When a spouse cheats, what should the innocent party do next?
If you’ve ever discovered a spouse’s affair, you know that facing infidelity in your marriage is a heart-wrenching experience. It may be as simple as an office flirtation or sexting or pornography or it may a full blown sexual affair. Whatever you discover, you suffer emotionally, psychologically, and sometimes even physically as the grief sets in. But even though you’re carrying a lot of pain right now, there’s hope and there are questions to explore.
We have seen couples face infidelity over our years in our marriage education and coaching ministry. While it’s possible to face this experience together and come out stronger on the other side, infidelity jolts a marriage like nothing else. The heartbreak is very real, and if you’re facing this situation, you might be wondering what happens next. Regardless of the outcome of this discovery, there will always be scar tissue which leaves a mark…even if restoration is made and the hurt recedes.
How will you and your spouse get through this? Will you get through it together? Are reconciliation and forgiveness possible after an affair?
It might not feel like it right now, but it’s possible to bring your marriage back into a happy place–perhaps even happier and stronger than before. Whatever happens, healing is possible, but there are some important steps to take first.
What Part Did Each of You Play in the Affair?
First, how did you learn about your spouse’s affair? Did they admit to it, or did you find out about it another way? Have each of you taken ownership of what happened yet, or are they denying it?
Your spouse’s attitude toward the affair–and whether or not they are willing to take ownership of it–will impact your next steps moving forward. What’s most important is for both of you to take ownership of your marriage’s health.
Were there unhealthy dynamics which led to this moment? Did this affair blindside you, or had there been obvious issues in your marriage leading up to it? Spend some time taking stock of the situation. Each of you should own what you can, because taking ownership will be the foundation of what happens next.
Make a Fearless Assessment of Where Each of You Stand
Next, you’ll need to consider where you each stand in the situation. Is your spouse repentant and willing to be honest? Do you feel it’s possible for them to regain your trust as time goes on?
When trust has been broken, it’s natural to hold the person who hurt you at arm’s length. You might feel it’s appropriate to distance yourself emotionally from your spouse at this time. When you’ve been hurt so deeply–especially if you don’t sense a willingness to change–it’s expected that you would want to protect yourself.
Get Help. You Cannot Do This Alone
If you’re not already seeing a marriage counselor or coach, it’s time to consider getting professional help. We recommend finding experienced marriage educators and mentors who can help you navigate this painful season.
It’s going to take time to move toward acceptance of the situation and restoration. An affair creates a deep wound that will need time and patience to heal and it will always leave a lifelong scar. Work toward forgiveness, after all God in Christ Jesus forgave you when you were unlovely and unloveable. You can, to
Healing and reconciliation could bring you both to a place where you’re stronger and more in love than ever before. We have seen many couples come on the brink of losing their marriages do the work and heal and forgive and thrive. You can, too.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
I Do Again by Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs – YouTube_640x480.mov