“If you know anyone whose marriage has been affected by an extramarital affair, raise your hand.” If you asked that to any group of adults, what percentage do you guess would raise their hands?

My guess is 100%.

It’s a fact of life of the modern world. Surveys differ as to the exact percentage, but I think my friend Bill Harley, author of His Needs, Her Needs, is on target when he states that 60% of American marriages are affected by an extramarital affair sometime in the course of the marriage. It may be the husband, wife, or both, but many marriages face it eventually. To better understand extramarital affairs, I sorted them into three large categories with several subcategories.

The Short-Lived Affair lasts from one night to several months and is primarily about sex. Subcategories included Revenge Affairs, Affairs of Opportunity (at the right place at the right time to do the wrong thing), Self-Esteem Booster Affairs, and more.

The Permission Affair has become more prevalent with the graying of morality. It was once called Swinging, later Wife-Swapping, and now its participants just call it “The Lifestyle.”

The most difficult to overcome is the Relationship Affair. It typically starts as friendship that evolves into shared emotions and eventually shared bodies. The reason it is tougher to overcome is because those in Relationship Affairs usually are in love with each other.

Madly in love.

That’s why so many of these affairs lead to divorce, no matter how strongly you tell the person that s/he is sinning and no matter how hard the offended spouse tries to save the marriage. If you’ve ever tried to help a person madly in love with someone other than his or her spouse, you know the frustration. Of course, because of such passages as Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9, churches usually grant the offended spouse the right to start over with a new mate, and few blame him or her for moving on with life after being cheated on.

May I offer another possibility?

It’s true that the cheated spouse may divorce the cheating spouse and find a different path for the future. However, wouldn’t it be better for everyone – cheated, cheater, children, church, and community – if there were a way to rescue the straying spouse, heal the hurts, and guide husband and wife back to a marriage of love and commitment? Though we in the “marriage business” usually don’t proclaim this little jewel from the rooftops, if a marriage survives an affair it will be stronger and more loving than it was before the affair. (We tend to keep that to ourselves so that some idiot doesn’t think, “Hey, I know how to make my marriage better…”)

However, salvaging a marriage when one spouse is in love with someone else usually isn’t accomplished by pointing the adulterer to scripture, logic, or consequences. If I had space, I’d explain why. (You can read about it in chapter four of my book Your LovePath.) The short version is that they are driven by strong and compelling emotions that they’re convinced you have no way of understanding. Therefore, you are dismissed, along with your Bible, lectures, and piety. Very often they’ll even tell you that God sent the lover to them.

So what do you do to save these marriages?

Based on my experience (75% success rate in saving these marriages over the last decade or so), I suggest the following to both the offended spouse and to all Christians attempting to help:

