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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What to Do with an Unfaithful Spouse

Every time I think I have heard it all- I find out I haven't!

I have a guy come into my office to complain about his wife. It has to do with unfaithfulness. I listen as he tells me that he can't understand her. You see, he has only been unfaithful to her once in the past year and she remains upset with him. I press him on the issue and he admits to being unfaithful two more times but they don't count because she doesn't know about those other women!

I can tell you what I would do with this guy but I don't think it would be appropriate for me to write this in my blog. I hope and pray that this isn't the case with your spouse.

Unfaithfulness is much like grieving over the death of a loved one. In fact, you are grieving over the death of your spouse. Your marriage had a purity which has been murdered. Three emotions grab you. There is shock, pain and anger. You transition between each of them in half a heartbeat. You are in tears because of the pain, then you are in tears because of the anger and sometimes you feel nothing at all. You want to throw your spouse out for causing you this pain and you don't know what you will do without him or her. You desperately want to know why and can't understand even if you are told why.

So what do you do?

You do need to talk with some godly friends. You will probably decide to do what those close to you tell you to do. Those who are divorced will advise you to be like them. Those who have forgiven will advise you to do as they have done. You will try what your closest advisers tell you. It is very important to surround yourself with these people.

You will need to start the process of forgiveness as soon as possible. You may decide to be divorced but an unforgiven act will raise its ugly head in another place in your life. It will cause you pain that you do not deserve. Forgiveness is a gift. It is something that you can do with the presence of the Lord. It is not something that is within you. It is something that is within Him. Ask for His forgiveness for your spouse.

You do not need allow your spouse to continue to hurt you. Some people think that forgiveness means that they give their spouse permission to continue to hurt them. That is not forgiveness- that is masochism! You must draw boundaries which your spouse must obey or you will no longer be in the relationship. If he or she won't obey, you end it. In fact, the marriage is already over if the spouse continues. You are just making it official.

There will be a temptation to pay your spouse back. You may want him or her to feel the same pain as you have. You may try to do so by being unfaithful too. This will do nothing but hurt you. It will never make your pain disappear. You will never be able to be unfaithful enough to satisfy the punishment you would like to inflict.

You should ask your spouse if he or she wants to continue in the marriage. You should ask if he or she will go to counseling. Your marriage is over if you receive a negative answer to either of these.

Carefully choose a Christian counselor. Secular ideas will not lead to a godly lifestyle. It needs to be a person who is a Christian who happens to be a counselor, not a counselor that happens to be a Christian. The person must put biblical and spiritual principles before psychology. Otherwise, the counselor is trying to educate your spouse out of sin. This could very well lead to a justification for the affair. A compelling "why" may lead to doing it again if the "why" appears again.

Your spouse must go and do what the counselor asks. He or she must be completely truthful. Lies indicate that there is no repentance. Minimizing the problem indicates there is no repentance. Continuing to hide the sin indicates there is no repentance.

Counseling may be painful for you. You must continue until the counselor thinks you have sufficiently mended the relationship. You may want to quit and it may renew your anger because you didn't do anything wrong in the first place. Yet, you are having to listen and talk to this counselor about intimate things which are painful to you. You must continue if you want your marriage to be mended.

You and your spouse should commit yourself to God, to each other, to a church and to a small group of Christians. This means that you and your spouse will begin praying together each day, worshiping together each and every week unless providentially hindered and building deep relationships with other committed Christians.

Your physical intimacy should continue when the counselor says you are ready. Do not let your spouse tell you when that is. You may not be ready yet. You need a third party, the counselor, to protect you from the coercion of an offending spouse. The spouse wants things to get back to normal so he or she doesn't have to live with his or her guilt. The physical intimacy is one way of doing so. You should allow the counselor to protect you from the pressure your spouse will put on you.

You don't have to tell the church or the small group what has happened unless it involves these people. Naturally, unfaithfulness needs to be confessed within the scope of the people affected. This is true of any sin. Don't share it if it doesn't concern them.

You must make a commitment to the Lord that you will do what He wants. You will want to quit and throw your spouse out several times before you heal. Your commitment to the Lord will give you strength to make it. You may only have the strength to make it only hour by hour right after you learn of the affair. You will eventually build up to surviving day by day before you will see victory.

Don't be surprised if your pain returns years later even if you spouse has been completely faithful during those years. Satan is called the "accuser of the brethren." I believe he will accuse your spouse before you to give you and your spouse pain. Say to him, "I have forgiven that sin against me by the blood of Jesus!" This usually sends him packing.

Share with a close godly friend who will not break a confidence. Tell this friend what is going on. Ask for this friend's prayers. Keep the friend updated.

Lastly, believe God will give you peace. You may still get divorced because your spouse may continue to be unfaithful to you. You still need peace. He is the God of peace. Get very close to Him and He will give it to you.

I am so sorry for your pain. I said a prayer for all of you who read this. Please comment if you have something to say to help others. God bless you.

Proverbs 6:32 (NIV)
32  But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I cried, and I prayed. I cried, and I prayed. I forgave. He said he was deeply sorry and wanted to rebuild. I opened my heart more. I let God lead me through each day. He decided he wanted a divorce anyway because he loves her. It was not my expected outcome. But I am closer to God. God is my center. I pray that He moves God back to His rightful place. God knows the plans that He has for me. Plans to prosper me and not harm me. To give me hope and a future! Jeremiah 29:11

Anonymous said...

I cried, and I prayed. I cried, and I prayed. I forgave. He said he was deeply sorry and wanted to rebuild. I opened my heart more. I let God lead me through each day. He decided he wanted a divorce anyway because he loves her. It was not my expected outcome. But I am closer to God. God is my center. I pray that He moves God back to His rightful place. God knows the plans that He has for me. Plans to prosper me and not harm me. To give me hope and a future! Jeremiah 29:11

Anonymous said...

last week our group held a similar discussion about this subject and you show something we have not covered yet, thanks.

- Laura

Felicia said...

Thank you for this blog--I to have cried, I have prayed, I have cried over and over. I forgive him. Not sure what will happen next. I have been trying to do my part to rebuild the relationship but I feel nothing from him. The sad truth is I dont believe our 20 year marriage will continue, I don't want a divorce but it seems to be going that way. He doesn't do the things that he needs to do to show me he wants this marriage to continue. I have to be realistic and plan for the worst but hope for the best. I am continue to pray for a forgiving heart so that I can move on emotionally.

Anonymous said...

Very solid advice.