Healing After the Hurt of an Affair
- 2005 17 Dec
Editor's note: Crosswalk welcomes our newest contributor, Dr. David Hawkins, The Relationship Doctor. David Hawkins, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, family counselor and author who wants to connect with you to answer your relationship questions and concerns. To receive trusted, Biblically sound advice from Crosswalk's relationship expert, see Dr. David's contact information at the bottom of this article.
Dear Dr. David,
My husband of ten years has just informed me that he had his second affair. He said that he felt guilty and wanted to tell me and ask for my forgiveness. I am hurt very deeply and don’t feel like forgiving him, though I know as a Christian I am supposed to forgive. He is impatient and wants me to get over my anger. Can you help?" ~ Marcia
It is certainly understandable that you feel hurt, betrayed and angry. While he has cleared his conscience, he has given you an apparent burden to carry. He wrongfully thinks he can simply ask for forgiveness and everything will go back to normal. This is not the case. Wounds suffered from such a betrayal can take years to heal, and then only with the right conditions. Forgiveness will be a process, not an event. Let’s consider this process.
First, he must take full responsibility for his actions, and accept that he must make significant changes for you to heal, feel safe and trust again. Taking full responsibility means he will understand that you will not trust easily again. Taking full responsibility means that he accepts the depth and gravity of his actions, and understands how deeply he has hurt you. Infidelity is an injury that cuts to the heart and soul of another.
Second, he needs to understand that you will experience an emotional roller coaster in the days ahead. While he hopes for a quick fix, this is rarely the case. You can expect a challenging time of grieving the loss to your marriage, including anger, hurt, betrayal and sadness. It will take time and safety for you to reach a place of intimacy and trust again. Your husband will need to learn to "be with you" during these times of grief.
Third, he needs to change his ways. He must work at, and convince you, that he understands how his infidelity happened, and has made changes in his life so that it will not recur. He must show that he is truly sorry for his actions. Are there longstanding character problems that need attention? Is there an underlying sexual addiction? The Apostle Paul talks about a Godly sorrow that leads to repentance — a change of ways. (II Corinthians 10: 7) Anything short of this is an additional injury to you and will keep you from trusting him again.
Fourth, both of you will need to explore and understand how this has happened in the context of your marriage. Not only is there grief to resolve, but questions to be explored and answered as to how this could happen in your marriage, at this point in time. Are there conflicts in your marriage that need professional counsel? Infidelity often suggests interpersonal troubles needing attention.
Finally, this tragedy is a painful opportunity to build a new marriage. God tells us that "all things work together for good" — even something as horrible as this. Your old marriage is gone, and now you must build a new one. Find ways to begin courting one another again. Explore ways to enliven your communication with one another. Vow to set healthier boundaries to keep your marriage safe and sacred in the future. If you will both work hard, your marriage can be even more vibrant and alive than before.
Dear Dr. David,
My wife and I both work and are raising two young children. She has complained in the past about my lack of participation in helping around the house. My problem now is that nothing I do is ever good enough for her. When I fold the laundry, she refolds it. When I have cleaned the kitchen I noticed that she cleaned it after me. When I talk to her about this, she says I don’t do a good enough job and my help really isn’t helping. What do I do now?" ~ Allen
First of all you are to be applauded for recognizing that work doesn’t stop when you both get home at night. There are many responsibilities that have, in the past, fallen on the wife’s shoulders. It is time for men to take equal responsibility for the care of the home and family when both partners are working.
Your plight, however, suggests that your wife may not be comfortable giving up her traditional role. While on the one hand she is asking for help, on the other she seems to gravitate towards doing it herself. Many women complain about all of their responsibilities, yet are reticent to relinquish them. Cautiously explore whether this may be the case with your wife.
It also appears that expectations need to be worked out between the two of you. Remind her of your willingness to do your part, and let her know that your feelings are hurt when she goes over the work you do. If necessary, offer to have her show you how she would like certain tasks done. You might also consider suggesting that she choose a chore for you which she cares less about.
Finally, Allen, remember to take heart and keep these issues in perspective. Above all, the scriptures advise us to "keep the peace with each other….Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other." (I Thessalonians 5: 15)
Have a question for Dr. David? Contact him at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.
David Hawkins, Pd.D., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years. He is the author of over 18 books, including Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, Saying It So He'll Listen, and When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His newest book, When the Man in Your Life Can’t Commit, will be released in February, 2006. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.