by Dr. Randy Schroeder
I found out recently that over a six-month period my husband had an affair with one of his co-workers. I was so devastated and heartbroken that I told my best friend. She said I should divorce him because I have biblical reasons. I don’t know what to do. I thought we had a good marriage.
Your feelings are understandable, given the tremendous emotional upheaval you’ve been through. Your husband’s choice to have an affair has been a deep betrayal of what you felt was a good marriage. As painful as the experience has been, I would encourage you not to give up on your marriage. Genuine repentance, forgiveness, and healing are possible.
Sharing your heartache with a close friend is certainly a normal tendency, and you needed the compassion she offered. I would recommend, however, that you refrain from speaking with other friends or family about your husband’s infidelity. God joined you together as one flesh, and your marital struggles are best restricted to a small circle—your pastor, a Christian counselor, or another trusted individual—as you work through the issues. Going beyond these boundaries might cause undue difficulty and embarrassment.
Under the forgiveness offered through the cross of Christ, a new beginning and rewarding relationship are possible. Which direction your future together takes will depend on your husband’s—and your—willingness to work toward the recovery of your marriage. This will require that your husband repent of his sin, turn away from his ungodly ways, and eliminate all contact with the other woman. Because they are co-workers, some options might include requesting reassignment or even seeking a new job. Availing himself of confession and absolution is vital for your husband, and remaining connected to the church through worship and the sacraments is God’s desire for both of you.
Genuine honesty and forgiveness will go a long way toward restoring your marriage. But nothing will erase the memory of his affair from your mind. I tell couples that forgiveness is a gift, a promise, and a process. The forgiveness you offer your husband is the very gift God offers you; the promise is to not raise the memory of the affair to shame or manipulate your husband, and like a long and sometimes grueling journey, it is also a process.
It is also important that, with the help of a Christian counselor, you seek to address the underlying factors that contributed to the affair, seek to establish clear expectations about future behavior, and gain practical wisdom for rebuilding a healthy marriage.
Questions for “Family Counselor” come from readers and, after steps are taken to assure confidentiality, from contacts made with Lutheran Hour Ministries. Send your questions to “Family Counselor,” The Lutheran Witness, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295. Please include your name and address.