My wife recently told me that 26 years ago, she had an affair with a friend of mine with whom she worked. She said the affair lasted only been 6 months, but when I confronted this man he told me it lasted 18 months. Because this happened so long ago, my wife has compartmentalized it and expects me to move on as well. I love her, but I’m hurting badly. We are in counseling, but she still runs from dealing with the affair.
While your wife committed this unfaithful act years ago, since the issue just came to light, it’s no wonder you’re reeling emotionally. It’s not surprising that your pain’s fresh, nor is it surprising that your wife’s put it all behind her.
There are several complicating factors to your sad story. You note that your wife betrayed you with a man who had been a friend of yours, someone you undoubtedly trusted. He also betrayed you. Betrayal by a friend is even more painful. We expect those we trust to stand by us, defend us, and be available to us emotionally.
Additionally, it sounds as though your wife hasn’t been honest with you about the affair. It wouldn’t surprise me that she glossed over some of the facts – in trying to blot out a transgression, we often “forget” its details.
Finally, and perhaps most concerning, is your statement that your wife “runs from dealing with the affair.” You can’t find healing by going around a severe problem – you must go through it, or better yet, grow through it. Let me offer a few ideas for how to do that.
First, gently invite your wife to talk through this tragedy with you. Scripture tells us, “If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently” (Galatians 6:1). It will serve no purpose to approach her or this issue with harshness. Create a safe environment in which to talk honestly with her about her affair. There’s a big difference between sharing feelings and sharing judgments. Telling your wife how sad you feel is vastly different than telling her how bad she is or was. Talk about you, not about her; she’s feel safer.
Second, ask for what you need now. Be specific in asking for what will make you feel safe and cherished in your marriage. What will help you heal? Do you need to talk about this, perhaps over and over, until you’ve digested the magnitude of it? Tell her so. Do you need additional precautions now to be able to trust her? Although you’re already in counseling, consider asking her what else she needs to process this with you.
Finally, affirm each other in your efforts to heal together. Make the decision now that you won’t let this affair divide you but instead bring you closer together. Resolve to work through this issue together; don’t let it divide and conquer you. Remind each other that the Lord will help you find ways to recover from this painful situation. Seek counsel from godly, trustworthy people – and follow their guidance. Many couples find it has helped them to connect with others who’ve experienced an affair and found healing for their marriage. In time, this event will be in your past and you can celebrate your future.
Don’t let this horrible event define you. Remember, you still love each other, have a bright future, and can heal. Don’t get bogged down by the past. Remind yourself of the life you’ve built together and the many blessings you enjoy today. Please also feel free to contact me for additional resources to help you recover from this affair.