Category Archives: Adultery

Book Review: Healing from Infidelity by Michele Weiner-Davis

Blog post title + book coverMichele Weiner-Davis is a licensed social worker, marriage and family therapist, and well-known relationship expert. Many of my readers might recognize her name from her book The Sex-Starved Marriage. Her most recent book is Healing from Infidelity: The Divorce Busting® Guide to Rebuilding Your Marriage After an Affair, and she was lovely enough to provide me a copy to read and review.

The focus of Healing from Infidelity is obviously to help couples put their marriage back together after one of you has had an affair. While I believe that adultery is a valid reason for ending a marriage (see Matthew 5:32), an affair doesn’t necessarily mean the end. Rather, Jesus also said:

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Once the marriage vow is made, you should make every effort to keep this covenant relationship. God compared His own people in the Old Testament to an adulteress, and yet He restored their covenant time and time again. (See Hosea 3:1, Jeremiah 3:11-15, Ezekiel 16:10-17, 59:63.) Sometimes a marriage cannot make it—and certainly abusive or sin-filled marriages are not in God’s will—but sometimes what looks hopeless can be saved.

Weiner-Davis does not come from Christian perspective, but she is an advocate for marriage and her book gives specifics on how to move from the brokenness of marital infidelity to the health of a happy marriage.

...move from the brokenness of marital infidelity to the health of a happy marriage. Click To Tweet

Her chapters alternate between addressing the betrayed spouse and the unfaithful spouse, recognizing what each needs and should do at various stages of reconciliation. Having worked directly with couples to put their marriages back together, she speaks from experience and includes lots of practical advice.

It all begins with believing that you can revive what appears to be lifeless—your flailing marriage. “In all the years I’ve been helping couples heal from infidelity,” Weiner-Davis says, “I can tell you that there’s only one time when I start to worry about the fate of their marriage. It’s when one or both of the partners start to become hopeless.”

From my viewpoint, Christian spouses should have a leg-up on putting a struggling marriage back together. We believe that “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27) and that we have “the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:19-20, NLT).

But I also understand that couples walking through the fallout of infidelity need concrete help getting out of the pit and back into trust and intimacy. As Michele states, “…this is a great opportunity to fix what has been broken, either before, during or after the affair. In fact…it really is possible for you to have an even better relationship than ever before.”

And I’ve seen it: Couples who went from the heartbreak of adultery into the happiness of marital intimacy. It can be done.

I recommend Michele’s book for those who are in the midst of that pain and wondering how they can ever get themselves back. While there are a few places where I disagree (for instance, her tips on remaining with an unfaithful, unrepentant spouse contradict the Christian position), overall this is an excellent resource.

Weiner-Davis shows real compassion for the betrayed spouse, as well as giving lots of great tips on becoming an emotionally healthy person regardless of outcome. Since I firmly believe that healthy and happy marriages are made with two healthy and happy individuals, this is a win-win for the spouse and the marriage. She also lets the unfaithful spouse know what they need to do to re-establish broken trust and care for their betrayed spouse’s heart.

Moreover, each spouse gets a good sense of where the other is coming from and how to view their spouse without greater resentment and anger than is reasonable. (And yes, some is quite reasonable when you’ve been cheated on. But dwelling only in anger won’t heal your marriage.)

She includes a whole chapter on how to address sexual intimacy in marriage after the affair. When should you get back into the bedroom? How can you rebuild trust? What role should sex play in getting your marriage back on track?

Michele shoots straight about what’s required to make it all work, while still highlighting why you should have great hope that your effort will pay off. I love her balance of positive confidence and realistic candor.

You don’t have to throw in the towel. With resources like Healing from Infidelity AND leaning on God to help you through, you can go far beyond restoring your relationship into building an even better marriage.

Q&A with J: “My Husband Is Addicted to Porn”

Today’s question is an important one. And it’s very straightforward. Here’s what the wife asks:

My husband is addicted to porn. I have no one to talk to — where do I go?

Q&A with J- My Husband Is Addicted to Porn - sad woman with hands over face

Even in this short question, I can sense the pain, urgency, and despair. When it comes to pornography, let’s be clear about two things:

  1. Too many men battle this temptation and feel trapped by a horrible habit that they don’t want to continue, yet feel insufficient to overcome.
  2. It’s cheating on your marriage. What was supposed to remain entirely within marriage — sexual pleasure and satisfaction — is being met elsewhere.

