As created beings, we were designed to heal. We have the native ability to recover from trauma, be it physical or emotional. George Auden1 said it this way, ‘Healing is not a science, but the intuitive art of wooing nature.’
This is good news for recovering from an extra-marital affair. Of course we cannot put a time line on how long the recovery will take, but if we remain proactive to encourage the work of healing, it will occur. The question is ‘In an environment of tremendous hurt, broken trust, guilt, shame, sadness and anger how can partners promote the work of healing? Here’s my starting points.
For the Unfaithful Spouse
Prevent Relapse – Interestingly, relapse prevention is an idea introduced long ago when a woman caught in adultery approached Jesus. He advised her to ‘go and sin no more’2. Practically, that means, don’t relapse. Recovery is encouraged when relapse is no longer an issue. If relapse is a threat, recovery remains on hold. If relapse occurs, the recovery process starts from the beginning.
Over Report – Absolutely tattle on yourself about everything you do, where you were, what you’re thinking and certainly if the affair-ee tried to make contact. Since most betrayed spouses despise the role of policeman in the relationship, adding resentment and stress, take it upon yourself to over report. Transparency and accountability are critical.
Make Your Spouse A Priority – I’m guessing this what went wrong in the first place. Many people think their career, the kids or looking out for #1, should be the top priorities. Nope. That’s a sure way to invite an affair. Your spouse is your priority. Think about it, in no other relationship have you invested so much, risked so much or have the potential for so much gain or pain. Make your greatest investment your highest priority. Somehow that just seems like common sense!
For the Betrayed Spouse
Challenge Your Faith – I’ve often said that faith isn’t faith until it’s put to the test. This may be the greatest test your faith will ever endure. And while you may question it’s existence or feel it’s horribly weak, a willingness to repair the marital damage is an indication of tremendous faith! There is courage deep down in your heart, even if you have to dig around to find it.
Challenge Your Faith – You probably need to read that first point again (and again tomorrow, and the next day and the day after that).
Hang on Tight – Recovering from an extra marital affair feels like the emotional roller coaster ride from hell! There are days you will feel close to your unfaithful partner followed by days you wish murder was legal. You’ll recklessly shift from hopefulness to rage, from shame to desire and from blame to compassion. These twists and turns are normal. During this gut-wrenching journey, mental strength, enlisted support and perseverance will strap you in tight. Hang on, at some point the ride will end.
Although an affair is incredibly hurtful, our God-given ability to heal is more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. There is hope for recovery!
1English Physician and Professor 1872 – 1956