I wish it never happened to anyone and I hope it never happens to you, but in my job I hear it almost every week. It’s a word we are afraid of, one which can destroy, and certainly a word which breaks many hearts — and sadly — many marriages never recover when it occurs.
Sometimes people admit to it, but mostly they try to deny it. Yet, the impact on the marriage is certain every time.
The word is AFFAIR.
I once thought this word was guaranteed to end a marriage, but after seeing countless marriages put back together by the grace of God — actually strengthened following an affair — I now believe it definitely does not have to be the final chapter of a marriage.
Again, I hope you never hear the word, but if you do, I want to share some tips from my observations.
Here are 7 suggestions after you lean of an affair in your marriage:
For the first few days or even weeks you may not feel anything. Don’t be surprised. There will be a range of emotions to come in the days ahead, but right now you may not know what to feel. This is perfectly normal. Your emotions have been shattered. Trust has been violated. There is a huge hole in your heart. Don’t make major decisions during these initial days. They will be purely emotionally based and you may regret them later.
Get counseling soon
I didn’t say immediately. In my experience, when couples call the day or two after they learn of an affair the counseling starts off in an unhealthy way and is difficult to find successful traction long-term. There are too many emotions in the way. But, you will need someone to walk through this with you. This is not an issue you can solve on your own or just ignore. Saving the marriage will take two committed people, but counseling can help you either way. Certainly, if you intend to save the marriage (which I hope you do) then you will need help.
Decide where you want to go with the marriage
This is again, not a decision to make in the first few days, but eventually you’ll have to make some hard decisions. Do you want to make it work or not? You will not be able to move forward in any direction until you do. This may take a season — and counseling — to discern. Please understand, I know the Biblical commands for marriage — and I believe them. I think the best thing to do is to work to save the marriage. I also believe every marriage can be saved and work if two people are willing to make it work, but without your personal commitment to doing so, it is unlikely you will be successful in saving the marriage — or, at least, in making it strong again. Think about the vows you made to each other. Obviously, they have been broken. But, are you willing, at least in your part, to making them work again?
Get a plan to restore your marriage and work the plan
Working with a counselor and together you must work on practical steps to grow the marriage again back to complete trust. This will be a difficult, long process — the biggest concern I hear from the offending spouse is how long it does take — but the results are worth it.
Eventually you will need to forgive your spouse for the hurt he or she has caused you
Yes, I just said that. And, yes, that is a hard word. It will be a work of grace. Forgiveness is a choice, but it is a difficult process. Sometimes God grants you this ability quickly and sometimes it takes time. Trust is always rebuilt over time. But you can not have a successful marriage where one spouse is holding a grudge against the other. Forgiveness is a necessary step to restore the marriage.
Build safeguards into your life
For long-term success in marriage, to rebuild trust and to help ensure this doesn’t happen again you need to learn how to protect your marriage in the future. Try to find things such as what went wrong? Where were the holes in the marriage? How did it get to this point? A counselor can help sort through these, but it will be up to you to implement safeguards against them moving forward. In our marriage we have certain “ground rules” and practices which we believe help protect our marriage. You may need similar processes.
Invest in other marriages
Once your marriage is healthy again and you’ve semi-recovered, you will have valuable experience to help others. Don’t be afraid to let God use you in this way. Helping others will actually serve to further strengthen your own marriage.
This post addresses the offended party, not the one in an affair, but even for you, the word “affair” doesn’t have to end your marriage. I’m praying for those who read this and are directly impacted by an affair. I’m praying for your marriage to be saved. God bless you.
Anything you would add to my list?