Four Things Not To Do When You’re Recovering From An Affair
It was tearing them apart.
The affair was so long ago, surely we should be over it by now, they wondered?
Brittney still couldn’t get past it. Grief drained her. Hopelessness consumed her. There were some days she couldn’t see her way forward to the next.
The thoughts, fears, nightmares, and questions followed her nearly every moment of every day.
For his part, Nathan was done with the questions. He was tired of the nightly conversations, arguments, tears, and endless apologies. He had repented and asked for forgiveness. He had gotten back into the men’s group at church. He could do no more. Wasn’t that enough?
All Nathan wanted was to forget the past and move forward. But Brittney couldn’t. Her wounds were still gaping and yes, she forgave as best she could, but that hadn’t stopped her heart from heaving mercilessly to the point of exhaustion as she tries to regain her footing. She could barely breathe yet alone trust.
Their story is all too common. One Focus on the Family article states,
While definitive numbers are hard to come by, most polls and estimates typically report that more than one-third of men and about one-quarter of women admit to having had at least one extramarital sexual act. If you factor in cases of "emotional infidelity" — where a spouse engages in an intimate (yet not sexual) friendship with a member of the opposite sex — the numbers are much higher, probably greater than 50 percent. This does not even take into consideration pornographic infidelity.
So how do couples heal from an affair? Is divorce inevitable? And how can we in the church walk with couples and encourage them effectively as they try to put the pieces of their hearts and lives back together?
These are some important things not to do if you or someone you love is recovering from an affair.
Do not find a rug. Do not brush the infidelity under the rug.
Yes, we all mess up. And when we sin, the first thing we want to do is move past the pain and the shame, so we can get back to normal. There is a tendency with many couples to experience a few days of distress, a million promises that this will never happen again, and the commitment that they need to get more involved at church.
While the support and accountability that church can provide are immense, they do not resolve the issues that caused the affair in the first place, nor can they heal the destructive emotional wounds and lack of trust that affairs inflict.
We don’t need to encourage these fierce, broken, brave souls to brush the affair under the proverbial rug. That only succeeds in making those around them more comfortable. Ignoring the affair does nothing to move the couple successfully through the grief process to the other side.
Face the infidelity head-on. Seek professional counseling. As painful as it may be, if both are willing to walk through this season, if both are committed to the process of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation, they can heal the wounds between them and restore the trust and safety in their marriage.
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.Psalm 28:7 (NIV)
Don’t rush past. Focus on Healing Slowly and Completely
We’re all pain-avoiders. I understand. No one wants to feel the crushing blows that pound relentlessly against every inch of your being. No one. But anyone who has walked the road before knows that this grief is not something you can get around—you can’t rush it, you can’t side-step it. The only way to the other side of your pain is to walk through it.
Ecclesiastes 3:4 (NIV) says, There is a time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
The grief process will shake you to the core and test every thing you thought you believed. And yet, if you grievewell, yes well, you will heal those terrible wounds, you will pick up the pieces of your heart that you thought could never come together, and you can live again. You can thrive. Your marriage can become more than you ever imagined. I know you can’t see it right now, but it can.
Don’t get stuck in the pain. Get to the Source of the Problem
Henri Nouwen famously said,
There is a great hole in your heart…[In your pain] There are two extremes to avoid: being completely absorbed in your pain and being distracted by so many things that you stay far away from the wound you want to heal.
Don’t get stuck in your pain. Don’t allow your suffering to become a well-worn comfort that blankets and stifles your soul-healing. Avoid the tendency to ruminate in the agony so that it poisons your healing and steals from you the very thing you long for most—hope.
As you move through this weary, seemingly desolate heartland, use it to further the healing in your relationship. Get to the source of the problem. Search for any understanding that will help guide you both into greater healing, wisdom, and strength. This is the only way to ensure that any fractures in your emotional foundation are eliminated, and that you have developed different ways of dealing with the stresses and disappointments that life and relationship will continually bring.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.James 1:5 (NIV)
Don’t make hasty decisions. Give Yourself Time To Recover
Just don’t. Now is not the time you need to make decisions that will impact the rest of your life. Focus your energies on your healing and only address decisions that must be made today. The rest truly can wait.
As you move forward in your healing, the fog that permeates your thinking will begin to clear, your emotional energy will slowly increase. The confusion and chaos you feel at the beginning of the process will dissipate in time. Wise decisions are rarely made in the storm of emotion. Once the storm settles, you can move forward with greater clarity and conviction in addressing the significant issues you face. God will give you light for the steps ahead. You can trust Him.
Trust in the Lord with all your heartand lean not on your own understanding: in all your ways submit to him,and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
Don’t lose hope. You Can Learn To Trust Again
I know it may not feel like it right now, but there is another day coming. A better day. You feel barren and lonely, but you are neither. God was with you in the first days that your world was crashing in. He held you then and He holds you now. He never ever left you. Never.
You must trust that you are healing. You are growing. Your weary bones are growing stronger by the day. As you move forward together in an environment of openness, honesty, and transparency, you can start to breathe again. To feel safe again. Even trust again. I know, that sounds so hard right now and you don’t have to feel it now, just know that it is possible. With God, ALL things are possible.
Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ Matt 19:26 (NIV)
You can overcome the damage of infidelity. By learning to trust God in a new, much deeper way, you can cultivate and enjoy a stronger, more fulfilling marriage.
About This Community
Don't we all want a little peace? My heart for this community is to provide just that - a needed refuge from all the burdens that weigh us down, some encouragement and inspiration to keep us weary travelers moving forward on our journeys, and some practical advice to help each of us navigate the challenges of life and relationships. Whether in our parenting, our marriages, our faith, or the broken places in our hearts, this place is for anyone who dares to reach beyond the hopelessness that surrounds us and embrace a lifestyle of emotional abundance and peace!
About Peace for a Lifetime
In my new book, Peace for a Lifetime, I share the keys to cultivating a life that’s deeply rooted, overflowing, and abundant, the fruit of which is peace. Through personal and professional experience as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I've discovered how to take the broken pieces of life and find indestructible peace with herself, God and with others. Through my story and other’s stories you’ll realize that you can experience the life for which you long. You can experience abundance beyond anything you can imagine. You can experience peace, not just for today, not just for tomorrow. You can experience peace —for a lifetime!
Peace for a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com.
Book Trailer: https://vimeo.com/155392891