As much as I feel for the addicted porn viewer and their struggle, it’s no wonder that wives who discover their husband’s porn use feel betrayed. According to Jesus, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

...it's no wonder that wives who discover their husband's porn use feel betrayed. Click To Tweet

Porn isn’t the stray glance or public temptation of scantily dressed women; it’s the intentional consumption of sexually charged materials for the purpose of lusting and receiving sexual pleasure.

Yet for some, many perhaps, it is also like an addiction. As I said, they know it’s bad, often they want to quit, but the temptation is so strong. If you’ve ever been addicted to anything — drugs, smoking, coffee, soda, etc. — you understand how the head knowledge and the heart desire to quit something are constantly battling with the baser need you have to feed the hungry beast. You’ve experienced the longing, followed by the dopamine and adrenaline rush, and your body tells you to keep that loop going.

The point is that when one spouse is habitually using porn, both of you are suffering. Your marriage is suffering. It’s easy to feel like you’re on opposite sides. So one major goal you need to have is to get on the same sideIt will take both of you working together on this issue and your marriage. He needs to do his part, and you need to support him.

To the question: I have no one to talk to — where do I go? The best response I think I can give is to point you to resources. Following are a few great posts addressing the issue of a husband’s use of porn.

First Steps in Battling Pornography from OysterBed7

Discovering Your Husband’s Porn Use from To Love Honor and Vacuum (guest post from Hopeful Wife Today)

What Should You Do If Your Husband Looks at Porn? from Authentic Intimacy

Pornography Destroys These Things In A Wife from Unveiled Wife

Unveiled Wife also has a list of Resources to Educate Yourself on Pornography

Q&A with J: When Your Husband Falls Off the Porn Wagon here on my blog

You should also look into filtering software, such as Covenant Eyes. By the way, Covenant Eyes has a blog with helpful articles as well.

As far as talking to someone and getting real help as the wife of a porn-addicted husband, XXXchurch provides many resources for overcoming porn addiction and walking through that experience with your spouse. They have small groups you can participate in online, as well as an entire program for wives called Recover. (If someone has been through this program, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.)

Some of the churches in your area might also offer programs for porn recovery, including outreach to spouses. Check around and see what’s available; you might be surprised to discover useful resources in your own neck-of-the-woods.

I don’t know whether your husband confessed the porn addiction or you simply discovered it, whether he is remorseful or recalcitrant, and whether he wants to seek help or you feel alone in this matter. Of course, this will all be easier if he is repentant and willing to reach out for help.

If he is not cooperative, you need to be willing to bring it up to someone in your church congregation. Of course this is difficult, and scary, but you cannot allow your marriage to disintegrate. Nor is it any favor to your husband to allow him to continue in sin. Likely he recognizes that his porn habit is taking a toll on himself and his marriage, even if he doesn’t admit it right away.

Many Christians steeped in pornography have a hard time getting help because they feel such shame even admitting their problem. It’s hard to bring out in the open the worst parts of ourselves and ask for help and healing.

But Luke 8:17 says: “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

God already sees and knows. As long as you hide, however, you cannot be healed. Consider it like this: Would you want a life-saving operation to be conducted by your surgeon in the dark? We have to step into the light so that all our struggles can be seen and our Healer can make us, and our marriage, whole again.

Be wise about whom you bring into your confidence. But consider that this may be a step you need to take.

I pray that the resources I provided will point you in the right direction. And may God bring you strength, comfort, and hope.

What about the 3 A’s? Addiction, Adultery, and Abuse

I recently wrote When My Marriage Seemed Hopeless, What Made Me Stay? In that post, I mentioned that the three A’s — Addiction, Adultery, and Abuse — are particularly difficult problems for marriages to overcome.

But let me clear: Just because something’s difficult, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

So what if you are dealing with one of these three A’s? How can you kick that issue to the curb and find healing and hope instead?

Broken heart

Addiction. Addiction is a jealous mistress in your marriage. Whether alcohol, drugs, pornography, or something else, addiction actively tries to take your husband’s attention and resists you reclaiming it. Those who’ve dealt with addiction can attest to the strength of that pull. Addiction can even rewire your brain’s perceptions and emotional responses, and withdrawal is anything but pleasant. All that said, many have gone from addict to victor.

