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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.

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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.

14 thoughts on “Book Review: Healing from Infidelity by Michele Weiner-Davis”

    1. That’s not included in this book. In fact, Weiner-Davis’s only mentions of porn involve sexual addiction and then her recommendation that “Moving forward, it will be important for you both to be clear about your expectations regarding monogamy and what constitutes betrayal,” including whether porn is in that category of betrayal.

      The Christian answer is yes. It’s adultery, at least of the heart, which is sin.

  1. I recently had a long conversation with a woman in her 70s, the daughter of a godly mother, and a father who wasn’t converted to Christ until quite late in life. His job required him to travel a lot, and he sometimes slept with women he met in his business. When his wife (mother of the lady I talked with) found out, his arrogant reply was to tell her to deal with it.

    Well, she did, in various ways, but divorce was not her response. When he finally came home to stay he eventually began attending church, repented and turned to Jesus. The children grew to adulthood, married Christian spouses had children, and most are serving the Lord.

    I can’t speak from experience, since in 54 years of marriage as of next week, neither I nor my wife has ever strayed into adultery. But as a former pastor, a parent and teacher with thousands of students over the years, and a lot of research for books and magazine articles I can say that divorce is almost never the answer; and my friend, Dr. Gary Chapman, agrees. Writing in Loving Solutions: Overcoming the Barriers in Your Marriage, Chapman notes, “When parents divorce, children lose something . . . fundamental to their development—the family structure . . . They feel that their childhood is lost forever.” Overall, he says, “There are no . . . ‘happy ever after’ divorces.’ The effects of a divorce linger for a lifetime.”

    God is in the business of healing families, and even in the case of an unrepentant spouse, to keep the entire family intact is usually the key to having the children become productive, godly adults. This is the loud and clear message of 1 Corinthians 7:14.

    As for porn being “adultery . . . of the heart,” (to quote J), I agree. But nowhere in the Bible is any sin of “the heart” a basis for divorce. This is another issue, for which I have no time to elaborate in this comment.

    1. This one’s tough, Eric. Because I’ve gotta say that I would never put up with that. Families can be broken in more than one way, and that includes the damage of a perpetually sinning spouse getting away with it. What would I be teaching my children if I accepted that as my lot, if I put myself at risk of STDs, if I enabled sin by giving a serial adulterer a home base with no negative consequences?

      There’s probably something in between tossing him out and just putting it up with it, but I don’t see that it’s a Christian response to ignore your spouse’s deep-seated sin. Thoughts?

  2. J,
    In the case I mentioned, there was indeed “something in between tossing him out and just putting up with it.” There was separation for a time–probably several times. I Corinthians 7, in both the old King James Version and the current Holman Christian Standard Bible, uses “depart” or “separate” re marital difficulties in places where several other modern translations have changed the word to “divorce.” I asked Dr. Wesley Gerig, who taught Greek for 50 years at Fort Wayne Bible College, for his take on this. Dr. Gerig (who taught me what little Greek I know) said that there is no basis in the original text for the word “divorce,” and that Paul wrote it this way so that a couple could separate and perhaps reunite after counseling.

    I agree with this, and the only Bible basis for divorce that I can find in the New Testament is adultery. My comment was primarily a response to Ashley’s comment re “betrayal in the form of porn.” I agree with her that it’s “betrayal,” but I do not find porn use to be a basis for divorce.

    Dr. Erwin Lutzer, about two weeks ago in his Moody Radio program “Running to Win,” noted that involvement in pornography is “demonic” and a form of “idolatry.” I agree. And that seems to be why, once hooked, porn (or simply looking at nude pictures in non-sexual poses) is a sin so hard to “get shet of,” as my Southern father-in-law used to say. It transcends the normal visual attraction men have for women, and once Satan’s minions get their claws into one’s imagination this has gone way past mere addiction. That pagans in Bible times worshiped nude images in immoral rituals seems to be one reason for the 2nd Commandment forbidding “graven images.”

    1. I think serial porn use is adultery. And it’s interesting…because I think this is a distinction between how men and women often view this. Husbands need to understand: SHE sees it as you cheating on her. When a man is getting his sexual needs taken care of by another woman, is it excused because it’s on the screen? Let’s say someday that holograms are invented or virtual reality porn: Shall wives simply accept that as “oh well, not adultery”?

      When a man understands his porn use is a problem and wants to fight against it, I believe a wife should 100% support his getting away from this horrible temptation. But a man who indulges constantly with zero regret, and no concern for the heart of his wife, is cheating her out of her 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 marital rights.

