The couple sat in silence in front of me at The Marriage Recovery Center. Sadly, they had experienced the horror of infidelity and were now trying to pick up the pieces.
I’ve written extensively on this topic, and have emphasized that safety must be a foremost issue after unfaithfulness. The victim of the affair must be completely reassured that the affair has ended and there can be no further contact with the other person.
Tragically, too many people find out they have not had enough protection until it is too late. Not that this is a reason or justification for an affair to occur, but with a greater level of safety it may have been prevented.
Jill sat crying, reflecting on the six-month affair of her husband of 20 years.
“If you would have told me this was going to happen in our marriage, I would have said you were crazy,” she said, clearly distraught. She wiped her long brown hair away from her forehead.
“I’m so angry with Gordon,” she continued. “I feel gutted by what he has done. I can’t see how I will ever live beyond this experience. In fact, I’ll bet this experience will be etched in my memory forever. I don’t know how I can ever feel safe again.”
Gordon, a muscular 40-year-old man, looked passively at his wife.
“There’s nothing I can say to make things better,” he said. “I’ll do anything to make this up to you.”
“Make it up to me?” she shouted. “How could you possibly make it up to me?”
Gordon let out a deep sigh. He had shared how sorry he was for the affair. He had ended the relationship and was now willing to participate in extensive counseling to understand how the affair happened and what needed to happen to ensure nothing like this ever happened again.
“The first thing we need to do,” I said, “is to make sure Jill will be completely safe and she won’t have to worry about you calling the other woman or seeing her again. So, we need to outline how to build a ‘hedge of protection’ around your marriage.”
There are some powerful promises in Scripture. One promise for those who struggle with fear, perhaps because of unfaithfulness in their marriage, come from the words of the Psalmist: “If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.” (Psalm 91:9-11)
This Scripture seemed to offer Jill some reassurance. Both Jill and Gordon were believers and believed in the power of the Word of God. The idea of a ‘hedge of protection’ comes from the Old Testament, where Gomer, the wife of the prophet Hosea, continued to chase after other lovers, and God placed a hedge of thorns around her, keeping her from becoming involved with other men and bringing her back to Hosea. (Hosea 2:6-7)
Both Gordon and Jill needed protection to ensure safety so they could heal. They needed safety first so they could focus their energies on healing and rebuilding their marriage.
Here are some additional strategies to rebuild a marriage marred by infidelity:
First, both needed to recommit their lives to the Lord. When we allow our faith life to slip, we often make compromises that are destructive to us and our marriage. They need to trust in God’s promises that He will protect us if we ask for it and seek His shelter.
Second, live with honesty, openness and transparency. Gordon had been involved in a secret life and now would have to go the extra mile to ensure there could be no secrets. Jill would need to know where he goes, what he does and who he is with. He must be willing to be fully transparent to her. He must be transparent about his cell phone and any other aspect of his life that was involved in the affair.
Third, both must explore why this happened. I’ve written before about a marriage that was ‘broken before the affair.’ Again, nothing justifies the affair. Yet, both must be willing, often with professional help, to explore why the affair happened.
Fourth, create safety. Both must talk about what Jill needs to feel safe. There will need to be boundaries around his activities, and certainly he is to never be alone with women. Other aspects of his life may have to be reevaluated.
Finally, keep moving forward, growing through the pain. God promises that He can bring good out of bad. He can restore a marriage, though not without a rollercoaster experience. Don’t expect a linear growth process, but rather ‘two steps forward, one back.’ Get support and talk to others that have survived this ordeal. Know that as bad as things are now, you can grow beyond this experience.
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 www.yourrelationshipdoctor.com. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.