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.
During July 2015, one of our Community forum members posted a message in response to an unfaithful spouse who was frustrated because his wife remained angry about his affair. It's worth reprinting again. This is an edited version of her response, but you can read the the full post here.
You can feel put out that your wife is so insanely angry abut your affair, but it's not going to get you anywhere. Stop thinking of it as judgement from your spouse and, instead, judge yourself. Can you sit and own the choices you made and all the consequences that followed as yours and yours alone? When you can do that, I think empathy will come easier, your wife will feel safer, and some of her anger will dissipate. There were very few times—I'm talking nanoseconds—when my spouse showed real remorse without any defensiveness. And you know what? In those nanoseconds (until his defenses went up again, of course) my anger melted away.
I think every wayward spouse seriously underestimates the fear and intense pain, both emotional and physical, caused by what they have done. It's in their interest to do so, since as seeing it too clearly would feel awful.