After years of healing from my husband's admissions I am not afraid to talk to others about my experience. I always held fast to the idea that part of the good that could come out of such a dark time in my life would be in helping others put the pieces back together or at the very least realize that they are not alone. As such I have met several women who were in the throws of dealing with an unfaithful spouse. I don't know statistically speaking, but I'd say most marriages do not survive.
The perspective of this blog is from a marriage that did not end. I have no idea which path is easier to take and frankly, does it even matter? For each of us we have a choice, to stay or not to stay. I believe God leads the answer to this. I know the pivotal factor for me was my husband's brokenness and desire to make major changes. By the time my husband confessed, God had already been working on him for several years. My husband knew what he wanted and it included me. He was done with the lies and was actively seeking freedom from the chains of sexual addiction. He was ready and willing to do everything within his power to change and allow God to change him, no matter how difficult it was going to be. Conversely, God was working in my heart to accept my husband, the infidelity and all his flaws, so that we could actually work together to rebuild what sexual sin had broken apart.
Whether you choose to stay or not, we have all experienced the pain, often shock, of finding out our spouse has been unfaithful. We have all cried and screamed trying to make sense of it all. As the details slowly unfold, we have experienced confusion and self-contempt as we ask ourselves "how did we not know this was going on?" or "how could he?". This is the pain we share. I remember feeling very alone. At the time not having someone I felt comfortable enough confiding in, reeling and wondering if there was really anyone I could trust?
I have friends who are trying to support loved ones who just found out their spouses were unfaithful. Friends who don't know how to help. What does wise counsel look like in the midst of this?
1. Be a listening ear.
Betrayal is a very lonely place. It causes self-doubt and you tend to isolate because trust becomes such a difficult issue for you. If your spouse could betray you then is anyone really trustworthy? Be available to them. Give them a shoulder to cry on. Call them and check on them. There were many days when I was hurting so badly yet wanting someone to care, to make sure I was okay.
2. Be a reminder that they are not alone.
Adultery is commonplace anymore, but people rarely talk about it unless it ends very badly. Help them to see that there are other people that understand their pain. Even Jesus was betrayed.
3. Reflect the truth back to them.
There is a stigma associated with being the one betrayed, if not put on them by the world they put it on themselves. "I was betrayed because there is something wrong with me." Too fat, too skinny, not enough sex, blah, blah, blah. You name it we will find ways to blame ourselves for the whole thing. It may be true that it takes two, but adultery, lust, pornography, any sexual sin is a choice, a sin, and they are responsible for that. Many people willing to have an affair have deep issues of their own (having nothing to do with you).
4. Encourage professional wise counsel.
In the heart of my crisis, I did not want to reach out to a counselor. I didn't really know what I wanted or what I was supposed to do. A kind friend and counselor called me up and offered to meet with me to talk about what was going on. I am so glad I did that. Both my husband and I went to intense counseling during the height of the crisis. Although the frequency of the counseling has lessoned, we still seek counsel when things come up. I can think of nothing better then having objective counsel to deal with the depth of the issues betrayal reveals, even if you choose not to stay married.
5. Don't spouse bash.
As the betrayed spouse is sorting and sifting through all the ramifications of what has happened TRY NOT to bash on the offending spouse. I'm not suggesting you do not offer an honest opinion on the situation or what he/she has done, but it should only be done in an effort to help and encourage. Besides, you never know what God has planned for their marriage and staying together might be a viable option for them.
6. Walk beside them.
The journey of healing from this kind of betrayal is usually long and hard, especially if they choose to stay together. You should understand that this is a process and just because they are no longer in crisis does not mean they don't need your support. Things are not going to be better for awhile. They will experience many ups and downs. They will need time to rebuild trust. There is nothing more meaningful then a friend who commits to walking this journey with them. A friend that they can hash things out with, bounce things off of, and who is willing to speak truth to them.
There are many ways a spouse can commit adultery. According to the Bible, "anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). Just like there is no such thing as a "little" abuse, I believe betrayal is betrayal. It hurts the same, it destroys the same. I believe a spouse who commits adultery (and the man or woman they do it with) have deep issues. Issues that usually require professional counseling. Sometimes the lustful spouse has a sexual addiction they don't even know they have. Part of your process may include encouraging them to get the help they need before you can even focus on repairing your relationship.
If you have been betrayed or you are looking to help someone who has been, please see the book resource tab at the top of this blog for more information. And as always, I invite you to email me with any questions, concerns, or comments you may have.
1. This Is My Solemn Vow