Surviving infidelity is not something anyone wants to endure. No one gets married and on their wedding day expects that their spouse is going to one day commit adultery. But the truth is, adultery happens with alarming frequency.
In the United States, surveys of married couples found that 25% of men and 15% of women admitted to at least one act of adultery. To put it in perspective, that’s one out of every four husbands who admits to cheating on his wife. Wives cheat as well, albeit a little less frequently.If your marriage has been rocked by adultery, most theologians and pastors throughout church history would agree that you have biblical grounds for divorce. And many betrayed spouses choose to divorce after the affair. They feel that it’s impossible for their marriage to survive infidelity, especially if their spouse is unrepentant.
The choice to divorce after an affair is very personal and depends on extenuating circumstances. It’s important to note that infidelity means more than just sexual intercourse.
It can also cover chronic pornography use, emotional affairs, sexting, visits to strip clubs, etc. The extent, frequency, and degree of unfaithfulness will doubtless affect your decision about whether to stay in your marriage.
Maybe you feel that your spouse is repentant, and you’ve decided you want to save your marriage. Affair recovery takes time. It is a long, painful journey. But, you should know that many couples have recovered from marital affairs and have gone on to have redeemed and loving marriages.
8 Steps to Surviving Infidelity
Here are eight things to consider if you want your marriage to survive infidelity.
1. Realize that only God can heal your marriage.
Healing a marriage after an affair is difficult, painful, and fraught with emotional turmoil.After all, faithfulness is the underlying principle of your marriage vows. When your spouse choses to be unfaithful, they openly disregarded the sanctity of those vows.
That’s not to say rebuilding isn’t possible. It is! But the healing process starts by acknowledging the destructiveness of a marital affair.
God created marriage. Throughout Scripture, he instructs his people to honor its sanctity (Hebrews 13:4) and not to divorce (Matthew 19:6) or commit adultery (Exodus 20:14). Yet, even Jesus identified adultery as a ground for divorce (Matthew 5:31-32).
Does this mean that if your spouse cheats on you, you’re obligated to divorce them? No. It does mean that you are not sinning if you decide your marriage is beyond repair after an affair.
But, if both spouses are committed to surviving infidelity, start by seeking God. He is the one who joins a husband and wife together in not just a physical, but a spiritual union, and he is the only one who can redeem a marriage broken by adultery.
2. Make sure your spouse is on board.
There are very important questions to ask about an affair. Sometimes, in the aftershock of discovering infidelity, it can be difficult to get answers to these questions, but it’s so important to work through these initial hurdles before beginning the recovery process.
- Is the spouse who committed adultery truly repentant and fully committed to restoring the marriage?
- Is the betrayed spouse fully committed to restoring the marriage?
- Are both spouses willing to enter counseling, strengthen relationship boundaries, and walk through the healing process together?
- Has the spouse who strayed been completely honest about the nature and extent of the infidelity? Has he or she been tested for sexually transmitted infections?
3. Seek Christian marriage counseling.The next step in affair recovery is to seek the services of a qualified Christian counselor or marriage therapist. They will provide the compassionate, professional structure for you to work through the steps of healing. Each spouse may benefit from attending individual counseling in addition to couples counseling.
Counseling for affair recovery will include examining the events and atmosphere in your marriage leading up to the affair. If you are the betrayed spouse, please know that your spouse is responsible for his or her own decisions. But examining the things that led up to the affair is part of the healing process to affair-proof your marriage going forward.
4. Establish new boundaries.
As you take practical steps to repair the damage to your relationship, you’ll need to consider the ways in which your marriage is vulnerable, and how to protect your union in the future.
At times, affair recovery may require a radical life change of some sort, such as changing jobs if the affair partner was a coworker. If the betraying spouse is willing to make sacrifices to underscore his or her seriousness about affair recovery, this can go a long way toward rebuilding trust in a broken marriage.
Radical changes are not always required, but you must set healthy boundaries as a couple. Setting up new protective measures in your marriage will guard against temptation and rebuild trust. Your Christian marriage counselor can help you work through establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries after an affair.
5. Work through the emotions associated with the affair (lack of trust, grief, etc.)
If you’ve been betrayed by a spouse, you’ve gone through a traumatic and painful experience. Emotional recovery takes time. If you are trying to save your marriage, you will have to slowly but surely rebuild trust in your spouse. Most of all, you will need to put your trust in God, the only one who will never betray you.
You may be sensing a theme throughout this article – affair recovery is a process. It never happens overnight. The spouse who cheated will need to have a lot of patience with this process in order for the marriage to be healed. Trying to rush through it or short-circuit the emotions involved might reveal a lack of true repentance.
If you are the spouse who strayed, know that there is forgiveness and freedom for you in Christ. Full repentance will be painful in the short run, but in the long run, it is completely worth it, both for your soul and your marriage. And, allowing yourself and your spouse to process all of your emotions now will almost assuredly prevent huge problems in the future.
6. Contribute positively to your marriage in small ways.As you walk through the recovery process, you can start to spend low-pressure time with each other in addition to having painful conversations and making difficult decisions. Spending time together might include going on dates, praying together, or finding a new hobby together.
The more positive deposits you can make in your marital bank account, the easier it will be to work through the negativity inherent in affair recovery.
Make plans to be intentional about time together. Create new routines that will give you guaranteed “couple time” on a regular basis. Make a habit of asking about each other’s days and spending at least a short time in conversation each evening.
7. Each spouse should focus on self-care as well.
Unplug from stressful activities for awhile. This is not the time to be taking on extra projects at work or overloading your schedule with outside commitments. Nurture your individual relationships with God, and seek his redemption for your marriage.
8. Find encouragement from other couples who’ve walked the road of infidelity recovery.
Unfortunately, as we saw in the introduction to this article, adultery is a part of living in a fallen world, and it affects both non-Christian and Christian couples. Other Christian couples have walked the road of affair recovery ahead of you, and you may find someone to encourage you, whether in your church, community, or through online resources.
Christian Counseling for Affair Recovery
Surviving infidelity is possible if both spouses are fully committed to walking the road of healing together. If you are committed to your marriage and your spouse is on board with the healing process, you’ve already made a significant step in the right direction. Do not lose hope for your marriage; God can redeem even this painful situation and use it for His glory.
Please don’t hesitate to contact one of the Christian marriage counselors listed in our online counselor directory today.
“Strolling Through the Field”, Courtesy of Hannah Busing, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sitting Alone”, Courtesy of Ismail Hamzah, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Talking”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Coffee Date”, Courtesy of Taylor Hernandez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this article are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact one of our counselors for further information.