There is not much that is more painful than the betrayal of a spouse. When the one who is supposed to love, protect and cherish you becomes the one who harms you, it stings. A lot.
But if you are the 1 couple out of every 4 that has been affected by adultery, there are some very specific steps that need to happen for restoration. Forgiveness will, of course, have its place on this journey, not necessarily for them, but for you. Whether your marriage finds restoration and healing or not, you don’t want to be stuck dragging this pain around with you. However…
Forgiveness is not today’s topic, and here’s why; as Christian Counselors, many women we see or hear from struggle a lot with the desire to be a godly wife, aka, a wife that forgives. They often seek forgiveness as a means of obeying God, relieving pain and moving forward. Immediate forgiveness is not healthy to do because it skips a lot of steps.
The truth is forgiveness is different than restoration. Forgiveness doesn’t always equal healing, especially in the case of adultery. Even if the betraying spouse apologizes, it won’t mean anything without changed behavior. It is the change in behaviors that rebuilds the trust that has been shattered—and without trust, it is impossible to have a healthy, godly marriage.
Now that that’s out of the way, I’m assuming that you’re reading this because your husband has strayed and you indeed don’t know where to turn or what to do. My goal as a marriage therapist is two fold—to breathe hope and life into every marriage and to protect victims of abuse, repeated or unrepentant adultery.
In order to move forward into restoration there are very specific things that need to take place. Here they are:
Necessary Steps for Affair Recovery
Remorse- Your husband must have a repentant heart and a willingness to cut off all ties with the adulteress. What this means is if the affair happened at his office—he changes jobs. If it happened online—he gets off social media. A clear, hard and fast ending and self-removal needs to happen for trust to be initiated. He has to be willing to flee from all sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:18).
Open book life- His privacy is now put on hold until further notice. He has positioned himself to have to prove his faithfulness. He may not like this, but he only has himself to blame. God warns us clearly in Proverbs 6:32, “He who commits adultery lacks sense, he who does it destroys himself.”
What this means is you can have access to his phone, you get to check in with him when he runs late, you get to see his computer, and you get to question everything. This is not for the long term, but it is for the time being until healing comes and trust gets rebuilt more.
You get to lead- You get to be the one in charge now, in charge of your sexual relationship, whether you want to hear him say I love you or not, and how much information and details you want or don’t want. You also deserve the freedom to share with whoever you’d like. Your comfort zone is in the driver’s seat.
Consistent work and effort – You will need to see active and tangible changes in his life. Professional counseling for both of you, an accountability partner or a mentor for him, and his humility to ascribe to all of the above. You will never move forward until you suspect that he is understanding the pain he has caused. You need to see that he gets it. Forgiveness alone does not provide this. You will begin to see this through his actions.
While this is not an exhaustive list, it’s a great place to start, and it’s important for you to see these things as deal breakers. They are all needed to rebuild trust. You’re not trying to get back to where you were, that has been blown up. You’re creating something entirely new. If he is not on board, it will never work. It is not your job to fully heal your marriage or pick up his slack.
Also check out this invaluable resource, Online Affair Recovery course and use code EXPEDITION to get $5 off.
Feel free to contact us for help or to pray for your marriage!
Chris & Jamie