiveness is the only way.
As the spouse who cheated, you will need to ask God’s forgiveness, and you will need to forgive yourself. It is often during these times that we want to hide from God, but it is at precisely this moment that we need him more than ever.
A Christian counselor will understand the scriptures and be able to guide us through this process of forgiveness. It will not be easy, but it is the only way we can rebuild that important foundation in our marriage.
Trust – when trust has been broken, it is very difficult to rebuild. Rebuilding trust is the next step in saving our marriage, and it will take time, hard work, and lots of grace. A Christian counselor will be able to help us establish boundaries and behaviors that are aligned with our faith. We must be careful not to use the affair to blackmail our partner with unattainable expectations.
As the spouse who was cheated on, we will need to identify what behaviors we need from our spouse to help us rebuild that trust. And as the spouse who cheated, we will need to be prepared to meet those expectations.
There will be times when our pain, and it will be a shared pain, feels too much to bear. Sometimes, we lose our strength, but we must return to our faith and remember that Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Letting go – for a marriage to succeed, we will need to let go of the past and embrace the future. We will need to grieve what was and what we have lost. But if we can get through the tough journey that lies ahead of us, we will be stronger as individuals, and we will be stronger as a couple.
This is not going to be a quick journey, and as with all journeys, there will be ups and downs. There will be times when we feel that we are not moving forward, and there will definitely be times when those old emotions reappear. But if we are both completely committed, we can succeed.
Jousline Savra practices Christian Counseling in her Roswell, GA office, and will be there to support you throughout this journey of recovery. As a relationship therapist, she works from the Attachment Based Theory which helps couples become aware of their love style, and how that impacts their relationships. She will make the connection with the way you bond and connect in your marriage. Give her a call today and experience professional Christian Counseling.