If you’re reading this post because you have found out that your spouse is having an affair, then let me be the first to offer you a little encouragement. An extramarital affair does not have to mean the end of your marriage. Often times, the initial shock of betrayal sends you into a fight or flight mode, and you feel torn between screaming and yelling, or just running away to hide. If you’re not in this situation, I hope that you read this post for several reasons. Whether you find yourself counseling a friend some day or you find your own marriage in the middle of an affair, (and I pray that you never do) you’ll need some tools to deal with the situation head on.
There are very few betrayals that hurt more than discovering your spouse is having an affair. Let’s first talk about three common types of extramarital affairs:
A lustful affair is generally one in which a person is indulging in pornography and/or looking at the opposite sex and creating a fantasy in their mind. This person is secretly chasing after what is pleasing to the eyes and mind. If your spouse is looking at pornography, he or she may need to seek individual counseling as well as a long term accountability plan.
A physical affair is one in which your spouse has had a sexual encounter with someone other than his or her spouse. It may have been a one night stand, or it could have been multiple times with the same person. If your spouse has had a sexual affair, you will have to ask some hard questions to uncover whether or not there is also an emotional affair as well.
An emotional affair is one in which a person begins to develop an emotional attachment to someone other than his or her spouse. This could be a coworker, a friend, or even someone they met through social media. An emotional affair creates a deep connection with a person of the opposite sex in which your spouse feels like their needs are being met. Emotional affairs are very dangerous and can sometimes result in a physical affair.
Your spouse may be involved in an affair that has one or even all of these elements. As you begin to work through the betrayal, you’ll discover things you may wish you didn’t know about your spouse. You’ll have to walk a very emotional road in order to get to the heart of the issue and to work on your marriage.
Steps you should take immediately:
The moment you find out, run to the Lord before you run anywhere else. Cry out, shout out, be angry, and allow God to help you through the first rush of emotions. If you take your emotions to your spouse, you may say something that does more harm than good. If you take your emotions to your friend or family member, they may give you poor advice that you act upon out of your emotional distress. Let your heart be comforted by God, and let your physical reaction to the discovery run its course. If you find yourself faced with a phone call in which your friend or loved one is facing this devastating news, be careful not to incite anger or give counsel out of your own shock and emotional reaction. Instead, pray for them and with them in that moment and help them calm down. Direct them to the help they need.
Once you are calm and able to think more clearly, confront your spouse in a safe space. Approach your spouse when you will not have interruptions from children for at least an hour or so before you have to be somewhere. Keep in mind that the way your spouse reacts can be completely different than another person, therefore you should be armed with prayer and a calm demeanor. It is possible that your spouse will deny your accusations and you will become frustrated. Rather than interrogate and demand a confession, continue to create a safe place for their confession to come freely. You may feel like you need to show your evidence to your spouse to prove your point, but most often you won’t need to. They are far more likely to open up to you if they see that you are able to hear them. The key to the conversation is to open up, communicate, and eventually discover if your spouse is willing to get help.
Most often, when someone discovers their spouse is having and affair they will immediately call a friend, a parent, a pastor, or even a coworker. Unfortunately, while these loved ones may offer good advice, you may not be contacting the right person for help. Once you have given information to someone, you can not take it back. You may forever damage your marriage and your relationships outside the marriage by spreading the news. It is very important that you speak with the right person, and if you’ve been praying before you pick up the phone, God will speak to your heart about who can help. Even if your spouse has not confessed the affair, getting good Godly counsel is still the key to healing your relationship. I suggest seeking counsel with one couple that you trust. A couple that is Godly, wise, and has a good track record of giving sound advice. In fact, it may be good for you and your spouse to take time together and identify a couple that you can both turn to if you ever needed help, advice, counsel, or prayer.
While I did suggest that you get control of your emotions before you confront or seek counsel, I also understand that it is an especially emotional time for you. You may not be able to think, eat, sleep, or concentrate on anything else. You will have emotions, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be emotionally unstable. Many people have equated the journey of recovering from an affair to the 7 stages of grief, and I can see where this might be true. You can allow yourself to grieve, but remember this is not the end of your marriage, but it is a death. The old marriage is over, but with God’s help He can restore your marriage fresh and new based on His foundation!
Get Back on Track
Getting back on track is easier said than done. It is similar to training for a marathon. It happens step by step, with a clear and outlined path, as well as a whole lot of training. You will need to take steps toward rebuilding trust, and in some cases repairing the damage that was done. In your counseling sessions, be sure to voice your concerns. Do not feel like you have to go back to the way your marriage was before. Be specific in what you need to begin to heal and forgive. Together, you should set up clear boundaries for avoiding any future affairs. Don’t let the enemy separate you any more than he already has. Instead, begin to rekindle your marriage. Go out on weekly dates, do special things together and for each other, even when you don’t think they deserve it.
There is no doubt that discovering that your spouse is having an affair of any kind is devastating, but it doesn’t have destroy your entire life. Two people can reconnect, rekindle, and repair the damage. It will take some time, but be patient. Don’t let the enemy win in this battle. Remember that there is far more at stake than just you and your own marriage. Your children, your family, your friends, your job, and even your community will all be affected by how you handle this situation. Allow God to use this terrible story to display His grace and love through you. You can show others what it means to truly forgive someone who – in the world’s eyes – does not deserve it. After all, isn’t that what Jesus did for us all?