Affair healing Blog
A word to those of you who've had an affair...
I met with a couple who were desperate to determine whether or not their marriage was salvageable. She had recently discovered evidence of repeated sexual communications with other women over the past year and suspected there might be more to the truth. While speaking privately with me, he admitted a history of unfaithfulness in previous relationships and expressed a desire to break this pattern once and for all. In the counseling session, he told her the same thing.
Her response was full of wisdom, expressed in a way that I'd never quite heard before. Here's how their conversation went.
I begged God to help me get through the grief. He was so good to comfort me and to restore my hope as I prayed. Before I knew it, I was going about life again and even enjoying it. I would begin to find my rhythm and to embrace the life I had come to know that included the big A in it, only to be slammed up against [a] wall again within a matter of days because something triggered my crushed heart and made it start bleeding again.
We usually expect our marriage to last a lifetime. What starts with promises of faithfulness and endurance, we believe, will survive any challenge "for better or for worse." Most marriages do; some even thrive. But many die in ways never anticipated.
When the death of a marriage is a mutual choice between two partners, grieving its loss may be a short-term process. The decision to end their relationship often follows a period of prolonged suffering, making divorce feel like relief. Similar to a funeral, partners make the appropriate arrangements, pay their final respects, bury the marriage, and move on with their lives.
But a marriage killed by betrayal is not so easily mourned.
When a partner has been betrayed and carries the wound of an affair, they long for the spouse to feel their pain and accept responsibility for it. To do this, the unfaithful partner must be willing to move toward that hurt rather than away from it. But let's be honest: most of us aren't wired that way.
In the presence of such overwhelming suffering, often expressed in anger, the guilty husband or wife usually reacts in self-protective ways by either avoiding or attacking their spouse. When that fight-or-flight response is mixed with a strong desire to sidestep the shame of an affair, it's easy to understand why so many cheating spouses simply want to voice a confession and then move on to other matters.
In preparation for attending a Marriage ICU Retreat (private couple's retreat) with me, I ask participants to explain some of the ways they have been changed by the affair. Here are responses to those questions from an unfaithful husband. They are published with his permission.
What have been the most significant things you have learned in regard to your personal and relationship recovery?
Here are some of the things I've learned:
1. I’ve learned what real pain looks like. My past work involved me with family/marital crises, funerals, and personal tragedies, but I’ve never witnessed the kind of pain and distress that I’ve seen in my wife since the day of discovery. It’s going on 4 months since discovery and the sobbing and tears still have not fully subsided. Just yesterday a deep sadness came over both of us and the sobbing (tears doesn’t describe it) began. my wife keeps saying she won’t cry anymore…but she does and the tears come from deep in her spirit. It’s heartbreaking to watch and know that I caused that. My heart is to help heal the pain I’ve caused in her and restore my marriage.