This topic is a real doozy. It happens more often than you may think, and the truth is, an affair does not have to mean the end of your relationship. Let’s start there. A relationship does not have to end because of infidelity however sometimes it does. In this blog, I am not talking about a perpetual cheater. What I am talking about is when one person has stepped outside of the vows of marriage but both people want their marriage to be saved. Some of you reading this may have experienced an emotional affair rather than a sexual affair. Both types lead to a broken bond of trust. So, whether you found out your spouse has had an emotional or a sexual affair, your feelings are valid and perhaps you can find some help here.
I am writing this blog because during season two of my podcast I focused primarily on relationships. I interviewed several people who shared about their journey of trust being broken in marriage. Trust was broken in different ways: through hidden pornography, other women, and even one who found out she was the other woman because he never told her he was married. These women were brave to share these hard parts of their journey, but they shared how they made it through as well. One guest on my podcast who experienced infidelity shocked me by her response to speaking to the other woman. I would never say to anyone who has just found out their spouse has been sexually unfaithful to lead their spouses’ lover to the Lord. Let me just say that up front. I do not know how many of us would be able to share “Jesus Loves You” to either the spouse or the other woman or man after being confronted with the reality of unfaithfulness. I’m referring to season 2 episode 2 of Hope and Encouragement for your Journey podcast titled “Unfaithful.” I am still in awe at how composed Regina was during that part of her journey. I was not thinking anything “spiritual” while she shared her story as we were recording for the “Hope Team” (people who listen to my podcast and interact with me online).
Infidelity must be one of the more difficult relationship issues to go through. Trust, an important building block for a healthy relationship has been broken. Feelings of confusion, anger, self-doubt, sadness, anxiety, and depression are normal. Having questions about yourself and your spouse, plus wanting things to return to normal as quickly as possible is natural. However, what is normal? How do you even know what normal is if you did not recognize that betrayal was occurring long before you found out?
Some people are so desperate to rid themselves of the guilt or feelings of anger and conflict that they are willing to bypass the pain of betrayal by quickly overlooking the violation of trust. I would suggest that you do not do this. Overlooking the pain is like an infected sore being covered with a scab but the infection underneath is still wreaking havoc on your system. Do not discard your own feelings or avoid the conflict and discomfort that will occur as you explore the reasons why the betrayal occurred in the first place. Do not cover that up because ultimately you want the relationship to be healed, completely, rather than having the appearance of healing on the outside but remaining sick on the inside.
Also, might I add, do not take the blame. I have seen so many women do that, “if I had not yelled so much, if I had kept a cleaner home, if I had not let myself go after having a child.” On and on the excuses spill out to cover for someone else’s bad behavior. There is no justification for infidelity. There may have been problems in your relationship before the affair, but an affair certainly does not fix the problem. I repeat, there is no justification for infidelity so do not try to make an excuse for it nor accept an excuse.
Right now, your spouse may be remorseful but there are two ways of looking at this. There is remorse from the infidelity being revealed or caught and there is remorse for committing the act(s). This is a matter of the heart. The words, I’m sorry could mean I’m sorry I was caught and you were hurt, or I’m sorry I cheated on and hurt you. Same two words but with different meanings which can lead to very different outcomes.
If you are the one who has been betrayed, then it is normal that you have loss trust in your spouse. Saying, I’m sorry and expecting for that to fix everything and restore the trust that was broken is not realistic. It simply does not work that way. It takes work. That means difficult conversations among other things. The work would probably be better done with a professional therapist. Why? Because this is difficult and neither of you may know what to do to fix the problem. Your well-being is at stake, both physically and mentally as is the well-being of your relationship so getting help is important.
Sometimes full disclosure helps to rebuild a relationship, or it could cause more trauma. Which is it?! In a relationship it is each of your responsibilities to make the other feel secure. What will it take, disclosure or secrets? It may take a lot of talking and crying, even oversharing (allowing your significant other to see your text messages, access to email, a lot of talking) to get back to a safe place of security. There are some areas that are best left unexplored. Even with full disclosure, discussion of comparisons or how you measure up physically is a horrible idea. Do not go there. So, what can you do?
Here are some Hope Keys:
- Consider getting help. Contact a therapist to help you work through this large bump in your marriage. If you were physically hurting, you would go to the doctor. It would be wise to see someone who is able to assist you in this dilemma such as a couples, or family and marriage therapist or you may go to a pastor or minister who does marriage counseling. There are tools that you two may not have that a therapist will be able to provide for you to work on. Having a non-partial person to help you work through these issues can be helpful. What if your spouse refuses to go? Then you go. Your well-being and peace of mind is important and having someone to talk and cry to can be helpful. If you go to your girlfriend for help or your parents it could be problematic for him FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE. You may forgive him and move on, but they may never forgive him. Or you may get bad advice, “girl, just leave!” That may be the answer, but it may not be.
- Realize the cycle can be broken. I have to say this because for some of you have only seen toxic relationships. Everyone around you from your childhood into your adult years have had crazy relationships. That is what you have been around up close and personal all your life. You may think, but I’m a Christian now, or we both are Christians, so things should be different! Okay, you have given your life to the Lord and that is GREAT! That doesn’t mean you do not have to work to become the new creation He promised. All of us have some deficits in life. So, I say again, there are some Christian people in very toxic relationships because that is all that has been modeled and through observational learning, that is all they know. I have good news though, you can break the cycle. Sometimes it is through prayer only and sometimes it is through prayer AND getting and using practical tools from professionals to help you develop a healthy relationship.
- Find Peace in the Bible and Pray. There is a solution for everything in the Bible. Search for bible verses for peace and for healthy relationships and meditate on those. Pray for yourself and your spouse.Your thoughts could be racing but meditation on scriptures can bring you the peace you need. If you both agree, do this together.
- Check in with one another. Have daily, weekly, and or monthly meetings to just see how it is going. Ask questions like how are we doing? Where do you want to be in this relationship? Are we moving in the right direction? What can we do differently to make things better for one another? These are examples of some questions that you both can begin to talk through.
- Share what happened. When, where, with whom but stay clear of sharing information or asking specific questions about the physical intimacy act(s) as it could lead to greater mental health trauma. I know this sounds far out there but some disclosure can actually be better than keeping secrets.
- Cry and Fuss it out. This process is going to hurt. Let’s not pretend that this isn’t going to feel bad because it will. Cry when you need to. Fuss it out when you need to.
- Work on Spending Time Together without discussing the problem areas. You still need to do things other than talk about the problems. It may not “feel” fun at first but do something to build your friendship. Here is where some of the hard work is involved. You may not even want to look at your spouse but try to do something. Do you hike? Plan a time to go hiking. Do you both like cooking? Then spend time cooking together. Do you like movies? Go to and watch a movie but not one that includes betrayal. Oh sister, that would be a bad idea, a very bad idea. Watch something funny but you better vet the movie first. If it even starts to look like it is going in the wrong direction, turn that TV off or get up and leave the theater before you two are angry again. It’s work but it’s worth it.
- Work on your Friendship with one another. There is nothing like spending time together. Your friendship is about confiding in one another, helping one another, spending time with one another and caring for one another’s well-being. Find something you can do in common that builds your friendship. Have a board game night. You may have to wait to get to this point. That’s okay but if your relationship is worth saving and you both feel this way, then working on your friendship is a good key to use repeatedly, throughout the relationship.
Dr. Angela ~ Offering Hope and Encouragement for your Journey