Tag Archives: restoring marriage after adultery

Q&A with J: I Just Found Out My Husband Cheated

Among the fears some spouses have about marriage is the worry that their mate will cheat on them. It seems like one of the worst things you could learn. But it’s happened to couples out there who have come through, found healing, and even nurtured their relationship to a better place than it was in before. Still, no one wants to get that news.

And today’s question addresses just that — finding out your husband cheated. What now?

If you had asked me last week how I felt about my marriage, I would have said with confidence that we have a great marriage, one that was far stronger than most.

Then this weekend, my husband admitted to me that he had cheated on me several times during the first 5 years of our marriage. He made out with and/or received oral sex from several different women…. I’m just at a loss. I feel curiously numb, but my mind is spinning with thoughts of every kind.

My husband is extremely remorseful. I know all this happened before he got serious about his faith, and I still love him and I want to forgive him and find a way to work this out. He admitted his sins to our pastor and to his men’s bible study group a couple years ago. It seems it took him a long time to work up the courage to confess to me. He also said that for awhile he worried if telling me was actually a selfish thing for him to do, because it would make him feel better while inflicting serious pain on me. He said he wanted to protect me from that, but after continuing to pray he felt God saying he needed to tell me. So he did. Now that burden is off his shoulders, and I’m glad, but the hard part for me is only just beginning.

I know that if we’re going to have any chance at repairing our marriage we need to commit to doing it right. I am so overwhelmed though that I don’t even know where to start. 

blog post title + illustration of woman burying her face in her hands

When I receive messages like this, where someone shares their personal heartbreak, I try to imagine how I would feel in their situation. Of course I can’t say for sure, but I imagine this news like a wall falling and crushing me under—something I thought had kept me secure suddenly becoming a weight on my chest that makes it hard for me to breathe. While I wouldn’t want to demolish the whole house, because so many beautiful memories and good things happened there, it would feel overwhelming, like there’s so much to repair.

All that said, I want to point out some positives (which don’t exist with everyone who gets news of their spouse’s infidelity):

  • You say this happened before your husband got serious about his faith. Meaning that the deepening of his faith has had the effect of convicting and changing him.
  • You learned about this from him, meaning he was willing (though delayed) to come clean.
  • The infidelity has stopped. (I’m assuming that’s true based on his statements, but see point number two below.)
  • Your husband is extremely remorseful.
  • You believed you had a great marriage — which likely means you have a lot to build on.
  • Your husband was very concerned about the effect this information would have on you.
  • He listened to God’s nudging him toward honesty, even though there might be a personal price to pay.

But now what do you do? Well, those who recover from infidelity report similar processes for healing.

1. You need time and space to grieve.

Something has been lost, and it’s entirely understandable for you to grieve this betrayal.

Sometimes when an unfaithful spouse confesses, they feel like it’s over. They’ve finally dumped the weight of their guilt by fully confessing and can feel a sense of closure in that moment, but, as you point out, the road has only just begun for the wounded spouse.

Be clear with your husband that you are grieving and need to be given the opportunity to do so, even if it means that you are sad, angry, or withdrawn. It may be painful for him to feel shut out, but you need that own that grief and work through it unheeded.

2. If he wants your marriage to heal, his life is now an open book.

You get to ask questions, and he should answer them. If you want to know where he is, when he’ll be home, and who he’s with, he needs to tell you. If you ask to see his phone, he needs to hand it over. If you want his passwords to social media, that should be shared information.

To some unfaithful spouses, that feels unfair. But the wounded spouse feels thrown off-kilter, and they need to see evidence that the relationship is exclusive and secure. They need to know that no other inappropriate contact is happening and that the marriage takes priority.

That said, the wounded spouse shouldn’t make unfounded accusations and should be thoughtful in which questions to ask about the infidelity. If you ask your husband for specifics about someone he was with, and he complies and tells you, that’s in your brain now and isn’t likely to go away. Ask what you need to know to re-establish trust, but don’t ask questions you don’t need or want the answer to — hearing the sordid details isn’t likely to help you understand more and may make you, and him, simply feel worse.

3. You need to find out what was absent during those times.

Typically a spouse cheats because they feel something is missing. Now, to be clear, what could be missing is a compass of personal morality that has zero to do with the spouse cheated on. It could also be that he felt something missing in your relationship and failed to resolve it with you, instead selfishly choosing an extramarital outlet for those feelings.

