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.
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.
After my affair, I could never attend a wedding without being reminded of the promises I once made and eventually broke. The marriages of my own children, however, have always been particularly thoughtful occasions.
My children love me and have forgiven me for the affair that broke their family twenty years ago. Their grace washes away the shame that would otherwise spoil the celebration of their marriages. But the past is always present, and so in their vows I hear echos of my own.
I don't try to hide the story of my infidelity from my children. I hope that maybe they, and their spouses, will learn something from it and avoid making the same mistakes. And so recently, the week before another daughter was about to be married, I wrote the following letter to her fiance, my soon-to-be son-in-law.
In the introduction to her excellent book, How To Help Your Spouse Heal from Your Affair, Linda MacDonald identifies 5 options available to unfaithful partners after an affair has been discovered. With the author's permission, I've reprinted her options with my comments and added a sixth option as well.
After an affair is exposed, much pain and confusion is often experienced. And when a couple, caught up in the turmoil, reaches out for answers to the "What's next?" question, they are likely to hear many different answers.
I'd like to give you mine.
My response is more than opinion. It is an honest conclusion that has been firmly established by many years of counseling individuals & couples following infidelity. It is learned from my own experience, too.
But let me adjust the questions just a bit before I answer them further.
Let's take a closer look at each question...