      I’ve also studied this subject with experts in the field, and I think straightforward sexual adultery is not the only biblical reason to leave a marriage. I think we will have to agree to disagree on this one, Eric.

      1. As long as we lump serial refusal in the same bucket, I’d have no problem with that.

        I suspect many use porn not because it’s the better experience, but because it’s the ONLY experience after being serially refused by their spouse.

        And let’s add romance novels. The serial consumption of romance novels also sets unrealistic expectations that no moral husband can meet.

        I can see the case for idolatry being made for those who are sexual gate keepers, using it to control or hold power over their spouse. I can also see a similar case for idolitry made for those who read romance novels and then expect their husbands to be that man they just read about.

        So if we are going to start down the path of sins of the mind, let’s not limit the discussion to only a cherry picked few. Let’s throw them all in there and be consistent.

        1. There’s a bit of excuse-making here honestly. It’s like yeah, men watch porn, but often because their wives won’t have sex with them and besides romance novels are just as bad. I’ve absolutely addressed the problems with romance novels creating unrealistic expectations and the sin of sexual refusal. But that doesn’t excuse watching porn.

          Yes, let’s be consistent in calling wrong what’s obviously wrong. But I’d tell a woman who said, “I mostly read erotica because my husband won’t have enough sex with me,” that she’s blaming someone else for her sin. So it doesn’t work when men say it with porn. The Bible says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” so let’s own up to own issues, confess our sins, and turn in a new direction.

          1. Oh, no doubt. The serial refuser has some justification for the sinful choice to refuse. Just like the justifications of the serial porn or romance novel readers.

            Not making anyone better or worse than the other. Just want to speak up and make sure all of us, myself included are not ignoring the beam in my own eye while harshly judging someone else for a speck (or a full on beam for that matter) in theirs.

        2. Actually Tony, many guys started using some form of porn when they were preteens or teens. Thats when my husband started. Of course I didn’t know what he was watching while we were dating and engaged and the first year of our marriage. He totally deceived me. And no, I’ve never withheld myself from him. Actually, I initiate more often than he does, if you really want to know.

          As for romance books. What’s wrong with guys trying to be more like the romance heros? You know, listen to your wife and don’t just try to fix her. Sometimes buy her flowers or chocolate or whatever she likes when it’s not Valentine’s Day. Look into her eyes and tell her she’s beautiful. For crying out loud, take her on a picnic! Whenever I read a (always clean) romance book, those are the things the guys did that always made me want find someone to love me too. Seriously, for men that are putting out a little effort, clean romance books are no threat.

          1. OK, so you initiate more than your husband.

            How does that help the husband whose wife doesn’t initiate and he has been turned down, oh, since March, if we are counting here?

            It’s not like he’s not romantic. But he may simply be worn out for being criticized for something as insignificant as which parking spot he chooses.

            There are many of us who ARE putting out the effort, NOT looking at porn, and things are not getting any better.

            I listened to my wife. … I wonder if anyone is listening to me?

            Many of us are tired of the double standard. If things are bad, well it must be something we are doing wrong.

            So when we call it out, we are told we are all wet, it’s not a double standard. You should be like those guys we read about in the romance novel, but don’t ever suggest that your wives should display the enthusiasm of a porn actress. (And yes, both are fake.)

            Seriously, some of us are just tired of the double standard. Tired of the criticism, tired of the blame, tired of the entitled princess or queen without the corresponding privileges of prince or king.

            So if you want the fairy tale, you can’t treat your husband like a slave. He might just run away. If you want an intimate partner, you have to be an actual partner. You can’t treat your husband as if he’s staff, or that he’s ignorant, or that he doesn’t do relationships better than you, or that your ideas are always better.

            Otherwise, you just have a servant, not a spouse. Who would stick around for that?

          2. Two books: CHERISH by Gary Thomas and BOUNDARIES IN MARRIAGE by John Townsend and Henry Cloud. I think loving your wife as Christ loved the church is a balance of extravagant love and reasonable standards; just look at Jesus’s life. That’s my two cents.

          3. I downloaded Cherish on my nook. It’s a pretty quick read. I think the bottom line is make your spouse the only one for you. If there was a one liner to take out of that 60-90 minute read, it was that.

            I have Boundaries and dug it out of my box of “divorce” books from the last marriage. I don’t have the Boundaries in Marriage, so I’ll re-read what I have for now.

  3. Pingback: Q&A with J: Can God Heal Any Marriage after Infidelity? | Hot, Holy & Humorous

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