Answering the question, “Why did you cheat?” can illuminate any areas of your relationship that you might want to work on to make sure your marriage is on solid ground. Maybe your marriage has already grown to the point that this would never happen again, but it’s worth asking.

And know there likely isn’t a simple answer to this question—there could be layers of reasons you have to work through, such as a poor misunderstanding of sex in marriage coupled with a porn background and work stress and this, that, and the other.

4. You should both foster your friendship and romance.

In the midst of dealing with all of these issues, you can begin to feel like all of your discussions with your husband are tense and painful. Clear away moments and evenings and outings when you just spend time with each other.

Take the issue of infidelity off the table for those times—not that it will go away completely, but save your expressions of hurt and problem-solving on that issue for other times. Commit to dating again, reminding yourselves why you fell in love and why your marriage is worth investing in.

5. You should aim for a return of intimacy.

Some wounded spouses don’t want to have sex for a long time after discovering infidelity, while others plunge into sexual intimacy in a longing to remind themselves of this physical bond. Neither way is unreasonable, but it seems to me that the wounded spouse should take the lead.

Yes, this can go on too long where it becomes a spiteful gatekeeping exercise that can tear the marriage down further, but most of the time it’s just that the wounded spouse needs to re-establish a sense of security to become vulnerable again in the marriage bed.

Take steps to move in that direction at the pace you need, knowing that the end goal is to become one in your marriage, including physically.

For many couples, all of these suggestions proceed more smoothly when overseen by a Christian counselor who can help you address your feelings, your relationship’s weaknesses, and your goals for the marriage.

You might need to visit a counselor alone at first, to work through your emotional pain. But conversations with your husband might also flow better with someone there to mediate and interpret and make wise suggestions on how to nurture your marriage.

Finally, although the following post doesn’t address your scenario, it includes links to relevant resources: Q&A with J: Can God Heal Any Marriage after Infidelity?

As for where to start, start in prayer. Then, if I were in your shoes, I’d make a phone call to a counselor and set up an appointment. I’d peruse the resources in that post. I’d ask my husband for certain promises and access to information. I’d do some self-care. I’d schedule a date night. I’d see the counselor. I’d keep praying.

The road isn’t easy, but you can reach a destination of healing, trust, and intimacy. Not simply again, but deeper than before.

Sex Chat for Christian Wives logo + forchristianwives.com

Q&A with J: “My Husband Had a Kissing Affair”

I’ve talked about marital infidelity on my blog before (like here and here), but what if your husband didn’t go all the way? What if it was kissing? Check out today’s reader question:

Please help! my husband had a “kissing affair” with a bar tramp over two years ago. I know it didn’t go any further because of everything I know now. he said she was just some cheap easy tramp who paid attention to him at the time. he’s never had contact again and I know he still lives with the guilt. he’s done everything right, I just can’t stand the thought of him kissing me now! … I gag at the thought of letting him stick his tongue down my throat now and I want to move on! HOW can I do this?

blog post title + man's neck and shirt collar with lipstick stain

First off, referring to this woman as a “cheap easy tramp” is total rationalization. Maybe that’s exactly what she was, but it sounds to me like he was easy in that moment too. And it’s all too common for men to claim they were seduced by a loose woman and thus blame her.

It doesn’t matter whether the woman was a dignified colleague he met on a business trip or a woman playing kissing roulette with a bar full of men, your husband needs to own that he decided what to do with his own lips.

“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

You can’t make him change his tune, but you can change yours. Stop referring to that woman as a “bar tramp.” Not only do you not know her, and any terrible backstory she might have that made her walk into a bar and kiss a stranger that night, you shouldn’t enable his efforts to transfer blame to someone else.

Is that harsh? I don’t think so. Because while I can honestly say that some guys I dated in my premarital promiscuous past took advantage of me, my sin is entirely my own. I choose to participate, and that’s wholly on me. Until we accept responsibility for our sin, we cannot confess it all and receive full forgiveness available through Christ.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst”  (1 Timothy 1:15).

Now to the primary issue: He cheated on you.

And if someone is reading this and saying, “It’s just kissing,” you’re apparently not alone. In a survey of 5000 people across the United Kingdom, 14% of people didn’t consider passionately kissing someone other than your partner to be infidelity. Although that included 9% of women and a whopping 19% of men.

Now these weren’t specifically married people, but those percentages are astounding. Would you really feel it wasn’t cheating if you came home to find your beloved lip-locked with someone else on your couch? Even if you didn’t consider it adultery per se, it’s clearly a betrayal and on the road to Nothing Good.

