My husband has cheated on me several times during our 20-year marriage. He assures me he’s now being faithful, but I can’t seem to trust him. He says it’s my problem, that I have to “just get over it” and move on. But I can’t seem to do that. I had never been a jealous person, but now seem to overreact to everything. What can we do to heal?
You’re speaking for thousands of women (and men). Our society is rampant with infidelity—at rates above 50 percent—and the impact of this selfish act is incredible. Unfaithfulness fractures a relationship, leaving permanent scar. Scripture speaks sternly on the matter: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4).
It’s no wonder you cannot trust your husband. He’s undoubtedly rationalized his behavior, perhaps even blamed you for it, in an attempt minimize the trauma and equalize the responsibility.
Speaking of trauma, another aspect of infidelity is “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” You wonder when it will happen again, or if you’ve really discovered everything. I call this “wondering where the bottom is.” You don’t know what to believe. You feel unsafe and insecure and then are criticized for feeling the way you do. It’s likely you haven’t sought outside help due to your own humiliation. This emotional devastation is challenging under the best circumstances, and an emotional nightmare when faced alone.
Add to this your feelings of love-hate-love-hate. You want to pull your husband close yet push him as far away as possible. He, of course, feels this ambivalence and has his own reactions to it.
Recovering from infidelity is difficult, but can be done. Let’s talk about what needs to happen for you to recover from this trauma:
Your husband must stop pushing you to “get over it.” You need to tell him in no uncertain terms that you’ll heal at your own pace and cannot be pushed. Don’t get hooked into explaining or defending yourself if he continues to push. Don’t engage in endless banter or bickering.
You must ask for what you need to heal. What would you like from your husband to help you feel more secure? Do you need greater accountability for his time? Would you like to know his passwords so that on occasion you can check his phone records? Would you like him to participate in an accountability group such as Celebrate Recovery? Speak from a voice of firm conviction, taking great care to honor your body and personhood. Be clear in asking for what you need and set reasonable boundaries.
You must challenge your husband to participate in personal counseling. There is a vast difference between between being unfaithful once—and being sorrowful and repentant—and being repeatedly unfaithful. The latter speaks strongly of the possibility that he has character issues that desperately need attention.
You must determine if your husband can be trusted. While you are to honor your husband, you are not to remain in a place of insecurity and abuse. If your husband fails to take seriously his responsibility to provide you with safety and security, you may have to consider a time of separation. Sometimes this serious message tells the other you intend to treat yourself honorably and will act to do so.
You must find support. You’re struggling to cope with an immeasurable trauma. Seek professional counseling as well as a support group. Ask your counselor for the names of groups that will meet your needs for emotional and spiritual support.
In summary, emotions are God-given and can be very helpful in telling us what we need in our lives. Even feelings of insecurity and jealousy can be useful. Pray for wisdom and courage to act in a way that brings stability and sanctity back to your marriage.