Adultery. It’s one of the most hurtful betrayals a spouse can go through. The act violates the exclusive nature of the marriage and breaks the covenant between the two partners and God. How does one heal after an affair?
Infidelity doesn’t always include a sexual relationship. Emotional infidelity may seem innocent enough – until it isn’t. What can you do to heal from adultery? Or if you are the one who strayed, what can you do to ensure that you never betray your spouse again?
Learn the signs to safeguard your relationship and begin the process of affair recovery.
What is Infidelity?Infidelity is the betrayal by one spouse through physical and/or emotional interaction with another person outside of the marriage. It can go beyond sexual intercourse.
So, what does adultery mean? Adultery is a sexual relationship with someone who is not the spouse in the marriage. This can include one-night stands or years-long affairs. According to a survey from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, as many as 15% of women and 25% of men admit to having extramarital affairs while married. The numbers rise another 20% when emotional infidelity (no sexual intercourse) is included.
Reasons People Have Affairs
Why would someone cheat on their spouse? There are several reasons given by people who end up committing adultery:
- The spouse’s physical (sexual) needs are not being met. Lack of sex is a reason that many people go looking for an affair. This could either be from the spouse withholding sex to punish the other person or time constraints on the couple due to the birth of a new baby.
- The spouse has an aggressive sexual drive that doesn’t match their partner’s libido. One spouse may desire sex more than the other.
- The spouse is bored with their lovemaking. Their lovemaking has become routine and just another part of their schedule. The spontaneity from the beginning of the marriage is gone.
- The spouse is discontent with their partner. They may believe that the “grass is greener on the other side” and no longer view their own spouse as unique and cherished.
- The spouse has an addiction to alcohol, drugs, or porn. Addictions can result in higher-risk behaviors, including sex with others outside of marriage.
- The spouse’s emotional needs are not being met. The spouse feels neglected, abandoned, and unheard. This can leave them vulnerable to other people looking to have an affair.
- The spouse feels as if other people or their partner’s job comes before the marriage. When everyone (including the in-laws) and everything else comes before the spouse, then they can begin to feel unwanted and unappreciated.
- The spouse has deep-seated beliefs and behaviors that make him or her self-sabotage. These behaviors could stem from childhood or trauma. They may harbor a fear of commitment because they are afraid that one day their spouse will run off and leave them – so they do it first.
- The spouse wants to take revenge against their partner who betrayed them in the past. Revenge-seeking behaviors can destroy any hopes of repairing a relationship.
- The spouse wants to leave their partner but wants someone there to turn to. Some people want a “safety net” there to catch them when the marriage implodes. They may have multiple trysts until they find the one person they think they could live with after the affair.
- The spouse no longer holds any respect toward the partner. Infidelity is an act that shows disrespect and dishonor toward the other spouse. Respect is another foundational aspect of marriage and betrayal can severely damage it.
- The spouse has lost all sense of commitment and relationship boundaries. As united in the eyes of God, spouses should only confide in each other and not talk about each other’s insecurities to the opposite sex. This behavior plants seeds of distrust and discontentment. The beginnings of emotional infidelity can develop from these confidential conversations.
Whatever the reasons may be, infidelity is a deliberate act. The spouse is making a choice to commit adultery. Once done, it cannot be undone; however, the marriage can be saved if both spouses are willing.
Is Emotional Infidelity the Same as Adultery?
The void from not having emotional needs met can be just as strong as sexual desire. People crave intimacy and often they are looking for it in the wrong place. Is it wrong to confide in a coworker of the opposite sex about marital problems? What about when a married individual starts thinking about that coworker while away from the office?
Emotional infidelity can start out harmless. The spouse may believe they simply have a close friend to whom they can tell everything. But the problem lies in the heart. Jesus said, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). The same can be said for women looking at men with lust in their hearts.
The spouse may not even realize they are developing romantic feelings for another person as the thought of having an affair may bother them. However, if their mind is always thinking about that person, the two of them communicate at all hours or keep their communication from their significant others, then they could be starting an emotional affair.
Sometimes these emotional relationships end up becoming extramarital affairs.
Signs the Marriage Still Has a Chance After an Affair
Surviving infidelity and saving your marriage is possible, but it may take a long time to rebuild the trust, honesty, and loyalty that was once present. To be clear, the adulterous behavior must stop.
If the spouse is truly committed to making the marriage work after an affair, loves their partner, and wants to continue being married to them, then they must make the decision to never engage in cheating behaviors again. The betrayal is so deep that Jesus mentioned it in Scripture as a reason for divorce. Repeating the behavior after being given another chance isn’t fair to the spouse.
Below are a few signs that the marriage can be saved after an affair:
- The spouse genuinely regrets what they did and vows to never cheat on the other again. Repentance is a powerful emotion that can wipe the slate clean and prepare hearts for a new beginning.
- Both spouses work to rebuild the lost trust and honesty. This means no longer keeping secrets from the other person. As an act of trust, the spouses may want to keep everything, including social media, transparent to each other.
- Both spouses decide to work on their communication. A spouse should be able to express their emotions in a safe relationship. Both parties should listen when there is a problem brewing in the relationship.
- The couple works to engage in activities together. This can be hard after an affair has occurred but doing things together may bring the spouses closer. This could mean going out to dinner, hosting a church activity, or spending quality time for a weekend at a cabin in the woods.
- The spouses should work to define boundaries and remove people from their lives that may destroy the marriage. The couple should discuss what to confide in other people and what not to mention. Some relationship problems should stay between the couple. If one spouse is working with someone they’ve become emotionally involved with, perhaps they should consider a transfer.
- Both spouses are willing to attend counseling to get the healing process started. Marriage counseling doesn’t have to be a long-term endeavor. Most couples find they have the strength and tools to move on in their marriage in 8 to 20 sessions.
Only God can change a person’s heart, no matter how hard a loving spouse may try. To have a firm foundation for your relationship, you may want to consider how Christian marriage counseling can help.
How Christian Marriage Counseling Can Help
Repentance and forgiveness are gifts of grace. Consulting with a Christian marriage counselor can help you focus the affair recovery on what God says about marriage. With open communication, well-set boundaries, and hope, a couple can survive the effects of infidelity.
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