But if you turn those stats around, four out of five men and nine out of ten women — not necessarily married — think kissing is cheating. I believe God agrees.

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15, NLT).

However, the husband here recognizes his guilt and “he’s done everything right.” What would those right things be? Here’s a noncomprehensive list:

  • Confess the betrayal
  • Take full responsibility for your choices and sin
  • Apologize for the hurt you’ve caused
  • Take steps to keep it from ever happening again
  • Answer your spouse’s questions
  • Reassure your mate daily of your commitment
  • Give your spouse space and time to return to intimacy with you

So now what? He’s done what he should, and it’s your turn. How do you get past your husband tangling tongues with anyone but you?!

I sat here for a moment thinking how I’d feel if Spock kissed someone else. My teeth clenched, my throat tightened, and I had a sick feeling in my stomach. Shock, sadness, and anger rose up in me. And that’s just from imagining a betrayal that’s never happened.

So my heart goes out to you, reader. I can only imagine, but it is a painful thought.

That said, marriage is far too important to toss out or tear down because of this one confessed, forgiven sin. Beyond forgiveness is reconciliation, and that’s where the struggle is now. So let’s talk about actions to help you move beyond what happened and into deeper intimacy with your husband.

 1. Talk through the event.

Sometimes for closure, we need to understand what happened, why it happened, and what we can do to prevent it from happening again. Ask your husband to join you in calm conversations about why he felt tempted, how his actions make you feel, what you can both do to be there more fully for one another. Discuss practical ways to prevent this temptation from arising again. Does he need to swear off bars? Do you need to go on business trips with him? Should he have a male accountability partner?

Remember as you ask him questions about what happened that he cannot un-tell you what he tells you. You likely don’t need those details that would merely give you a clearer picture to run through your mind. Make sure you what you ask about relates to the goal of getting you past this event and building a stronger marriage.

These discussions will go far better if you keep your cool while still expressing your emotions, concerns, and needs. And be willing to listen to his end and see what you can do to help him avoid any such temptation in the future.

2. Take charge of the kissing.

When you reintroduce physical intimacy after an affair, it’s important to let the betrayed spouse set the pace. You may need to take a break from time to time, breathe through the anxiety, and regather your thoughts before continuing. Having you initiate the kissing can also help you view this as something you want as well as determining how you want it.

Moreover, letting you be in charge shows that your husband respects your feelings — he understands this is difficult and he’s willing to do what it takes to be with you. Will this slower pace be difficult for your husband? Yeah. But it’s worthwhile.

You can start with kissing him in other places besides his mouth, like his hands or his jaw line. As you kiss, remember what you enjoy about being with him, touching him, feeling close to him. Take time to explore, as if you’re there again for the first time. When you feel more comfortable, move to his lips, kissing him in the way you most enjoy. If you need to pause, do so. But then try to get back to it and push past the discomfort. Which brings me to my next point.

3. Train your thoughts.

This is what is really comes down to. Because every time you kiss him now, you can’t get that other woman and what he did with her out of your mind. It’s hovering there in your brain, in your gut, in your heart. But somehow, you’ve got to stop thinking about that night and focus instead on your love for your husband, his love for you, and the kissing you’re doing.

First, recognize that you’re not on opposite sides. Yes, your husband betrayed you, but since he confessed and recommitted to you, your position going forward is a united team fighting against any enemy that wants to attack your marriage. You are one flesh, and “therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:9).

Second, use self-talk while you’re kissing to alter your perspective in real-time. Remind yourself that your husband is here with you, that he is committed to your relationship, that you enjoy kissing him. Memorize some scriptures you can use as mantras in your head to fight back when thoughts of the kissing affair pop into your head. For example:

  • [Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5).
  • We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5b).
  • I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me” (Song of Songs 7:10).
  • Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

Recognize that it won’t be smooth the first make-out session you have. But what tends to happen over time is new thoughts and new experiences replace old ones and the bad memory loses its foothold in your mind. As that scripture says above, love indeed covers a multitude of sins.

4. Remember how God treats you.

Here’s one last thing that has helped me get over a lot of stuff: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). When I struggle with forgiveness or reconciliation, I think about all the ways I’ve hurt my Heavenly Father, and yet He takes me back every time. Yes, I must be repentant, but He is always faithful to show me grace. That perspective helps me give grace to others.

So how do you over your husband’s kissing affair? Slowly, intentionally, prayerfully. But it will happen, if you both commit to reviving your physical affection and intimacy.

Same pic as above, sized for Pinterest

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.