  1. Believe that an affair – even an exceptionally strong Relationship/Love Affair – is not necessarily the end of a marriage. It may well be, but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t give up. Keep praying and keep doing the right things, no matter how hopeless it may seem at the moment.
  2. Don’t beg, cajole, or attempt to manipulate the adulterer. S/he is already emotionally on edge; emotional actions from you exacerbate the situation. Be firm and calm. (This is especially important for the offended spouse NOT to do.)
  3. Don’t try to convince him or her that the lover is a bad person or primarily responsible for the affair. That might work in a Short-Lived Affair. It always causes a person in a Relationship Affair to develop an “us against the world” union with the lover.
  4. Drag out any divorce proceedings as long as possible. The intense emotions involved with being “madly in love” usually last anywhere from six to thirty-six months. Though the straying spouse may become angry and try to manipulate the offended spouse into divorce (“I’ll make things tougher for you if you don’t go along with me…”), the abandoned spouse should be strong, endure the other’s wrath, and drag it out as long as possible. There is a very real possibility that the abandoning spouse will eventually lose the intensity of desire to be with the lover.
  5. The abandoned spouse should demonstrate his or her ability to not only survive but prosper without the abandoning spouse. S/he must concentrate on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. This accomplishes two things. 1) The abandoned spouse needs this for him- herself. 2) The abandoned spouse becomes more attractive when strong and self-sufficient.
  6. In fervent prayer ask God to bring chaos, financial distress, and anything else He will do to cause pain as a result of the sinner’s actions and to make it difficult for him or her to continue in the affair.
  7. The abandoned spouse needs an attorney that will protect his or her rights, finances, and the like. Though this may sound vengeful, this attorney should make the divorce as painful as possible – financially and otherwise – to the abandoning spouse. Expect that spouse to react with anger. However, making sin have strong negative consequences is the right thing to do.
  8. The church should practice discipline, though in our day and age that hasn’t nearly the effect it had in Bible times. It’s just so easy now to walk down the street and go to another church. However, if done in love and compassion, it still may have the needed effect.
  9. Practice intervention. (If you need more information on how to do this, see the Intervention Document.)
  10. Convince the straying spouse to take one last action before ending the marriage. Sometimes the abandoned spouse does this by offering a concession such as “I’ll give on this point in the divorce if you do this.” Sometimes a friend, church leader, or even the person’s child may convince him or her that for conscience sake s/he should do one more thing to see if there is any hope.

In my weekend turnaround workshop for marriages in crisis, Marriage Helper 911, we have many couples who come because someone convinced the abandoning spouse to attend for conscience sake or to get some concession. Over nearly a decade we’ve witnessed one seemingly hopeless marriage after another turn around during that weekend. It’s a “God thing” of course.

Whether you use our services, your own counselors, or someone else, the message is the same. We MUST NOT give up on marriages because we think that either spouse is beyond rescuing. Don’t give up on the power of God and what He can do if only we do our part.

In the words said to be made by Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never give up.”

If your marriage is in danger of separation or divorce, call us at (866) 903-0990 to speak with someone or use the form below to request more information about our Marriage Helper 911 workshop for troubled marriages. We can help you save your marriage even in cases of infidelity, loss of trust, anger, sexual problems, and other issues. (If you’re thinking your spouse would never come, contact us by phone or the form below and we’ll tell you what others who felt the same way did to get their spouses there.) We will keep everything you tell us completely confidential. Our motivation is to help you determine if this workshop is right for your particular situation. We also offer solutions for couples who can’t attend the workshop.

If you and your spouse cannot attend a Marriage Helper 911 weekend or your spouse refuses to get any marriage help, there is still hope. Check out our Save My Marriage Course – where you’ll learn how to bring your spouse back to the marriage. Click the banner below to find out more about it.

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7 thoughts on “What Do I Do if One of Us Has Had an Affair?

  • April 30, 2015 at 9:55 pm
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    I am desperately in need of reparing my marriage. My wife is having an emotional affair for 2 plus months now. She is still with me and still says there is hope for us and that she loves me. We have 6 children between us and cannot afford to pay the upfront cost of the workshop. Is there anything I can do?

    Reply
  • September 4, 2015 at 4:36 pm
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    My wife has moved out I became distant and stop showing her that I loved her. I got depressed when I lost my job back in December 2008 2 weeks before Christmas. I got a new job in January of 2010 but still wasn’t happy she said this had been going on for 6 years and she doesn’t believe that I was depressed but I have since got help and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Since she moved out in April 2015 and moved in with a substantially older man which is 22 years older than her and owns his own company she is trying to tell me there is nothing going on they are just roommates but she has told me she has feelings for him and he is a good man and very intelligent. Also my sister-in-law has told me her sister told her she is sleeping with him but my wife denies it. Says she has filed for divorce but I have not been served and she tells me that if it’s meant to be it will come back. We have 2 boys age 18 and eleven the eighteen year old is from her previous relationship and my eleven year old is ours and is having a hard time with it he lives with me and she has left the house she grew up in. She says we should be able to be friends after 16 years together 11 years married and 5 and a half years dating before that. I see a problem with that I still love her very much but I am trying to go on with my life. I totally don’t understand any if this and wanted to ask what I should do. Thank you God bless

    Reply
    • September 11, 2015 at 11:42 pm
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      David, as hard as it is, you need to try and save your marriage. You can work all of these things out – but you need to give it one good final fight.

