Dealing with infidelity

Nothing could be more painful, emotionally draining and psychologically stressful than infidelity in marriage. The pressures of our daily experience seems to have made infidelity quite common now, with couples who never thought they could be caught in unfaithfulness finding themselves soaked in the gulf of adultery.

Causes of infidelity

A combination of several factors could lead to infidelity. Living apart from each other for extended periods of time, lack of appreciation, feelings of disrespect, addiction to drugs or alcohol, growing apart from your partner, and running away from problems instead of solving them. Other factors such as pornography, boredom, marrying for the wrong motives, insecurity, and sexual dissatisfaction may all have their say in the matter.

Root out the sinful tooth?

Once a tooth is diseased, relying on it for the normal business of chewing, biting or cracking could be suicidal. The initial reaction would be to let the dentist root it out of your mouth immediately so sanity may return to the mouth. That is the feeling – and rightfully so – that comes to mind immediately suspicion of a spouse’s infidelity is confirmed. Indeed, society itself expects a spouse so painfully wronged to react in this manner to, as it were, “root out the sinful tooth” in order to redeem or repair one’s image. After all, Jesus himself permitted divorce in cases of infidelity. (Matthew 5:32)

So should I, or should I not file for divorce? Biblically speaking, none of the alternative reactions are sinful in themselves. Both reactions are permissible once a prima facie case is established. However, putting away a spouse you have shared the joys and sorrows of life with for many years, your confidante and lover, a father or mother to your children (if you have children) is like attempting to sever part of your body from the whole! The pain, the hurt, the emotional wound that spouse and children have to suffer sometimes for the rest of their lives is often bigger than the sin itself, and it takes much longer time to heal as well!

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This is particularly so if the offence is a one-off stint, and is unlikely to re-occur.  Even where unfaithfulness is recurrent, a truly repentant spouse, eager to reform and restore the relationship should not be denied the opportunity of doing so, no matter how deeply hurt the offended spouse is. Trust is like a house. It can always be rebuilt with stronger and firmer foundations, as long as both couples are willing to work at it.

Stark consequences

But it is not easy rebuilding a relationship that has been rocked by unfaithfulness. While the offender may be haunted by the shame, disgrace and the ignominy of the offence, the offended spouse on the other hand feels cheated, deceived, betrayed and even violated. These strong initial feeling could make forgiveness or reconciliation unthinkable, if not impossible. Where there are children in the marriage, they tend to bear the brunt of the tug of war emotionally, often hampering their growth and development.

But time, reflection and godly counsel have a way of lessening the pain while prayer during such crisis periods tend to be more sincere, hence more likely to be answered. (James 5:16) 

Stepping out of bitterness

Again, seeking help from the Holy Spirit during such turbulent times could provide a ready anchor, succor,

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support, and divine strength (John14:16, 15:26, Romans 8:26-27, Galatians 5:22) that could help the offended spouse to gradually but gracefully step out of bitterness into forgiveness, from hatred into love, while actively working to restore relationship first towards God, then towards one’s partner.

There is evidence to show that many unfaithful couples learn from their mistakes and are able to build stronger relationships that justify the biblical injunction for couples to stay together in good and bad times. (Ephesians 5:33, Malachi 2:16)

Infidelity is a social canker that couples must fight hard to avoid by every means, spiritually and physically. However, just as God forgives us our sins irrespective of their magnitude, couples suffering from the pangs of infidelity must not give up trying to save their marriages. On the contrary, they must show more affection towards each other, improve communication and their conflict resolution skills, learn to forgive each other and strive to improve the quality of their relationship at all levels.  These remedial actions could reverse boredom and loneliness, and generate the right amount of affection, resilience and empathy that could rekindle joy and mutual satisfaction in the relationship. No need giving up. You can enjoy your relationship once again!

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