“She’s pregnant by her lover. But she says she has come to her senses, loves me, and wants to save our marriage. My family practically hates her and wants me to divorce her and have nothing else to do with her ever. I don’t know what to do.”

Call him Jim. Call her May. Every year situations such as theirs are repeated more times than one might imagine. One person does wrong, consequences arise, penitence hits, and the straying spouse begs for forgiveness and reconciliation.

Jim’s case illustrates a pinnacle of marriage problems; May is carrying her paramour’s baby. If Jim takes her back, what happens to the baby? Do they keep him? Do they put him up for adoption? In a stressful time like this they might even ask if May aborts? Do they give him to his biological father?

Tough questions, but essential if they consider reconciliation because May is pregnant. Weeping, worrying, or wanting things to be the way they used to be does not change that.

Most times the cases are not quite as severe in consequence as that of Jim and May, but they are almost universally bad. An affair but no disease, no babies, and no physical evidence remains. Or some kind of addiction rather than involvement with another person; gambling, porn, alcohol or drugs. It might be that one verbally, mentally, or emotionally abused the other. The similarity is that the actions of one cause the other to want out of the relationship.

Whether that person actually leaves depends on many factors including religious beliefs, cultural expectations, the depth of hurt, influence from family or friends, how close they were before the occurrence, alternatives for the future, repetitiveness of hurtful behavior and more. For example, a woman may stay with her physically abusive husband because her religious beliefs are that she can divorce him only if he commits adultery. On the other hand, a woman may discover her husband’s one-night-stand more than twenty years ago and decide the pain is so strong that she cannot live with him again.

Deciding whether to forgive and reconcile or to end a relationship and move on is not an easy decision to make. However, there are certain things to consider that may help in making the best decision.

Be Careful Who You Listen To

When one is hurt, taking advice from friends and family may not be wise. Typically, people who care deeply feel personal hurt by what someone has done to the person they love. They tend not to think in terms of forgiveness and reconciliation but in terms of punishment and alienation. In short, rather than being objective, they may be anything but. Wiser, godly counsel typically comes from those who are not directly involved. Even better, listen to third parties who are skilled and experienced in working with people and know something about relationships.

Decide Whether It's Safe

Reconciliation leads to more hurt if proper boundaries are not put into place. When deciding whether to take back a person asking for forgiveness and requesting a second chance, consider all factors of safety. Emotional. Physical. Mental. Spiritual. Think not only in terms of self but also in terms of others involved such as children. If safety is in doubt, do not reconcile until all doubts have been dealt with properly.

Count the Cost

In life, those who think about the future tend to do better than those who think only the in the present. (Yet those who think only in the present still do much better than those who think only in the past.)

Before reconciling, do a cost-benefit analysis. On paper, write the costs of reconciliation and the benefits of reconciliation. Be honest with yourself. Consider financial aspects, potential lifestyle changes, likelihood of the future truly being better or worse based on whether you reconcile or not, possible aloneness, and more. Do not make this list while struggling with any confusing emotion, whether anger, love, or despair. If wise and unprejudiced counsel is available, have someone work through the list with you.