“The War Against Infidelity”
“Marriage is an adventure, like going to war.”
It seems in our ministry we are part of more wars then we ever thought possible. One particular war that is fought in marriage is the war against infidelity. I think we used to think it took a certain “type” of person to commit the unthinkable act of adultery. But, all it takes is a broken human. We all fall into that category. In this newsletter we want to talk bluntly about a very painful, and incredibly destructive force that is at work in marriages, and especially in marriages in the church. Friends, we are not obsolete from the ravages of infidelity, we are not impervious to the destructive force of betrayal that haunts many people. When adultery is found out, or uncovered through confession, it brings with it a maelstrom of responses and opens an unthinkable pain in the soul. It’s the kind of pain that seeps into the bones and threatens to take our breath away forever.
Now before you raise one eyebrow and say to yourself, “this could never happen to me” and thank God quietly that your marriage isn’t as flawed as the poor couple that it did happen to – remember your weaknesses, reflect upon your humanity and the sins you have haunting you. Ask God to open a compassion in you towards those that are in this situation today. Kevin and I have the absolute privilege to work with many couples who are in the throes of an admission of adultery; and are still reeling from the shock of the revelation. We have made Mountain Haven a safe place to talk about any type of sin and any type of pain. Infidelity is a particular kind of hurt that requires a keen listening ear; and a hope for breakthrough.
As we have worked with couples through out the years we see many types of responses to the heart breaking news of an affair. We want to explore three of the most common responses we have observed in the aftermath of the revelation of adultery.
Avoidance/Denial- Obviously you can’t straight out ignore the reality of an affair but there are multiple ways to suppress the pain, reality and truth of what happened. One that we see quite often is to forgive to easily. It seems like the right thing to do in light of scripture, but when people make the choice to forgive without the necessary work of walking through the betrayal story, it haunts them later on. It seeps out in subtle ways in the relationship. It can be found in passive aggressive comments that belie the magnitude of your true anger towards your spouse, or feeling hurt over little things and feeling like you can’t get over those little things when really you are stuck in the bigger “issue” of the affair. There is a big gaping hole in your heart, you are wondering why, and how, your spouse could do this to you? To your marriage? Rather then ask those questions, and listen for the answers, you are careful to guard your mouth from “really” hurtful comments to the offending spouse, and careful to “give them space” to heal, forgetting about the healing you need as well.
Aggressive confrontation- This is easy to fall into. Rather then grieve the true loss of the relationship it is easier to just stay in anger. There are two primary people to be angry at; either your partner for their weakness, deception, and betrayal; and the person they cheated with. That person represents all that is wrong in the world. They are the ultimate in evil personified and must be shunned at all costs. The anger can be blatant and come out in caustic, punishing remarks to your spouse. Or it can be the passive aggressive, subtle manipulative anger that will constantly remind your spouse of their offensive and sinful choice. The anger will be a shield for you to hide behind so you don’t have to trust the changes your partner is making and the excuse you will use to keep them at a distant and forego trusting again. The most powerful thing that ongoing, undealt with anger does is shield us from looking circumspectly at ourselves. When we can remain angry at the “offenders” we remain guiltless in the breakdown in our marriage.
Attending to Truth- Perhaps the hardest response is to be present and deal with the harsh realities of the affair. Asking questions like, when did this happen? Who was it with? Where was I? What was going on with you? What was going on with us? What was going on with me? How long did this last? What did you perceive was missing in our relationship? How does recovery look? Who do we include in this recovery? How can I help myself? How can I help you? What new boundaries do we implement? How will our intimacy be affected? What safeguards do we need now? Being willing to walk slowly, intentionally and truthfully through the narrative of this painful journey will bring freedom. Acknowledging that the couple ship had a breakdown and the breakdown was not just in the offending spouse, is the first and most vital step towards truth.
We become one flesh when we marry another person, however, we cannot be held accountable at the judgment seat of God for their sins. We can, however, learn to hold them accountable, without judgment, by acknowledging that they have had a major weakness in their heart that has opened up the door to adultery. Furthermore we can acknowledge that we had a major weakness as well that did not see it coming, or allowed it to continue. We can cover them with love, compel them to growth and sharpen them with our own insights into the breakdown. We can encourage them to attend counseling for themselves, attend counseling for the relationship, and recognize the couple patterns that opened the door to the possibility of an affair.
The physical act of having an affair has devastating affects on the emotional, spiritual, and sexual elements of a relationship and they must be uncovered and healed. But keep in mind, many people don’t commit physical adultery but they stray in other ways. Fantasies of another life, pornography, pursuit of work, pursuit of ministry, pouring oneself into children and the image of family, ignoring the ongoing requests of your spouse and staying passive, building a material kingdom and making your home your castle, allowing worry to overtake you…and the list goes on. Our heart can belong to many other pursuits beside Jesus, it just happens as we acquiesce silently and slowly to the yearning of more in our life. Take the time today to recognize and admit your affair. If it is a physical one, confess it and seek help and counseling and truth today. If it an emotional affair of the heart, do the same thing. As James tells us “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”(James 2:10). Your neighbor may have committed the physical act of adultery, and violated God’s command, but take time to examine your heart today and see where you are emotionally, or spiritually committing adultery. Take time to attend to the truth of your situation, and allow God to bring healing and truth to you, and greater freedom and intimacy to your marriage.
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