(Note: In the following article, the pronoun “he” has been used to refer to both genders).
Infidelity. A word you never want to hear. A situation you never want to face. But, unfortunately, many do. And when it happens, trust is broken.
Renowned secular psychologist, Eric Erikson, suggests there are eight psycho-social stages of development. Stage five is identity verses identity confusion. According to Erikson, if a person masters identity, then he will know the virtue of fidelity. He has a solid understanding of who he is and where he is going.
Infidelity within a marriage reveals a lack of a clear identity on the part of the offender, which may in turn confuse the offended partner, shaking his foundation. The offender is no longer viewed as an honest, reliable person. The offended spouse may wonder what else he has been keeping a secret. Integrity crumbles, leaving the offended mate shaken emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. He may question his worth and value as a person.
Identity involves clarifying goals (what you say you are going to do), values (what you actually do), and beliefs (the foundation underlying what you say you want to do). For the Christian, the Bible is the basis for a solid belief system. In reference to infidelity, the Scripture clearly teaches that “it is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God” (I Thessalonians 4:3-5).
Let’s suppose that our couple in question are both professing believers. What responsibility does each spouse have in restoring a marital relationship marred by infidelity?
IF YOU ARE THE OFFENDER
1) Write a letter to God confessing the sin against Him. Revisit your foundation in Christ, reaffirming your identity in Him. You are forgiven, chosen, redeemed, beloved, and so much more, according to Ephesians, chapter one. Knowing who you are in Christ can establish a firm identity that helps you behave according to your position—God’s holy child!
2) Write a letter to your offended spouse acknowledging confession to God and to your spouse. Express repentance—desire to turn from the affair. Ask forgiveness. Then outline the trust-building tools you will put in place to verify to your mate that you are taking steps to restore the broken marriage. Invite your offended spouse to be part of the accountability process. Allow him to “check in” on your life. Not only tell your spouse you broke off the affair, but allow him to contact the “other person” to verify the truth. The offended partner needs to also hear it from the third party.
The offended spouse also needs to see that you are employing multiple buffers to keep from falling back into sin. Personal prayer, Bible study, church attendance, small groups, accountability relationships with same-sex believers, ministry endeavors, and couple dates are all ways to show your spouse that you are taking concrete action to shield yourself and your marriage from harm.
IF YOU ARE THE OFFENDED
1) Write your own letter to God, expressing any feelings of anger, confusion, grief. You may experience a righteous anger over the sin (Eph.4:26). You may even be angry at God for not keeping the infidelity from happening. By faith, present yourself to the Lord, along with all the hurt and abuse you have suffered. Climb up on the altar, surrendering fully to God’s will for you now (Rom.12:1). Choose to forgive your spouse for the wrong suffered, just as God in Christ has forgiven you (Eph.4:32).
2) Write a letter to your spouse. Express the “why.” Share your confusion. Ask him to help you understand why he would do such a thing. Communicate the hurt, betrayal, anger. Be willing to identify your responsibility and confess any wrong on your part. You may feel you were only 5 % responsible. Maybe so, but take 100 % responsibility for your 5 %. Allow God to heal you. Reconcile to build a healthy love relationship with your spouse. The Holy Spirit can work in your mate through your example.
Over time, trust can be restored, as each partner commits to God’s restoration process.
Eileen Hinkle Rife is the author of Second Chance, the poignant story of middle age, surprising friendships, and unexpected places, and the Born for India trilogy (all OakTara). She and her husband, Chuck, conduct marriage seminars in the States and overseas. www.eileenrife.com, www.eileen-rife.blogspot.com, www.guardyourmarriage.com