Adultery is devastating to any marriage, regardless of the circumstances. Unfortunately, adultery is all too common. If your spouse has committed or is committing adultery, you need to turn your feelings toward God and ask Him for wisdom and strength to do the right thing, and also ask for the ability to hear His voice in the middle of your pain and anguish.
Though there is no excuse for adultery and the offended spouse is not to blame emotional distraction and unmet needs are major contributors to the temptation of having an affair. Check yourself: Have you been meeting your spouse’s needs? This is a hard question to ask yourself, but it could be life-changing.
Take it one step further and ask yourself these questions:
- Have I changed the way I pursue and prioritize my husband/wife?
- Am I critical or nagging?
- Do I work hard to meet his/her needs (honor, sex, romance, security)?
- Am I responding to my spouse’s pulling away by also pulling away?
- Have I prayed regularly for my marriage and for my spouse?
Advice for the Betrayed Spouse
Upon reflection, if you discover that you have contributed to the problem, repent and keep that in mind as you consider your response to the situation. Dealing with adultery is very complex, and it involves a lot of issues that you must address before determining your actions.
- What is your spouse’s attitude in the matter?
- Is your spouse being honest and open about it?
- Is your spouse sorrowful and repentant?
- Was it a one-time act, or something that happened over a period of months or years?
- Did your spouse try to cover it up?
If your marriage was unhealthy to begin with, and your spouse’s act of adultery was a short-lived event that came in a time of weakness, that’s important to consider. If that’s the case and your spouse is being honest and repentant, I suggest you forgive your spouse and reconcile. A first prerequisite to doing this would be to agree together to get marriage counseling to help “repair” the weak areas that may have contributed to the problem and to rebuild trust.
If, however, your spouse is defiant about his or her act of adultery?if it’s still happening and he or she refuses to stop?if this is not the first time it has happened?then your response needs to be much stronger. This is when you may consider separation or possibly divorce. Staying in the relationship can expose you to serious disease, as well as great emotional harm.
While the Bible says you can divorce your spouse if he or she commits adultery, that does not mean it is God’s perfect will. God can miraculously change anyone. You should always pursue God’s direction prayerfully and with the input of wise counsel.
If you decide to move toward divorce, I also recommend you get Christian counseling to help you through the process. With your emotions frazzled, it can be a very difficult time in which to make sound decisions alone. Get some objective and godly input from a trusted Christian leader or counselor.
If your spouse is repentant, it will take you some time to regain your trust for your husband or wife. It’s up to you to forgive your spouse and to do your part in working at the relationship. However, it’s up to your spouse to work at re-establishing trust and that takes time.
Going through the aftermath of adultery is much like grieving the death of a loved one. Whether or not you and your spouse reconcile, it is important for you to give yourself the right to grieve. You’ve been through a terrible betrayal. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. It’s normal for you to not be as lighthearted as you may have once been. You’ve been hurt and those feelings of betrayal and grief are normal and to be expected. However, it’s important that you take those feelings of hurt to the Lord and allow Him to minister to you and heal you. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit washes us with the water of the Word. The Bible is His Word. Begin to read it and allow the Lord to wash over you with healing for your emotions.
Advice for the Offending Spouse
If you are the person who committed adultery, the most important step you can take is to accept the responsibility for your actions and the gravity of what you have done. Recognize the pain and the betrayal that you have caused your spouse. You have sinned against God and against your spouse.
You must begin by first repenting to God and then to your spouse. Repenting does not mean that there will be no consequences for your actions. You must also deal with the results of your behavior. Submit to counsel and talk with a pastor or spiritual leader. The only way that you are going to solve your problems is to bring your heart into the open and become accountable and submitted.
Encourage your spouse to go to counsel with you, but do not be forceful. You are going to counsel because you want your marriage to work ? not so that your spouse will be “fixed.” Realize that no matter what circumstances contributed to the breakdown of your marriage, no one caused you to sin?it was a choice you made.
As you seek to restore your marriage, you will have to prove that you have changed. Trust can be lost in a moment, but it can only be gained over time so be patient and do not expect immediate results. It is natural for your spouse to be suspicious or cautious of you for awhile. Trust can be restored, but it comes only as you are open and honest and prove yourself trustworthy.
In order for your marriage to work, you must break off all contact with the person with whom you committed adultery even if you have to move and/or change jobs. There is no other way. Regardless of how certain you are that it would never happen again, do not lie to yourself about the relationship. Deception is a deadly trap from the enemy, and you will fall into it if you try to make light of the severity of what you’ve done or the danger of it recurring.
Also, choose your friends carefully. Do not have a close friend in someone who is adulterous or sympathetic toward adultery. You do not need the negative input of other wounded people. Instead, get involved with godly people with good marriages.
Hope and Healing
I have dealt with many difficult counseling situations over the years, but I have never seen a situation no matter how complex or devastating that God could not handle, or where He withdrew His love. For the betrayed, God says that His ear is attentive to your cry in other words, He will comfort you (Isaiah 66:13 / Psalm 34:15-18). To the one who betrayed, He says, “Repent and turn from your wicked ways, and I will restore you” (2 Chronicles 7:14 / Psalms 103:12).
Whatever you may be facing, turn to Him as you face it because nothing is impossible with God, and He always works on behalf of the person who is committed to Him and is trying to do the right thing.
Scriptures for healing your heart:
Proverbs 3:5 2
Corinthians 4:16-18 1
Peter 1:6-9 1 John 1:9
Copyright © 2005 Jimmy Evans, Used by Permission.
Author & one of America’s leading authorities on family and marriage relationships, Jimmy Evans is Founder & CEO of MarriageToday. He and his wife, Karen, host MarriageTodayTM, a national television program. Jimmy is the author of many resources including the books Marriage on the Rock, Freedom From Your Past, 7 Secrets of Successful Families, and Resolving Stress in Your Marriage. He also travels nationwide presenting life-changing truths for couples through his marriage seminars and conferences. Jimmy and Karen have two children and two grandchildren.