You are dumb-founded. You can’t believe this is happening to you. You are stunned. Horrified. Shocked. You ask yourself, “What have I done to deserve this?” You have been working hard, taking care of the kids, attending church, paying bills, etc. You have been responsible. You ask yourself, “How could they do this to me? To our family?” Thoughts are racing through your mind.
Your spouse tells you, “I don’t love you anymore.” You don’t know how to respond. You are hurt. You are confused. Your knee-jerk reaction, many times, is to try to win them back. You’ll blame yourself. You’ll cry. You’ll plead. You’ll compromise. You will do whatever it takes to get them. Loose weight. Have more sex. And it will be all wrong.
Many well meaning Christian counselors and pastors encourage the offended spouse to “love” the adulterer more. They’ll help you find out what you did wrong in the marriage. They’ll advise you to be a better wife or husband – to please them more with your love and attention.
Here’s the Deal…
It’s always good to learn more about yourself and your responsibility in the marriage, but now is not the time. You want your spouse to repent. You want your marriage back. Now is the time to prepare for battle. God hates sin. And your spouse has sinned against God and you. God wants you to confront sin in a direct, assertive way (2 Sam. 12:7; Matt. 5:23-24; Matt. 18:15-17; 2 Cor. 13:2; Gal. 2:11; 2 Thess. 3:14-15; Titus 3:10-11). Below are steps that marriage counselor David Clarke outlines on how to do just that. Here’s the beginning of your battle plan:
Step #1: Get Close to God
Attend church regularly. Pray to God – not only spoken prayers, but written prayers as well. Read the Bible and other Christian books. Join a Bible study group.
Step #2: Get a Support Team
Gather a select group of friends or family members to go to battle with you. Persons who are confidential and positive. Make sure at least two of them live close by. Have them pray for you and ask for emotional and possible financial support.
I do not recommend your parents as your first choice as support. Many times, their view is not subjective enough. Friends or siblings are usually better choices.
Step #3: Get Angry (and yet do not sin)
Anger will give you power and strength. You will need it as you go through this difficult process. Of course, you are not to be aggressive or violent with your anger, but do use it to fuel your dogged determination. The purpose of this anger is to motivate and strengthen you to work on your marriage. It can give you gumption, courage, and steadfastness.
Step #4: Confront Your Spouse
Before you confront, make sure you are prepared financially. The goal of the confrontation is to bring your spouse to repentance. You will need to be very intentional about what you say and how you say it.
You may wish to write it down to organize your thoughts. Have prayer warriors praying while you confront. This is a difficult step. Here’s some advice on approaching it.
Step #5: Take Action Against the Sin
Have your spouse end the extra-marital relationship. Make sure that the communication is clear to other person – use face-to-face conversations, phone calls, or emails to communicate the ending. Afterwards, block the phone number or email. Have your spouse to delete their social media accounts. If there is an account, have a combined account with you.
Have your spouse to attend counseling and get an accountability partner of his or her same sex. Have your spouse to confess his sin in detail. You need to know what they did, where they did it, and how often they did it (i.e. they took a trip here, they held hands and walked around here at this time). Healing is in the details. But you do NOT need to know the details of their physical touching or sexual acts, the other person’s body, or how they reacted.
When the spouse doesn’t know these details, then they will fill it in with the worse case scenario. By being fully honest, the offending spouse is laying the foundation to rebuild trust later on.
Step #6: Work on Your Relationship Together
Up until this point, your spouse should be actively working on their sin and themselves. After this sin is under control, you can began to work on communication, forgiveness, rebuilding trust, and other couples issues. Many times, you need a marriage counselor to help you work on issues and guide you through this process.
I recommend that you find a counselor who is a member of the AACC (American Association of Christian Counselors). Here’s my structure for working through an affair and building a strong marriage.
You Might Be Wondering…
If your spouse refuses to repent, then you will be forced to take more severe actions. This will include confronting with witnesses, shunning, and possibly separating. Matthew 18:15-17 are Jesus’s words about confronting sin which include witnesses, shunning, and separation.
“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17 NRSV)
You cannot force your spouse to do anything. You can only control yourself. I find that when an adulterer refuses to repent, they stay stuck in blaming their spouse. They justify the affair because they are angry at their spouse. You cannot get your spouse to change their thinking, but you can get a lawyer and separate from them. Many times, it takes this separation for them to get a different perspective.
For Those Who Are Going Through a Very Difficult Affair…
If you or someone you know is going through this kind of ordeal, I recommend them reading David Clarke’s book What To Do When Your Spouse Says, I Don’t Love You Anymore. Dr. Clarke provides a wealth of practical Christian advice that works. Need some additional help going through this ordeal? Read about marriage counseling.