By Janet Pérez Eckles, Crosswalk.com
Lord, I’m facing infidelity, what do I do?
Suzie sat on the couch; her face buried in her hands. “I can’t believe he would do this to me, to our kids!
Her friend Pam handed her another tissue. “Leave the jerk.”
Suzie’s shock as she learned of her husband’s infidelity exploded into rage. “Yes, I’m leaving him, but not before I teach him a lesson. If he can do it, so can I,” she said with gritted teeth.
Anger often triggers a spirit of vengeance. And should Suzie act in rage, she would be adding fuel to the already emotional fire that threatens to destroy her marriage.
That’s why hurt, wounded and confused couples, Christians or not, dash through the transition from infidelity to destruction of a marriage.
And sadly, as you read this, couples everywhere are dragging their broken hearts to divorce court. But many could avoid the heartache.
The reality is divorce is growing. But so is God’s desire to exert His divine intervention.
He’s willing. He’s able and He longs to restore and heal. That’s His work.
And what’s the assignment for us couples? To remove the barriers. To silence irrational reactions. And to head down the correct path by avoiding these four mistakes:
Mistake #1: The Urge to Get Even
Deep pain either paralyzes, or in many cases, a broken heart blocks the ability to make sound or rational decisions.
Foolishly the offended spouse expects a sense of satisfaction by giving in to the I-can-do-it-too temptation.
And when, in the spirit of vengeance, both spouses engage in the infidelity spectrum, they both loose. They engage in a battle where instead of fighting on the same side, they become enemies. They draw swords of pain toward each other. And inevitably, the blood spills on the kids, the innocent bystanders.
This unnecessary encounter is one from which God wants to protect us. He said, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
God’s wrath in love may be exerted when and if He seems to align with His perfect justice. But how or when he does must never be the focus.
Instead, the focus must be in obtaining freedom from these negative emotions. We’re free when we step out of the I’ll-get-even mentality. And with resolve, we fill our minds with God’s instruction to be still, to be reassured and to be faithful. And God in turn, will also be faithful. Then we can relish in the gift of His promises wrapped in our obedience.
Mistake #2: Sharing Our Pain with the Wrong People
“Go ahead and share your thoughts, your feelings, and your fears.” Bad advice, depending on who you're sharing your feelings with. It’s wrong and damaging when, disregarding Godly discernment, either spouse shares details of the other’s unacceptable behavior with the wrong people.
Consider Anna. She was raised with six siblings. Her parents and all adult children enjoy a close and loyal relationship with each other.
Leaning on their support, Anna revealed details of her husband Rob’s infidelity. Indignation filled them as they rallied around her. Her brothers rose in rage and offered to protect her, suggesting she leave him.
But she didn’t, instead with the help of a Christian counselor, they worked out the difficult issues. They put aside the hurt and discussed their plan to move forward. And eventually, with forgiveness in her heart, Anna brought back the loving feelings for her husband.
But her family did not. No matter how they pretended, their genuine love and acceptance for Rob had vanished.
As a result, subtle resentment toward Rob seemed to be served at every meal during family gatherings. And Rob’s discomfort increased, so did his resistance to be in the company of Anna’s family. With `infidelity in the past, Anna and Rob now faced another challenge.
How could that have been avoided? By using God’s wisdom to answer these questions: can that person with whom I will pour out my heartache be trusted? Does he/she possess Godly wisdom, impartiality and extends genuine love? Dos the counsel given align with God’s Word?
As we wait for the answer, no matter the depth of our pain, our goal is to promote love because “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” (Proverbs 17:9).
“Covering” doesn’t mean deny the problem. Rather it means in love, protecting each other’s privacy. And that love becomes the vehicle God uses to transport couples to a place of forgiveness, understanding and complete healing.
Mistake #3: Lingering Resentment
“How can you trust him again?” a friend asked when this writer experienced healing after the heartache of my husband’s unfaithfulness.
Initially, I took the wrong path. I blamed him fiercely. I fueled my emotions with words of condemnation. And I expected a genuinely remorseful husband to drop to his knees and beg for forgiveness.
He didn’t. And I became resentful not only of his behavior but of his lack of genuine regret, one I thought I deserved.
The relationship was a mess. Each of us with our reasons to be unhappy and looking to the solution by ending the marriage.
But that end would be the beginning of devastating hurt for our three small sons. I had to change. Rising above my emotions, I had to control my irrational reactions. Sadly, my pain had blocked the wisdom I desperately needed.
But God knew those needs. Admittedly, I was seeking first and above all my husband’s genuine repentance. That was my solution, but God offered a different priority when He said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added onto you” (Matthew 6:33).
I gave one last sob and chose to seek Him, not seek my husband’s change of heart, but seek God first, learn what He instructed and discern what He offered.
He was faithful. As dawn breaks the darkness of night, I found His Word. He said I was still loved by He who created me. I was still protected by His promises. I was still valued and worthy of His care. And other’s betrayal was no match for His unconditional love for me.
That truth brought new reassurance. Eventually, my anger subsided. Peace came back. Resentment ended, and my confidence grew.
With that new confidence, tears of sorrow dried, and the water of forgiveness washed away my anguish.
My husband saw the change in me. Weeks later, he came back. We talked. He left his behavior behind and chose to devote his life to me and our three small sons.
Mistake #4: Give in to Pride
Pride has a voice. And when we allow it to speak in our heart long enough, it drowns out God’s Voice.
That was the case with Mike, “I think I forgave my wife,” He wrote, “I know I did, but I can’t let go the fact she did what she did. I can’t go back to where we were before. Our marriage is suffering. Help me please.”
Many spouses can’t get past the I-can’t-believe-he/she-did-this-to-me syndrome. Unaware, the offended spouse allows pride to whisper: “she has to pay for what she did. She needs to suffer as I did. I’ll not give of myself completely as before. I’ll let her linger in the consequences. She must have a reminder of what her behavior did to me. And if the consequences are hard enough, she won’t do this to me again.
Not only does pride have a voice, but also has a plan to destroy. It begins with the “I” trap. When concentrating only on the wrong, the deception and the shock, the focus is not on the marriage but on “I am hurt.”
Though justified, feeding those assertions turn to selfish notions. They quickly fuel negative thoughts. And when that thinking controls the mind, it blocks God’s healing power.
Eventually, rather than relish in the victory of the marriage, they feed the victim mentality instead.
That’s why God offers the only alternative. And although seemingly an abstract concept, humility is the answer. A humble heart is a powerfully effective path to reach victory. As Jesus was victorious over the most painful episodes anyone could endure, his humility brought him triumphant victory.
He wants the same triumph for our marriages. And we can obtain it if we remember "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6)
By the time you finish reading this article, one more couple will have entered the betrayal tunnel. They will either navigate blindly and continue in the dark. Or they will ask God for guidance, for wisdom and for restoration.
When they do, the enemy is defeated. There are no notions of vengeance, of sharing the offense with others, of entertaining resentment or allowing pride to rule.
With these mistakes avoided, each marriage has a chance, a true opportunity for God’s power to paint a new portrait of a marriage that exchanged an episode of infidelity with a lifetime of mutual devotion.
Photo Credit: ©Thinkstock
Janet Perez Eckles, international speaker, author and President of JC Empowerment Ministries helps thousands overcome fear, and through Christ turn trials to triumph. Learn more at www.janetperezeckles.com.