So what can you do if your spouse has an addiction?

Stop enabling. When loved ones stage an intervention, when families put a relative in rehab, when friends and family members stop covering up for the addict’s failures, when people around no longer enable the addiction, the addict must face the full consequences of their own actions. In some cases, that added pressure helps an addict clarify what’s happening — to see that his/her actions not only make life difficult, but a healthy marriage and family impossible.

Set boundaries. Set the standards of what you will and won’t put up with, then follow your plan calmly and firmly. How do you choose boundaries and make them stick? My advice is to grab the excellent book Boundaries by John Townsend and Henry Cloud or Boundaries in Marriage for wisdom.

Get on the same team. Remember who the true enemy is. Most of the time, an addict hates what’s happening but feels powerless to change. A struggling husband is not the enemy; sin, the addiction, and Satan are the enemies. Commit yourself to standing with your spouse. Let him know you’re a teammate, not an adversary, in this fight.

Get help. Most addicts want the madness to stop, although a few addicts don’t seem to care how much havoc they wreak. If he denies the addiction, and your marriage is suffering horribly, reach out to others. Get the support system you need as a foundation from which you can launch efforts to get your husband’s attention and tackle the problem together. Tell your pastor, see a counselor, contact a local Al-Anon chapter, read up on addiction, etc.

The addiction may take time to deal with, but get on the right road. Even if progress is slow, progress is what you’re looking for. Starting with him owning up to the problem. As always, pray for your attitude and your actions throughout.

Adultery.  The imaginary thought of some other woman’s lips on my husband nearly makes me apoplectic. So when I hear of couples who’ve endured true adultery, my heart cracks like an earthquake fault. How can you heal a rift like that?

But marriages do survive and thrive after adultery. Interestingly enough, a lot of the advice listed with addiction — stop enabling, set boundaries, get on the same team, get help — applies here. Ultimately, you have to do two things:

  1. Get rid of the affair partner. Goodbye, au revoir, adiós, ba-bye. And never come back.
  2. Rebuild your marriage, so this relationship is where you both want to commit your efforts.

The first one is something the offending spouse has to decide. However, you can apply appropriate pressure. Don’t enable him seeing the affair partner — by allowing excuses about how they work together or those texts don’t mean what you think they do or it isn’t really her fault or whatever to dissuade your hard stance. If he really wants to end it, he needs to end it. Period. Support your husband in getting another phone number, securing a different job, or even moving if you must, but cut off connections.

And now do the hard work with your marriage. Get into counseling and figure out where your own marriage is lacking. No, you are not to blame for his adulterous actions; however, making your marriage stronger can stoke his desire to stay involved with you and not go elsewhere to meet any emotional or physical needs.

While working on your marriage, remember to enjoy it as well — to recall why you married in the first place, to return to date nights and getting to know each other better, to pray together for your future. When it’s time, rebuild the trust in the bedroom.  Reinvent your marriage and commit it to the Lord. You might be surprised to look back years later and see how far you’ve come since that horrible moment when adultery attacked your marriage. True healing, holiness, and happiness are possible.

Abuse. Let’s first talk about what constitutes abuse, because I hear this word bandied about in reference to everything from minor name-calling to a thorough beating. Not everything that’s hurtful or even intentionally hurtful is abuse.

Abuse is a pattern of behaviors with the intent to cause injury and/or gain power or control over the other person in the relationship. The abuse can be emotional, physical, or sexual.

So what if your spouse has this pattern of behaviors? If he’s truly abusive?

Some people are abusive because they feel wounded or a loss of control in their lives or saw poor patterns of coping in their families of origin — and can change when you deal with the core issues. Others, sadly, have abuse ingrained in their character, which is far harder to fix. I’m not saying it cannot be fixed, because my God is way bigger than that. What I am saying is those down-deep abusers are difficult to reach and hard to convince that change is necessary. They’ll likely blame their abusive behavior on others (e.g., “If only she would __, I wouldn’t hit her.” — lie).

I’m by no means an expert here, yet I believe emphatically: Without counteracting pressure, abusers don’t stop.

