Interview: Healing and Restoration After Adultery ~ Part One

Is it possible for a marriage to survive adultery? If the marriage survives, is it possible for it to become a place of deep passion and intimacy again? This is a very serious issue and after receiving an email from a reader who is currently caught in the sin of adultery and wondering how to get free from it, we wanted to talk to a couple that had experienced infidelity and been restored. We are grateful to the couple who shared their story with us.

Christian Nymphos (CN): What was the condition of your marriage prior to the adultery?

Dear Wife (DW): I think it is very important to point out that we believed that we had a good marriage. Other people looked up to us and I had friends ask me for advice about marriage. One woman from the church told me that I was married to a “promise keeper” and that she was going to find someone just like him. I think the verse, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” is very wise advice. I remember telling my husband that I knew I could never cheat on him. When I was in counseling, I told my counselor that “everyone was shocked.” Her reply was, “and you most of all.” I think that was accurate. Now in hindsight, we realize that things were not perfect. We did not understand each other’s love languages. I also feel that personally, I did not always speak my mind/thoughts but allowed myself to be repressed by my impression of what others expected of me as a “woman of God.”

Dear Husband (DH): I think it is important to note that DW had been faithful to our marriage vows for over 24 years. I felt as though we had such a good track record, that this was not something we would ever have to deal with. I was blind to it at the time, but I can look back and see that I had been having an affair myself with my church work for 15 years. I was preaching in Sunday services, leading worship, on various committees, the neglect of my wife and children. I think I could have fostered a much stronger connection with my wife. Maybe she was starving to death and didn’t know it. Neither of us came from homes with good models for marriage and I think we just reproduced what we had been brought up with. We were just discussing tonight how 30 years ago churches didn’t offer much in the way of preparing young people for marriage.

CN: What would you say were the largest contributing factors which lead to the adultery?

DW: I would say low self esteem and depression were the factors which left me vulnerable. Add a person who gave me a lot of attention and compliments whom I saw on a regular basis.

DH: I was working long hours. Worried about the bills. Not taking vacations. Sometimes not having dinner with the family. I remember one time when DW’s windshield wipers need replacing. I was slow to act. This guy jumped in and replaced her wipers. That’s just one example. He had pet names for her. Because of our different love languages (I’m physical touch, she’s words of affirmation) I was not feeling all that loved myself and became critical of her. I think this guy wanted her. She’s a fine looking woman with an attractive personality. He jumped in and filled a void. This was not the first time a man came on to her or the last, but at this time in her life she was vulnerable.

CN: In hindsight, how could you have kept the adultery from happening?

DW: I think once the flirting became obvious, or at least suspect, I should have told the man that I felt uncomfortable with his attention, especially when it became more physical. It was how I felt at first, but became more comfortable as it continued. Later on when a different man was flirting with me, I told him it made me uncomfortable and that pretty much ended it with him.

DH: Before it got to intercourse, DW was advised by a close female friend who she confided in, to tell me about it. That would have been the best thing. Instead, she was afraid of hurting me and actually caused far greater hurt than she ever imagined.

CN: DW, what was your struggle like when the adultery was happening?

DW: I remember asking God to take away the temptation and feeling as if He wasn’t hearing me. I shared with a friend and she prayed with me and it seemed to help for a short while. She had also told me to tell my husband and I was afraid to do so for fear of hurting him. It seems preposterous now considering how much more I hurt him in the long run. I know I heard that people say they couldn’t help themselves and I used to think that was just a line, but that is how I felt once it started. I felt like no one could possibly understand me and I was quite alone. I struggled for a month with a lot of pressure from the other man to sleep with him before I shut down my conscience and gave in. After that it was like being trapped and I couldn’t climb out by myself. By the end the only prayer I was able to offer was “Oh, God!” I believe God hears even when we are unable to come up with the words.

CN: DH, did you have any idea what was happening? What did you experience when you found out?

DH: When the affair was in the flirting stage I had no idea what was happening. By the time the affair had gotten to intercourse, obvious changes in DW’s behavior started to occur. I had been wanting to spend some quality time with DW for a while so I planned a day trip to the beach. By the time we actually got there DW had already had sex with the Other Man (OM). She was especially affectionate with me,hugging my arm and thanking me for taking her to the ocean. A short time later, walking around our neighborhood, she hugged my arm and told me how much she loved me. I later found out that at that stage, she felt like she was, ” in love with two men at the same time.”

Over the next few months I saw her attitude toward me change. One time we were laying on the bed together and seemingly out of nowhere she began to sob. I asked her what was wrong. She told me that she couldn’t tell me. I asked why. She said, “I promised the person that I would never tell.” I said, that is wrong for you to make that kind of promise. A secret that hurts you this badly should not separate a husband and wife.” She still refused to say what was bothering her. I was very distraught over this and called my pastor. He thought the behavior was strange but assured me that knowing my wife as he did, she was NOT having an affair. I had been trying to make dates with her so that we could spend time together. She always gave me a reason why some other obligation was more pressing. There was missing time. She would awake in the middle of the night and say should couldn’t sleep so she was just going to go into work.

