I sat nearly helpless at The Marriage Recovery Center as I watched the young grieving couple frozen with sadness and hurt. Both, in their own ways, had lost something dear to them.
Weeks earlier John, the 25-year-old husband, discovered that his lovely wife, Trish, had an emotional affair with a co-worker. Brief though it was, he was haunted with images of her illicit relationship.
“I can’t believe she would do such a thing,” John said angrily. “I never would have thought it of her. I can’t possibly see her the same way ever again. I’m ashamed of her. Disgusted, really!”
Trish sat motionless in tears.
“I feel terrible for hurting him,” she said. “I never meant to hurt him.”
“You should have thought of that earlier,” he said, glaring at her.
His emotional wounds were fresh, and I could not fault him for his piercing words.
John and Trish were in an emotional crisis. While their issues did not begin with her emotional affair, their problems were certainly compounded by it.
“I don’t think I can ever get over this,” John said. “I’ll never be able to trust her. She is not the person I thought she was. Our relationship is ruined.”
“I can’t stand it when he says those things,” Trish said. “He is really unkind when he talks to me. I’m truly sorry for what I did. But, I can’t have him ridicule me for what I did. I can’t be put down and told how disgusting I am.”
John admitted that he unleashed a lot of fury on her.
“I can’t just keep it all bottled up. Besides, I kind of think she deserves it.” His voice had a tone of entitlement and self-righteousness.
Again, John’s emotions are honest and understandable. Having walked couples through a healing process, I knew if John and Trish were careful, they could emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.
I worked intensively with John and Trish at first. They had an emotional storm to weather before they could rebuild their marriage. They had to find a way to see this crisis as an opportunity to revisit their marriage, revamp it and then revise it.
Here are some strategies I offered them that you may find useful as well.
First, expect to experience tumultuous emotions.
Crises are fraught with rampant emotions. You can’t expect to go through a crisis unscathed. You will say things, and hear things, that will be hurtful. Expect to have rollercoaster emotions before things settle down.
Second, find places to download these emotions.
Find trusted friends, your pastor, a Marriage Counselor, with whom you can share your feelings. You need to have safe places where you will be understood. Your mate cannot always be that place for you, and you shouldn’t expect them to be.
Many have found journaling helpful during difficult times. Others find that increased exercise drains off heated emotion. Artistic endeavors are a wonderful way to pour out your pain. Prayer and worship can be special ways to express painful feelings.
Third, remember that this too shall pass.
Scripture tells us that “Weeping lasts a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Your pain is deep now and your emotions raw, but you will make it through this. You can get to the other side of this immense distress. You can and will be stronger for it, especially if you agree to go through it together.
Fourth, see the current problem as only part of the total relationship.
Know that you only dislike PART of your mate, and only PART of your relationship is troubled and even then only PART of the time. Don’t slip into thinking everything about your mate is troubled and must be scrapped.
Finally, lock arms and agree to grow through this.
Agree to express feelings constructively. Don’t slip into saying hurtful things, as tempting as that will be. Don’t be disparaging. Share true feelings, not accusations and judgments. Agree that you will learn about the problems that led up to the current crisis and agree to learn all you can so that nothing like this happens again. Your marriage can become stronger than ever, but you must use this situation as a stepping stone and not a stumbling block.
I want to offer you, without charge, my eBook, A Love Life of Your Dreams, found on our website. This is an interactive eBook for you and your mate to work through together. Also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website www.marriagerecoverycenter.com and yourrelationshipdoctor.com. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.