That pressure may need to come in the form of your absence (for your safety as well, if the abuse is physical or sexual); intervention from family, friends, church leaders, or even law enforcement; and defending yourself appropriately (what that looks like depends on your situation). Bill Maier of Focus on the Family, an organization dedicated to stronger marriages, says, “Men who have abused their wives in the past are likely to abuse again.” Therefore, you must take steps to stop the abuse; if and when the abuse stops, then you can work on healing the marriage.

Seek quality resources. I am not an addiction or abuse counselor, a marriage and family therapist, a psychologist, a medical doctor, or a Ph.D. in Recovering from the Three A’s. I’ve watched others walk through these journeys, spoken to them about the hardships and the healing, and studied resources dealing with these issues.

If your marriage is facing addiction, adultery, or abuse, don’t just follow the advice in this post; seek out the best resources you can find. Take a step in the right direction, get help, and pray for a revival in your marriage.

“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe.”

Psalm 107:2
(and the whole chapter is worth reading)

What?! You’d Rather He Have an Affair?

I heard such a sad thing the other day on the radio. Now and then, I listen to the Dennis Prager show. I particularly enjoy his “happiness hour” and the hour he lets callers ask him anything under the sun. (He’s also interviewed the fabulous Sheila Gregoire for his male/female hour.)

Anyway, this man called in to ask Mr. Prager for his take on this scenario: The man’s wife wanted him to have an affair so that he could “get it out of his system” and not desire sex so much with her. What floored me is that Mr. Prager said he knew of another couple where the wife had said the same thing and he presumed that other wives felt that way.

I immediately wanted to find that wife, buy her a cup of coffee, and have a heart-to-heart. But I would have to make my tongue behave, because what I’d want to start out saying is:

You’d rather he have an affair?!!

Some ecard: "What are you?! Crazy???"

Which really isn’t the way to ease into a conversation about what sex should mean for a marriage. A wife who is this reluctant simply doesn’t get it.

I don’t know if such a wife would even read my blog, but if she did, here’s what I’d truly want to share with her:

God gave your husband his sex drive for a reason. Yes, there are crazed sex addicts, but your husband isn’t likely one of them. If he wants to have sex frequently and friskily, he is most likely . . . normal. God created us to be sexual beings, to desire and enjoy physical connection with our mate. His Word is clear that sex serves several purposes: reproduction, relational intimacy, and pleasure. God knew what He was doing when he invented libido. It’s only when we twist sex to purposes outside God’s plan that the drive becomes a problem. In the context of a covenant marriage, a desire to have sex is a blessing.

Your husband doesn’t just want sex. When he chose you, he chose having sex with you. Yes, some husbands do not make this clear when they say things like, “But I need sex!” However, having heard from many husbands at this point, the vast majority are not merely interested in sex. They specifically want to have sex with their wife. He chose you. He wants you. To put it bluntly, if it was just about physical release, he could accomplish that without you. Sex has a deeper meaning for him, and what he most desires is connection with you (though, yes, that does include the Yippee! feeling of climax — hopefully both his and yours).

If you don’t like sex now, you can learn to like it. If you really hate sex, there’s something going on that needs to be addressed. Maybe you simply received bad teaching on what sex is in a marriage. Maybe you’ve had a bad history that includes abuse, promiscuity, or mistreatment. Maybe your body isn’t cooperating due to health issues. Maybe your relationship is faltering and needs work. Maybe you haven’t tapped into the pleasure centers of your body and learned to relax and enjoy. Whatever the issue, it can be addressed and, in almost all cases, fixed. If you don’t like sex now, make sex a priority, deal with any medical or psychological issues, and learn what you need to do to foster a positive response to sexual intimacy with your husband.

Extramarital affairs take their toll, even if they only seem sex-based. It’s simply a fallacy to believe such drivel as: “It’s just sex, nothing else” or “What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.” The act of sex engages the senses, releases pleasurable body chemicals, and can result in positive or negative consequences depending on the context. It is not a neutral thing. Sex has the power to bind you to the other individual in a private, shared way. No wife should want another woman to have that influence and connection with her husband. Yes, I joked about how tempting it would have been to say, “Go see the other wife,” when the kids were young, I was exhausted, and I entertained the thought of polygamy for a split second . . . but ain’t no way I want another woman touching my husband. I know too well the impact of sex, and only spouses should have that kind of impact.

