Wait, what? For most people, hearing someone tell you to cheat on your husband or wife would be an absurd and unthinkable suggestion, even if you and your spouse are having problems. It seems absurd, anyway. Yet, that’s the slogan for the now infamous Ashley Madison website where, in 2015, thousands of names of users were leaked for everyone to see. People from government organizations to church leadership positions were exposed for looking at pornography or searching for an extramarital affair. In a day and age where social media dictates our conversational habits and pornography is easier to find than children’s cartoons, is the statement really that absurd or shocking?
I admit, it is unlikely that most people struggling in their marriage are actively looking for a relationship outside their marriage. However, most people who do engage in an extramarital relationship say they never intended for it to happen. They were in a situation where they were discussing their problems with a friend and they became close or someone made them feel a way their spouse didn’t. Without a strong relationship with your spouse, it’s easy to fall into this situation.
What’s worse, there are actually therapists out there who will recommend to their patients and clients that an affair can help them. They’ll convince clients an affair can help them release frustrations, and in the end, it will bring the person and his or her spouse closer together. “You can’t be serious,” I’m sure you’re telling me as you read this. Go ahead. Google it. I know you’re curious. It’s worth clarifying, this is not the standard held by the American Psychological Association or by the majority of therapists. And, for the record, Revive Wellness will never recommend for you to have an affair. But the belief still exists. It’s so accepted in our culture that these therapists can’t even tell when they’re blurring a line.
“So, Zakk. How do we protect our marriage? You make it sound so easy.”
I’m so glad you asked.
Lean on the Word of God. In fact, He tells us there is strength found in our marriage relationship:
Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. – Mark 10:9
But He also shows us the importance of forgiving each other:
Be completely humble and gentle; Be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:2-3
There are numerous scriptures and passages that relate to marriage, relationships and forgiveness and grace. If you’re struggling with one of the areas, consider asking your pastor, church leadership or a trusted Christian mentor about where to start.
There’s also a lot of great advice online when you’re dealing with an issue in your relationship. In 2005, Becky Zerbe wrote an article that touched the hearts of a lot of people considering leaving their spouse. The List that Saved My Marriage provides sound advice if you feel like your marriage is failing, because it encourages you to look at your actions as well.
The book Fireproof and the subsequent movie have been encouraging to many couples.
Sometimes, however, resources like these just don’t seem to feel like enough. Many couples say there’s nothing quite like the sting of learning your spouse has had a relationship outside your marriage. Some people question how they go on, and some will wonder if it’s even worth continuing in the marriage. If you find yourself in this situation, the decision to separate or divorce is one that you’ll have to work out with your spouse and within yourself.
However, if you and your spouse want to continue the marriage, there are numerous Christian resources available to you. Again, speaking to a pastor or a trusted Christian adviser is a great first step. Marriage Counseling is another great avenue, because a counselor or therapist can help you work through the issues of hurt and anger, while also helping you identify what issues led to the situation in the first place. Many couples who seek marriage counseling, especially after an affair, find much success and growth in their marriage.
Finally, we must realize that not every marriage can and will be saved. I’ve heard many people say they feel so abandoned because they couldn’t convince their spouse to stay. Others may feel as though God no longer loves them because they’re divorced. The fact is, God loves you no matter what you’ve done wrong or right in your life. There’s nothing you could do to make him love you less. He loves you so much, He sent Jesus here to save you from sin, brokenness and death. And even if you were the only person to have ever walked on the face of the earth, He still would have sent Jesus – just for you. Look to him as you seek comfort.