True repentance is mandatory

People who commit adultery often justify the act. Mark Sanford stating that his mistress is his soul mate indicates that a part of him is still rationalizing why he was unfaithful. If he is serious about restoring his marriage, he’ll need to learn how to take those thoughts captive and replace them with truth. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

It’s common to hear the spouse who has broken the covenant make statements such as, “My spouse isn’t meeting my needs,” “I’ve never really loved my spouse,” or “I don’t know how I ended up here. It just happened.” If the offender isn’t truly remorseful, but merely sorry that they got caught, restoring the marriage will be impossible. It’s similar to building a house on a foundation that has a huge crack, eventually it will crumble.

How can you tell if someone is sincerely repentant? If we look at King David in Psalms 51 we see a man who is deeply sorrowful for his sin. A remorseful person recognizes and confesses the pain and suffering they have caused others. Humility doesn’t demand, justify or make excuses. It admits, “I am to blame, no one else. I deserve any and all consequences for my actions. If you never forgive me, I understand. I’m the one who broke the covenant. I violated the trust and I do not deserve another chance. If you are willing, I’ll do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to earn your trust again.”

That’s what true repentance looks and sounds like.

Get down to the root reasons

Many people list financial stress, a tumultuous home, a neglectful or abusive spouse, or relationship boredom as the reasons they had an affair. But those are all symptoms of marital breakdown—not causes. Unless a couple does the hard work to dig deeply into the root reasons why those things occurred, the problems will resurface. Most couples never take the time or get the help to discover underlying issues.  

Forgiveness does not mean ignoring sin, abuse, neglect or toxic behavior.

For some reason Christians have allowed Satan to deceive them into believing that love, mercy and forgiveness means ignoring sin. We even slap a Biblical word on it—submission. The perversion of this word is one of the greatest weapons Satan uses to destroy the family. Submission does not mean ignoring or tolerating destructive, sinful behavior. After adultery a marriage can only be restored if the unfaithful person is willing to eradicate all toxic people or things from the marriage. In addition, the other spouse must learn how he or she is enabling the behavior. It’s often a complex vicious cycle which requires professional help.   

It takes two people to get married, but only one to get a divorce.

You can not control the actions of your spouse. If he or she is determined to get a divorce there is nothing you can do to stop it. Be aware: It’s very common for the one who wants out of the marriage to “pretend” they are committed by going to a few counseling sessions. This allows them to justify a divorce by saying, “We went for help, and I tried, but it didn’t work.” The half-hearted effort was used as a manipulative tool and ammunition to rationalize their conscience and selfish motives. In simpler terms—they lied.   

Know that God understands infidelity. He has been the rejected and betrayed Lover many times. Jeremiah 3:6-8 (NIV) declares his sorrow and fury, "Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it.  I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries.”