Dear husband or wife who just learned about your spouse’s affair,
You’re angry. You’re hurt. Maybe you’re disgusted. Heartbroken. The betrayal feels overwhelming and larger than life, and maybe you feel like you’re going to throw up.
You are hearing new information about a life the person you trust the most has been living that you knew nothing about- it feels exactly like a kick in the stomach.
As you process that kick, along with the hurt, feeling foolish for not realizing the affair was happening, and the astonishment of realizing how little you know about your spouse, comes the flood of questions. First come the big broad stroke obvious questions: Who? When? How? Why?
Perhaps your spouse answers these questions, at least as best as they are able.
As you process the answers to those simple questions, more questions pop in your mind: Did they kiss? Did they have sex? When? Where? How often? Does my spouse love him or her?
The answers to those questions come more slowly, more painfully, with confusion, and mixed emotions. Before you dive into the exploration of the abyss of the details of your spouse’s affair, Scott and I would encourage you to pause. We have been where you are, and now ten years down the road of reconciliation, are glad we chose to keep our eyes on the road ahead instead of in the rear view mirror.
Before giving in to the questions swirling in your head, we would encourage you to ask yourself several questions. Ready?
How much detail is enough? Clearly we don’t believe that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. This is the time to start a new habit, character, and culture of transparency in your marriage. After talking through the big questions, and the next round of questions come to mind, pause. Pray. Ask yourself:
- Why do you want to know the answer to that question?
- Will that answer satisfy you, really? Or will it lead to more questions?
- What will you do with the information?
Often the questions you ask will lead to more questions, and lead you down a trail of discouragement and darkness. No answer you receive from your spouse will satisfy you. Take your questions to God instead, asking Him, “Is this information important to my healing and our journey of redemption?"
Do you need those images in your head? Many of the questions you want to ask will provide answers that will paint vivid pictures in your mind of your spouse and another person. Allowing those images space in your mind invites a battle you don’t need to fight. The enemy will take those images and embellish them- why offer him that playground in your mind?
Where will the details take you? Think about it. You ask questions about the sordid details. Will it really make you feel better to know how your spouse touched someone else sexually? Or if they ate at your favorite restaurant? Or what gifts they may have exchanged? How will knowing any of the sordid details cause you to heal?
I understand that many of the questions potentially swirling in your head are about sex. Would knowing details about their sexual activities, beyond that they had sex, be helpful for you? No. The only good question that follows learning your spouse had sex with someone else is “will you please go have a full screening of tests for venereal disease?” It’s not only appropriate to ask as a question, but it needs to be a non-negotiable in the reconciliation process when sexual infidelity has occurred. And we strongly encourage you to have that same test done if you and your spouse have had sex in the same time frame of the affair.
Can you really understand what you’ll hear? When your spouse was involved in the affair, and maybe he/she still is, do you really want to understand their motivation to sin? When Scott shares about his long term adulterous relationship, it feels like describing a nightmare, retelling the bad decisions. Think about Adam and Eve…why did they choose to listen to and believe the enemy over God? Could they understand the bad decision they made?
Nothing good comes from asking questions comparing yourself to the person your spouse had a relationship with…past or present. Take heart- that person, those people are in the past, leave them there. You are here now.
Here’s the encouragement: There are questions you’ll need to ask and your spouse will need to answer to move forward, no doubt. Some things to consider as you do:
Don’t keep going over old history. Repeating stories/information refreshes them and gives them power. Once you ask a question and receive the information, pray and give it to God. Don’t revisit it again. Leave it in the past.
“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. -Isaiah 43;18-19
Every thought is not your own. Recognizing that the enemy whispers in your year is powerful. He will want to lure you down a path of thoughts that lead to death. Now is the time to learn to take every thought captive.
We are demolishing arguments and ideas, every high-and-mighty philosophy that pits itself against the knowledge of the one true God. We are taking prisoners of every thought, every emotion, and subduing them into obedience to the Anointed One. -2 Corinthians 10:5
Confess and pray. Allow your spouse to share, to confess his/her sins. Do the same. And be sure to take the next step in healing, praying for each other:
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. - James 5:16
Choose the windshield, not the rearview mirror. You have a choice- to keep your eyes on the rearview mirror, rehashing and reliving old hurts, giving them power in your lives each day as you remain mired in the past. Or you can keep your eyes on days ahead, letting Jesus lead you through reconciliation and redemption as you dwell on things that are good, true, and excellent, as the past fades and memories grow distant. You and your spouse are taking steps with Jesus toward reconciliation- that is worthy of your focus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. -Philippians 4:8
When you are in what seems like a vortex of the pain, the possibility of every feeling happy or normal again may feel distant and elusive. It’s not out of your reach. As you take each step with Jesus, you will grow stronger. The crash and burn of our marriage is 10 years in the rearview mirror, and our marriage is better than either of us ever could have imagined or dreamed. Yours can be, too! Let me pray for you right now...in fact, read it out loud over you and your situation:
Lord Jesus, thank You for knowing and loving me before You laid the foundations of the world in place. You had me in mind, hidden in Your heart, and gave me life for this time and purpose. You are not surprised at the situation I’m in right now, You saw it coming, and have been preparing my heart to fall into Your arms. Wrap me up, Jesus. I surrender everything I am and everything I have to You, to Your Lordship, Your Kingship, Your rule, and reign. I surrender my heart, mind, soul, body, thoughts, and words to You. Reveal to me what to ask in the midst of this journey of discerning details of my spouse’s failure. Help me to see my spouse through Your eyes, hear through Your ears, and forgive with Your heart, that I will not hold my spouse captive to my pain. Search my heart, Lord, and show me my part in the situation we are in, that whether or not my spouse takes responsibility for his/her actions, I will take responsibility for mine. I want my life to be pleasing to You. Take this situation, our hurt, our pain, our mistakes, and use them to shape us, to make us more aware of You, more compassionate to others, take our ashes and give us beauty. In Jesus’ name, bring the dead in our lives and marriage back to life. I trust You, Jesus, with my heart, my spouse, and our future. Amen.
Friend, you can do this. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.
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