Every Tuesday we’ll be posting an article about restoring and strengthening marriages that have been damaged by sexual sin. Hope it’s helpful.
One should rather die than be betrayed. There is no deceit in death. It delivers exactly what it promised. Betrayal, though — betrayal is the willful slaughter of hope. – Playright Steven Deitz
Some wives are surviving. They’re not “fine” though they’ll probably use that convenient term to describe themselves, but they are in fact enduring their lives, one of their greatest challenges being to simply continue putting one foot ahead of the other. They apply themselves to the business of life with a smile fixed and in place, all the while aching with a pain they don’t feel comfortable sharing with anyone, all because they recently learned about a husband’s betrayal.
I get calls every month from them. Their stories are varied, but they have in common an uncommon way of finding out the ugly truth: a middle of the night feeling that something was wrong leading to them go downstairs and catch their husband watching porn; or a chance picking up of the extension allowing them to hear a conversation between a spouse and his mistress; or some other unexpected way or finding out, marking the beginning of a bleak Fall. It may well become the worst crisis a couple ever faces. Most of them make it through; some don’t. But among those who make it, I’ve noticed two points: she’s given time, and he’s given terms.
She’s Given Time
Since he realizes he’s the cause of her pain, he doesn’t expect her to just “get over it.” He accepts responsibility for his actions by bearing with her while she recovers from those actions. Some days she’ll be depressed, others days enraged, still others she’ll be needy or detached. And a smart husband won’t aggravate the process by trying to rush it. He’ll suit up in what I call the Hockey Gear, padded and prepared, absorbing whatever state she may be in and taking the occasional puck that gets hurled at him, knowing that you can’t wound someone who loves you then expect them to function as usual. He recognizes her need to heal, and that healing doesn’t follow a proscribed, neat little course. It’s emotional and messy, so she’s given the respect of time and supportive love.
He’s Given Terms
In the midst of his shame over his behavior, the husband’s got a logical, legitimate question: What can I do? The prodigal son asked something along those lines when he returned home and said, in essence, “Got any work in the barn for me?” I find husband’s in this situation often have a craving to know what their wives need so they can begin making it right, which is a good start. It shows humility and a willingness to take redemptive action. But they need a little help at this point. Among the couples I’ve seen who successfully deal with this, the wives have tried to be clear: I need you to get counsel; I need to see you accountable; I need to see you take your relationship with God more seriously and invest in it, etc. They give their man specifics, not in a bossy way, but as a partner letting the other partner know what’s needed. He’s given terms, then, that he can follow and she can verify.
It goes without saying that both are given grace as well, since the same God who intervened by allowing the sin to come to light is the one who heals what He’s exposed. There’s great hope in that and, oddly enough, something seasonal about it as well. God intervened by coming into this bleak, fallen world offering hope, just as He intervenes by coming into these bleak, fallen situations offering hope yet again. So please pray for the couples who need that hope so badly. You may well be worshipping right next to them this week. Ask God to give them peace, heal their wounds, and remind them that peace on earth still includes them, and is as available now as it’s ever been.