      Reply
  • October 30, 2015 at 5:06 am
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    I’m with my spouse for 10 years now, still together and have two beautiful kids. We moved back to his home birth a year ago, and now our relationship is in trouble. He recently told me that his feelings for me is not the same anymore and that is because of all the past hurts and arguing about money, little things, jealousy, me nagging all the time and my temper. I admit i was not a good spouse and mother, I’m not perfect. There were times that i didn’t get his back when my family and him had an incident and i never said anything to my family to defend my spouse. I know i was weak and coward. If only i could turn back time, i will never do the same thing to him. He felt neglected and ignored and he felt that he’s not my priority. I was selfish and only my way i never really listened to him. It’s just everything is all about me. He always tells me save money, don’t buy things we don’t need, but i was stubborn. Now, i feel what he felt before. Looks like karma got me. I will not give up on him, i know there’s still a chance but sometimes i get so weak and lose hope. And now he’s talking to his childhood friend or old friend, she found my spouse through facebook to another friend. They been talking for a while now, texting, chatting or facetiming. And that hurts me,i feel betrayed even though he told me he don’t love me the same as before. He told me give him space and its him that needs to find what he really wants in life. I don’t know what to do, please help me. I want to save my relationship with my spouse. I won’t give him up! I love my family.

    Reply
  • December 17, 2015 at 12:10 am
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    My husband of 24 years was/is again having a relationship affair. I found out about it 18 months ago. At that time it had been going on for 4 yrs. We started counseling then 6 months in I found out that it had only stopped for 1 month and she might be pregnant. That turned out to not be true and communication was cut off for about months. He contacted her again. It stopped again and I just discovered they are talking again. We moved 6 months ago to “start over” so they only talk. I have begun talking to her, don’t know what else to do. He told her we were divorcing, that was news to me and I told her that. I asked him if that is what he wants and he says no, he loves me and he doesn’t want to loose me but he doesn’t think he can let her go. He loves her too. I pray all the time and try and maintain hope, but it is becoming very hard. I love him. God only knows why, but I do. I need help. Please

    Reply
  • May 18, 2016 at 2:11 am
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    I have suspected my wife having an emotional affair for over 2 years now but have never been able to really prove it. I came on a holiday with my dad for 2 weeks to europe and when i told my wife she was extatic and over joyed she would have 2 weeks alone, I have a webcam device in our bedroom mainly to watch the dog during the day but i left it on when i came on this trip. Because i suspected the affair I left it on when i left. I truly thought she would turn it off and she did but only 5 days after i left. I have video of a man in my bedroom with my wife having sex. I cant see them directly its a shadow but its my bedroom and its obvious by the sounds and the shadows there are 2 people in the room having sex. My wife maintains that she loves me ( i have not told her i have seen her doing this i am too far away). I am cutting my trip short to go home and surprise her. She is a creature of habit and i am confident they will be in bed together again before i am suppose to be home. I plan to walk in on them … take some pictures and tell him to get out so i can talk to my wife. I am pretty sure the marriage is over but i need to confirm who it is she is doing this with and have proof so i can also show his wife what he is doing
    AM I NUTS?

    Reply
    • May 18, 2016 at 2:31 pm
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      Hello, Gordon.

      My first question to you would be do you want to save your marriage?

      We have MANY great articles on here that could help you with this situation. We also offer free podcast that can be found on ITunes or http://www.marriageradio.com

      If you would like to save your marriage please give us a call and lets see what program is best suited for you & your situation. Our number is 615.472.1161.

      Reply

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