At the risk of oversimplifying a major crisis that too often encounters married couples, here are three ways to immediately respond if an affair happens in your marriage.
First, a couple of intro thoughts:
a) although this is a short three-step plan, there is no quick fix to this marital disaster. Make no mistake, a marriage affected by an affair is mendable. Luke 18:27 reminds us that “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (HCSB). However, it is the slow, steady process of rebuilding trust on many levels that is the healthiest post-affair marriage.
b) I pray this never happens to you and you only need this information to pass along to someone else. Oh, that this would be a totally moot post in that no one would ever need it.
But in case that is not the situation, here is a simple formula. Simple perhaps but memorable nonetheless. Here we go.
When You Get the News: 3 Responses Upon Hearing of the Affair
1. Stop. This can be difficult to do, especially for Type A, control-driven personalities who want to react. An affair is one of the ultimate losses of control. There is lots of potential for excessive and unnecessary damage here. Instead of reacting, stop. Slow the train down. Breathe in and breathe out.
Don’t sell the house tomorrow.
Don’t file for divorce.
Don’t throw your ring in the lake.
Breathe in and breathe out. Just stop. You are at ground zero with the World Trade Centers falling down around you. You cannot see clearly and you cannot think clearly. Stop and let the dust settle before making any quick, reactive, and life-changing decisions.If you've just learned about an affair, stop and just breathe. You're at ground zero. Click To Tweet
2. Look. Look for help. Often, this is another difficult thing for people to do. Pride can creep in. It is hard to admit that I don’t have it all together and I need help. Yet support is critical at this point. Rest assured, this issue is quite worthy of seeking some help.
In counseling people who have just discovered their mate has been unfaithful I have found two extremes of seeking help. One is the person who goes lone ranger. She wants to totally handle it herself. The other extreme is the man who broadcasts his personal marital issue over every social network he can think of.
No and no. There is a balance between the two. You need help, just not everybody’s.
Seek a trusted Christian counselor or a godly friend who can recommend one. Some outside perspective, someone who is not going through ground zero can be invaluable to you, especially in those early days.
Are you imposing on someone by asking for help? Not at all. Part of the role of the body of Christ is to bear one another’s burdens. Lean on some godly counsel. Look for help.
3. Listen. Ask God to give you a teachable spirit during this time and get ready for the lessons you will learn in this challenging chapter of your life.
a) Listen to others. That counselor you sought may have led hundreds of couples through a similar path that you are going through. He/she will have some good insights to navigate you down this road.
Also, one or two friends can have some helpful insights for you. Keep the number small who you share with (and it needs to be of the same gender) but listening and praying with others needs to be part of your plan.
b) Listen to yourself. What are you feeling today? Document those feelings for the next several weeks. Be sure to date the entries regardless of how short your entries are. More about journaling later but listen to yourself and document your progress.
c) Listen to God. You have a lot of options as to how you will respond to this painful time in your life. The best option is to run to Him. A promise I have offered often to people is James 4:8, “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” There is probably not a more critical time for you to experience the nearness of God in your life.
Listen to God by diving into His Word. The Bible contains all kinds of hope when we suffer. Plus, when you seek His word you are seeking the Truth, who will combat the father of liars (John 8:44) who wants to kick you when you are down and vulnerable. Here are some “listening opportunities” for you from His Word (all from HCSB):
• Hebrews 13:5 “I will never leave or forsake you.”
• Luke 1:37 “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
• Romans 8:28 “We know that all things work together for the good for those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.”
• I John 4:4 “… the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
Stop, look and listen. There is much work to be done later, but this immediate game plan can help a couple get through those ground zero moments.