Tag Archives: rebuilding trust after adultery

Q&A with J: Can God Heal Any Marriage after Infidelity?

The emotional pain caused by a spouse’s infidelity is hard to imagine. Plenty of marriages do manage, however, to get past the heartbreak and build a better, more intimate marriage than before. Today’s question is on that particular subject. Here’s what the reader says:

I found out 3 days ago my husband had an affair… After he had planned a weekend away [secretly] this past weekend..I assumed this was the only time He had wandered. We have been having issues for a long time. Our relationships with God haven’t been good. I feel unsure if this relationship will work. We have two small kids. I don’t feel in love. He has had an issue with porn and was talking to girls online in chat rooms…. I don’t want to leave him but I wonder if I can truly heal being so close. I feel like maybe my insecurities are also keeping me…. He cheated with my neighbor.

I know God can restore our marriage and make it better than before but I’m hesitant. I’ve had sex with him since the affair unknowingly…. I just don’t know how I could have sex with him after knowing this.

blog post title + craft heart stitched up in the middle

What struck me about this email and why I wanted to address it is that, yes, I agree that God can absolutely restore a marriage and make it better than before. But what this email lacks is any indication of what this husband is doing to keep and improve the marriage.

What we do know is:

  • He secretly planned a rendezvous with his affair partner.
  • His affair partner was their neighbor.
  • The marriage has had problems for a long time.
  • He’s had an issue with porn.
  • He’s visited internet chat rooms to talk to other women.
  • He had sex with his wife after having sex with his affair partner.

Affairs rarely happen in short order. There are steps spouse take as they head into marital infidelity, which I cover in this post. You can probably see from the list above how this all might have come together: a troubled marriage, a man without solid sexual boundaries (porn, chat rooms), a woman nearby (neighbor) who tempted the husband, and a string of lies and secrecy.

It’s not just that the husband slept with another woman. It’s that he planned it, he lied about it, and he tried to have his cake and eat it too (sex with both women). I can’t sugarcoat this — his actions were horrible.

Now if you discover your spouse has cheated and still had sex with you, you should both get tested for STDs. It’s not unreasonable to ask your spouse to willingly get tested. (In fact, if either spouse has had other partners, even before marriage, they should get tested and share results with their spouse.)

But the next step is this question: Do you both want to have this marriage?

Here’s where I’m not sure about this couple. This husband watched porn, went to chat rooms, lied to his wife, cheated on her, and not one iota of her explanation said that he was sorry, cut off contact with his affair partner, begged her to stay, etc. How did she even find out about the adultery? Did he fess up (a good signal) or got caught and couldn’t wiggle out of it?

In answer to “Can God Heal Any Marriage after Infidelity?” … yes, if you’re both willing to make an effort. But if the cheater feels zero remorse for what they did, what do you do then?

If the cheater feels zero remorse for what they did, what do you do then? #marriage Click To Tweet

Now, there could be some who don’t feel bad about the affair, but they could be motivated to work on the marriage by other issues — losing the mate they’ve partnered with in other ways, being separated from their kids, having concern about the financial cost. If he’s still willing to come to the table, there’s definitely hope. Jesus often took people who came to Him for selfish reasons and turned them toward the truth.

Dealing with all the issues brought up by this question, here are some resources to check out:

Intimacy After an Affair. This post addresses how you really could sleep with your husband after an affair, assuming certain criteria are present.

Rebuilding Trust in the Bedroom. This post gives specifics on how to rebuild the necessary trust for sexual intimacy.

Book Review: Healing from Infidelity by Michele Weiner-Davis. Michele’s book talks about how a couple can actually put a marriage back together, and she includes a chapter on what you can do if your spouse is not willing to engage. That said, part of her prescription is an area with which I disagree: That is, she offers one path of just letting your husband go his way while you hold things together and wait for the affair to fall apart, and that is not a biblical approach. Rather, as Christians we don’t enable sin but rather confront it and look for ways to bring a straying person back into the fold. With that in mind, you can still find some wisdom in this book for your situation. Just keep your Christian thinking cap on. 😉

Redeeming Marriages. Jack and Janet write this blog about strengthening your marriage, but they come from a background where, at different times, both spouses cheated. Yet, they fought their way back to a godly, happy marriage. You can read their story here. You might also want to check out their post on What If You’re the Only One Holding On?

Counseling. Yes, counseling. If I were you, I’d be on the phone to a Christian counseling center figuring out how soon hubby and I could sit down for a session. And if we meshed well with that counselor, we’d continue. If we didn’t, I’d try another and even another, until I found someone who could work with both of us to rebuild our relationship. Good counseling is a great way to reestablish a relationship, as God often uses others to assist our restoration.

You can indeed rebuild a marriage and intimacy from a situation that seems hopeless. But if I were you, I’d be hesitant too. Because I’d want to know that my spouse is willing to put forth some effort to make things better. If not today, then within a certain amount of time after I’ve invested everything I can into improving our marriage.

I’m praying for you.

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: When Your Husband Falls Off the Porn Wagon

It’s Q&A with J time! Today’s question comes from a wife married for 16 years to a husband with many sexual troubles.

My husband has struggled with sexual issues since he was a teenager, going to strip clubs, prostitutes, gay hangouts and a porn addiction. He has had at least two affairs and would video chat often with others and masturbate with them online. Of course I didn’t know about this when we married even though it has been an issue for him since before we met. Twice in the past I had caught him out in one of these things and we sought counselling and stayed together. Last year, I caught him out a third time and when his behaviour did not stop, we separated. Since then, he has had individual counselling, we have had marriage counselling and I have had individual counselling also. His behaviour has changed a lot, he has worked hard to rebuild trust and a few months ago he moved back in with the kids and I. We were working hard on our marriage and ourselves and things were improving.