Sex both expresses and fosters covenant love in a marriage. Sex is not icing on the cake. It’s an ingredient in the cake. Want a great cake? You’ll need flour, eggs, sugar, etc. Want a great marriage? You’ll need shared values, communication, sex, etc. God blessed marriage with the gift of sex as a way to both express our love to one another and foster our love for one another. Sex in marriage should not be optional. It’s essential. Those couples who have the best marriages will testify to the importance of sex in keeping them connected and engaged with one another. Plus, as I’ve said many times, it’s hard to get your “panties in a wad” over some small annoyance when your hubby just sent you to the moon with a mind-blowing orgasm. I doubt that’s what the apostle Peter meant when he said, “Love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8), but it does apply.

Mostly, I would want to listen to this wife and hear her emotional state — why she has concluded that she would rather her husband be in the arms of another woman than to make love to him herself. I would want to guide her past the hurt or faulty thinking she possesses. I would want to give her tips for desiring and enjoying sexual intimacy. I would want to challenge her to love her husband in the way God intended her to love him — with her mind, heart, and body.

Have you ever felt this way about sex in your marriage? What would you want to tell such a wife?

When You’re Sexually Sinning

The last three weeks, I’ve taken the time to talk about building a wall around your marriage to keep out Satan’s attacks on your marital covenant, the biblical response to sexual temptation, and the steps that lead to an affair.

This topic has come about primarily because a good friend of mine is going through the total destruction of her marriage due to the adulterous actions of her husband. This came from a man I would have never suspected was capable of such a thing. However, I believe that given the right combination of circumstances and a lack of intentionality in preventing adultery, sexual temptation can creep up and take just about anyone hostage. We must be as innocent as doves and as shrewd as snakes regarding this issue (Matthew 10:16).

So what if you’re already there? What if you are already in a compromised situation with someone outside your marriage?

I have discussed here my sexually promiscuous past before my marriage. In effect, that was adultery too because I was having sexual contact with someone other than my husband. God desired for me to focus all of my sexual energy on the spouse that He would provide for me. I’ve done a lot of thinking since then about what would have prevented me from getting trapped in sexual temptation. I have a list of things that would have helped me never arrive at that point. However, I am less certain what someone could have said at that time to pull me out. The one direct challenge I received, I rebuffed like a volleyball and then stopped talking to that person.

So what can I say to you either? What words can get us to wake up and understand that things can be different?

I think the words are What if. When you are in the midst of sexual sin, you don’t see how you can go without and you don’t want to. You also don’t want to feel the horrendous guilt or hurt others in the process. So you feel stuck.

Here’s what someone might have said to me then, and it could have made a real difference:

What if you could have the pleasure you experience without the guilt?
What if you could have this experience within a secure, committed relationship?
What if you knew that you would be able to stop yourself before going too far?
What if you could feel pure again?

Quote bubble with "What if?"In a similar vein, if you are in a compromised sexual position with someone other than your spouse, you need to ask some important what if questions:

What if you could have all these feelings of romance and desire for the spouse you already covenanted with?
What if you knew your relationship with God and your spouse could be restored?
What if you knew the other person you’re falling in love with would be okay without you?

Time after time, couples have survived infidelity. These are not hypothetical what-ifs. They can happen. In fact, I suggest you follow Marriage Life Ministries and My Beloved Is Mine blogs to see stories from people who not only survived but thrived after adultery. AffairCare also offers resources for renewing a marriage after infidelity.

And I assure you that making that other person into an adultery partner is not doing him or her any favors: You are hurting their reputation, their family, their future, and their relationship with God. Step away and let them find an appropriate mate for life.

If you don’t believe that God can redeem your marital relationship, I pray that you will reconsider. I believe in every fiber of my being that’s exactly what God wills to do. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'” And Psalm 37:3-6 says, “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

Read The Gospel in the Bedroom for more on God’s desire for your marital intimacy.

Stop and ask yourself What if? What if this affair doesn’t work out? What if things could be better in my marriage if I would give it my all? What if the way that seems right to me isn’t the way I should go? (“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12) What if my marriage could not just survive, but thrive?

What if.

I also highly recommend that you check out the powerful post and the video presented by the Mission:Husband blog: ‘Til Death Do Us Part.