We have all been betrayed at some level and at some point in our lives. Whether in grade school your bff called someone else their best friend behind your back to a coworker taking credit for your idea or hard work.
You get mad, you get over it, you move on.
But what happens if the betrayal is deeper than this. What happens if the person who swore before God and everyone you know in the world, to love you until death do you part, betrays you.
Betrayal of The Most Intimate Kind – Infidelity
And what happens if this betrayal is of the most intimate kind….infidelity.
What do you do?
I don’t write a lot about specific counseling issues. For the most part, I believe every individual is different and their situation and needs are just as varied. However, in this case, if your spouse, husband or wife, has not been faithful in your marriage, there are many similarities.
The first decision is you have to decide if you want to work to save your marriage or not. If the unfaithful spouse is willing and repentant, will you stay in the marriage?
God allows for divorce in the case of adultery, but He doesn’t necessarily want you to divorce. It is a personal decision and again there are so many variables I am not sure I would ever dare to venture to give advice here.
I do know that couples do survive infidelity and I have seen God work miracles in couple’s lives. He can actually bring your relationship to a better place than it was before the covenant was broken.
Challenges to Overcome In Saving Your Marriage
Focusing on those of you who choose to stay in the marriage. Here are some challenges that will have to be overcome:
- You will get all kinds of advice from people who love you and their initial instinct will be to want to protect you from more hurt. They may tell you to leave and that is not always what is right for you. Seek out objective counseling from a pastor or Christian counselor.
- The unfaithful spouse will get over it sooner than you will. They will understand your broken heart and lack of trust for a little while. But universally, all humans get tired of punishment pretty quickly. Lengthy punishment will likely push your spouse away, whether that is fair or not.
- You will think subconsciously that if you forgive your spouse too soon, you will let him off the hook, and he/she will think that what he did must not have been all that bad since you forgave him/her so easily.
- You will reason it out and decide that you need to forgive the person so that you don’t create a self-fulfilling prophesy, and run them off. However, you will also slip, and get a jab in here and there, on a much more frequent basis than it seems to you.
- You will check on them a lot. You will want to check their phone, where they are, and what they are doing. Checking doesn’t really keep someone who wants to do something wrong from doing it, but you will check anyway. It will make it hard to build intimacy and trust back into your relationship, but you don’t want to be a fool and let it happen again.
- You will get worn out from the process and so will your spouse. You will feel like it is hopeless.
There is much advice to be given to the unfaithful one. Advice on how to love your spouse back through healing to wholeness. Advice on what to do to build back trust. Accountability for them to do whatever they have to do and to accept the punishment indefinitely as the pain they have caused is long-lasting.
Advice to Survive Marriage Betrayal
But this advice is for you, the faithful one. It is advice to survive. It is hard. It doesn’t seem fair. But it is what is required to possibly one day have the marriage you deserve and God wants for you.
It isn’t a guarantee because there are two people in this equation and both have to get their strength from God and follow His will and His plan. I do believe that it honors God and that He loves you and will be what you need even if your spouse doesn’t do the same.
Here is what you need to try to do once you have made the decision that you are willing to stay in the marriage and to try to make it work:
- Commit to yourself and God that you will try your hardest to have full reconciliation in your marriage. Trying your hardest means to try from day one, even if you feel like your spouse is being let off the hook too easily.
- Communicate what you need up front. If you need your spouse to quit going out with friends for a period of time, ask them. If you need them to check-in a couple of times to reassure you, ask them. If you want to check their phone or have access to their passwords for a period of time, ask them. They aren’t thinking that clearly right now either, and what you feel is common sense may not occur to them.
- Spend time with your spouse on living life together. If all of your time together is spent discussing, rehashing, negotiating, arguing, and trying to understand what happened, there is no positive interaction occurring to re-connect the two of you.
- Give your spouse some space from the guilt, shame, and pressure they feel from hurting you so much. I know they caused it, but for the most part, when a person feels like they are still hurting you they will start to believe you are better off without them and leave. It looks like the easy way out and a cop out, but it happens frequently.
- Work on being okay with or without your spouse. I don’t mean put up fake walls of bravado. I believe that you have to work on being okay. For one, I think that attracts the other person back to you. (See the opposite in the point above about too much guilt.) Secondly, if things don’t work out, by that time you ARE more okay.
- Fight depression. Depression doubles down on your misery. It is a natural reaction to the situation. It is depressing. But allowing clinical depression to sink in will make things worse on you and make it difficult to work on your marriage. Here is a post I wrote on Outrunning Depression.
These are just a few ideas and I know they are all way easier said than done. You will need help. That is why it is important to build a support group of people and professionals who will support you trying to save your marriage.
Remember it is difficult for family and friends to give advice because they love you. When seeking advice it may be better to find a counselor or pastor who has some objectivity. Getting too many opinions can be really confusing. There is always multiple ways to approach things but they may be different and not blend well together.
And I know bible platitudes are not always helpful, but I do know that God loves you and wants to help you carry this burden.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30