The pain of adultery can be devastating. The pain is so great it is the only thing that Christ said God allowed for divorce. Even with abuse, the Lord gives permission to move out of the house, but for the purpose of getting help and being reconciled. But with divorce, it’s like the Lord says, “Yeah, that’s too much. If you need to divorce, it’s ok.”
This doesn’t mean that you have to get a divorce or that divorce is your only option. It may be. And when you first find out about the affair, the anger inside of you may push you to that option. But the worst thing we can do is let our anger make this decision, especially if there are children involved. Above everything else, when you first find out about the affair, don’t even try to make a decision about divorce until your thinking is no longer controlled by your anger.
Forgiveness is the goal whether you stay with your spouse or divorce. If you do not forgive, the anger will eat you up inside and the power of the divorce over you will only increase. However, it is ok to be angry. Anger is an appropriate response. The purpose of anger in our life is to push us into some kind of action to prevent something from happening again. We have to be careful not to sin in our anger. Our sinful nature will want to use anger to inflict pain on our spouse, but this is vengeance. The Bible says that vengeance belongs to the Lord and we are to leave room for His vengeance. If we try to hurt our spouse, we are pushing the Holy Spirit away from us at a time when we need His healing the most. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you keep a tight rein on your tongue.
Do not bash your spouse in front of your children. Even though you are hurt so deeply, you are still a Mom. You are still a Dad. Sometimes, we want our children to know just how horrible our spouse has behaved, and so we do not hold our tongues in front of the children. But this is just another form of punishment and vengeance. It will not help you, your spouse, and it will hurt your children. There is no way for them to feel about your spouse what you feel. They have a different relationship with your spouse. Even though the affair is going to hurt the children, it is not going to hurt them in the same way. Don’t try or expect them to feel the same way. And remember, life goes on. Your spouse will always be their Mom or Dad and they need to have a loving relationship with that person. For their sake, do not do anything to hurt that relationship.
Talk to your children only if you decide to divorce. Until that decision is made, there is no need to disrupt their world. Remember, depending on the age of your children, though it is not logical, they may blame themselves for what is happening. This can affect their self-image all of their life. If you decide to work it out, this is a time to shield your children. If you do decide to divorce, then talk to your children. It is ok to explain that your spouse has done something that has hurt you very badly and you have to separate. Explain this is something beyond what they can understand because they are not married yet. And explain that it has nothing to do with them and that nothing they could have ever done could have caused your spouse to hurt you in this way. At the same time, it is imperative that you are truthful but from the first word of this conversation, begin repairing their relationship with your spouse. Explain that everyone makes mistakes but bigger mistakes have greater consequences. Do not give details of the affair. Do not talk about the sexual aspect. Do not tell them your spouse doesn’t love you anymore. Reassure them that you do both love one another, but the way you love one another has changed. Assure them they are not losing one of their parents. Be honest, but do not feel that you have to tell them everything. In fact don’t. And if they have questions, maybe some could be answered, but it is also ok to let them know that you can’t answer that right now, but that they can trust you and your spouse to keep loving them.
Does God want you to try to work it out or divorce? The Lord will tell you. He will not tell anyone else what you should do so stay in prayer and listen for the voice of God. Seek godly counsel from a pastor or spiritual mentor that you can trust will not hold a grudge against your spouse. One of the worst things you can do is speak negatively to someone who might struggle to forgive your spouse if you decide to stay married. And don’t feel that you have to decide about divorce right away. If your spouse wants to work through things, give yourself some time before you decide. You may even want to move out of the house for a while, but hold off on making a decision. Sometimes, getting away for a while will help you think more clearly. If you find yourself overwhelmed with anger or sadness every time you see your spouse, then time away may allow you to not be overwhelmed with emotion so that you can think through things.
If you decide to try to work things out, go to counseling, Biblical counseling. What happened didn’t just happen. The underlying reasons that it happened need to be dealt with. But whatever you do, do not take responsibility for your spouse’s affair. As I said about your children, there is nothing you could have done that would justify your spouse’s affair. That is on them. When you go to counseling, they may share some things about you that they have struggled with. While you mustn’t accept responsibility for the affair, don’t automatically dismiss what they have to say. The affair is 110% on them, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have things to work on to help prevent this from happening again. It is a fine line to walk, but don’t look at counseling as if you are going to deal with the affair. You can’t undo the affair. The point of counseling is to deal with the issues that made your marriage anything less than wonderful and beautiful. And if there is something that you can change about yourself to make the relationship better to insulate it from the attacks and temptations of the enemy, then do it. Don’t say you want to work on things while obsessing and holding a grudge. Again, you will need the help of the Holy Spirit to do this so ask Him to help you.
Don’t expect yourself to not feel anger anymore. You may come to that point, but you might not ever come to that point. Remember, anger is not automatically sinful. It’s what you do with it. When you feel anger, direct your anger against the spiritual forces attacking your marriage. The Bible says the enemy is out to kill, steal, and destroy. Use your anger to motivate you to forgive. Use your anger to stay diligent about counseling. Use your anger to maintain prayer and Scripture-meditation habits. Use your anger to not lose sight of your children’s emotional well-being. Use your anger to do everything you can to not let the enemy destroy your family.
If you decide to try to work through it, go slow. Set up a self-imposed time where you agree to co-habitate for a while without affection. That doesn’t mean without kindness, but there should be no expectations of holding hands, kissing, and certainly no sex. Stick to the time limit. Give yourself six weeks to six months. Then start dating without sex. Once a month on top of the counseling go out on a date. Do not use date time as extra counseling time. Discipline yourself to enjoy your time together. Do not bring up issues on the date. Focus on re-igniting the flame that has gone out. Again, give yourself a certain amount of time of dating before intimacy is even considered. And if you feel yourself tempted to be intimate before that time, be very careful. Sex can really confuse things if it is too soon.
Finally, don’t lose faith. If you decide to work it out, it will be difficult, but God is able. He is more than able. Memorize 1 Corinthians 7:14 and remind yourself that as you live a holy life, the Lord will honor you by reaching out to your spouse more and helping them to begin to live holy as well. They can still choose to reject the Lord. This Scripture doesn’t mean they can piggyback on your spirituality. But God’s promise to you is to reach out to them with even greater effort. Not only this, but as you live a holy life dedicated to Him, no matter what your spouse decides to do, God’s promise is to take care of your children. I’ll add this Scripture at the bottom.
If you decide to divorce, don’t believe for one minute that God’s wonderful plan for your life was based on a person. God’s plan for us is too big for any person, any job, any sickness, any circumstance. His plan is to prosper you and not to harm you. When we try to tell God how to fulfill His plan in us, we get into trouble. It was never God’s plan that you go through this pain, and it is His plan to heal you, to restore your hope, and prosper your life more than you could ever imagine. Face the reality that His plan does not protect us from pain, but it does help us heal and overcome the pain. The Lord hates that you are going through this, but He will not abandon you and He will bring you through to the other side.
1 Corinthians 7:14
For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.