Can my marriage survive an affair? | The Salvation Army

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Can my marriage survive an affair?

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Posted May 26, 2019

An affair is perhaps the most profound betrayal in marriage. It is false to believe you must make your marriage work after an affair. But it is equally false to believe your marriage could never survive. If you’re both willing to work at it, there is hope.

There is never any time when it is okay to have an affair in marriage. If your spouse has strayed, you have no doubt experienced the greatest betrayal of the most important relationship in your life.

The marriage you thought you had will be shattered, and you may feel the pieces can never be put back together again. You may decide that you don’t want to put it back together. That is okay—it takes both of you to honour your marriage covenant. Any expectation that you should ignore such a huge betrayal is false.

But it is also false to believe you have no other alternative but to break up. In today’s culture, forgiving such a betrayal can be seen as weak. Our world finds this kind of extravagant Christ-like forgiveness offensive. But don’t let anything pressure you into making a decision about your marriage that only you have the right to make.

It’s vital to note that your spouse will need to be one hundred percent committed to earning back your trust (see below). If they show repentance through true change, it can be an opportunity to offer radical forgiveness. This is one of the toughest journeys you will ever face. But be assured that God’s heart is to forgive the sinner, and God will be a source of comfort and hope for you.

Together with your spouse, you’ll each need to confront the circumstances that gave space to an affair in your marriage. ‘Sometimes your barn has to burn to the ground in order to see the moon,’ says Dr Jay Kent-Ferraro, author of Surprised by Love, who rebuilt his marriage after an affair.

‘Together, we decided to evolve as individuals first, by learning how our early wounds set us up to fail in love, and then, acquiring the practical skills to be able to love more profoundly.’
If you’re the one who has had an affair, but you want to make your marriage work, here are some things you’ll have to do:

  1. Show true repentance by taking full responsibility for the affair, including getting tested for STDs. Make rules and boundaries for yourself, so it can never happen again.
  2. Be completely honest—do not betray your partner again by telling half-truths or withholding information. Give your partner the dignity of having all the information, so they can make a genuine decision about what they want to do.
  3. Be accountable—give your spouse full access to your cell, email and online activities, as well as your whereabouts. Do this for as long as it takes to rebuild trust.
  4. Let your spouse rehash—your own shame will stop you from wanting to talk about the affair. But research shows that healing is much more likely if your spouse can talk, and even rehash, the details they are trying to process.
  5. Go to counselling—perhaps with your spouse. This journey will take a lot of self-reflection, discovery, forgiveness and grace from both of you.