Then I discovered that he was somewhere he shouldn’t have been, and when I asked how things were going he lied and said everything was fine and he wasn’t struggling at all. After I told him I knew where he had been, he also admitted to searching for pictures of boobs on the internet recently. Since then, I have been really struggling. I have not kicked him out of the house again, but the trust we had been rebuilding has gone once more. I cannot be intimate with him, I don’t even know how to be affectionate towards him. I don’t believe that God wants us to separate permanently or divorce (I would have done that already if God had not been telling me to keep my marriage together), but I just don’t know how to move forward from this point. What should I do?

Q&A with J: When Your Husband Falls Off the Porn Wagon

Plenty of us enter marriage with sexual baggage, but it seems like your husband brought in a U-Haul of issues. That’s not going to be cleared out quickly. But it can be done. If the Hoarders TV crew can help people find their furniture, I sincerely believe God in His infinite power can help you find your covenant intimacy past all the baggage your husband dragged through the door into your marriage.

Here are some very positive things from your story:

  • You know what you’re dealing with. The secrets are out. Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
  • When your husband continued in his bad behavior, you did not enable his sin. “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).
  • When faced with real consequences, your husband sought help and worked to rebuild trust. This is huge, because it requires confession, humbling, and commitment. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
  • Your marriage was improving.  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

And now he screwed up. Big time.

Because — and hey, hubbies, listen up to this one — not only did he seek out porn again, he lied about it. Which makes a gal wonder what else he’s lying about and why he won’t just come clean and let you help him deal with the issue already!

But let me tell you a little story. I smoked in college. (Thank goodness my parents don’t read this blog. Don’t anyone tell them, please.)  A couple of years later, I committed to never smoking again. Have a kept that promise? Oops. I ended up with a pack of cigarettes one time for a totally different reason and smoked half of one. (Oh great, I just realized my husband will be reading this. Oh well, confession is good for the soul and all…) Did I tell anyone? As you can see, no, I did not. Why? Because I was thoroughly disappointed in myself and utterly ashamed.

We should tell our secrets. But sometimes it isn’t because we’re trying to hide our sin from others so much as we are weighed down with the shame of what we’ve done.

So, while I’m absolutely not excusing his lying (so please don’t anyone comment that I am), I understand why someone who “falls off the wagon” would have a really hard time fessing up. Your husband may have rationalized that he didn’t want to hurt you or have been worried that you’d kick him out again for messing up.

What you and he need to establish is a No More Secrets rule. No matter how bad the infraction is, if his demons take hold again and he screws up, he needs to immediately come to you and ask for forgiveness.

Realistically, many who struggle with an addiction, or simply with sin itself, will get off track and sin again. But you need to communicate that there is a difference between stumbling off the path and getting right back on and veering way off the path so that you’re breaking the whole marriage covenant. Visually, it’s like this:

Stumbling vs Leaving the Path

There is a big difference between these two — both to God and for your marriage. If your husband just messed up, he needs to know that you are there for him, that you will stand behind him in his fight against the pull of porn, that you will not abandon him so long as he is seeking righteousness. But if your husband is falling back into patterns of ongoing porn use and lying, that’s a different story. And you simply cannot enable that sin.

As far as what you should do to figure out which one you’re dealing with, you need to start with that conversation. Explain to your husband that you’re not only hurt by his actions of seeking out porn, but by his lying which erodes your trust. Tell him you’re in his corner, and if he messes up, it’s not the end but he must come clean.

He really needs an accountability partner as well, not just you. Men often report that a key factor of getting off porn is having another man check in regularly and ask how it’s going. With an accountability partner (who is also male), your husband can explain the particulars of his offense. the temptations he’s facing, the emotional struggle, and strategies for staying on track.

When one spouse has cheated, it’s also important that they get in the habit of opening up their lives to their mate. If someone uses their phone and computer to commit adultery (extensive porn use is adultery, because it involves a third person), then they don’t get privacy with their phone and computer. Frankly, everything you do should be viewable by your spouse. I’ve never cheated, but if my husband wanted to look at my phone, he could go right ahead because there’s nothing there to warrant concern.

This also means that your husband should give you an accounting of where he is, what he’s doing, and when he will be home. I know people can feel like this is authoritarian monitoring, but really, it’s just good manners. “Hey, sweetheart, the guys and I are finishing up on Hole 9, running by Starbucks for a coffee, and I should be home by 6:00 p.m.” What’s the big deal about that? Nothing. Just show a little courtesy to each other. And it has the added benefit of keeping you honest.

You two should also install software to protect your husband, like Covenant Eyes. That will provide additional accountability and help him to avoid dangerous websites. Just like recovering alcoholics shouldn’t hang out in a bar, porn addicts shouldn’t hang out at online sites where the temptation is. Build a reasonable barrier to keep that enticement out of your home.

Consider returning to counseling. If it worked before, you might want to keep going on a less regular basis. Even after things have improved, it could be helpful to continue for a while, perhaps once a month. That atmosphere could be more comfortable for you to discuss what issues still remain or what temptations he’s still facing.

Rebuild trust on your end. I completely understand you not wanting to be intimate with your husband after he returned to the mud pit, wallowed a bit, and lied about it. But ultimately, to have a healthy marriage, you both need to make an effort to rebuild trust. For specifics on how, I suggest this post: Rebuilding Trust in the Bedroom.

Together, and with God’s redemption, you can foster new and deeper intimacy in your marriage. But it will take time. Continue on the path you’ve already started, and ask for God’s hand along the way.