Divorce breaks the hearts of those involved — couples, children, parents, friends, church, and the heart of God. One of the greatest underlying events destroying marriages today is adultery. The following is a frank and spiritual message on things to do when the sin of adultery has occurred.

My fervent passion is in saving marriages and making them healthy and holy again. I encourage you to at least make a commitment not to remain at a disinterested distance when couples you love have their lives coming apart.

So let's get started.

To better understand extramarital affairs, I sorted them into three categories.

1. 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.

2. The Allowed Affair has become more prevalent with the graying of morality in our culture. It was once called "Swinging" and now its participants just call it "The Lifestyle."

3. The most difficult kind of affair to overcome is the Relationship Affair. It typically starts as friendship that evolves into shared emotions and eventually shared bodies. Those in Relationship Affairs usually are in love with each other. Madly in love.

This is why so many Relationship Affairs lead to divorce — no matter how strongly you tell the person that s/he is sinning and no matter how hard the abandoned spouse tries to save the marriage. 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.

May I offer another possibility?

Wouldn't it be better for everyone — the 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? We in the marriage business know that if a marriage survives an affair, it will be stronger and more loving than it was before the affair.

Salvaging a marriage when a 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. The short version is that they are driven by strong and compelling emotions that they're convinced you don't understand. Therefore, they disregard you, 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, I suggest the following to both the abandoned 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 be, but it doesn't have to be. Don't give up. Keep praying and doing the right things, no matter how hopeless it may seem.

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, but always loving and calm.

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. However, it typically 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" last anywhere from six to thirty-six months. Though the straying spouse may become angry and try to manipulate the abandoned 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. Don't give up!