All this mystery continued to build for about 4 months till I was no longer able to contain myself. Somehow I got her up into our bedroom and insisted that she tell me what in the world was going on in her world. That’s when she “spilled the beans”. There were a lot of tears on her part as she told me she was having an affair and could NEVER return to me because, “I will always be comparing you to him”. For whatever reason, I just held her tightly for a few minutes. The kids knew something was terribly wrong. We told them right away. I told DW that she should leave the house and live somewhere else. She immediately went to her mother’s house to live. The full force of what had happened hit me after she left the house. I’d never felt a pain so bad in my 50 years. It was indescribable. I’ve often said it must have been like getting your leg sawed off in the Civil War with no anesthesia. They just give you a piece of wood to bite down on. After about a week there were specific things that she did that made me very angry. I told my pastor that I wanted a divorce. He said, “It’s too soon”.

Over the next 4 months God brought me very wise counsel in the form of many different friends. I spent most of my waking moments in prayer during that time period. God is so faithful. I’ve gained things from Him during that period that I wouldn’t trade for anything. At the end of that period of time DW came to me and said that God had spoken to her on her bed at night, had showed her what our marriage could be like. She said, “I can’t believe how badly I hurt you. I want to make our marriage work.” Our church paid for us to go to a professional counselor. Reconciliation seemed to work well for about a month but DW had not cut off all contact with the other man and the affair (unknown to me) reignited. I was trying as hard as I knew how, to be a good husband but it was not working! Her heart was not with me. I knew something was terribly wrong and told a friend that I could not continue in a marriage with her much longer. Four months after it reignited, DW completely repented and broke off the affair. The affair lasted a year. There were many supernatural signs that led to that point. We both clearly saw the hand of God in our reconciliation.

The OM continued to try to make contact even up to a year after it was over. I never knew if he was sneaking around my back door. It was pretty disconcerting. The reconciliation process has been long and difficult. It has been so worth it! God has truly “restored the years the locust has eaten”. This affair was a “trigger” that forced me to face deep wounds I had long buried. Things like abandonment issues from my father, performance based self worth and baggage from affairs that my Mom had when I was a youngster. I am much more at peace with myself than I ever was before. I love life and I love my Savior. I love my wife more than I ever have.

CN: DW, how did you cut the tie to the other man?

DW: I wish I could give a list of steps to follow, but I have to give all the credit to the Lord. I did not feel able to end it myself although I kept telling myself that I would end it. There were several miraculous interventions including the Lord using our pastor to speak to me from the pulpit. He looked directly at me the entire time and had gone off his topic to say, “The Lord expects you to keep the covenant you made before God and men.” It was in reference to the marriage covenant. Another friend from church whom I had not spoken to in years told me that the Lord had directed her to pray for our marriage. I had assumed she heard that we were separated but when I asked her , she said she had not known anything was wrong. There was also a couple, friends of ours, who prayed with my husband. He said he was very aware of the spiritual battle taking place there.

CN: Was this a struggle for you?

DW: Once it was really over, it was not a struggle. It was as if I had been set free. The road to recovering our marriage, and actually improving it from what it had been before the affair took time but I never regretted that the affair was over.

CN: Do you think there is ever a place for a wife or husband to commit adultery and keep it a secret if they can break it off?

DH: DW and I have a slight difference of opinion on this. Of course neither of us are marriage counselors, yet I know that there’s even a difference of opinion among trained professionals. I believe that if full restoration is to take place, full disclosure must take place as well. I see no reason why an affair should EVER be kept secret. Had I not known about my wife’s affair I would not have dealt with my own issues. We as a couple would not have dealt with the weaknesses in our marriage that made it vulnerable to an affair in the first place and DW would have been living with a terrible secret for the rest of our marriage. Not exactly a formula for true openness and intimacy. I remember one story on where a spouse had secretly ended the affair and gone back into the marriage. 15 years later the truth came out. The betrayed spouse always knew in their heart that something was terribly wrong but didn’t know what it was and unfaithful spouse was living with guilt the whole time. They said that when the whole thing was exposed was when their marriage really began to prosper. They were sorry that so many years had been lived with a dark specter hanging over them.

DW: I actually do agree with my husband. I just don’t want to make a blanket statement because there may be some situation of which I am unaware of, which would make it better to keep it a secret. For us personally, it is much better for both of us that the secret came out. The secret effected my behavior, even secrets about the other man calling or stopping to see me at work effected how I related to my husband. It is very freeing to have no secrets between you.

DH: Of course the spouse in the affair runs the risk of the betrayed spouse wanting a divorce. However, I’ve seen over and over again that what the betrayed spouse would like to see more than anything else is a truly repentant husband or wife who wants to try to make the marriage better.

Tomorrow we will share the second half of this couple’s story of healing from infidelity. Click here to see that interview.

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